Used car sales tactics to watch out for

An OK Used Cars neon sign at the Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Oklahoma.

These used car sales tactics should show up like neon when you shop. (CC BY/Kevin/Flickr)

In their efforts to save money, many car shoppers go the used car route. Unfortunately, that means that they’re forced to buy into the used car sales experience of hard sell hyperbole. Know what you’re getting into before you buy. Here are some used car sales tactics to beware.

Used car sales tactics No. 1 – The hard sell

Aggressive salespeople figure that they can twist an indecisive or otherwise weak customer into a big sale. You’re on the defensive, and the salesperson doesn’t give you a moment to breathe or walk out of the dealership. The best defense is knowledge of the car you want and how much it should cost. If the dealer won’t sell it for a fair market price, walk away from the strong-arm tactics.

Used car sales tactics No. 2 – Selling on payment over price

When buying a used car, pay for it in cash, ideally in full. If the used car dealer tries to talk you into low monthly payments, the road they’ll likely use to get there will stretch out your payment plan interminably and end up costing much more in interest payments and other fees. Never take the payment plan on a new car. Carry enough cash to drive away with it.

Used car sales tactics No. 3 – Trade-in value

Many times, a customer with a trade-in is focused more on the value they’re going to get for the trade-in than the actual price of the new used car. Unscrupulous used car dealers will take advantage of that and try to sell their vehicle for more than it’s worth. Know the value of the car you want before you even get to the lot. If it takes scouting the lot first then coming back later, do it. Even do research on the spot via your smartphone if you have one. Threats that the car may not be there tomorrow can prove true, but in many cases, it’s just a hard sell pressure technique dealers use, manipulating a buyer’s sense of fear that they’re going to miss out.

Used car sales tactics No. 4 – Soft-shoeing bad details

If you’re fed misleading information by your used car dealer, beware. Let’s say you notice a blemish on the car you’ve got your eye on, and you bring the defect to the attention of the dealer. If he balks when you ask about accident history or a Carfax report, or claims they’ll “take care of that” then tries to change the subject, you will want to take your business elsewhere.

Used car sales tactics No. 5 – Hidden fees

While not technically hidden, the vast majority of used car dealers aren’t going to print the extra costs in 48-point font on their signs and sales literature. Ask about processing fees, title and registration fee, licensing fee and more – make them spell it out for you. Keep in mind, too, that these costs can vary greatly from one used car dealer to the next. Know what you’re getting into before you sign the contract.

Used car sales tactics No. 6 – Layers upon layers

Even at some of the smaller used car lots, there are multiple sales and management employees that you are forced to transact with during a used car purchase. If anything becomes unclear along the line, it can be difficult to get back to the person you desire to speak with. This exhaustion technique has been used more than once by some used car dealers to make customers throw up their hands and agree to a more expensive deal. Remember, as the customer, you’re in control of the purchase. If you’re given the run-around, inform them that they’ll have to shape up immediately or you’ll walk.


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