By Ali Koomen, who spent over a dozen years in the car dealership busines, provides her expert insights

“I know what you paid for that vehicle. . . ” or “Why don’t you dip into your holdbacks?”

There’s no other business where a buyer feels it is his right to know what the seller paid for the merchandise. Telling the dealership that it makes enough money on the holdbacks is just as presumptuous. Holdbacks help pay for costly advertising, and for flooring (interest paid to the manufacturer to have the vehicle on the lot) and other operating expenses.

Giving an ultimatum on price may come back to shoot you in the foot. The vehicle you just grandly offered to pay $200 over invoice for could be new to the lot and will most likely sell at MSRP or close to it, due to its desirability. On the other hand, you could be looking at a unit that has been there for months, the flooring on it has killed any chance of a good profit and all the dealer wants is to get the albatross off the lot. In a case like that, the manager may dip into the holdback, just to get rid of the vehicle.

Instead: Wait to see what the salesman’s response to the first offer is and take it from there.

“My payments cannot go any higher than $_______”

Payment shoppers are a salesman’s dream. It’s very easy to fit a vehicle to a payment by offering a different trim level, requiring more money down, changing the length or the terms of the loan, changing it from a purchase to a lease.

Instead: Don’t shop payments, shop the price of the vehicle. Go to and plug in terms, interest and price in order to find the payment desired; this will give a good indication of the price of the new vehicle you should be searching for. In other words, don’t look at a $30,000 truck if you need your payments under $300. . . .

“I’ve done my research!”

Most salesmen hate this declaration. So you’ve ‘done your homework.’ So what? The top three vehicle evaluation websites cannot agree on prices on identical vehicles. Besides, there’s a lot of misinformation on the internet, but a lot of people that have ‘done their research’ take it as gospel, when it should simply be points to ponder.

Instead: Don’t ever go into a dealership ‘unarmed’ , but keep in mind that not all information garnered online is correct. Use the info as a negotiation tool, not as something written in stone.

“I don’t have much time.”

A salesman might look at this as a challenge to keep you there long past your ‘deadline’. Or he may simply mentally dismiss you: why waste time talking to this guy when that couple over there looks ready to buy?

“I don’t have much time” is marginally better than the ubiquitous ‘I’m just looking’. No one goes into a dealership to while away the hours, everyone there is either gathering information with eventual intentions to buy, or wants to buy that day.

There is no ‘express route’ through the buying process. The salesman knows that it’s going to take time to show several vehicles, take one or two test drives, give his sales spiel, have the trade evaluated, negotiate the deal and put you into finance.

Instead: Let the salesman know that you’re there comparing his vehicle to a similar one in a different make, and there is no way you’ll buy until you’ve had a chance to test drive both. However, if you go with his vehicle, you will buy from him. Remember, vehicle salesmen work on commission only, and as long as he thinks there’s a chance he’ll get you to eventually buy, he won’t begrudge the time spent assisting you.

“I see that $30,000 vehicle there and I am willing to offer $18,000 on it” (or some other such ridiculous quote)

The salesman’s knee-jerk reaction will be “Don’t waste my time!” and he is right. Starting the negotiations at an impossible price just lets him know that you’re a jerk, or that you haven’t done even the slightest bit of research beforehand. Either scenario is going to start you off on the wrong foot.

Instead: Serious buyers should visit to get the TMV (True Market Value) and use the price given there as a negotiation tool. If the TMV on that $30,000 vehicle is $28,100, offer $27K. You’re not going to get it at that price, but a sound offer will correctly get the negotiation ball rolling.

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