When to Walk Away from a Used Car Sale

January 27, 2012

When preparing to complete a used car sale, there are a lot of things to consider to make certain you are getting a good deal. Be prepared to walk away if a deal sounds too good to be true.

Sales and Special Offers
Sales advertising a minimum trade-in amount for any vehicle should raise warning flags. If the dealership can afford to give $4,000 for a vehicle that does not run, where is the lost profit made up? Unknown to many buyers, the lost profit is recovered by selling your new vehicle for an amount that may be above the fair market value. Also be wary of "great deals" offered by repo sales, liquidation events and the like. These sales are no different than business as usual at a used car dealership. These so-called sales are simply meant to build false excitement that the deals offered during a sale are better than those offered on a normal day. In any case, be prepared to walk away from a sale if you are uncomfortable with the terms or feel pressured b a salesperson.

Pressure to Make Payments
You may also find that a car dealership wants to turn you into a payment buyer by asking you how much you plan to spend each month on your car payment. If you give the salesperson an answer, you have suddenly lost your ability to negotiate when that time comes. If the car you want actually costs less than your preferred monthly payment dictates, the dealership will be sure to load your contract up with extras so that the monthly payment is in your range, but the actual selling price of the vehicle may be much higher than you want to spend or higher than the fair market value for a comparable car. Once you find the right car, negotiate price, not payment.

Pushing Features over Cost
Also be prepared to walk away from a used car sale if the dealership does not want to negotiate before a test drive. A salesperson will try to build value in a vehicle and stay away from questions of price, hoping that you love the vehicle and will then pay any price for it. Your goal should be the opposite of the dealership's, in that once you find the right car you want to talk about price, not about the features and benefits that may make you fall in love with the vehicle and make a rash decision.

Facts that Don't Match
Whether you are purchasing a used car from a dealership or a private party, always be ready to walk away if the agreed upon terms do not match what is on the contract or bill of sale. While an honest mistake may have been made, a dealership finance manager or private party seller should double- and triple-check paperwork before asking you to sign something. If the selling price and monthly payment is not as agreed, walk away. Also be prepared to walk if the vehicle's title history is not the same as advertised. An off-color title or one with the word "Salvage" on it denotes a vehicle that was considered a loss by an insurance company. Its value will be much lower than the clean title selling price you have negotiated.

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