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Dealer tricks and tactics to look out for

Dealer tricks and tactics to look out for

There are many benefits of buying a car from a licensed dealership – warranties, trade-in, guaranteed title, expert advice, after-sales service, detailing and convenience to name a few. While the pros certainly outweigh the cons, we’re all too familiar with the ‘dodgy dealer’ stereotype. Look out for these tactics (or tricks) when dealing with dealers.

Financing falsehoods

If you’re relying on the dealership for finance, a fairly common (and unethical) practice is to close the sale of a car before the financing process is complete. In some cases you’re allowed to drive your new pride and joy home, only to get a call the next week to hear the financing has fallen through. This is the perfect time for the dealer to step in with a solution - a new financing option, at a much higher interest rate. At the very least, do not get in the driver’s seat until all financing has been finalised.

Bait and switch

This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Dealers will advertise a specific model at an surprisingly low price to get you to the dealership. When you arrive to inspect the car you’ll find that it has ‘just’ been sold. ‘Lucky’ for you, the dealer has a whole range of options that are much better, anyway (and likely much more expensive).

Unfortunately there’s not a whole lot you can do about this. It may help to email the dealer and get confirmation the car is still available in writing, but really it’s no guarantee you won’t be given the same ‘just sold’ story others get. The best response is to recognise this play for what it is and take your business somewhere more transparent.

Monthly payment focus

Most dealers like to get you thinking in terms of monthly payments, rather than total costs. It can make the unaffordable seem within reach. But some dealers will take it to a dishonest degree.

An old-school tactic for guiding your attention towards monthly payments is the ‘foursquare sheet’. This is simply a piece of paper divided into four: one for the new car purchase price, one for the down payment, one for the monthly payment and one for the trade-in price of your car.

Usually, with this sheet of paper comes some rapid-fire calculations and explanations, and a whole lot of extra costs will be shuffled into your purchase price -- all the while, keeping your eye locked firmly on the monthly repayment.

Changeover confusion

Something that works well for dealers is leveraging whatever discount they offer you directly off the value of your trade-in. You get a great price on the new car, but get a lot less than expected for your old car. Or vice-versa. You’re offered a great price on your old car, but pay sticker price on the new car.

It can be difficult to keep track of, but if you’ve done your research and know the approximate value of the car you’re trading in, as well as a reasonable price you’re willing to pay for the new car. It’s basic maths but in the excitement of car shopping simple concepts can seem confusing.

Take the new car price, and subtract the trade-in amount. The number you get is your changeover cost (new car price - trade-in price = changeover cost). Be sure this is all you end up paying.

Time-sensitive deals

Now’s the time to buy! Only for today! Another buyer has gone to organise their deposit and will be back soon!

Creating a false sense of urgency is another old trick from the salesman’s handbook. If a deal is good now, it will most likely be good in three hours, or twelve hours. Don’t buy into this attempt to force your hand. Take your time, get your quotes matched at other dealers, and assess your options with a cool head.

All the extras you’ll never need

Paint protection, fabric protection, rust-proofing, floor mats, cargo trays, scuff plates, hands-free Bluetooth, reverse camera, parking sensors - the list of extras dealers will offer is endless. Don’t get roped in to paying the inflated prices and nudging up your finance by buying from your dealer. You can pick up an equivalent accessory at your local warehouse or automotive super store.  

Delivery fable

Often popular models require a wait. It could be months before the new stock hits our shores and dealers inventory is replenished.

If this is an issue for a few dealers, it will be an issue across the board, but occasionally you’ll find one who tells you they already ordered it, a few months back and it will arrive in a week or two. They’ll say ‘it’s yours if you pay the deposit’.

So, you’ll give him the deposit. A week later they’ll tell you the delivery has been delayed, and it won’t arrive for another 8 weeks or so... around the same time those other dealers were getting theirs in.

Demo models: New or used?

Demonstration models will only have a few thousand kilometres on them, but don’t be fooled: they’re used cars. In some cases, they’re already part of the way through their warranty period. Don’t pay full price for these. They should be priced more closely to used cars than new ones.

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