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Why Is the Dealer Switching Cars on Me?

Kevin Scanlan is a car salesman in Henrietta, Texas, who would like to change car buying, one customer at a time.

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I was asked about a scenario that happened to a friend of mine. I would like to share it with you. It was a horrible case of a lack of communication making the customer suspicious and losing confidence in the salesman and the dealership.

Here are the facts: You go to the dealership and you are interested in the white 2014 Malibu. After we have talked numbers and looked at your credit and financing options, the salesman wants you to look at a red one that is two years newer and $1500 more expensive. Why?

Let’s do first things first. You should never be in a situation where you don’t feel comfortable and in control. This is likely the second most expensive purchase you will make, and you need to understand what is going on. You should have asked your salesman why he was suggesting a different car. If you ever have a question during the sales process you SHOULD ask. If you do not get a clear or satisfactory answer – you need to look for another car dealership.

There is a bigger issue here as well. You should not have to ask. Your salesman or saleswoman should be keeping you informed all along the way. I know that when I am with a customer, I think of us as a team. We both want the same thing – we want them to leave in a new car. So, you should not have to wonder what was going on – it is your purchase. If you do not understand what is going on – then your team is not functioning properly.

The first thing that comes into your mind is that they must have a reason to want to switch cars. That is absolutely correct. You have that part 100% right. It is the “why” that you probably do not know. It is not just because they can make more profit on the newer one. I know that dealerships do pay bonuses for moving certain makes or models and have contests and all sorts of things that could be at play. More likely, he is trying to do what is best for you. He or she was just not sharp enough to take the time to explain what he was doing and why.

Let’s say you have below average credit – half the people in America do. That means there are 165,000,000 people in this country with below average credit. It is nothing new or unique. But the car switch may have something to do with getting you financed. It might be that the lender he was trying to place you with was not worried about your ability to pay but did not want to make a loan on a car that is 5 years old. The newer car may be a bit more, but it is more attractive to the lender as collateral.

It could be that you are really focusing on a specific payment – many buyers – including myself do. It is all about the payment. I want this car, I have this down payment and you ran my credit. It is up to the salesman and finance team to try and meet those expectations.

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So, let’s get back to the 2014 and 2016 models. Maybe you said I must have a $300 payment. They look at the lenders and they can only get financing for 36 months on the 2014 model. I just made up some numbers but came up with a $334.81 payment. Now the 2016 model costs $1500 more, but the lender will go an extra year on the financing since it is two years newer. So the newer car, even though it costs more, can be yours for $299.74 a month with a 48-month note. That is exactly what you asked for. You wanted a 2014 at $300 a month and the salesman got you a 2016 for that exact payment.

That is good salesmanship. Unfortunately, if he was not keeping you informed of what he was trying to do – then all his creative work is wasted. You don’t understand what is going on – and you assume he is either not listening to you or is trying to flip you to a car where he makes more money. That is sad. The salesperson is working hard to meet his customer's wishes, but the customer is not seeing that. Communication is key. He should be more open about what the process is and how it helps you as a customer. And you should ask. Never let yourself be uncomfortable with such a big decision.

And, it is that. Buying a car is a big decision and a big financial commitment. You should understand every step of the process.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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