By Ali Koomen, who spent over a dozen years in the car dealership business provides her inside perspective on the car buying process

  1. Asterisks and fine print: If the advertised price seems too good to be true, check the asterisks and fine print. Read closely– the price is good only after rebates (such as owner loyalty or college grad) that many buyers can’t qualify for. Or the price is the cost before ‘mandatory’ add-ons such as extremely overpriced Scotch-guarding and paint sealcoat. Or there’s only one unit available at that price. Or. . .or. . .or (Tip: Read all fine print closely.)
  2. Trade-in taken hostage: You want to leave but suddenly it’s impossible to get your own car keys back. Common ‘excuses’ are. . . “Our appraiser is backed up”, “Our lot boy accidentally took it to the detail department”, “We’ve temporarily misplaced your keys”. Then the inevitable, “While we’re waiting, let me show you the numbers on the new car.”(Tip: Don’t give up the keys until you’re ready to work the deal.)
  3. Undervalued trade-in: dealerships jockey the numbers to give the illusion of a great deal. Don’t be wowed by the $5,000 the new truck is ‘discounted’ if the trade-in worth $6,000 was only valued at $2K. (Tip: Sell the trade outright)
  4. High pressure to buy that day: If a salesman says that the price given is ‘only good for that day’, he is lying. The only reason a price would increase in 24 hours is if there was a rebate situation ending that very day. (Tip: If he won’t let you think on it, take your business elsewhere.)
  5. Puppy dog close: Once that adorable puppy is taken into a home, there’s no way he’ll be returned to the pound. The same with that new car. The dealership may offer to put the car on a BCA (Borrowed Car Agreement). The salesman knows that once you’ve taken the vehicle home and see how it looks in the driveway, you’ll be loathe to return it. (Tip: Don’t fall for the BCA unless you are serious about the vehicle.)
  6. Iffy deal let loose: Similar to a ‘puppy dog close’, this tactic involves high emotion. The deal is worked out, the papers are signed and you’ve taken the car home. Then a few days or even a week or so after buying the car, the F&I department calls to say the original deal didn’t get bought. He’ll need another thousand or two down, or the deal needs to be reworked, meaning much higher payments. By the time the F&I guy calls with the bad news, the neighbors have all seen the new car in the driveway, friends are all envious and your family is in love with it. You’ll probably do whatever possible to keep it and avoid the embarrassment of having to return it. (Tip: Refuse to take possession of the car until the loan has been confirmed.)
  7. Higher interest rate than merited. If the finance guy gets the loan ‘bought’ at 9% but tells you the best he could do is 9.75, he’s just made more money on the deal and raised your payments by about *ten bucks a month, or $600 over the life of the loan. *Based on a standard 60 month, $25,000 loan (Tip: Secure financing from your own lender ahead of time.)
  8. 2.9% financing! No interest charge for one year! No payments for six months! Each and every one of these fantastic financing and payment options have a major caveat: only those with exemplary credit (scores in the 800’s) can qualify. (Tip: This is a way to get buyers into the store. If you don’t qualify—and few do—beware of the actual terms offered.)
  9. Add-ons: Don’t let your guard down once the deal is worked out, because unless you’ve pre-secured your own financing, it’s time to face the dealership’s F&I department. And if you thought the salesman was pushy, just wait until you meet the finance person. He’ll push costly disability insurance policies, life insurance policies, extended warranty deals and more. The dealership makes big money in the financing process and the F&I guys are pushed to sell, sell, sell. (Tip: Tell the F&I guy that you know he has to offer all such policies but you are not interested in any of them.)
  10. The dreaded T.O. The salesman is not the enemy. He’s just trying to sell cars. The manager, however, is evil personified when it comes to removing cash from your wallet. He seems like a nice guy, too, which is why there’s a middleman between the salesman and the manager, the T.O. person. If a deal cannot be worked with your salesmen, the manager sends in the big gun, the Turn Over guy, the Closer. The Closer wins more than he loses, and if you though the salesman was a bit pushy, you haven’t seen anything until the closer is let loose. (Tip: If you see the Closer headed your way, run!)

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