Shopping for a new ride at a dealership involves more than just kicking tires. It invariably takes planning, time and - before the dust settles - negotiation to drive away with the right car and the best deal. However, spotting these dealer tricks is key to getting the best deal when buying your first car.
Time as a tactic
Negotiating can take an afternoon, all day, and may even require you to walk away completely before you get what you want. First-time car buyers might be tempted to take friends, parents or other back-up to the dealership for support. Whoever you take with you must be as willing to wait for the right deal as you are. Dealers can use time as a tactic, drawing out the process until you're too tired, hungry and frustrated to negotiate any further.
Dealers offer complimentary beverages and snacks to make you feel at home and prolong your stay, hoping to eventually weaken you and get you to drive away with a car on their terms. Let the salesperson know you are only there to test drive and not open to doing the old "back-and-forth" thing with his manager. Tell them you'll come back another day for numbers or they can text or email you their manager's offer. Setting these limits upon arrival allows you to set the pace and parameters of your visit.
Finding your weak spot
You may not have a lot of wiggle room in a certain area, such as monthly payment. Salespeople ask questions strategically to pinpoint your weak spots. Once they know that weakness or weaknesses, dealers can exploit them. Buying power, or your desired monthly payment, is an area that car dealers can maneuver to their benefit and your detriment. For instance, they will try to offer an extended loan or lease term that achieves your monthly payment number, yet sticks you with a higher overall price or extra products and services that you don't need.
Shifting the focus from what you really want in a car to a monthly payment is a profitable tactic for dealers. You may end up with a less desirable vehicle and price because you allowed yourself to be sold on a monthly payment. Stay focused on the car and price you want, and then deal with the monthly payment logistics afterward, recommends Bankrate.
Blunder of the bundle
Car dealers commonly use a bundling tactic to confuse you. This technique combines the car price, down payment and monthly payment into a single negotiation. By combining these elements, you lose the ability to negotiate and get the best deal on each of these aspects of your negotiation.
Keep each of these factors separate by shopping the car at various dealers, shopping the loan with multiple banks, and knowing the specific finance terms you want, such as the number of payments and the interest rate. By having multiple options before you arrive at the dealer you can let them know you'll just go to "X" dealer and bank if they can't give you what you want.
The bait and switch
Perhaps the oldest and most unsavory of dealer tricks, the "bait and switch," is still alive and well at car dealerships. Dealers may advertise a certain car at a specific price only to let you know that it's sold out when you arrive at the dealership. Once you're there, they'll try to sell you something more expensive. Call ahead to confirm the car is still on the lot and ask them to email you a statement.