3 Common Car Dealer Tricks and How to Avoid Them


Car dealers tend to have a reputation for being a little shady, and if you’ve ever bought a car before, you’ve probably heard at least a couple of stereotypical sales tactics.

To be fair, most car dealers are honest, hardworking people who are only trying to make a living and provide for their families. However, as with any job, there are a few bad apples.

Moreover, car dealers always have the advantage because they get to practice their sales and negotiating skills every day while you only buy a car once every few years. They’re professionals while you’re an amateur.

Buying a car is stressful enough as it is. They’re expensive, and the process involves a lot of paperwork. The last thing you need is a car dealer using various tricks to pressure you into a decision you will later regret.

Lowball and Highball  

This tactic has two sides. The lowball part refers to the dealer offering you a low trade-in price for your car. The highball part is giving you a high price for the car you’re interested in. Most of the time, the dealer doesn’t even expect you to take this deal. They just want to know how you’d react so they can tailor their negotiation tactics.

The best thing you can do in this case is research before visiting a dealership. There are a lot of free online resources you can use to determine the value of your car. Then you can look for reputable dealerships in your area depending on the type of car you’re looking for. For example, you can search for a ford dealership, read the reviews and check their offers online.

We know that this is a bit of a hassle, but as we said before, you only buy a car every few years so even though it might take some time and effort now, it will pay off in the long run.

There’s one more thing you should be careful with regarding the trade-in price. Some dealers will give you a great price for your car, but they’ll make up for it by highballing the car they’re selling in return. So, for example, you want to trade in a car that’s worth around $5,000. They offer you $7,000, and you think that’s amazing. But then they sell you a $15,000 car that’s only worth $12,000.

The Old Bait-and-Switch

This tactic is illegal, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to go around it. Bait-and-switch means advertising one or several cars at a very attractive price without intending to sell them at that price. You obviously cannot advertise something you do not have. But it can happen that you go to the dealership full of enthusiasm only to find out that what was advertised was a stripped-down model which explains the price or they did, in fact, have the cars they advertise but sold them.

The advertisement remains because the whole point was to get more people to visit the dealership so they can convince some of them to buy the other cars sold at regular prices.

If this happens to you, keep in mind that just because you showed up to the dealership, it doesn’t mean you have to buy something. If they don’t have the car you were interested in, you can walk away because there will always be other offers.

The Hard Sell

This is probably the oldest trick in the book, and it goes well with the bait-and-switch. It basically consists of putting pressure on you to make a decision on the spot, so you don’t have time to think, ask a friend, or look for other offers.

It goes well with the bait-and-switch because you’ll go there for a great offer, but then they’ll tell you that that’s already sold. However, they have something else. They’ll ask you a few questions to find out what your budget is and what kind of car you’d like and then they’ll show you another car at a regular price and tell you it’s another great offer.

If you hesitate, they’ll remind you how you missed out on the bait-and-switch offer (except they won’t call it that) and how now you’re about to miss out again.

What do you do in such a situation? Well, you’re not buying a T-shirt. You’re buying a car you’ll probably be driving every day for the next few years. You shouldn’t let anyone pressure you into deciding on the spot. Most likely, if you leave and come back in a few days, they’ve somehow managed to make an exception just for you because they like you so much and you can still get that limited-time offer.

The only time this might not happen is at the end of the month when the offers dealerships get from car manufacturers, and lenders expire, so they have to change them for the following month.