Looking for Trouble: Spotting Danger Signs at the Car Dealership

When it’s time to purchase a car, heading to the dealership can feel like walking into a lion’s den.

Predatory car dealerships do everything they can to make a sale, whether or not it’s the right decision for you. Fortunately, there are a few danger signs to watch out for that can keep you from falling into a dealer’s trap and spending more money than is necessary. Today, we’ll look at five tactics dealerships use to get unsuspecting customers through the door.

Hovering Salespeople

Have you ever gone to a dealership and noticed salespeople hovering outside? It seems like they’re just waiting to talk you into their shiniest new car, doesn’t it? Most likely, if a dealership’s salespeople barely give you a chance to look around before they bombard you with complicated questions, they’re only interested in how much money you brought with you to spend.

Bait and Switch

Though this tactic is not exclusive to the auto industry, bait and switch techniques are a staple at predatory dealerships. First, a dealership lures in buyers with amazingly low prices available on a select number of cars. Once you’re on the lot, the “special” cars are all mysteriously sold and your remaining options are vehicles well outside your intended budget. Using this tactic, dealerships are betting that you won’t turn around and leave once you find out all of the “sale” vehicles are gone. Don’t fall for this trick.

The Waiting Game

How many times have you gone to a dealership and had the salesperson say, “Wait here, I’ll be right back” or “I just need to talk to my manager for a minute”? Generally, these short breaks are used to evaluate whether you can be manipulated. Simply walking out of the dealer’s office after they request that you wait will prove that you’re in control of the purchase process – not them.

Yo-Yo Financing

This tactic is not as immediate as the ones we’ve discussed so far. With yo-yo financing, you’re under the impression that you’ve signed up for a car at a certain price and interest rate. After agreeing, you even drive the car home and keep it for a few days. Then, you receive a call from the dealership saying you weren’t approved at the rate you agreed upon. What happens next is the dealer will try to get you to agree to financing at a higher rate. Avoid this predatory technique by getting pre-approved from a financial institution of your choice before shopping for a vehicle.

Trust Your Instincts

Whether you come across a dealership with these red flags or not, the best thing you can do to protect yourself from predatory dealers is trust your instincts. If you arrive at a dealership and feel uncomfortable or intimidated right away, there’s a good chance your instincts are warning you what lies ahead. Don’t dismiss these feelings! There’s a reason you have them.

Above all else, only work with a dealership that you trust.


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