13 Car Dealer Tricks You’ll Wish You Knew Sooner

Get a leg up on fast-talking wheeler-dealers, so you can leave the new car lot with the ride of your dreams—and some cash left in your pocket.

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Conducting online research
Photo: TippaPatt / Shutterstock.com

Start with emails and phone calls

“Email several dealers to ask for their best price for new and used cars. If they say you need to come in, tell them you will—only if they give you a great price in writing. Even if you think you’ve found ‘the one,’ you can save money by comparing the price for similar vehicles offered by other dealers. If a dealership doesn’t respond, take your business elsewhere.”—Sonia Steinway, President, Outside Financial

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Car dealer tricks - keep the trade-in to yourself

Keep your trade-in to yourself

“Dealers like to move money around to confuse car buyers about how much they are really getting in the deal. If you mention you want to trade in a car up front, you are opening the door to a shell game. The salesperson will focus on what you want to get for your trade and may artificially inflate the ‘trade allowance’ to get you to say yes. This leaves no room to negotiate on the price of the new car. Furthermore, the salesperson may ask to appraise your trade, taking your keys and literally holding your car hostage until you agree to a deal.”—LeeAnn Shattuck, The Car Chick

Find out the trick that will get you a better price on your trade-in.

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Car dealer tricks - Don't try to haggle

Don’t try to haggle

“Salespeople spend their days selling. Chances are you won’t be as good at getting them to give you a great deal as they are at getting you to buy. So focus on what you can do: Force dealers to compete against each other by sending you their best offers.” —Sonia Steinway

Here’s what happens to your car after you trade it in.

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Car dealer tricks - be wary of "fun" advertisements

Be wary of “fun” advertisements

“If you received a mailer with a ‘scratch off to win’ game on it—avoid it at all costs! These dealers prey on the desperate, offering lower payments but dragging the terms out. This ensures the value of the car will always be less than you know.” —Travis Johnson, author of The Comprehensive Car Buying Guide

Find out what happens to all the new cars that don’t get sold.

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Car dealer tricks - talk sales price before mentioning leasing

Talk sale price before mentioning leasing

“If you say ‘I’m thinking about leasing,’ it is the same as telling the dealer that you are a monthly payment buyer. The salesperson will focus on the lease terms to get you to the monthly payment you want instead of negotiating the price of the car. Negotiate the price of the car first, then negotiate the lease terms.” —LeeAnn Shattuck

Don’t miss these pro tips for buying a used car.

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Car dealer tricks - time your car shopping

Time your shopping

“If possible, wait until the end of summer. With the holidays coming up, dealerships need to make room for new vehicles and lower prices on older models accordingly. You can also expect more competitive financing offers like zero per cent interest for qualified buyers. Such deals will trickle through the following months, so keep looking out for discounts through October to December. Just don’t get talked into buying the latest model for more.” Andrea Woroch, consumer and money-saving expert

Here’s the best time to buy a new car.

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…Or wait until the end of any month

“Most dealers need to meet monthly sales quotas, so they may be willing to give you a better deal if you shop at the end of the month. You’ll also get more personalized attention if you shop on weekdays when there aren’t as many other shoppers in the store. And no matter when you go, make sure you’re well-fed and well-rested to avoid making impulsive decisions.” —Sonia Steinway

Here’s the truth about new car incentives.

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Man using calculator to count income and outcome

Know the difference between price and payments

“The most common trick dealers employ to attempt to charge a higher selling price is to negotiate based on payment rather than price. First, the payment is the primary budgetary concern for most buyers, so it is normally easy to shift the buyer’s focus to it. Raising the monthly payment by only $20 typically raises the purchase price by about $1,000. Also, inflating the assumed interest rate in calculating the payments at the beginning of negotiation allows wiggle room to either maximize the purchase price or sell warranties or accessories. None of these practices is necessarily a bad thing, but they open the door for potential abuse if the buyer is unaware.” —Rob Drury, Executive Director, Association of Christian Financial Advisors

Check out the 10 things your car says about your personality.

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Car dealer tricks - woman buying car at dealership
Photo: Shutterstock

Don’t shop at only one place

“Shop around at a variety of dealerships, whether it is the same brand or a totally different one. This will allow you to look at different cars and check out their different rebates/offers. You can also have your car appraised at different dealerships to see who offers you the most for your trade-in.” —Natasha Rachel Smith, personal finance expert

Discover the money mistakes that are costing you thousands.

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Beautiful young male is talking to handsome car dealership worker while choosing a car in dealership

Know what you can afford before you walk in the door

“The generally accepted rule is that you spend no more than 15 per cent of your pre-tax income on your monthly car note.” —Valerie Coleman, National Sales Director, 5miles

Here’s how to calculate the real cost of buying a new car.

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woman hand cleaning leather seat with soft fabric sponge waxing polished, car wash

Know the value of extras

“Buy your protection products outside the dealership for the highest quality, maximum flexibility and lowest pricing. And don’t waste money on products like fabric protection or VIN etching—a can of stain repellent and a $30 DIY etching kit work just as well, and don’t cost hundreds of dollars.” —Sonia Steinway

Find out which rust proofing option is right for you.

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Outgoing man telling with worker in car dealership

Beware of extended warranties

“Dealers purchase these from the manufacturer and then jack up the price when selling to you. Anything over $300 is just straight cash in their pockets. Negotiate their price or buy directly from the manufacturer.” —Travis Johnson

Discover the 10 things that kill your car’s resale value.

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Young black couple in car on road trip smiling at each other

Don’t go it alone

“If you’re buying a car from an online marketplace, make sure to meet the seller in a public place and bring along a friend or family member to always be safe.” —Valerie Coleman

Now that you know these common car dealer tricks, find out how much dealers really make on the sale of a new car.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest

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