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Dealer Tricks You May Not Know About

By Liz Opsitnik
Monday, Jun 22 2009 12:14

We’ve written stories before about the common ways consumers can be tricked at the dealership. Car and Driver has a story on its site about other ways car shoppers can get ripped off during their next car purchase.

We’ve heard of most of the tricks on Car and Driver’s list. But there were two that we’ve never heard of before and found very interesting. The first one doesn’t surprise us that much but the second one is downright insane!

We’re not saying all salespeople and finance managers do these things, but the more tricks you know about, the less chance you have of getting ripped off at the dealership.

"Juggling the Foursquare

This isn’t really a trick, but awareness here is important for a buyer. When you sit down to negotiate, the salesperson will pull out a “foursquare” worksheet on which to figure out the terms of the deal. In the four quadrants of the sheet, the salesman (or -woman, but enough of being PC!) will record purchase price, down payment, monthly payments, and trade-in value. He will fill in the sheet as you talk, working the deal like a shell game. If he thinks you are preoccupied with getting a fair deal on your trade-in, he might give you a good price for that and then nudge your new-car purchase price north. Take it slow, focus on one item at a time, and be sure you are comfortable with each individual aspect of your purchase.


Although it’s a good idea to bring a friend or family member shopping with you—someone else to watch the deal, question the terms, and help keep your emotions in check—this opens additional avenues for nefarious dealerships to use the wingman against the buyer. When the salesman leaves the cube, customers drop their guard and feel comfortable discussing aspects of the deal they wouldn’t mention in front of the salesman. With just a couple subtle pokes at their phones, salespeople can leave the intercom open to the sales manager’s office, where they will go not to seek approval on your terms but to eavesdrop on your conversation, harvesting information to use against you. There are even stories of salespeople hiding baby monitors in their offices. When the salesman leaves to talk to the sales manager, that’s your cue to leave and get a cup of coffee."

Check out Car and Driver’s full list of car dealer tricks here.


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Confused or unsure about some of the car loan terms used in the article? Click here for our Auto Loan Glossary.

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7 comments on this story so far.

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Comment By: melody j. on Mon, Jun 22 2009 at 4:07 PM
when are dealers gonna learn that most car shoppers know about their scams? give up already! if dealers stop being shady scam artists, people would actually enjoy buying a car. maybe then more people will want to buy cars.
Comment By: Chris on Mon, Apr 19 2010 at 9:02 PM
Come on, enough with the car dealers are bad people stuff. Who is it that writes all these articles making everyone afraid of buying a car? Think of who works at the car dealership. It's just local guys, they wake up in the morning and put their pants on one leg at a time just like you. Maybe they should refuse to negotiate and make you pay the posted price. Then it could be just like going to the grocery store, except for the twenty thousand dollar part.
Comment By: Megan Janders on Tue, Jul 7 2009 at 4:06 PM
I just bought a car from a well known dealer, at one price. we signed the paperwork sent us home in the car, gave him our down payment 2,000,
said you can give me the rest next week.Then about a week and a half later says I need more $ down. like 2,000 more, but our payments will only be 200$. I feel like this is a bait and switch, anything i can do? I can afford the payments and the first down payment, but the other 2,000 might wipe my family out of our savings? Any Advice?
Comment By: on Tue, Jul 7 2009 at 4:28 PM
Why are they telling you to give them more money? This definitely sounds like a trick. Did you take the car home contingent on the financing? Has your loan been finalized? If you can, walk away and go to another dealer. If the deal and all the paperwork is done, they can't ask for more money.

Dealers pull these tricks sometimes where they switch the numbers on the paperwork. Look at your paperwork closely to make sure they didn't change anything. Do not give them any more money. What does your paperwork say? Let us know and we can help you more.
Comment By: rouel padre on Mon, Jul 13 2009 at 2:00 PM
I bought a car from a dealer, at the price of 14,600 honda pilot with 52,000 miles. We signed all the papers, finance by honda. Our interest rate is pretty high at 7.4 percent, due to our home modification we missed some payment...Now, the dealer is callling us back, saying they want the car back. In order to keep the car we have to give them a down payment and they to increase the interest. What should we do, pls. let us know we have 3 days to return the car...
Comment By: on Mon, Jul 13 2009 at 2:29 PM
1. Did you buy the Honda Pilot from a Honda dealer or a used car dealer?
2. Did you buy it over the weekend and they told you they couldn't send in your paperwork for the auto loan until Monday?
3. Why is Honda Finance asking for more down payment and a higher interest rate?
4. Did you trade-in a vehicle when you purchased the Pilot?

When you took the Honda home, your financing wasn't finalized, right? If it was approved through Honda Finance at 7.4% (which really isn't that bad of an interest rate), then they can't ask for more money. What does your paperwork say? Something like that rate was contingent upon final approval?

It sounds like the dealer allowed you to take the car home, but hadn't finalized your auto loan yet. This is a common trick the dealer uses to get you to give them more money. If they won't give you the deal they originally said they would, let them keep the car and go to another dealer. Just make sure that your loan was NOT finalized and approved. Also make sure if you gave them any down payment to get that back as well.

Sounds like they are trying to make more money off you on the financing. If you can, go to another dealer. This one sounds shady. I would call Honda Finance and see what they say as well. See where you are at in the loan process with them. If this dealer wants your business bad enough, they will honor the original agreement.
Comment By: Jane Doe on Tue, Aug 11 2009 at 12:08 PM
Two years ago, I went shopping for a new vehicle. I had my eye set on the Toyota Solara. A salesman tried to sell it to me for 26000 just for a base. I thought that was out of my league. Then I went to Honda and the salesman and I test drove the base Civic. After we returned to the dearlership, I sat in the showroom and noticed immediately the salesman pulled the car in the front. He checked my credit you just bought your new car. The payments were going to $360 per month at 5.9 APR for 60 months. I felt that was the price was steep. So I returned home and recaluted my budget. I had to figure how do I want to spend even if the car may not be "the dream car". I had decided that my budget would be 20,000 and not a penny more. This budget had to include all taxes, title, license, extended warranty. I finally made a deal with Saturn and purchased a blue 2007 Saturn Ion for 18000 which included everything. My payments are 310 a month at 60 months and 4.9 APR, which I am very comfortable with. The key is to know your budget. Tell the salesman the exact budget. For example if you want a new Toyota Camry, tell the salesman you will spend 21000 for it and not a penny more. All taxes and all costs must be included in the 21000 budget. You will really get them because they will have to work with the exact budget in order for the deal to be complete. Good Luck in your search. Oh yeah if you have good credit, you can demand a little more.

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