A few years back my wife and I decided to buy a car. We did our research and knew the exact model we wanted and the value of the car. We were very comfortable with our knowledge, but negotiating a price can be intimidating.

Some people get stressed out negotiating the price of their cell phone plans, imagine how they would feel when talking numbers about possibly the 2nd most expensive thing they’ll ever buy– a home being the first in case you’re curious.

With any negotiation, having leverage is the most important factor and when you approach car dealer you need to know what not to say when buying a car.

what not to say when buying a car

Never say these 5 things to a car dealer

I can only afford X dollars a month – Of all the things on this list, this is what not to say when buying a car. As soon as a car dealer knows how much you can afford on a monthly basis, they’ll basically slice and dice the numbers to make anything look affordable. Even that high end model car can be had within your budget once they’ve played with the numbers.

The reason they’re able to make the monthly numbers so low is because of financing. Cars used to be financed for 5 years at max, but now it’s pretty common to see terms of 7, 8, or even 9 years– the longer the term, the lower the monthly payment. But when you factor in interest rates over the term, you could be paying a small fortune.

I can pay in cash – You would think this is a good way to start negotiations since it shows that you’re serious, but it really doesn’t help the car dealer in the long run. Financing is a huge money maker for car dealers, it’s probably the bulk of their income. As soon as they know you’re paying in cash, they have no incentive to offer you additional discounts.

Dealers want you to finance since the long term interest charges are huge– they’ll have a bigger reason to knock down the price upfront if they think financing is in play. You don’t need to lie and say you want to finance, but implying that you are strongly considering it will definitely help your negotiation.

I have a vehicle to trade in – One of the first questions dealers usually ask is if you have a car to trade in. They want to know this because they know you’re going to be searching for maximum value for your car. Once they know the trade in value of your car, they’ll factor that into their pricing. As in they may say they’ll give you “extra” value you for trade-in, but the price of the new car you want will be less negotiable.

If you want the real maximum value for your car, then you’re better off selling it yourself online. This isn’t convenient for everyone so if you do intend on trading in your car to the dealer, tell them you want to focus on the purchase price of the new vehicle first.

Never say these things when buying a car

I’m on a timeline – Under no circumstance should you ever say you need a car tomorrow or this week. Not only will the car dealer know that you’re desperate, they’ll also know that you won’t be paying attention to details. This presents an opportunity for them to try to sell you a car that will earn them a fat commission or to get rid of a vehicle that’s been sitting on their lot for some time.

On the other hand, it doesn’t help your case to say you’re in no rush. Some car dealers work on a straight commission, so if they sense you’re shopping around, they won’t really help you out. Regardless of what your time frame is, just say that you have a month to decide, but you would be happy to make a deal if the right car and price is available.

This is the car for me – Finally, never let a car dealer know you’re in love with a specific car. A car dealer won’t offer you much of a discount on something you’re infatuated with since they know it’ll be hard for you to walk away. They might even go as far as saying that they already settled a price with another potential buyer, but it can be yours if you commit right away. Never let your emotions show in any negotiation.

Final word

These tips aren’t fool proof, but as long as you know what not to say when buying a car, you’ll be in a position of power. In the end it’s really a negotiation and you need to be working with someone who’s serious. If your asks are reasonable and the dealer isn’t ready to come to terms, then don’t be afraid to shop around.

7 Comments

  1. smiller257 on September 17, 2015 at 4:29 PM

    Great suggestions. It always helps if you have a solid number in mind and are willing to walk out of the dealership if they can’t come down to that amount.

    I took my son to buy a used Toyota last year and we had agreed on $12,000 for the car. The one we found was listed for $18,000 and it had been on the lot for 3 months because it had too many miles for a 3 year old car (it had 70,000 miles).

    They came down to $15,000 and we just told them: Look, $12,000 out of the door with taxes, title, everything. If you can’t do it, fine, we will find a less expensive car somewhere else.

    They did it.

    • Barry Choi on September 17, 2015 at 4:48 PM

      Smiller257,

      Okay that is some serious negotiating skills you got going there. I don’t think I would ever be able to get that good of a deal.

    • John on September 27, 2015 at 9:24 PM

      We also negotiated a deal the same way. The car was three years old and had been on the lot for almost 5 months and they were eager to sell it. They were asking $15,500 and we offered them $10,000 cash to include taxes and title. It still had two years of warranty left on it and the mileage was about right. The dealer said they were letting it go under valued. We said thank you and drove off with it. We were not in a rush to buy and just happened to be driving through a small town on our way home when we came upon the dealership and decided to look.

      • Barry Choi on September 27, 2015 at 11:19 PM

        John,

        I wonder if you’re onto something about buying from small towns. Maybe it’s a lot harder for them to move product so they’re more willing to move on price.

  2. Beth on September 27, 2015 at 7:08 AM

    All good points! One thing I would add, especially if you’re a woman, “I don’t really know much about cars…” or “this is my first time buying…”

    The first car I bought I had my dad to help me shop. (I’m a buy new, run it into the ground type of buyer). When it came time to replace the car, I was floored by the level of chauvinism and arrogance I met with from some car dealers when I went shopping alone or with a female friend. Dealers assumed I knew nothing about cars and made flimsy excuses about why they cost so much when I tried to negotiate prices.

    Good thing I had done a lot of research before I went shopping! Not only did I read up on the vehicles before going to test drive them, I read just about every article on buying new or used cars I could find. It was tough enough shopping on my own — I’m glad I didn’t show any signs of weakness.

    • Barry Choi on September 27, 2015 at 8:55 AM

      Beth,

      Very good points, and I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that salespeople would try to talk down to women. Good on you to be tough with your negotiations.

  3. Robert on March 28, 2019 at 1:10 PM

    I made it known that I had a single cheque at the start of the negotiation, then, as we we’re $5k apart on an agreed price I just started filling out the cheque for the lower amount and dropped it on the guys desk. He accepted the offer.

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