How to Negotiate with a Used Car Salesman

February 27, 2012

The used car salesman has become the icon for the shyster. Some used car salesmen are honest, but you should always arm yourself with the good research.

Slick Used Car Salesman

The easiest prey for a used car salesman is the uneducated buyer. If somebody walks onto a used car lot and obtains all information about a vehicle from a salesman, it's likely that the buyer will end up purchasing a car that he or she does not need and will end up spending more money than they have to.

Do Your Research
As a buyer, be ready to combat any misleading information that a salesman may present. Used car salespeople are notorious for exaggerating a car's advantages and downplaying its negative qualities. To be ready, do some research and get some good general information about the vehicle you are interested in. Look over auto reviews and consumer reports to get an idea about a car's upsides and potential drawbacks. Know the specifications of the vehicle, and be ready to correct any mistakes that the salesman may make when doing his job. The more you know about a car, the more likely it will be for you to get a good price.

Get a Car History Report
When you find a car that you may want to buy, be sure to get its VIN and utilize a free car history report. Use a reliable service such as AutoCheck to find out about any problems the car may have had during its life. If the used car salesman is hesitant to acknowledge the benefits of a car history report, you should be weary of his or her honesty.

Keep Your Options Open
Once you educate yourself and use a car history report, let the salesman know that you have other options. Tell them that some other dealer has another car of similar quality for a lower price, or that you can find a car of better quality for the same price. Discuss the types of car sales incentives you can get from the "other guy." Mention specific features, such as the audio system, power windows/locks, and interior and exterior options. If you let the salesman know that you're out to get the best possible deal, he or she may be more likely to give you a good price.

Be Friendly
One final thing to always remember when you're dealing with a used car salesman is to be courteous. Nobody wants to sell to a mean, disrespectful person. Try to joke with the salesman, while also remaining firm. Be likable, but responsible. Befriend the salesman, and you may end up paying less. When you're not prepared, buying from a used car salesman can certainly be an uphill battle. However, when you do the proper research, utilize the tools available to you, do some bargaining and remain pleasant, you should be able to buy a used car with good levels of comfort and confidence.

Finding an Honest Used Car Salesman

In terms of general perception, many people think that the phrase "honest used car salesman" is an oxymoron. The negative stigma attached to used car salesmen is rooted in past eras, where consumer protection laws were not as heavily enforced, and where car dealerships were able to use unethical tactics almost at will. Stereotypical used car sales tricks from the "old days" include using shoddy repair techniques to cover up defects, lying about a vehicle's ownership and usage history, and tampering with the odometer. Since then, a lot has changed in terms of the rules and regulations that dealerships are forced to abide by. And while there are still some dealers and salesmen that employ dubious, unethical and even illegal tactics, they are fairly easy to avoid.

Look at Reviews
A little preliminary research can go a long way. There are numerous resources on the Internet that offer dealership reviews. Read reviews about the dealerships. Be wary of ones that have numerous negative comments about the behavior of their employees. Also, ask the people you know about where they purchased their cars and how their experience was. Ask them about their salesman. If their review is positive obtain this salesman's name. This seems intuitive, and it is very easy to do, but a lot of people fail to take this step prior to searching for a vehicle.

Pay Attention and Ask Questions
When you walk on to a lot, pay close attention to the salesman's behavior and what they say. Ask a lot of questions, and look for transparency: does the salesman answer your questions directly, or do they beat around the bush and try to change the subject? In general, an honest salesman will offer substantiated opinions, point you toward vehicles that fit what you are looking for, and be forthcoming about the strengths and weaknesses of each vehicle you are considering. A dishonest salesman will look to change the subject if your line of questioning doesn't suit their purposes, and will try to sell you any vehicle on the lot regardless of whether or not it suits your needs. Most of the time, it is easy to spot a dishonest salesman simply by paying attention to their behavior.

Also keep in mind that any dealership worthy of your business will do things such as provide CARFAX (or similar) vehicle history reports, and allow you to have a vehicle inspected by a third-party mechanic prior to purchase.

While there are still dishonest salesmen out there, the vast majority of salesmen nowadays are reasonably straightforward, due to stricter liability laws and changing philosophies in the auto sales business regarding customer relations. Fortunately for consumers, avoiding dishonest salesman and unethical dealerships has become easier than ever. If you take the proper steps to protect yourself, you should have no issues finding an honest salesman and dealership to do business with.