13 Things You Should Never Say at a Car Dealership

AI-generated image of a person buying a car at a car dealership

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AI-generated image of a person buying a car at a car dealership
Cheapism / DALL-E 3

Poker Face

While aiming to maximize profits, car dealerships may sometimes encourage tactics that can trick you into paying more money than you should. These tactics can include omitting critical information about a vehicle's history or condition, or pushing customers to buy more expensive models or unnecessary add-ons. Dealers might also try and set higher initial prices, expecting customers to negotiate. 

As a result, shoppers that aren't well-informed about a car's true value, normal pricing standards, or the negotiation process might end up at a disadvantage — or worse, get tricked into buying a car that doesn't meet needs or expectations. 

But don't worry: We've done a deep dive to help you identify the signs to avoid overpaying or getting ripped off. Here are 13 things you should never say at a car dealership, plus tips on how to negotiate the best deals. 

Saleswoman working at a dealership showing a car to a couple

1. 'I Don't Know Much About Cars'

If you've ever taken your car in for an oil change just for the mechanic to say you need to replace an additional 50 parts, then you know how this goes. Revealing your lack of knowledge about cars can make you a target for exploitation. A salesperson might take this opportunity to sell you a car at a higher price, or persuade you to buy a model that yields a higher commission for them — regardless of whether it suits your needs.

If you're not an expert, remember to fake it till you make it by doing your homework beforehand. Start by researching the key aspects of what you need in a car, such as mileage, safety features, reliability, and the typical price range for the models you're interested in. Remember: Knowledge is power in negotiations. 

In addition, consider bringing along a friend or family member who is knowledgeable about cars. They can offer valuable advice, help you ask the right questions, and spot potential issues with vehicles. Their presence and input can also provide a second opinion, making it harder for the dealership to try and swindle you. 

Satisfied man loves his car. Positive driver lies on the steering wheel of the auto
Andrii Borodai/istockphoto

2. 'This Is My Dream Car!'

Showing too much enthusiasm for a specific vehicle upon first glance or after taking a test drive can weaken your negotiating position. Since the dealer knows you're emotionally invested, they might be less inclined to offer discounts or budge on the price and terms of the purchase. 

Instead, try to stay calm and collected (poker face wins the game) by showing interest in multiple models to keep the dealer guessing about your preferences. This can encourage them to offer better deals to win your business. 

Salesman showing cars to a couple at the dealership

3. 'I Need a Car Urgently'

Expressing urgency or desperation to buy a car can give the car salesperson the upper hand. If, say, your car was recently totaled and you urgently need a new one, be sure to keep that information to yourself. The dealer might be less willing to offer you a good deal if they know you're in a situation where you need to make a quick purchase, and may even try to sell you a car that's subpar or not right for your needs. 

When in doubt, it's better to act like you have plenty of time to make a decision. 

credit score concept on the screen of smartphone

4. 'I Don’t Have a Good Credit Score'

Revealing that you have a poor credit score can lead to less favorable financing terms. By disclosing this information upfront, the agent might assume you have limited financing options and offer higher interest rates than necessary. 

To avoid falling prey to predatory lending practices, consider securing pre-approved financing from a bank or credit union before visiting the dealership. This way, you'll know what interest rates you qualify for and can negotiate with that knowledge in hand.

Related: How You're Destroying Your Credit Score Without Knowing It

White female model shows dollar bills in her hand closeup front view

5. 'I Plan to Pay in Cash'

While offering to pay in cash might seem like an advantage, dealerships often make more money on financing and might actually offer better deals if they think you'll sign a loan through them. Revealing a cash payment too early can lead to a higher purchase price. Instead, consider discussing the price of the car and negotiating the deal first without mentioning your payment method. 

This way, you can reveal your intention to pay with cash once you've settled on a price you're happy with and avoid being ripped off. 

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Car key, vehicle title and 100 dollar bills cash. Concept of automobile purchase, ownership, state and local taxes and fees
JJ Gouin/istockphoto

6. 'I Don’t Know My Trade-In’s Value'

Not knowing the value of your trade-in vehicle can result in receiving a lower offer than it's worth. To avoid this scenario, remember to carefully research and know the approximate value of your trade-in before discussing it with the dealer. 

You can find this information by visiting appraisal sites like Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, or NADA Guides, which provide estimates based on your car's condition, mileage, and current market trends.

Related: 18 Most Reliable Cars You Can Drive Into the Ground

Customers having conversation with sales assistant, buying car, view above

7. 'I'm Not Looking at Other Dealerships'

Saying this implies that you’re not comparing prices, which can weaken your negotiation power. Dealerships are more likely to offer competitive prices if they know you’re exploring multiple options and will offer better deals and terms if they have to compete for your business.

Related: Useful Tips and Tricks For Buying a Car Online

Interested couple man and woman are talking to manager in car dealership while he is telling them about luxury auto model. Beautiful people, transportation and business concept.

8. 'I Don't Know How to Negotiate'

Again, when making any large purchase, you have to fake it till you make it — and that involves putting your negotiator hat on and acting the part. Admitting your lack of negotiation skills can lead to the car salesperson controlling the pricing conversation. As such, it's important to at least appear confident and informed in order to gain the upper hand.

Car keys and money on table with man using calculator.
Tero Vesalainen/istockphoto

9.'I Need the Monthly Payment to be X Amount'

Mentioning your desired monthly payment upfront can lead to a dealer focusing on meeting that payment by extending the loan term or adding extra costs. This approach can result in you paying more overall — especially in interest over a longer loan period. 

To avoid paying more in the long run, it's better to negotiate the total price of the car first before discussing financing options that fit your budget. This way, you can maintain control over both the purchase price and the financing terms.

Saleswoman helping the male customer to choose a new car

10. 'This Is the Only Brand or Model I Want'

Telling the dealer that you're only looking for one car brand or model can reduce your negotiating leverage. If the dealer knows you're unlikely to walk away or consider other options, they might be less willing to offer incentives or discounts. As such, it can be beneficial to show openness to exploring different brands or models. 

This will not only give you more choices, but also signals to the dealer that you're willing to walk away unless you get the best deal. By keeping your options open and being flexible, you can increase your chances of finding the car of your dreams at the most competitive price.

Woman Is in Car in Car Dealership Showroom Looking at Male Car Dealer as He Gives Her Information About the Vehicle

11. 'Can You Throw in [Accessory/Service] for Free?'

Asking for add-ons before you’ve negotiated pricing details can distract from the most important aspect of your negotiation: the price of the car. Wait until you've agreed on the actual price of the vehicle before discussing extras or add-ons; this way you'll have a clearer picture of what's actually a good value and what's worth adding. 

Visiting car dealership

12. 'How Much Do I Need To Put Down?'

Bringing up down payments too early in the negotiation process can inadvertently give the dealer the impression that you're very eager to close the deal, which can weaken your bargaining position. Instead, focus on the total price of the vehicle first before going into other details. 

Once you’ve negotiated a price you're comfortable with, you can then discuss financing or down payment options. Doing this can also give you more leverage in negotiating the best terms for each part of the deal. 

Car Sales Manager Showing Auto To Lady Standing In Dealership

13. 'What’s the Lowest Price You Can Give Me?'

We get it — who doesn't love a good bargain? But while this tactic works wonders while shopping at a flea market, it doesn't have the same effect at the car dealership. Asking this question too early in the buying process can signal that you’re more interested in a deal than the car itself. This can limit your negotiating power, because the first offer made (in this case, by the dealer) often becomes the basis for pricing. 

Instead, focus on establishing the car's value based on its features, condition, and how it meets your needs. By demonstrating your knowledge of the car and its market value, you can engage the dealer in a conversation that revolves around the car's worth, rather than just the price.