Car Salesman Tricks You Must Be Careful With

Car saleswoman selling car to couple
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Finding a perfect car is hard—but making sure you find a great deal without being pressured is even harder. You need to be on the lookout for the 5 most common tactics that car salespeople use in order to know how to handle them.

The Lowball/The Highball

This is tactic works two ways: the lowball is when the salesperson offers a ridiculously low trade-in price on your vehicle, and the highball is when the salesperson offers you one of their own vehicles for a ridiculously high price. They are trying to get as much money out of you as possible, and if they learn you’re a sucker early on, they’ll keep repeating this tactic at each stage of the negotiation process.

The Hard Sell

This is probably the most stereotypical technique associated with car salespeople. A hard sell is a method through which the salesperson aggressively, directly, and forcefully attempts to make a sale. Asking questions like, “what do I need to do to get you to buy a car before you leave the lot today?” or making statements like “you’d be crazy to walk away from a deal like this—you’re not going to find one anywhere else—” are examples of a hard sell.

Meeting Your Needs—And Making You Pay for It

Did you admit to the salesperson that you need a certain monthly payment? They might be only too happy to meet it—but also drive up the sticker price of your new ride. Did you say that you can under no circumstances sell your old car for less than $15,000? They might be happy to do that, but they might shorten the duration of the dealership’s standard warranty. Each time a dealer is all too happy to meet a demand, be careful: they will probably figure out a way to make up for the loss somewhere else.

Straight-Up Lies

It’s undeniable that this behavior is totally unethical, but it’s also undeniable that it totally happens. In order to pressure you into buying a particular vehicle, a salesperson might say that there are no other lots in town that sell this particular vehicle, that an offer made expires today, or even that someone else already put down an offer on the vehicle in an effort to make sure you don’t try to bargain down the price.


This sort of tactic is generally illegal, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t dealers who try to get away with it. A bait and switch are when the dealership advertises a certain deal—say, a black truck for $20,000—but when you pull in tells you that they’ve sold out and the only available trucks they have on the lot are $25,000 ones. Anytime a dealer advertises something that they don’t actually have available and then attempts to convince you that you should purchase their available, more expensive model instead, that is a bait and switch.

How to Prepare for These Car Salesman Tricks

Prepare in advance with these three surefire ways to protect yourself from the common tactics used by car salespeople while maintaining your sanity and your financial health.

Do Your Research

The best way to arm yourself for any negotiations, whether with the most reputable partner or a sleazy salesperson, is to do your research. You should find out exactly how much your vehicle is worth, and how much you should expect to be offered for a trade-in, using a site like Kelley Blue Book. You should use a similar site to find out exactly what kind of vehicles you’re interested in and their fair market prices in your area. You should also figure out what sort of interest rate you can expect to be offered based on your creditworthiness well before you walk on the lot, and what sort of repayment plans will work for your budget. The more information you have, the better positioned you will be to get a great deal and a great vehicle without harming yourself financially.

Be Careful What You Say

Just like in a court of law, anything you say can and will be used against you. Don’t be too loose-lipped with exactly what you’re willing to pay and accept—let the negotiation process do its work.

Know Your Limits

Figure out a realistic budget and stick to it. Did you find a $40,000 car of your dreams, but your budget is only $36,000? Don’t try to rationalize it, don’t let the salesman pressure you—just walk away.

Bring a Friend

Let’s face it – some of us are much better at talking tough than others are. If you know that you have a hard time saying no or seeming disagreeable, consider bringing a friend along who can inspire confidence in you or who is better at hardball negotiations. If you’re a woman, unfortunately, you might also face sexism in the dealership – so it might save you money to bring along a male friend (or someone who knows the car buying process inside and out) to show the dealer you mean business. It’s not fair, but the money you save will be worth it!