What Not to Say to a Car Dealer: A Guide for Buyers

Entering a car dealership can be a stressful experience, especially when you're just planning to pick up a car in the parking lot or browse current inventory. Car salespeople are trained to ask you a series of “prequalification” questions to get an idea of whether you're ready to buy a car that day or not. As a prospective buyer, this method is annoying and the pressure can make the situation uncomfortable at first. However, there are certain things you should avoid saying when stepping into a dealership in order to get the best deal.Don't talk about monthly payments until you've chosen a car you want to bid on.

Don't tell a car dealer about your trade-in until a final purchase price has been established. Get your own financing to save on interest rates. There's so much in “off the radar” sales incentives for dealers today, so try not to limit yourself. Ask the dealer how much they'll give you for an exchange.It's best to call the Credit Union and they'll tell you a fair price for your redemption even before you visit the dealership.

Car dealers make a significant share of the additional profits when they sell financing to you, so if you at least don't leave the dealership with the possibility that he or she can sell you financing, you simply won't get the best deal. Bragg recommends saying something like “let's negotiate the price of the new vehicle first and then we can talk about financing.”As soon as you've lost yourself in the dreamy vision of that shiny convertible, the salesman will hook you and your chances of getting a great deal will be exhausted. This is where you need to have a communication plan. Try to sound objective and rational.

Point out some pros and cons and stay tuned and calm.Just don't say you have to have this car. Never ask for the “popular” options, especially on a luxury model that is already loaded. It is an open invitation for overpriced dealer add-ons, such as interior protection, window etching or priming. They're all things you can come back for later.Instead, review the list of equipment in your home after your first visit to the dealership and then decide exactly what you need.

Perhaps at the beginning of your visit, the seller will most likely make an offer to “just look at the numbers”. Dealers do this when they feel you are undecided, but want to be in the position of control. Taking you to the office makes it harder for you to back down.Wait until you can make decisions of what you want at what price. If your salesman (let's call him Chuck) doesn't have exactly what you want, Chuck may be willing to look for a car that more accurately matches what you're looking for at another dealership, and then ask to have it delivered to your location.Most of us know that there are certain things we're supposed to do and not do when buying a car, but it can still be difficult to put those principles into words.

If you want to spend time working on your own car deal, there's only ONE way to ensure you get the best deal: understand that Chuck may want a deposit or even an agreement that he is going to buy the car that comes from Dealership B.It's still helpful to know what not to say when negotiating with a car dealership, as it could give them an edge in negotiations. We spoke with an AAA car buying expert and a car dealership representative who agreed that it's best not to answer prequalification questions until after choosing a car and being ready to go over numbers.It's not necessarily rude for buyers to tell the car dealership upfront that they are seriously considering financing through them, and then later say: I changed my mind after negotiating purchase price. We'd love to hear what other buyers said or didn't say when asked these discovery questions.