Seven secrets car salespeople
don't want you to know

Seven car showroom secrets they don't want you to know

  • Published 16 March 2020
  • 5 minute read
  • By Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

Human interaction is becoming a thing of the past. On a typical day, you might ask a virtual assistant for directions, order a fast food meal via a giant screen, and call a cab via a smartphone app. In fact, it’s probably possible to live for weeks without speaking to an actual person.

Things are different when it comes to buying a car. While an increasing number of people are using an online service, many of us prefer to visit a car showroom before taking the plunge. Buying online is great, but you won’t know if a car is right for you without taking it for a test drive and making sure it suits your needs.

It can be a daunting experience. A 2019 survey found that car salesmen are the third least trusted professionals in the UK, with only politicians and journalists stopping them from topping the table. 

So what can you do to ensure you’re not ripped off in a car showroom? Here, we reveal seven showroom secrets the salespeople don’t want you to know. Arm yourself with these tips before visiting a car dealer

Sell your car privately

Want to get the best value from your current car? Don't trade it inSell your Car PrivatelyView the best leasing deals this month Lease Now

Car dealers want your vehicle in part-exchange. If it’s suitable for the forecourt, a valeter will be deployed to give it a spring clean, before it’s put on sale for a price in excess of the payment you received. 

Even if the car is messier and smellier than a teenager’s bedroom, they still want it, as it’s likely to generate a small profit at auction. We’re not denying the car dealer’s right to make money – they have to earn a living – but if you want to keep the cash in your pocket, you should sell your car privately.

This also avoids the age-old practice of the dealer offering a low price for your vehicle, knowing that you’ll push for a better deal. By negotiating a higher price, you’re made to feel like you achieved something, which then makes you more inclined to accept the screen price of the car you intend to buy.

In exchange for a little more hassle, you’ll have a larger lump sum to use as a deposit on a finance deal. Alternatively, you can put the money aside for your monthly leasing payments.

Do remember that dealers don’t like cash – they’d rather make money on the part-exchange and the commission on the finance deal.

Beware of the extras

Shiny stuff! Yay! But it comes at a costBeware of the extrasView the best leasing deals this month Lease Now

Dealers and manufacturers will lure you into a showroom with the promise of a low price and some tempting special offers. However, the sales person doesn’t want you to buy the cheapest model. Instead, they’ll use ‘upselling’ techniques to tempt you into upgrading to a higher trim level loaded with optional extras.

These extras range from car options - such as metallic paint, leather seats, larger alloy wheels and a premium sound system - to additional services, including gap insurance, an extended warranty, and paint protection.

The sales person will look to disguise the additional expenditure by referring to the minimal effect it has on the monthly fee, which could be just £10 or £20. But on a four-year leasing contract, spending £20 more a month adds up to £960.

You should also bear in mind that gap insurance and an extended warranty can be purchased via a third-party, often for a much lower price.

Buy at the right time

Do the deal rightBuy at the right timeView the best leasing deals this month Lease Now

Believe it or not, there’s a wrong and a right time to walk into a car showroom. Avoiding weekends is a good idea, because that’s when car dealers tend to be crowded with punters, so the salesperson is likely to have less time to spend with you.

Weekdays are better, with Mondays a particularly slow day. This means that the sales staff are more likely to be prepared to offer a sizable discount or include some tasty options at no cost to you. Or at least spend some time talking to you.

Car dealers have sales quotas, which typically fall into yearly, quarterly or monthly goals. Assuming the dealer is working to a calendar year, the final quarter (October, November and December) could be a great time to buy a car.

Whatever, you stand a greater chance of grabbing a great deal towards the end of the month, as the salesperson will be keen to meet their monthly sales target.

Beware of distractions

Keep your focus and you'll be fineBeware of distractionsView the best leasing deals this month Lease Now

Once you’re in the showroom, you’re at the mercy of the salesperson. That’s fine – you want to buy a car and they’re on hand to sell it to you. Just be careful you don’t lose control of the situation.

The showroom music, the video playing on loop on the massive television, and the sales material – these are designed to keep you locked into the deal. Meanwhile, the offer of hot drinks, free wifi and posh seats are there to make you feel as comfortable as possible. Don’t get too comfy!

Another distraction technique is when the salesperson disappears to see if the sales manager is willing to sweeten the deal. This could be in the form of a lower rate of finance, an improved part-exchange offer or a set of floor mats. Don’t be fooled: this is just theatre to make it look like the salesperson is working really hard on your behalf.

Do your homework

Make sure you know what you want before you get to the showroomDo your homeworkView the best leasing deals this month Lease Now

Everything you need to know about your new car is available online, so spend a few hours doing some research before setting foot in the showroom. Find out what’s fitted to each trim level – buying a cheaper model with a couple of options might be more cost-effective than upgrading to a plusher version.

If a car isn’t selling well, it’s likely to be reported online. Having this knowledge at your disposal could work in your favour, as you’ll know that the dealer will be keen to offer a discount. Similarly, if the car is about to be replaced by a newer model, the dealer will be keen to shift stock of the outgoing car, increasing your chances of getting a good deal.

Beware of ‘limited time only’ deals

Don't be taken in by the sales patterBeware of 'limited time only' dealsView the best leasing deals this month Lease Now

‘While stocks last’ and ‘for a limited time only’: these are just two of the phrases you may have read on an advert or in a showroom. But don’t be taken in, as manufacturers and dealers tend to announce new offers every quarter.

So while the ‘unmissable’ and ‘unrepeatable’ deal might expire at the end of March, there will almost certainly be a new offer in April.

Is the test drive representative of the car you’ll be buying?

Make sure the car you're buying is really like the car you're tryingIs the test drive representative of the car you'll be buyingView the best leasing deals this month Lease Now

It’s the oldest trick in the book. The dealer will treat you to a test drive in a model pre-loaded with all the bells and whistles. They may even let you borrow it for 24 hours or a weekend.

You fall in love with it, only to discover that the car you are buying – and can afford – doesn’t feel quite as special as the one with air suspension, a premium sound system and massaging seats. Make sure the car you drive is as close as possible to the specification you intend to buy.

One final point: be nice. Contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, car salespeople are a friendly bunch and will be more inclined to treat you favourably if you’re pleasant and polite in return. A smile and some common courtesy might go a long way.

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