6 Things You Should Never Tell a Car Salesman

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Recently by Eric Peters: The Master Culture

When buying a new car, it’s usually smart to let the salesman do the talking. Whatever you do, never tell him:

That you really like the car

Ideally, let him think you need to be convinced. But whatever happens, don’t gush about the car. If you do, it’s like revealing your hand in card game before your opponent antes up. If the salesman knows you’re in love, he knows you’ve lost your most important edge. He knows your feelings are starting to over-rule your thinking and that it probably won’t take much convincing to get you to sign the paperwork. Sidestep leading questions asking how much you like the car and redirect the back-and-forth to the price of the car. Don’t discuss its looks – and even better, discuss the virtues of competitors’ cars. Your overall goal should be to convey the impression that while you’re interested, you’re not committed to this particular car – or even this particular brand (or dealership). This puts the onus on the salesman to try to convince you – and if you’re not responding on an emotional level, he’ll be forced to try to sway you on rational, logic grounds – such as the deal he can make you.

If you worry about becoming too obviously emotional, do your haggling remotely – via the Internet ( send offers via email) or enlist your poker-faced spouse to do the talking.

How much you can afford to spend

Keep that card close to your chest. It’s ok to discuss a range – but don’t be overly specific. Never tell him exactly what you are looking to spend before you’ve even begun discussing the particular car you’re interested (let alone haggled over the price of that particular car).

Once the salesman knows your price point, he will try to steer you toward cars that cost about that much. But never less. On the other hand, if the dealer isn’t sure what you can afford or want to spend, he may be more inclined to show you some better deals.

Act poor. Or at least, act cheap.

What you are currently driving

Even if you don’t plan to trade, avoid discussing (or even letting him see) whatever it is you’re driving right now. Reason? The type of car you drive will give away information about you – and information is, as they say, power. If he sees you drive up in a high-dollar car, he will assume you’re a big fish – and try to hook you accordingly. And the type of car you drive will also convey information about the type of car you’re probably looking for. A sporty car, for instance, will convey that you’re an enthusiast driver – and the salesman will probably try to appeal to you on an emotional level. The bottom line is it does you no good to give the salesman anything to profile you by. Let him guess.

And keep him guessing.

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Eric Peters [send him mail] is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his website.

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