6 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Car Salesman

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Contributing Writer

Bethany Hickey is a graduate from the University of Michigan-Flint, with a bachelor’s in English-Writing. She is a content writer for Auto Credit Express, CarsDirect, and many other automotive blogs, as well as the Poetry Editor for UM-Flint’s writing magazine.


, Contributing Writer - July 6, 2021

Shopping for a car and not sure what you should or shouldn’t say to a car salesman? We’ve got some advice on what to avoid saying to make the most out of your vehicle shopping experience.

1. “I’m Paying Cash”

Here’s the bottom line on being a cash shopper – the dealer doesn’t really care about your method of payment. Back in the day, most dealerships did in-house financing, meaning all car shopping and financing was done in-house.

Paying cash for a car doesn’t hold any weight in negotiations anymore, since borrowers with preapprovals are essentially cash-shoppers as well. Cash used to give the dealer assurance that they get their money and don’t need to worry about you making payments, which used to yield you a better deal. Nowadays, it’s a completely different story.

Most dealers have lending partners, and many borrowers get direct auto loans from their personal bank or credit union. The lender pays the dealership for the vehicle and you make payments to the lender. Whether you pay cash or get a loan, the dealer is paid for the car and the method of payment doesn’t matter.

A dealer may ask you what your planned method of payment is, but it’s usually because they may want to know if you’re interested in financing through their finance department with their own lending partners.

2. “I’m Just Window Shopping”

Showing up to a dealership and telling a car salesman that you’re “just looking” isn’t likely to get you much attention or help. Time is money, and a dealership is likely to assist someone who appears serious about getting a vehicle.

If you’re not sure you want to buy today, or you’re not sure what you need, tell a salesperson exactly that. Most are trained in asking questions to help you choose a car for your lifestyle and needs. Acting aloof may simply lead to being sidelined by other serious shoppers.

3. “Before I Pick a Car, Look at My Trade-In”

It usually benefits you more as a buyer to mention that you have a trade-in after you’ve already negotiated a deal for your next vehicle. This is because equity trade-ins lower the selling price on your next car, and the dealer is paying you. If you do the trade-in negotiations before you choose a vehicle, a dealership may be less willing to haggle on the price of your next car because they know you’re already getting paid for a trade-in.

Negotiate and choose your next car before you bring up your trade-in, and treat both transactions separately.

4. “Here’s the Car Payment I Want”

Only being concerned about your monthly payment is called being a payment shopper and it could cost you in the long run. If you’re set on a low monthly payment and don’t negotiate on the price of the car, it’s likely you’re going to get a long loan term to get the payment you want, which means paying more interest charges.

What you should focus on is the selling price of the vehicle; negotiate on this since it saves you money in the long run and lowers your monthly payment at the same time. Additionally, putting cash down and/or having trade-in equity saves you in interest charges and lowers your car payment.

5. “I Want to Be Done Within the Hour”

It’s not realistic to think you’re going to be done with all financing and buying within one hour – especially if you have a trade-in. Vehicle transactions take a lot of paperwork. Take your time to read through all documents, inspect your next car thoroughly, take a test drive or two, and ask any questions you may have about the vehicle, warranty, and financing paperwork.

Cox Automotive reports that car shoppers spent an average of 13 hours and 13 minutes to purchase a vehicle in 2020. This includes research and time spent at the dealership. J.D. Power reported in 2017 that the average buyer spends around 3.6 hours at the dealership, and the majority of that time is spent completing paperwork.

If you want to spend less time at the dealership (your time is valuable, too!), then consider doing research at home before stepping foot in a dealership. This can include looking up retail values on vehicle valuation sites such as Kelley Blue Book, NADAguides, and Black Book. Also take some time to gather your proofs and documents such as recent check stubs, proof of residency, and possibly bank statements, if you plan on financing through the dealership.

6. “I Have Fantastic Credit”

Even if you do have great credit, the dealer isn’t the one that’s concerned with your credit situation. Your lender is the one that’s going to look at your credit reports or the finance manager at the dealership. As we mentioned, the car salesman is going to be most concerned with the actual vehicle transaction and negotiations – not your payment method or credit score.

If you don’t have good credit, then lying about your credit score isn’t going to do you any good, especially if you plan on financing with the dealership’s lending partners. They’re almost always slated to check your credit when you apply for financing at the finance department.

If you have poor credit, the time to mention it would be during the financing process. Inform the finance manager about your credit score, tell them what interest rate you’d like to aim for, and ask what you can do to get a better deal on a loan with their lending partners. And if you’re worried about being eligible for a car loan, then consider a special finance dealership that’s signed up with subprime lenders. Subprime lenders are often able to assist borrowers with credit challenges.

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, Contributing Writer

Bethany Hickey is a graduate from the University of Michigan-Flint, with a bachelor’s in English-Writing. She is a content writer for Auto Credit Express, CarsDirect, and many other automotive blogs, as well as the Poetry Editor for UM-Flint’s writing magazine.


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