How to Counter the Techniques of Car Salesmen

Today’s stereotype of the car salesman is not very different from the image we have from the snake oil man from the Wild West. However, there is a reason for this. Both of them are trying to sell you all the extras they can at the highest price they can.

To be honest, it’s not only car salesmen that do this. Every salesperson from every industry is trying to do the same and they use these and other techniques. However, since we’re talking about your money, you should know how to counter them and to put you in a better negotiating position.

1. The Fake Call

You see, for any given product, there are people who are willing to pay a different maximum price for it. Let’s say that for a used Ford Taurus, 3 different people (let’s call them person 1, person 2, and person 3) are willing to pay $6,000, $5,500 and $5,000 respectively. And the agency has already decided that they would sell it for $5,200.

The agency advertises it at $6,000. If person 1 comes to the agency, he will think it’s a good deal, and will probably buy the car at that price. But if person 2 comes, he will think it’s a bit expensive and ask for a reduction in price. The car salesman will then ask person 2 to come up with a counter offer. Let’s say person 2 offers $5,500. So the car salesman calls his superior to ask if he can accept the customer’s counteroffer, which he will because the agency has already decided that anything over $5,200 is a plus. However, by making the call, the car salesman shows that he’s making a personal effort for the benefit of the customer, giving him some leverage in the rest of the negotiation. In the end, the agency gets $300 dollars more than what it expected.

Now, if person 3 comes into the agency and counter offers $5,000, the car salesman will then make the call and claim that the most he could negotiate was $5,200, which will not be very different from the original offer and will increase the chances of the person buying a car. Again, the car salesman will seem like he made a personal effort for the benefit of the customer.

How to counter it: After doing your research (and maybe visit a couple of dealers for information), when you are ready to buy, the moment that you’re asked for a counter offer, give a number that’s lower than what your research told you is the lowest price.

2. Weasel Wording

Pretty much every industry uses this technique. It’s the art of using words to, let’s say, stretch the truth. One example would be “semi-new,” which sounds better than “used” but it’s still the same thing. Another one is when they sell 2015 models when it’s still 2014, as if the car salesman had a time machine and used it to bring cars from the future and sell them at a premium.

Another way of weasel wording is saying general claims that are ambiguous or difficult to verify on the spot. For example “This car is one of the best in its category.” What category is it? What does “best” mean? Does it mean faster? More gas efficient? More durable? Moreover, what does “one of the best mean”? It certainly doesn’t mean “the best” and it probably doesn’t mean the second best or even the third best either.

How to counter it: Call it out! When you see a weasel word, stop the car salesman and ask him to explain it. For example, “what’s the difference between semi-new and used?” Or “what do you exactly mean by ‘one of the best’?” By defusing the weasel words, you would be paying for the car as it is, and not the car the car salesman wants you to believe it is.

This car is holistic, customer focused and 100% manufactured.

3. Quick Math

Ok, so you can’t buy the Ford Taurus with cash and the salesman offers you a financing plan. Instead of buying it at $5,200 with cash, you can purchase on a two-year plan that requires you to make a downpayment of a minimum of 25% of the value of the car, which won’t be $5,200 because that’s the cash price. Instead the price will be $6,000. Now, because the car salesman was able to get you a unique deal, he can offer you a reduced rate of 4.13% down from (an allegedly) 5.2%. This means that you end up paying only $195.75 per month.

He even gives you a print out that will show you how the process goes so you can understand it. But do you really?

If you are like most customers, the only thing that it’ll matter to you is that you’ll pay only $195.75 a month, which sounds like a good deal, and it might be. But answer these questions without looking at the numbers again and without using a calculator or pen and paper.

How much do you pay in total?
What’s the difference in dollars between the cash price and the total cost with a financing plan?

I’m sure you all can add, subtract, and multiply, and you can answer these questions if you had a pen and paper. That’s why the car salesman talks fast and ends up with the number that makes the deal look sweet. He even gives you the print out so you don’t make the calculation and thus don’t pay attention to it. In the end, you end up thinking “it’s only 195.75 a month.”

How to counter it: Bring a small calculator, or use the calculator on your phone, and just do the math right there. At the very least you should compare the total cost of the car in one payment and the total cost of the car in several payments.

Then, there are those who you just can’t help.

4. Extras

When I talk about extras, you’re probably thinking about physical extras, like airbags. But I’m talking about financial extras.

Now the extras vary from country to country and from state to state, but in any case, they’re typically not included in the advertised price. You’re more likely to find them if you are getting financing. They’ll show up one by one as the process is explained.

For example, once you are given the print out, you’ll find out that there is a financing fee. Later on, you find out that the financing includes a convenient life insurance that’s only going to cost you an extra 15 dollars a month. Other extras will include paperwork, registering the car on whatever agency in your country regulates cars, changing the invoice to your name (for used cars), etc. Each extra will be told you you quickly and in a “it’s not important” or “it’s only a few dollars” tone. However, they do add up.

How to counter it: The first time an extra comes up, ask the car salesman to tell you all the extras there are. This will force him to either disclosure all the extras at once, which will then add up, or hide them until later, at which point you can call him on that.

Again, it’s not just car salesmen that use these techniques. But knowing how to counter them will help you in your negotiations with car salesmen as well as with other types of sales agents and telemarketers.

If you want to read how religious centers do their marketing, go here.

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Salesmen aren’t the only people whose words you have to be careful of, learn what phrases you really must run away from according to Flippy.

When not busy mixing his whites with colors, Flippy works as a writer, translator, and language teacher. In his free time, he plays video games, takes photos, and writes funny stuff. You can find his humor book, Flippy’s Life Lessons Stuff Every Single Man Should Know, published by Relentlessly Creative Books on

Copyright 2017, Flippy. Published with the permission of the author.