4 Sneaky Selling Strategies That Used Car Salesmen Don’t Want You to Know

Aside from lawyers and maybe IRS auditors, there aren’t many professions that get a worse rap than used car salesmen. Admit it: even just reading those words brings to mind a sketchy guy with a comb-over with a cheap suit. Yet there are plenty of salespeople who buck that stereotype and who are just ordinary folks trying to make a living and help their customers acquire reliable wheels.

That said, there are some sneaky tricks they might employ to get you to buy from them, possibly spend more money than you’d planned, and therefore to boost their own commission. Let’s take a look at some of the ways used car salesmen try to influence potential buyers!

They Will Try to Run Out the Clock

Shopping for a car isn’t something that you can squeeze in between your daughter’s karate lesson and that mani-pedi you have scheduled. Most people earmark an entire day, or even a weekend, for visiting dealerships and lots to test drive cars. 

Sales professionals know that the longer it takes you to find a vehicle, the more likely you are to “give up” and agree to a purchase just to “get it over with.” So they try to engage you in chit-chat, show you what seems like an endless stream of cars, and otherwise attempt to keep you around for as long as possible.

Before even stepping foot on the lot, set yourself a time limit — and then stick to it. 

They Create a False Sense of Urgency

“I had a fellow in here not half an hour ago, looking at this exact same car. He was really interested and said he’ll be back here this afternoon.”

“This particular model is so in demand that I can’t keep them in stock. They get snatched up immediately after I list them on the website.”

For all you know, these claims could very well be true. But it’s also just as likely that the salesperson is exaggerating in order to pressure you into buying. If you don’t act now, such statements imply, you’re going to lose out on a great deal. 

Stick to your guns and don’t be swayed by such false claims of urgency. It’s always worthwhile to test-drive – and do some research into — several vehicles before making up your mind. 

They Play Good Cop to a Manager’s Bad Cop

Say you’ve found a ride that you really like. It’s got decent mileage, it’s in good shape, you were impressed by the way it handled during the test drive, and there are some great features. It’s just a little too pricey, so you start negotiating. At some point during the negotiations, the sales guy or gal will likely say that they need to get clearance or authorization from “the manager” or “my boss.”

This is a time-honored psychological trick. When they return, it’s often with the bad news that the manager won’t budge. If it were up to her, the sales pro tells you, she’d be willing to accept less, but it’s not up to her. She’s hoping that by now, you’re already emotionally invested in this vehicle and will acquiesce to the asking price.

Prevent this scenario by telling the salesperson right up front that you only want to deal with an employee who’s authorized to make deals. Managers don’t usually make commissions, so they might be more inclined to actually work with you to get a car you love, not just the one that’s going to line their pockets.

They’re Capitalizing on Your Excitement

Test-driving a car is one of the most important steps in the purchasing process. The model you’ve had your eye on might not handle as well as you’d hoped, while a car that always struck you as a bit of an unwieldy behemoth could turn out to be super fun to drive.

As you’re trying out your potential new wheels, you might get pretty excited about the idea of driving it home. This is especially true if there are lots of bells and whistles that your old clunker didn’t have. If you show your emotions, used car sales professionals will try to ride the wave of your excitement, ushering you into the office “to talk numbers” as soon as you step foot out of the driver’s seat. 

No matter how you feel about a particular vehicle, keep your poker face on while dealing with the salesperson. Tell them you want to shop around and weigh the pros and cons, instead of making an impulse purchase.

At the End of the Day

Learning the strategies that sales pros use in order to sell (and upsell) you a car is the best way to prevent yourself from falling for these tactics. Whether you are interested in used Hyundai Elantras for sale, heavy-duty pickup trucks for a business, or a fun sports car to make your commute a little more enjoyable, the tricks remain the same. Luckily, you are now a savvy buyer who can avoid the pitfalls of purchasing a used car!

Have you ever fallen prey to a shady salesman? Are there any good car-buying tips you’d like to share? Leave a comment below and tell us your experience!

Will Hopstetter
Will is an automotive market enthusiast living in the United Kingdom. He holds a diverse background in automotive and enjoys utilizing that to produce insights into the inner workings of the industry.