The Car Dealership Experience is Designed to Break Your Soul

Written by Credit Union of Texas
Published May 10, 2019
image of frustrated car buyer at dealership image of frustrated car buyer at dealership

To many people, the very act of going into a car dealership gives them the shivers. People fear the negotiation process and are scared of getting ripped off. The rise of no-haggle dealerships and the ability to access previously hidden information (like MSRP and Blue Book pricing) have taken some strain out of the process. But the old stereotype of the slimy car salesmen still holds a grain of truth. Despite progress, the entire car buying experience is meant to work in the dealership’s favor, not yours. All of their sales tactics can take an emotional toll if you’re not prepared. Here’s how the car dealership experience is designed to break your spirit and how you can get out with your sanity and budget still intact.

Pushy salespeople

The moment you set foot on the car dealership lot, you become a target for salespeople hoping to cash in. They will greet you and introduce themselves, offering a friendly face and a handshake. This pleasant introduction is also a way for them to size you up and is essentially the first step in the negotiation process. Whether you're looking for a new or used car, the salesperson will likely steer you toward models with the latest bells, whistles and performance packages while downplaying the attractiveness of the more basic models along the way. The entire experience is meant to put you at ease while pushing you to spend more money right from the very start.

How to keep your spirit alive: Know what you want before you go to the dealership. If you have the specific make, model, and features package in mind, you can send the salesperson a clear message that you won’t be pressured into buying something you don’t want. For help finding the right car for you and your budget, check out the Credit Union of Texas’ new car search tool.

Haggling

Once you find the car you want, the negotiation begins. By its very nature, haggling is designed to wear you down. They know you’re interested, and because they hold the keys, they hold most of the power. The back and forth over price is as much theater as it is business. Salespeople will use any number of negotiation tactics, including appearing sad, frustrated or conflicted about the price you’re offering. They may step away to talk to their manager, making it appear that you’re getting the deal of the lifetime. They can also apply pressure, making it seem like you’ll lose out on a great deal if you walk away from the table. While the specific sales tactics will vary, the goal is always to get you to buy, and to pay a premium for the pleasure.

How to keep your spirit alive: Stay strong. Remember that no matter how flustered the salesperson appears, it’s all part of the dance. Stick to your guns on what you think is a fair price and ignore all the theatrics. Also, consider visiting a no-haggle dealership. Although you’ll likely still encounter aggressive sales tactics, and you may end up paying more for the car because of the predetermined price, you may have a better overall experience.

Hiding the real price of the car

The less you know as a customer, the better it is for the car dealership. That’s why many dealers make it difficult to determine the true price of a particular vehicle. At the beginning of the negotiation, they may show you the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for the car. But this can be misleading. Often dealers will tack on additional fees like “destination fees,” “documentation fees” and costs for “dealer prep.” All of these are designed to obscure the actual price you’d end up paying for the car.

How to keep your spirit alive: Ask to see the dealer’s invoice price. This will show you what the dealership actually paid for the vehicle, so you can better determine a fair price. You’ll still have to wade through the sea of fees and upgrade costs, but it will give you a better baseline to start from. You should also do your own research ahead of time, using services like Kelley Blue Book to help you figure out the average price for a particular vehicle.

High-pressure financing

If the salesperson doesn’t give you the hard sell on the price of the vehicle, you can be sure they will when it comes time to talk financing. That’s because dealerships can make more money financing a vehicle purchase than they do actually selling the car. You may be subjected to high-pressure sales techniques, with your salesperson shedding tears if necessary. Just remember that this is all a strategy to put more money in the dealer’s pocket.

How to keep your spirit alive: Simply secure your financing before you go to the dealership. Partnering with a trusted financial institution like the Credit Union of Texas will not only help you get a better rate on your auto loan, but you’ll also avoid the dealer’s spirit-breaking financing process. Just tell the salesperson you already have financing and you’re not interested in any deals they may offer you.

The amount of time it takes

Buying a car does not happen quickly. From beginning to end, the process can take upwards of 10 hours, even at a no-haggle dealership. As you work out the details of the purchase agreement, don’t be surprised if the salesperson continually has to leave to “get approval” from a manager. You may sit there for 20 or 30 minutes before they return and start the process over again. This is done intentionally to slowly wear you down to the point where you throw up your hands and say, “Fine. I’ll take all the add-ons. Just give me the keys so I can leave!” Although it can be aggravating, remember that this too is all part of their sales strategy.

How to keep your spirit alive: Be prepared to wait. If you know that going into the process that you’re in for a long day, the wait won’t be nearly as frustrating. Bring a book to occupy your time in between negotiations, and let the salesperson know you’re aware of their tactics. It will take a lot of patience to maintain your composure throughout the long process, but if you keep your focus on getting a deal that works for you, you’ll come out with your spirit alive and well.

When you’re ready to get financing for your next car purchase, give the Credit Union of Texas a call, or stop into one of our locations. We can answer all of your questions and help you get the financing you need, without the high-pressure sales techniques.

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