5 Things You Should Never Say to a Car Salesman

Ryan Ong



Everything you’ve learned about wolves applies to car salesmen. They’re aggressive predators, they sense weakness, and they can look like they’re smiling when they bare their teeth. But unlike wolves, it’s much harder to get a permit to shoot them. I’m sure the government’s working on it; but until then, you’ll need to face these animals to get at your Honda or whatever. In this article, I examine some fatal mistakes when faced with a car dealer:


1. Reveal Your Budget

When a salesman says he wants to find you an appropriate car, he means the most expensive car you can afford. After adding frills, interest, and half an accessory store, your budget will become a long forgotten hope.

That’s why amateur buyers almost always overspend; they go in wanting to buy an economy sedan, and walk out with a SUV that could kill a triceratops. So instead of talking about your budget, specify your needs. Say things like:

  • I need something with good mileage
  • I need something just for sending the kids to school
  • I need to make regular trips to KL

You want to salesman to influence you based on features, not on price. Also, you want to be introduced to the full range of options; if the salesman knows your budget, he may not bother showing you a lower end model (which might be a better deal for you).


A horse
“Yeah, we’ve got something for your budget.”


2. I Really Need It Soon

Sure, there are situations when it’s fine to say this. Such as when your house is on fire. Otherwise, don’t let the sales man sense you’re in a rush; he’ll become inflexible about the price.

You want to give the impression that you can wait. It’s the salesman who should be in a rush, because he’s got a quota to meet. Say things like:

  • But cars nowadays are so expensive. Maybe I should wait for the COE to drop.
  • Actually it’s more of a luxury to me. I’m not that tempted to buy, just curious.
  • My car still works fine. Switching is just a nice option.

Let the salesman try to tempt you by going as low as possible; it’s the basic principle of getting a good deal. And don’t be afraid to walk off, then come back in a day or two. When you walk in a second time, the salesman might think you’re close to cracking, and compromise further to close the deal.


Car Wreck
“That guy needs help! Hurry up and…give him our car dealership card with a quick buy option”


3. Actually, I Don’t Understand How the COE Works

Are you insane? You’re buying a car without knowing how the COE works, and trusting a salesman to explain it? Go and find out for yourself.

If you’re on a tight budget, you need to keep track of the COE. Some buyers even handle the process themselves, in order to ensure the best deal. The average car salesman, however, doesn’t want to spend time submitting bids; he has other sales to close. By taking the most expensive (and also the fastest) option, the salesman gets you to drive off now and stop bothering him.

This is even more important when buying second-hand cars. If you admit you’re clueless, the salesman will start directing you to cars with few years left on their COE; it’d be like stealing from a blind man on a foggy night.


Illegal street race
“Be the first across the finish line, and I take the money, you get your COE. Really, this is how it works.”


4.  That’s a Small Matter to Me

Even if it is a small matter, don’t say it aloud. A second hand car salesman might mention the “small matter” of a bad headlight. A distributorship might mention the “small matter” of not having the right colour. Even if this is trivial to you, see if you can use it as a bargaining chip.

The salesman has no idea what’s trivial to you; they’re just guessing. If it looks like you’re displeased, there’s a chance they’ll throw in extras to please you. So when you receive the gift of a “small problem”, look dissatisfied. Frown and ask if there are alternatives, rather than throw up your arms and go: “Awww, that’s alright! I don’t care about that!”


Car with steering wheel turning on its own
“Also, it’s possessed by the vengeful soul of the previous owner. Will that be a problem?”


5. Well, My Husband Likes It

That’s great. Tell him to just keep it to himself now, okay? If the salesman knows your spouse, girlfriend, son, etc. likes the car, they know they have leverage. That’s their cue to stop lowering the price.

Never make your enthusiasm apparent: The less eager the salesman thinks you are, the better his deals will become. Also, the salesman might stop showing off the whole range. If he’s found his leverage, there’s no need to move on to another vehicle. That’s bad for you, because you want to see the widest variety of options.

So conduct your discussion of the car privately, not in front of the salesman.


Smiling people in front of a car
“Your wife and I agree. If you don’t buy that car, she’s divorcing you.”


Image Credits:
jurvestson, ethorson, adrian 8_8, quinn.anya, motoyen, Groupon, Ed Callow

Got any tips for bargaining with car dealers? Comment and let us know!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.