Dealing with car salesmen - Parkers top tips

  • Learn how to deal properly with car salespeople and stay ahead
  • What to watch out for when going to a dealer
  • Make sure you get the best deal possible - get a Parkers price check

Dealing with car salespeople

Contrary to what you may think, vehicle sales personnel are no longer the dodgy car salesman-types they once used to be. The old-guard Arthur Daley figures who reigned supreme in the heyday of rip-offery that was the 1980s and early 1990s are either pushing up the daisies or long since retired.

Rules and regulations that have been put into place by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) formerly known as the the FSA, means the buyer is much more protected against car buying scams, financial malpractice and skulduggery than 20 or more years ago. Finance deals and the way that they are put together is much more transparent these days. 

That said, the ways these people can get you to part with your hard-earned readies or manipulate your actual ultimate buying decisions remain pretty much unregulated. It’s here you need to be wary, and before entering the bearpit that’s your local showroom, you need to understand a little bit of the actual psychology that’s involved…

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1. Don’t let the salesperson get the upper hand

When you walk into a showroom it isn’t uncommon to be pounced upon right away – it’s not nice or professional but after all there’s usually more than one staff member vying for your business. A lazy sales executive may just ask ‘do you need any help’ in which case you can bat them off by saying ‘not at the moment thanks’.

A seasoned exec will greet you in a manner that forces you to expand on what you are there for. For example: ‘Good morning and welcome to Fred Smith Motors. I’m John Smith, lovely to see you.’ [Pauses offering hand for shaking and for you to give your name]. ‘What’s brought you both down here today Mr and Mrs Jones?’

That way they get you talking freely and sometimes unwittingly offering information or early buying signs to the dealer. When the patter ends, state you are fine for the moment and will seek the salesperson in a short while when you are ready – works nine times out of 10.

2. Make sure you get a good valuation

Many buyers end up with an inaccurate figure of what their old car may be worth – it’s always best to get a Parkers Valuation to find a reliable figure. Unless your car is desirable and less than five years old, part-ex cars are simply thrown into auction or sold on to traders.

Any dealer who wants your old car to sell on via their site will want to make some profit from it. It will be required to be checked, serviced if need be and valeted to perfection – both are chargeable items from the service department to sales department. What matters most is the cost to change from one car to another.

A low part-ex price but reasonable discount or vice versa is still the same in monetary terms, so don’t be too worried about a poor valuation if the new car is discounted well – it’s what you pay for their car that matters.

Dealing with car salespeople

3. The cheapest deal isn’t always the best deal

If your usual dealership has a nice vibe when you walk in, and all the staff pass you by and say hello or acknowledge your presence, the chances are you are on to a winner. People only buy from people at the end of the day and in almost every circumstance, you only really get what you pay for.

Therefore, if you are happy with the way the deal is progressing, then does it matter if the dealer in the next town is £1,000 cheaper yet much more stressful to deal with? So long as you are pleased with things then your deal was the right deal, wasn’t it?

4. Play the dealer at their own game

When it comes to hammering out a deal, boldly tell the salesperson if it looks like negotiations are coming to an end that you have a cousin, neighbour, mother, brother, lover, in the market for a new car and you will gladly send them down if a good deal is struck with you. You could be surprised to find just a little bit more money can be shaved off.

5. Always have a positive attitude

Sometimes, sales folk can be pushy and rather forceful, especially if they are under pressure to perform from upper management. If this is the case, about turn and walk away. However, if you portray an aura of arrogance and attitude from the moment you walk in, then don’t be shocked to find they wont deal with you. They are no more obliged to sell you a car than you are to buy one from them.

Dealing with car salespeople

6. Ignore the reviews – go with your gut

Everything and everyone seems to have a review rating these days. Sadly, many review sites are prone to abuse and dishonesty. Some folks just love to post poor reviews for fun and in some cases fabricate the truth about their experience – often brought on by their own dishonesty or behaviour towards the dealer.

Go with your gut feeling or by someone you really know and trust that’s dealt with them. If you don’t feel secure or confident with the dealership – just walk away and try somewhere else.

7. Don’t be pushed into taking finance you don’t need

When thrashing out a deal some customers still prefer to buy outright where possible. Yet discounts are often given with finance deals as the dealer gets commission from the company supplying the credit, so the salesperson could try and ‘encourage’  you into taking a finance deal when you don’t want one.

A good trick is to go right to the wire discount-wise by going down the finance route negotiation hard using your old car and/or a deposit payment. When it looks like you’ve hit the best deal, ask for a moment alone for coffee or reflection then look at the cost price for the car and tell them you’ve decided to purchase outright.

Not only have you got a discount, but you’ve also saved the interest payments. It’s also bad form for them to charge differing prices be it a finance or straight purchase deal.

8. Get the upper hand – look further afield

We live in a supply and demand world. Therefore, don’t automatically expect to haggle and get a discount for a make or model that’s literally flying out of the door – it just isn’t going to happen. Newly-launched models are very rarely discounted from the off, so take advantage of introductory offers such as 0% finance instead.

9. Don’t be pressured by ‘second facing’

If the salesperson cannot get you to sign there and then, they will more than likely introduce you to their boss or sales manager before you go. This is called ‘second facing’ and gives the dealer one last chance to nudge you into buying.

They will ask questions such as ‘did the salesperson do everything right for you today?’ or ‘is there anything we can do today to assist your purchase?’ If you are not intending to buy on the spot, tell them straight, but this tactic can also benefit a keen haggler of a customer by possibly squeezing some extra discount or incentives.

Dealing with car salespeople

10. Never be forced into saying ‘yes’

In nearly every case when a customer gets a poor deal, more often than not it’s actually the customer’s fault. When you are in the showroom always remember you are never tied down to a chair and the doors are never locked to keep you inside.

If anything seems wrong or if you feel you can do better elsewhere, bid the sales staff no thanks and goodbye. It’s you who is the customer and you who needs to keep in control. Saying no shouldn’t be seen as rude – just walk away.

11. Don’t think that buying online is cheaper

Dealerships rely on what they call ‘traffic’ or ‘footfall’ – the customers who phone up or walk in. If you have looked online for a new car and are ready to buy – say for example a Ford Fiesta, take your printed quotation and visit a Ford dealer.

Show them your quote and plainly state for a better deal you’ll sign there and then. Stick to your guns for a like-for-like model and you’ll be surprised what they can offer you. Remember – they need your business to survive.

12. Don’t be forced into buying dealer-supplied extras

It’s normal policy for dealers to offer you paint and upholstery protection, GAP policies and other wonderful insurance-based protection at the point of purchase. The former is overpriced and the latter, which can be a serious advantage to some owners, can be bought elsewhere at a much cheaper cost by shopping around.

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