Going to a dealership with hopes of purchasing or leasing a vehicle can be an intimidating process.
While not all auto salespeople are out to rip you off, it's good to arm yourself with the right language, and more importantly, what not to say.
Here are six things to keep to yourself when sitting at the negotiation table.
Don’t Discuss Interest Rates Right Away
Even if you’ve already shopped interest rates at banks, credit unions, and/or other dealerships, keep potential rates a close-guarded secret.
“The only piece of information that’s essential that you give the car dealer is expressing your interest in buying a car,” says Jeff Bartlett, deputy editor online at Consumer Reports. “Everything else should come from them first.”
If you blurt out a bank is offering a 4.9% interest rate, and the dealership was ready to offer a 1.9% rate, they may just marginally beat the 4.9%, leaving you to pay a higher interest rate than necessary.
Remar Sutton, chairman of FoolProofMe.com advises to have the dealership fill out the contract and then ask for a copy to show to a bank or credit union to compare rates.
“If they say no, do not finance at the car dealership,” he says. “Any bank and any credit union will be glad to give you those figures. In the real world, the only way you know your cheapest [option] with the car dealership is to compare line for line what they want you to put down on a loan.”
Don’t Talk Monthly Payments
Before setting foot into a dealership, know what you can afford and do not bring up monthly payment options right away.
“Customers shouldn’t reveal what their target monthly payment is-that’s something that the customer really should have figured out before they got to the dealership,” says Bartlett. “Once you get to the financing, see what they can offer. Don’t show your hand before they get a chance to play. Make them show their hand first.”
Comparing numbers back and forth will complicate the process and only discuss figures when you’re ready to sit down and commit.
“It’s easier for them to confuse you because they can change the number of months, or change the interest rates slightly,” explains Sutton. “They can make the payments go up and down. Shopping payments is the most expensive way to shop for financing.”
Bartlett also warns that announcing your monthly budget could lead a salesperson to try and sell you more car than you intended to buy.
Don’t Announce Your Trade-in Value
If you are looking to trade in your vehicle, experts recommend taking it to two or three dealerships or used car operations to get estimates of the car’s worth.
When you head to the dealership, keep the appraised value to yourself.
“Don’t reveal that you’re trading in or what you’re trading in until the new car is negotiated,” says Bartlett. “You want to keep those numbers very separate and distinct. Otherwise, you’ll get confused.”
You also don’t want to risk getting less for your trade.
“A dealership is under no obligation to give you what your car is worth,” explains Sutton.“It is perfectly legal for a car dealership to appraise your car and put a value on it in real dollars of say, $10,000. But they’ll look you in the eye and say, “We’ve been taking in cars like yours for $5,000 dollars.” If you fall for that, you just threw $5,000 out the window.”
Don’t Make the Salesperson Your BFF
Keep any exchanges with a salesperson on a professional level, don’t swap life stories.
“One of many things that salesmen are trained to do is to tease out personal information that they can then use to persuade you to purchase the vehicle,” explains Bartlett. “I would encourage you not to reveal personal information. Focus on the product and express your interest in the product.”
Be extra careful during test drives.
“They ask all kinds of things about you to try to find out how to use leverage about you,” says Philip Reed, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com. “The less they know about you, the stronger position you’ll be in.”
Don’t Show Your Emotions
Don’t let emotion play a factor in your car-buying decision.
“Buying a new car is a very emotional experience, especially with all of these bells and whistles,” says Bartlett. “You get caught up in the moment and that’s probably the worst time to make a multi-year commitment. That’s why you definitely need to step back, think it over, and take that opportunity to compare it.”
If you let your emotions show, the dealer is likely to notice and take advantage of it, especially if you react in a positive way.
“Anytime you indicate a really high excitement level, it weakens your ability to negotiate,” says Reed. “It puts [the salesperson] on notice essentially.”
Even if a dealer has the car of your dreams, play it cool.
“Then you’ve told them that they’ve got what you need; that you looked a long time for it, and you can’t find it any place else for that low of a price,” says Reed. “These things are all putting yourself in a bad position.”
Having a few options in mind may make it easier to negotiate and prevent you from making an impulse purchase.
“You should never let a dealership know they have a unique car that you want,” says Sutton. “You should always have two or three cars that you know you would be happy with that you won’t feel like you have to buy one specific car at the dealership.”
Don’t Succumb to Pressure
Keep in mind, you can always return to the dealer later if you need more time to decide.
“I think it’s important to prepare yourself to walk out of a dealership if you’re being pressured and you’re not feeling comfortable,” says Oren Weintraub, president of Authority Auto.
Weintraub points out that some dealerships create “false urgency,” where they will tell you that a low price is only good for today or that there is a special going on that won’t be happening tomorrow.
If a salesperson is breathing down your neck Weintraub suggests saying: “I would like to do business with you if you treat me right. Pressuring me to buy today when I told you I’m not prepared to is going to lose my business."
"That will put them on their heels and let them know that if they want to earn my business, they have to do it respectfully."