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Don't get taken for ride at auto dealership

By Steve Thompson, Contributing writer
Published On: Nov 10 2011 10:07:35 PM CST
Updated On: Sep 09 2013 11:46:32 AM CDT
Cars at dealership


There is a reason why car salesmen are universally mistrusted. That's because in some cases their job is to convince you to buy a car, regardless of whether it is the right car for you. How then do you get past their fast talk and factual flexibility to ensure you end up with a vehicle you will be happy with?

Tips for handling car salesmen: Wait and withhold

This particular piece of advice might not work on your next date, but it is an effective way to handle car salesmen. According to, giving too much away is a bad idea. If you tell car salesmen how much you have to spend and how desperate you are to find a great deal, they will eat you alive.

The trick is to maintain as much bargaining power as possible. When you tell car salesmen too much about yourself, you shift the power in their direction. Your urgency and desperation will ring like a cash register in their minds, and you'll find yourself falling for their tactics. You should also avoid discussing things like trade-ins until you've negotiated a final price.

Forget loyalty

Just because the car salesmen at one dealership are the first to let you test drive the car of your dreams doesn't mean you have to buy from them. Ask for their card, then go shopping at other dealerships to see what kinds of offers they are making. advises buyers to avoid a sense of obligation. You don't owe car salesmen anything.

You can, however, return to that first dealership and find out if they are willing to beat the price you were offered elsewhere. This can qualify as professional courtesy, and you're free to walk away at any time.

Research first

If you are prepared to deal with car salesmen, your experience will be far less unsettling. One of the best ways to prepare is to research the types of cars on the market. Find out what security features they offer and how much they cost. If you know that a car you really want should be priced $5,000 lower than the sticker price, you won't be taken for advantage of.

You should also have some car knowledge under your belt before you deal with car salesmen, particularly if you are a woman. The key here is to earn the respect of the salesman right from the start so he won't try to take advantage of you. Salesmen often underestimate women, so be prepared to show him what you know.

Read the contract

Car salesmen aren't just manipulative in person, they also can be manipulative on paper. Once you've gotten to the point where you're ready to make a purchase, sit back with the sales contract and read it carefully. Look for any hidden charges that might show up on your final bill, and ask for explicit explanations for anything that doesn't make sense.

This is especially true when you talk car salesmen down from a price. You've done great on negotiating verbally, but expect them to wield the power of the pen. If you think they might be trying to get one over on you, take the contract to your attorney for a read-through before signing.

Bring a friend

Some people are just naturally uncomfortable around car salesmen, and who can blame them? If this sounds like you, bring a friend or relative along who has experience in negotiating. He or she can make sure you don't sign before you're ready and can even handle the verbal negotiations for you.

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