Avoid the Dealership Game

Know car salesman tricks and get through the process faster.

Buying a new or used car can be intimidating. It can also be time consuming. It can also drain your wallet. The last time I bought a vehicle was 2001. That vehicle, a 2000 Chevy Tahoe still runs like a champ and looks like a beauty. I had been driving a 1996 Pontiac Bonneville which I loved and hoped to drive for many years. However the car developed problems and $2,000 in repairs did not fix the problems.

I could have used that $2,000 as a down payment on another car, and it was a hard lesson to learn. The Bonneville had a vacuum-leak issue (or so I was told) and it became dangerous to drive. For no apparent reason the car would surge forward and I was afraid I may unintentionally run into someone or something.

The one thing I dreaded more than driving the car was dealing with salesmen at dealerships. I went to Half-Price books and picked up a couple of paperback books on dealing with salesmen. I think I spent less than $20 but the information saved me thousands of dollars and many hours.

Before you ever visit a dealership, make a copy of your driver’s license. Right next to your copied license write the following, “Permission is not authorized to run a credit check”. You will need to take this to every dealer you visit.

Car dealers know how to waste your time and they know how to size you up. Once they run your FICO credit scores, the proverbial cat is out of the bag. They may know more about you than you want, and they want your driver’s license.

One of the reason’s they will ask for your license is to ensure you are current with the state and actually know how to drive. Another reason is to hold you hostage. I mean that literally, if you don’t take a copy of your license then they will have to make one for themselves. While doing this, you can’t leave. You can’t get up and drive off even if you want to, because they have your license. It doesn’t matter to them how frustrated you may get in your cozy chair with your hot cup of coffee. This is a delay tactic.

Getting the deal

Does it bother you to negotiate?

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The second thing on the list is never sit down. Once you are cozy in a lounge chair, or if your kids have been parked in front of the dealership tv, just know that you have given up several hours of your time. The car salesman wants to find common ground so you will trust him. I don’t care who the sales person is, he or she is not your friend. Their job is to make the sale, sell you on premium upgrades, low ball you on a trade in and inform you that because of your credit rating, they can only offer you a certain finance rate.


My credit score was around the 750 mark so I knew that financing would not be a problem. The salesman told me the best they could do was 10%. If I had been drinking a beverage, it would have ended up on his shirt. I knew my credit union would have a much lower rate, but I didn’t tell him that. I ended up financing the loan through my credit union for 4%. This saved me thousands of dollars.

I spent several weeks visiting dealerships (never once giving them my driver’s license, always a copy) but I could not find the vehicle I wanted. I really wanted an SUV, but truthfully I didn't know much about them. I had gone to lunch with a co-worker and loved the stadium-like view’ of her Cadillac SUV. My view from the Bonneville was a view of someone’s tailgate.

I drove a Chevy Tahoe at the first dealership I visited and fell in love. Here’s another tip. Do not show any affection for the car you test drive. That is a suckers game. If the salesman knows you love it, the game just ended for you. He knows that you will buy premium add-ons, will wait endless hours and that you just won’t care about the interest rate he’s going to offer. You have bitten the line and he’s about to reel you in.

You have probably heard the saying, “Know before you go”. This applies to more than just cars and a little research on your part will save you frustration while you are on the lot. Personally, I never recommend buying a brand new car. My reasons are both financial and common sense. I prefer to buy a one-year old car for a couple of reasons. Number one reason is that it is probably still under warranty, depending on mileage. Number two reason is that it has already depreciated in value for a year. Number three reason is that a one-year old car is more affordable than a brand new model of the same car class.

DO NOT TELL THE SALESMAN IF YOU ARE TRADING IN. If he asks you about it, be very non committal and completely nonchalant about your current vehicle. This is a source of bargaining power for you later on. Do not give up this power. Do not give him keys to your car. Do not allow your eyes to twinkle if he makes an offer on your car which will lower the cost of the one you want to buy. Don’t be a sucker. Don’t allow any further conversation about your car. This is a final part of negotiating the price of the ‘new’ car you want to buy.

I knew the value of my Bonneville and I didn't owe any money on the car. I did some research and the value was $5,000. Keep in mind that I was having problems with this car. However, I also knew that if they wanted it, they could fix it and still make money.

And the Games Begin

I drove the Tahoe and met with the manager who then wrote a dollar figure on a piece of paper and handed it to me. I negotiated the cost down another $1800. Now this $1800 could have easily been part of a low-ball effort on my trade-in value, IF they knew I had a trade in.

I left the dealership and planned to get financing though my credit union the next day. However, when I called the manager at the dealership, suddenly he could not be found and I was told that the dealership could not honor the price I had negotiated.

I then called the salesman and told him, “If you want to play the Missing Man Game, fine. However, I will give you 30 minutes to confirm the price we had agreed on or I will buy from another dealership”. It was ironic how the manager was able to call me 10 minutes later and confirm the price.

Do not be a sucker. Do not let them waste your time, and don't them the treat you like a fool.

I received financing through the credit union in the form of a Purchase Order which essentially is an electronic way of moving money without handling any cash. I met with the Finance Manager the next day to complete the purchase of the 2000 Tahoe.

The Finance Manager asked if I was willing to trade in my Bonneville. Of course I was, I actually couldn’t wait to get rid of it because I was afraid to drive it anywhere. I told him that if he wanted to make a deal then I would accept $5,000 as trade-in value and not one penny less.

The benefit of having an approved Purchase Order took away their bargaining power on my trade in.

You must stand firm with these people and you have to know each game they will play at each break in the game. They offered me less but I stood my ground on the trade-in value. They accepted and it saved me $5,000 on the new loan.

The finance manager attempted to talk me into financing through the dealership by offering an upgrade on the Tahoe. I didn’t need any sexy upgrades and held my ground on financing through my credit union.

Ending the negotiation

Have you ever walked away from a deal?

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Before you sign any loan paperwork, run a CarFax Report. You need to know if your car has been in an accident, flood, or other type of chaos. You also need to know that the title is clear. Unreported accidents will not appear on the report, but this report will reveal how many different people have owned the car and in which states it has been registered.

The most important thing you can do when buying a new or used car is to do your home work. Know before you go. Know your credit score, know where you can get cheaper financing, know the games that sales people play, know what you can afford and never - ever negotiate monthly car payments. That is a suckers game, but I’ll write about that on another hub.

Financing your shiny ride

Do you know why they want to talk about the payment you can afford?

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Profit Margins


Dealer Add-Ons

Don't believe everything you read on the internet. If you see a car posted on a dealer site and it has everything you need, beware the Dealer Add-On, it may not be included on the website but will be posted on the car.

A dealer add-on is also known as a Supplemental Sticker. This sticker inflates the cost of the car.

A dealer add-on is also a profit center for the dealer. It may have features that you want on the car but the likely-hood is that the features are overpriced.

For example; splash guards, window tinting, a tailgate on a pickup and even alarm systems and an interior protection package. This "protection package" is basically Scotch Guard and you can do that yourself to protect the upholstery.

You can get the windows professionally tinted somewhere else for 50% of what a dealer will charge you.

Is it really Bumper to Bumper?


Extended Warranties


Within a few months of purchasing my Tahoe I found a bumper-to-bumper extended warranty posted online. It wasn't very expensive, and my truck was only a year old. I did have a couple of issues with the Tahoe.

In the first two years, the Throttle Body got clogged. The truck would flat out die as I approached a stop. So on three separate occasions, I took it to the dealer and dealt with the problem.

I received a "Cancellation Notice" from the warranty company in the third year. They were terminating contracts with 'older models', and mine was not even grandfathered into the program. I was ticked off, and there was nothing I could do about the situation. I couldn't even get my money refunded.

The extended warranty originally gave me some peace of mind about my purchase. However, once it was terminated - the loss was mine. I had considered it part of protecting the value of my vehicle, but it turned out to be worthless.

I have had the Chevy Tahoe for 13 years. It is now early 2014, and it still runs great and is very reliable. In fact, I have never owned a vehicle for this length of time, but I don't want car payments and am serious about service and maintenance.

Driving Off

Knowing some of the strategies that are designed to cause time delays and increase your payments can save you money before you sign on the dotted line. Make sure that you got what you bargained for before you leave the dealership, and don't pay a penny more.

© 2012 lifelovemystery

Comments 18 comments

sagebrush_mama profile image

sagebrush_mama 4 years ago from The Shadow of Death Valley...Snow Covered Mountain Views Abound!

Excellent hub! I learned a lot, and will definitely keep the credit union option in mind next time I'm looking for a vehicle.

Rahsaan Shareef 4 years ago

Nice Article

ElizaDoole profile image

ElizaDoole 4 years ago from London

I really enjoyed reading this hub on a rather dry subject. You injected your own story style and a sassy streetwise voice really came across. I'm trusting you here! Good advice.

lifelovemystery profile image

lifelovemystery 4 years ago from Houston, TX Author

Thanks Eliza! I dread the day I have to replace my vehicle but I do look forward to the negotiation!

Geoff222 profile image

Geoff222 4 years ago from Central Florida

An interesting story and I think there is more to the story I'm sure

Breatheeasy3 profile image

Breatheeasy3 3 years ago from USA

Such an amazing and informative article. Very good stuff.

P.S. Thanks for visiting my page

lifelovemystery profile image

lifelovemystery 3 years ago from Houston, TX Author

Thanks breatheeasy3. Have a great day!

wilderness profile image

wilderness 3 years ago from Boise, Idaho

Some excellent tips here - you've done well. I would add just one thing - if you aren't willing and able to simply walk away from any deal offered you will be taken for a ride. Once you've fallen in love with a car to the point you're not willing to walk away, you've lost the game.

lifelovemystery profile image

lifelovemystery 3 years ago from Houston, TX Author

You are so right! When I bought my Tahoe in 2001 they REALLY wanted me to keep it for the night.

That's a Suckers Game!

Thanks for your post, and nice to meet you.

sallybea profile image

sallybea 3 years ago from Norfolk

lifelovemystery - interesting article since I have just purchased a new car. At no time was I ever offered a chair - ha, or asked for my drivers licence. I expect things are done differently in the UK. I also did not need to buy the car on credit. As a result of this I believe I got a very good deal. One never knows with cars though. I bought my previous one on an auction and I have to say it was terrific for five years but when it let me down recently, I bit the bullet and got rid of it before the sieve started leaking money.

lifelovemystery profile image

lifelovemystery 3 years ago from Houston, TX Author

sallybea, I think it's safe to say that most of us are jealous of your experience. It seems that US dealers think it is their job to keep you warming the chair in their office. I've purchased four cars in the last 28 years and the dealership experience hasn't varied much between the time spent test driving, negotiating or finalizing the paperwork. Maybe I should go to the UK for my next car!

HyperChicken 2 years ago

I wish I would have read the section about the Driver's License sooner. I went to Tampa Hondaland today to test drive a CR-V and the salesman deliberately kept my license. This accomplished 3 things for him: 1) Forced me to interact with him an additional time (Preferably, for him, in person) 2) Gave him the opportunity to be a hero, as I'm sure most people fall for this. and 3) I can't test drive vehicles at other dealerships until I get that license back. I LOVED the 2014 CRV. However, this not only means I won't be buying from that dealer, but I won't be buying a Honda. I realize these scumbags are everywhere, but Toyota & Nissan haven't done me like that, so I'll be in a RAv4 or a Rogue instead.

Thanks for the awesome tips!

lifelovemystery profile image

lifelovemystery 2 years ago from Houston, TX Author

Unfortunately there are a number of Games that sales people use to manipulate our time and try to manipulate our choices. Thanks for commenting and I hope your next experience is much better.

Sue 2 years ago

Salesman took my registration to make a copy and then said he lost it! He gave us a copy of the copy and had an arrogant attitude. Obviously, he lost me as a customer. How smart is that?

lifelovemystery profile image

lifelovemystery 2 years ago from Houston, TX Author

I don't quite follow. How did he give you a copy if he lost it?

chloesdad profile image

chloesdad 2 years ago from Newington NH

Great Hub! I used to sell cars and I hated how the customers were treated by management.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 14 months ago from Oklahoma

I positively can't stand the nonsense. That said, one of my biggest strengths as a negotiator is my ability to walk away.

Useful hub.

BZ 8 weeks ago

So the last time you bought a car was 16 years ago?

Taking advice from someone who has not done the thing they are giving advice on in a decade and a half does not seem that smart.

Great article, has all the bullet points from various other blogs out there

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