10 Nasty Tricks Car Dealers Try to Pull on You

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Buying a used car is a swampy world of deceit and disappointment, which is why you should do thorough research and leave no room for trickery, sorcery, or other kinds of sordid magic that will leave you stuck with a lemon. By knowing the tricks of the trade, you can keep yourself safe and smart — and get the deal you want at the same time. Here are 10 nasty tricks used car dealers try to pull on unsuspecting customers, and how to avoid falling for them.

Pulling the Keys/’This Won’t Be Here Tomorrow’



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If the salesman thinks you’re taking too long looking at a used car, but is also convinced that he can make you buy under pressure, he might try pulling the keys. This means that another salesperson will approach the two of you by the car and ask for the vehicle’s keys under the guise that there’s another interested customer nearby. The point is to make you feel like your chance at owning this particular vehicle is in jeopardy, so you better act fast if you want to hold on to it. The same goes for the ‘this won’t be here tomorrow’ phrase, which is designed to apply stress and a little bit of panic — both things that lead to irrational purchasing decisions. If the car dealers try to pull this one on you, don’t flinch. It may feel real, but it’s just a shady tactic in the end.

Monthly Payments



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When filling out forms regarding your search for a used vehicle, leave the ‘monthly payments’ box blank. This is an ancient form of haggling; once you set a price, the dealer knows how much room he has to work with and may try to push you to pay a hundred dollars or more per month. Instead of filling out how much you would like to pay monthly, focus on discussing an overall price for the vehicle. Once you’ve agreed on a vehicle price, you can then begin to discuss monthly payments. It may also be a good idea to give an estimation lower than you’re willing to shell out, so your dealer’s attempts at increasing the monthly payments still fall within your price range.

Insulting Your Credit Score



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“Oh, you wanted which car, at what price? Hm… Well, you probably won’t be approved. You probably can’t get that rate anywhere else, either. However, we have a more expensive car available at a more expensive price that is perfect for your credit score!”

The key word here is ‘probably’. By insulting your credit score and telling you that you ‘most likely’ won’t get the deal you want, the dealer tries to grind down the seller into a better deal. The only catch is that the deal is better for the sneaky seller, not the buyer. If your credit score is too poor to afford the car you want, why would it be good enough to purchase a more expensive car that requires an even higher payment?

The Sticker That Lies



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Used cars often have a sticker on the windshield advertising their price, but this can be extremely misleading. The sticker price is only the MSRP — the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. It doesn’t reflect the actual price, meaning that you should do your research and ask a lot of questions about the vehicle you’re interested in. You should also use The Blue Book to determine a reasonable price for the car you’re interested in. Using the book and avoiding jargon from the dealer can ensure that you’re educated and won’t be bowled over by any hidden fees or ‘added accessories’.

Paying it Off Forever



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It sounds great to get an extremely low monthly payment, but consider the long-term implications. You don’t want to be stuck paying off your car seven years from now, especially since the vehicle may then be obsolete and pushing you toward another purchase. Make sure that you plan ahead and know how long you want to be paying off your vehicle.

Trade-in Transactions Happen in Steps



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When trading in an old car for a newer one, car dealers often try and convince the buyer that this happens all in one transaction. This is far from the truth; trading in and purchasing another vehicle happens in steps, making up separate transactions. Don’t let a salesman talk you into a ‘deal’ by undercutting your trade-in price and trying to convince you that you’re getting something special since the used car you want is ‘just so great’. Make sure that you separate these transactions; know how much you’re getting for your trade-in, and then work on your ideal purchase price and used car.

The Indian Giver



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Used car salesmen often play the part of the Indian Giver. For example, a car salesman offers you a decent chunk of money for your used car. You’re impressed, but want to shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal. After days of examining other used car lots and not coming up with a better deal, you return to the original price to seal the deal. Suddenly, your salesman changes his tune and has less money to offer you… but you’re so sick and tired of shopping around that you’re tempted to settle on the new, lower price. Don’t fall for this one. The goal of the salesman is to get you emotionally invested in his car lot, let you exhaust yourself searching for a price he knows you won’t find, and then cut you down at the last second when you’re frustrated and just want to be finished with the whole ordeal.

Prey on the Weak



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Research, research, research, and more research is the only thing that can save you from a lot of these slimy tactics. Know what you’re looking for, the price you’re willing to pay, and the payments you’re willing to make. It’s also helpful to know about the accessories that come with the car (dealerships are notorious for adding new ones after receiving the vehicle and then trying to charge the buyer extra for unwanted add-ons), prices for similar cars at other dealerships in your area, and any other vital details about the vehicle. If a dealer sees that you’re uneducated about the process or the vehicle you want, the dealer will zero in on that and try to use it to his advantage.

Use Your Own Mechanic



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Before purchasing a new vehicle, it’s important to have it inspected. Don’t send it to the dealership’s mechanic; who knows what kind of in-cahoots individual will be inspecting? Make sure you have your own mechanic that you trust to evaluate the vehicle you’re interested in.

Holding Your Keys



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This is by far the scummiest and most unsuccessful tactic utilized by used car dealers, but in a scummy act of desperation they may engage in what’s called ‘holding your keys’. This only happens if you’re there for a trade-in and have given your keys to the dealers to temporarily hold. If you’re trying to leave, they may ‘accidentally misplace’ your keys or simply attempt to badger you into a trade-in or purchase. If you demand your keys be returned immediately, you should have no problem getting them back — but it’s undoubtedly an annoying and backhanded strategy.

  • Kim Z

    You do know the term “indian giver” is bad business right?

  • kris

    indian giver refers to the one giving the ‘gift’, not the indian receiving the gift. the ‘white’ man gave to the indians, only to later take it away again. therefore he was an indian giver. so you see, there is no offense to anyone, since a slur on the ‘white’ man is perfectly acceptable.

  • Cedric

    “White Man Giver” would be more fitting, but it is still bad and really should not be used.

  • you indian lover why are women so stupid why do indians smell why do black people always need to take a shower why are indians stoopid who ask these questions in the news media im eating your mom kim z right now and loving every minute of it

  • Lori

    “Indian Giver” is racist. Shame on you for still being ignorant enough to use it.

  • Ronster

    Kim’s right. “Indian giver?” Is “Jew down” also in your stylebook?

    Racist. Unintentionally, perhaps, but still racist.

  • Jim Jansen

    Racist pigs

  • Rahul Malik

    Here’s another nasty surprise that I experienced. The sticker on the used car advertises the features of the car along with a disclaimer that the dealership assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of the described features. When the deal is sealed, then you find out that what was advertised was not on the car and the dealership then hides behind their disclaimer.

  • Rodney

    OK. ENOUGH of the crying “Racist” garbage!! Seriously! There most likely is a better term to use other than Indian Giver, but give me a break! Enough is enough already! Nothing racist or offensive was intended here, and the ONLY way anyone can claim to be “offended” by it’s use is because they ALLOW it to offend them! If I go around looking for ways to be offended or have my feelings hurt, I will sure as heck find exactly what I’m looking for! Let’s move past this silly, divisive attitude and look for ways to build one another UP instead of looking for ways to inaccurately accuse them of being something they are not. Just sayin’.

  • tessy

    All right Rodney!!! Agree totally. Way to go!

  • Ronster

    Hey, Rodney-

    Have a look at douchebag nick’s comment, then tell me pointing out ingorance-based racism is “garbage.” Tool.

  • Ronster

    Make that “ignorance.”

  • koine2002

    My mom recently had the last one happen at a new car dealership. She kindly asked for her keys back three times and he kept countering with a different deal. After the third time he got the sales manager with an even “better deal.” My mom said no and more firmly asked for her keys. He attempted to negotiate again when my mom threatened to call the police. At that point they scolded her for wasting their time and gave her keys back. She was not officially in the market at that time. She was just exploring the idea. The whole experience caused her to abandon Toyota since that group owns all the Toyota dealers in her area. She went to Honda. She’s quite the savvy negotiator, too. She learned from her dad who started with the price, then trade-in. Once he made the owner cuss once because he said, after negotiating a great price and trade, “I’m paying cash,” when they got to down to discussing payments.