You’ll be glad you knew this before buying your next used car
During the last 25 years I’ve worked in franchised dealerships and used car dealerships, as well as running my own car lot for many years…And during that time I’ve met some rather shady used car salesman. But not all of them are out to take advantage of you and in my opinion most sales people are pretty genuine and want the best for car buyers.
But despite my protestations there are some classic tactics car salesmen (and women) may employ to make that sale and earn their commissions. When it comes down to it most will care more about lining their pockets than safeguarding your money.
An old acquaintance of mine named Darren works at one of the largest independent used car dealers in the country. Although he wishes to stay anonymous he has agreed to share his best secrets to making a sale and earning the most he possibly can from every single deal. Darren earned a gross income of £61,712 last year, all from selling cars directly from a dealership to private individuals…So he clearly knows what sells cars.
This article is intended to give private car buyers greater insight into the psychology of one sales executive at one dealership in the UK. It is by no means meant to target any/all cars sales people in the motor industry.
So here we go…
9 confessions of a used car salesman, by Darren L.
In no particular order (because they all work like gangbusters.)
#1 Warm that engine
Most car buyers will call up our dealership and make sure a car is for sale before coming to see it. This is perfect because I can try and get their contact details (at least write down the incoming phone number) and follow up with them if they do a no show. But a call in advance is so good because I can make an appointment for them to come and see the car. Once I know when they’re coming I can head out and warm the car up before they arrive. Sometimes I might even take it for a quick spin and bed the brakes in, especially if the motors been parked up for a few weeks or months.
The point is that I can hide any problems the car might have when its got a stone cold engine. You’d be surprised at how many used cars sound really nasty when they’re cold. I can hide this problem pretty easily by warming her up before my customer arrives.
Used Car Guy’s tip: Don’t call in advance and make an appointment to see a car. Just call and make sure it’s still for sale, then show up unannounced! Buying a used car without hearing the engine from cold is a risk.
#2 Make my own service history
If I had to fit a new cam belt to a car in order to sell it I’d lose roughly £50 from that deal (that’s around 9k a year!) When I have a customer coming to see a car I first like to dig into the service book and see when the belt was last changed. If it’s coming up for renewal I will either tick the box to confirm the belt has recently been changed (usually on its last service) or manually write in the service book a date, mileage and date of replacement.
99% of car buyers will never call up a workshop to check that they really did replace the cam belt. If they do I just say that the service book was like that before we owned the car.
Used Car Guy’s tip: Always telephone the workshop that have claimed to have replaced a cam belt. Quote the car’s registration number, the mileage and date when the work was done. It takes five minutes and could save you thousands of pounds.
#3 Secretly give nothing away
Some people like to haggle more than others, but I try damn hard to give nothing away for free. If I have to reduce the price of a car by £200 to have a deal I make sure that
money is clawed back in some other way. Either sell them an extended warranty at an inflated price, give them less for their part exchange, push up their higher purchase percentage rate or even sell them some expensive fitted mats. I have dozens of different ways to get back what I have appeared to give away. A penny out of my pocket is not good business.
Used Car Guy’s tip: Get all of the figures written down before negotiating a deal, then start to haggle. When a salesman feels close to finalizing a deal (writing down figures indicated this) they will usually haggle to close it. Triple check all financial details before you hand over a penny.
#4 Blend the warranty and inflate the price
Another way to squeeze a few more pound of profit is to add a 3 year comprehensive warranty to higher purchase or car finance deals. I simply add the £660 warranty to the amount being borrowed. This works a treat for me because I sell them a warranty (and earn an extra £100 in the deal) and meld the cost into their monthly payments…And no, I don’t usually tell the customer what I’ve done, but I do say I’ve included a 3 year warranty within the price!
Used Car Guys’ tip: Always look at the amount of money you are borrowing at the top of the higher purchase agreement. If the car is £5,000 but your lend amount is £5,660, ask why and don’t sign on the dotted line.
#5 Focus on the decision maker
One of the reasons I earn so much money selling cars is because I find out who wears the trousers. Usually it’s the wife that makes the big decisions while the husband thinks he’s in control. But every couple is so different these days so I like to spend the first five minutes of a conversation working out who’s in charge. Once I know what’s what I focus all of my selling efforts on the decision maker. It’s all about finding mini agreements throughout the process and overcoming every single objection they have. Then, when it comes to closing the deal I already have the car sold without them even knowing it.
Used Car Guys tip: Be vigilant. A good sales person will actively have you saying ‘yes, yes, yes’. But car buyers are the ones that are really in control if they choose to be. Why not inform the salesperson that you have a few others to look at before making a decision? Doing this can also help you get a better deal too.
#6 Always give them a 12 month MOT
MOT’s cost our dealership £40 excluding any failures. We have a good relationship with the workshops whom we use for MOT work. Wherever possible they will make a worn part an MOT advisory item rather than an MOT failure item (this isn’t always possible but works most of the time.) So I always throw in a new MOT to clinch a deal because I know it’s probably going to cost just £40. What I don’t promise is that the MOT will come with no advisory items.
I have sold cars with a new MOT and the advisory items on that MOT have been as long as a shopping list!
Used Car Guy’s tip: Those advisory items are going to be replacement parts you’ll have to pay for on the MOT in 12 months time. Always check the advisory item section on an MOT certificate and make sure it’s either empty or only contains one or two items for repair. Watch out for a new certificate that is folded in half, thereby hiding the advisory items section on the right hand side of the sheet.
#7 and #8 Open the window and talk, talk, talk
Most used cars make a few noises when they’re driven. Usually it’s something like a suspension arm that’s knocking or an anti roll bar bush that needs replacing. To counter this I always crack the window open when the custom is test driving the car. The additional wind noise is a great distraction. I also like to chat away about anything and everything. The weather, football, holidays, children, what they do for a living. I keep them talking and focusing on what I’m saying. That way they aren’t really testing the car as thoroughly as they could.
Used Car Guy’s tip: Close the windows on a test drive, turn off the heater or air con and ask the sales person to be quiet while you listen to the car. My preferred option is to test drive the car without the salesperson present. Dealerships vary with this rule and it’s all dependent on the insurance policy a dealership has.
#9 Heat up the cup
After a customer has taken a test drive I will offer them a cup of tea or coffee right away. This leaves them to talk alone for a few minutes which is usually quite helpful. Once I’ve made their drink I will put it in the microwave and heat up the cup for a further minute. This makes the drink piping hot and it will take them a good half an hour to drink it…Just enough time for me to close the deal and get them to pay a £500 no refundable deposit. Job done. Darren L.
The content in this post is here to give you some pointers about the kind of strategies some salespeople can adopt to sell a car. Clearly not all car salespeople work this way and the vast majority are going to be polite, honest and supportive. But when you buy a car from a dealers always be on the lookout and go the extra mile to protect your money and make a wise purchase. Remember you are in control of your money and buying decisions.
The Used Car Guy