When you’re buying a car, it feels like you need to remember a million little things to ask about. When you trade in, the same applies: you need to talk up the car’s good points, and present it in the best light.
In both cases, though, it’s hard to remember what not to say. Saying the wrong thing can cost you money. Whether you’re buying or trading in, here are 10 topics to keep quiet on when dealing with a car salesperson.
1. You’re desperate to buy
Starting a new job in next week with a long commute? Heading off on a great Australian road trip and need a new car to do it? That’s great – but your salesperson has no need to hear this. Going by the old saying “Fake it ‘til you make it”’ is useful here.
You may be desperate to buy a car soon – you might be needing one by the end of the week, in fact - but a salesperson can always pick up on desperation, and that plays to their advantage. Instead, stroll through the car yard like you're casually doing grocery shopping. You may be in need of a vehicle today, but a “Take it or leave it” attitude will yield you the best results in negotiations.
2. You don’t know much about cars
Just because you don’t know much about cars doesn't mean you need to tell the salesperson that. Obviously, there’s a limit to this – don’t be a smarty pants and try to score points talking about your expertise with turbo intercoolers when your last car was a Mini – but let the salesperson have fun trying to figure out how much you know (while you have fun hiding how much you actually do).
3. What you wish to use the car for
While a salesperson is fair to suggest a 4WD if you like off-roading, or a 2-door sedan for inner-city commutes, what you do with your car once you buy is totally up to you. For this reason, keep the sort of driving you do secret to ensure you maximise your options while browsing.
If you indicate at the beginning that you’ll only use this car for weekend driving, then that car sitting out back that’d be just perfect for a city commuter may not be shown to you. Keep a bit of mystery about what you wish to use the car for, and you’ll be certain to have more cars to choose from.
4. Your budget is small
Instead of looking to find you a vehicle that is the best value (and within your price range), some salespeople use a customer’s small budget to steer them towards the worst car on the lot.
Sure, they’ll use terms like “value” and “bargain” – but it’ll all be worth little if your car costs thousands to repair soon after you buy it. While it's OK to give an estimate of your budget, leave a few thousand in wiggle room to keep things interesting.
5. This is your dream car
Once a salesperson hears this, they know it's just a matter of seeing how much they can hike the price with extras, since it’s your perfect ride. If you do come across your dream car, go the other way.
Spend some time critiquing things you don’t like about the car, like its colour (even if midnight black is your favourite colour). The salesperson will be more likely to consider a lower offer to settle and get the car out of there.
6. Your car is uncomfortable to drive
Even if you push the seat all the way back, turn on the AC, or add a couple of comfort accessories, you may still find your current car uncomfortable to drive in.
This is not your problem – it’s the next buyer’s. And frankly, what’s a problem for you, might not be for someone else. If you’re a 6’6” guy, your issue with lack of legroom in the vehicle likely won’t be a problem for someone who’s 5’6”. You don’t need to confess to the salesperson, “Every time I drive this car, I have leg cramps for a week.” Let the next buyer decide whether the car is comfortable for them or not.
7. It lacks modern accessories
You may be looking forward to the prospect of a trade-in so you’ve got the cash to buy a brand-new car with all the latest features. This is totally fine, but not everyone is looking for such a vehicle
– so don’t downsell your trade-in vehicle needlessly. If you mention all the things your car doesn’t
have, you’ll be letting the salesperson know that you think it’s full of flaws and will be willing to take less for it.
8. It always seems to need repairs
Nobody likes owning a car that always has something going wrong with it. Nonetheless, it must be remembered that different driving habits and different conditions, like rural versus inner-city driving, can cause a car to break down. Provide the service book when you sell, and let the sales professionals worry about the repair issues with the next buyer.
9. You always get pulled over by police in this car
Even if you are a model citizen, you may live in an area where your trade-in vehicle is a model that’s often stolen, used in illegal street races, or other crimes. This may be a reason you’re finally ready to say goodbye to your current car, but telling the salesperson this will only make your car harder to sell to them.
10. You’d practically give this car away
You got a bonus at work, finished college, and now have your first real job, or you’re retired and can finally buy your dream car. You’re so excited by this prospect, you really don’t care what you get for your old vehicle.
This is a great financial position to be in, but telling a salesperson this guarantees you’ll get a lowball offer. Nobody is suggesting you need to dress up like Oliver Twist when you go to trade your car in, but be sure to underscore that you’re certainly after value for money, and will only trade in at the right price.
With around 18.4 million cars in the nation, that equals a lot of car buying and trade-in action. While you aren’t guaranteed to have a flawless experience every time, making sure you know what to say – and more importantly, what not to say – will help you get the most value out of your transaction.
What other tips do you have for dealing effectively with car salespeople? Let us know in the comments below: