Used Car Buying? Take a Look at the Goods…


(Editors Note: What other topic could we possibly cover on Friday the 13th?–that’s rite, buying a used car…)

You can get a used car salesman’s costume off eBay, which might consist of dodgy hair, dark glasses and a Hawaiian shirt. Perhaps the trousers are white Teflon. There are tales of plaid jackets, multicolor shoes and much more. In the old days, they would include a half-smoked cigar, but this might be the one thing that has changed.

As for the dealerships, they seem to crowd into the same corner of the wrong side of town. It becomes a metaphor for the whole experience. We know that we shouldn’t be going down there across the railroad track; we feel likely to get robbed, but we go anyway, and never do shake the feeling even after we buy. But what choice do we have?

This idea of a used car salesman with all the patter, who will rob you blind, seems to be an old one. Of course there’s a big difference between one used car dealership and another, but there’s a few things in common–they all know more than you do about the car business, they all use negotiation tactics in their daily lives when you probably don’t and they are all in the business of making money.

When it comes to buying used, our fowl impression may also be linked to so many things going wrong with second-hand cars. It seems some used car dealers in this country have given up. “You buy something used, it is bound not to go right” is their mantra.

They may have a point. You could try buying new if you can afford it—then at least its under warranty. Though the moment you buy it, it becomes a used car and half the value is gone. So we’re all looking for the same thing–an effective second-hand car at a good price.

Even dealerships which sell new cars make incredible profits from back-end deals, having you pay for warranties, organizing a loan and so on. This is hardly a new story though for the big money in selling cars is not taking the customer’s cash, but how to organize the deal.

road-sign-464654_1920Most people feel that they will always be sold a car in the same way, but it doesn’t have to be. There are hundreds of effective ways to sell a car and the most effective words occur in the closing argument or pitch. So no matter what type of car they are selling, or the type of customer you are, you can learn the gist of their tactics and avoid being taken.

Some good ways to avoid the hucksters include:

  • Don’t let the dealer know you are desperate for a new car. (Don’t say you need to get one for work on Monday for instance!) Keep your guard always up and plan to outlast them. They will ultimately meet your price but it might take a couple hours.
  • Don’t talk payments, talk actual total price. Talking installments means talking about the combo of price and financing. The price of the car shouldn’t depend on your credit score.
  • Don’t just buy the first car you see from the first dealership you see. Shop around. In fact, if you want to see your salesmen sweat, use your cell to look up the actual value of the car in front of you. ( )
  • Get to know what you might actually get for your buck. This may be a lengthy process, but it is ultimately worth it. Look up the type of car your looking for in advance. Know that the salesman will introduce extra factors like, undercoating, ignore this entirely.
  • Don’t let your trade-in become part of the negotiation about the price of the car you’re buying. They may offer to value your car higher than KBB said it was worth even. But this is a bargaining tool in their toolbox. After a couple hours of sticking to your price and turning down extras you say, “so we’re agreed this car is $XX,XXX.” They say yes, you say, “now you said my trade in is worth…”
  • Make sure you go for a test drive before paying for the vehicle. You may need to visit the lot a couple times. When they’ve determined that you’re wasting their time they may turn you over to a junior salesman who might give you an advantage when you’re actually ready to buy.
  • Get the history of the exact vehicle through an internet search of or similar  But the trick here is that you may not be able to interpret what you’re looking at. Was the car sold at auction? What’s that really mean?
  • Get a pre-purchase inspection at an independent inspection service. An inspector can run the reports above, along with a visual inspection and test drive to paint a picture of your vehicle’s condition. Know the car your buying better than the salesman and your negotiations will go your way.

You can find more tips about dealing with the unscrupulous car dealer:

Kicker recommends that you have the car inspected by a professional (that is not just the dealer/ mechanic) before you buy the car so you have a nonbiased idea of what the car is worth. If you do a bit more digging you can prevent the common problems that most people who buy used cars run up against.

If you follow this advice, you will be better prepared against anyone trying to take advantage of you!

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