Car Shopping on the Offensive: 8 Aggressive Buying Tactics

January 25, 2009

I think this is good information that anyone should take to the car lot.  I get tired of just wanting to look at a few vehicles or possibly even buy and getting heavy pressure by sales persons.  I saw this article at http://autos.yahoo.com/articles/autos_content_landing_pages/845/car-shopping-on-the-offensive-8-aggressive-buying-tactics and wanted to share.  The article is from Car and Driver magazine.  As always comments and thoughts are welcome…

Car Shopping on the Offensive: 8 Aggressive Buying Tactics

Beat the hard sell and turn the tables on the dealer.


216 votes

By Tony Quiroga

Our reviews, road tests, and Buying Guide will help you choose a single vehicle from the 430 or so on sale today, but how do you negotiate the often contentious dealer experience? It can be an intimidating and unpleasant process, and while most dealers are honest, salespeople are in the business to close deals quickly and get you to pay top dollar. Most engage in tried-and-true psychological tactics designed to get them the best possible deal. So how do you make sure you’re doing the same for yourself? We’ve debunked the eight most common hard-sell tactics. More important, we tell you how to turn around each of them and use them to your advantage. Should you find yourself getting pressured, these replies will regain control of the situation.

What the Dealer Says:

“You have to make the deal today.”

What You Should Say:

“Sorry, this offer expires tonight.”

In this scenario the dealer quotes a price, but to apply pressure to the buyer the deal is only good for that day. This gives the buyer little chance to research the price or find a competing offer from another dealership. Fortunately, the buyer can regain control by coming up with his or her own price and adding, “My offer is only good for tonight.” A dealer desperate to make a sale will have little recourse, and should they not agree to the price the buyer is free to walk away. Just be sure to do your research before you go to the dealer so your offer is actually low enough.

What the Dealer Says:

“I have to check with my manager.”

What You Should Say:

“I have to check with my spouse.”

A salesperson often will tell you that he has to confer with a sales manager to see if the price he comes up with is agreeable. Thus, the manager becomes the bad guy and the salesperson comes off as being in the buyer’s corner. Don’t be fooled and don’t be afraid to use the same tactic. If you need time to think about it and you don’t want to come off as the bad guy, tell the salesperson you have to confer with your spouse. It helps to paint the spouse as the disagreeable sort. Don’t have a spouse? Try accountant, therapist, astrologist, cult leader, food taster, or any other authority figure whose opinion you supposedly value. Have the other person play the role of the bad guy who’s holding up the deal. It’s not uncommon for salespeople to belittle a customer for letting the “little lady” or “chauvinist husband” tell them what to do, so be prepared to set your ego aside and admit you’re only one member of the team making the decision.

What the Dealer Says:

“I have to put food on my table.”

What You Should Say:

“I have to keep food on my table.”

To play on the buyer’s compassion, the salesperson might tell you that he has to put food on his table. Apparently, the deal is so in favor of the buyer that the salesperson will starve if the deal gets any better. Remember, you’re the one unloading the cash, not the salesperson. Tell them, “I have to keep food on my table.”

What the Dealer Says:

“We’re already losing money on this deal.”

What You Should Say:

“I’m already losing a hell of a lot of money on this deal.”

To convince the buyer of the excellent deal that is being made, the salesperson might tell the buyer that the dealer is losing money on the deal. This is another tactic designed to appeal to one’s sympathy. Consider that the buyer is the one who is losing, or at least giving up, thousands of dollars. Be sure to remind the salesperson that you are the one losing the money.

What the Dealer Says:

“I’ve got another offer, this is in high demand.”

What You Should Say:

“I could go down the street and get the same car.”

Car salespeople will always try to convince the buyer that the car they are considering is in such high demand that they’d better move quickly or risk losing the car. “Other interested buyers” and “production shortages” are ruses designed to make the buyer believe that buying immediately is necessary. Mass-produced cars are, as the name implies, built in huge numbers. Even if what the dealer tells you is true, another just like the one you want will be built and available soon. And there are almost always other dealers that will have the same car or something close.

What the Dealer Says:

“This is the only one like it, take it or leave it.”

What You Should Say:

“I am the only person who would ever buy this ridiculously unusual car.”

Hard-core car enthusiasts often find themselves considering cars that ordinary buyers don’t even know exist. Consequently, the automaker doesn’t make a lot of these cars because the market for them is so thin. But they are out there. Somewhere a Cadillac dealer has a CTS with a six-speed manual transmission and it’s more than likely that the salesperson is telling the buyer, “This is the only one like it, take it or leave it.” The seller should respond in kind with, “I am the only person who would ever buy this ridiculously unusual car.”

What the Dealer Does:

Last-minute price increase or hidden fees

What You Should Do:

Last-minute offer decrease

If the dealer knows that you’re seriously interested and a price has been agreed upon, occasionally the dealer will surprise the buyer with a last-minute price increase or previously undisclosed fees and, of course, a plausible-sounding excuse for the increase. Don’t give in to this tactic. Try countering with a last-minute offer decrease.

What the Dealer Says:

“I’m throwing in all this for free.”

What You Should Say:

“I don’t even want all this stuff.”

A salesperson will often attempt to justify an inflated price by including valueless items like pinstriping, undercoating, fabric or paint protectant, or pre-sale inspections. Sometimes even optional equipment may be part of the deal and appear to be free. If you don’t want the extra options, just let the dealer know. Tell the dealer, “These non-factory items, if anything, make this car worth less to me.”



  1. I say go to Car Max!!!!! No pressure whatsoever…loved going there! 🙂

  2. I’m not sure why I never responded to this but as a former Circuit City employee (same company as Car Max) I’m here to say that there is zero pressure in the initial purchase. That’s not where they make the bulk of the profit. The profit is in the extended warranties and other services and they will give some pressure there.

    My personal opinion is the best place to buy a car is from the individual, it’s easier to get an idea on how the vehicle was taken care of and the cost is typically lower. Also the cars aren’t shuffled around like traded cars so much so it’s more likely there isn’t a significant problem.

    That being said, I would buy from a dealer but if a good used individual owned can be found, I think that is my preferred choice.

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