When you’re shopping for, test-driving, and negotiating for a car, it’s extremely important to keep an eye out for red flags. Buying a car is one of the most significant purchases you make in your life and if you’re getting bad vibes from the salesman, you should run far far away. Just like these people!
All content has been edited for clarity.
They Thought They Could Pull A Fast One
“I was co-signing a loan for my son who had been to the dealer alone. They offered the manufacturer’s rate of 1.9% financing and $1,000 for his old car during his prior visit.
We went in to sign the paperwork, provide a check, etc.
As I reviewed the paperwork, the trade-in was $250 and the finance rate was 6.9%. We were told the trade-in was a mess and my son’s score dictated the higher rate.
I stated that you agreed to these terms and I was co-signing the loan to qualify for the manufacturer’s rate. I asked for a pen as they believed we were ready to sign.
I got up and ripped the contract into pieces and dropped them in the trash and headed to the door. Four people blocked us at the door.
‘Where are you going?’
‘I’m going to call the other local Toyota dealer and tell them you have the car we want in your inventory and I’m sure they’ll have the paperwork ready when we get there.’
As they followed us into the parking lot they asked what they had to do. I smiled and said: 1) $1,250 for the trade-in, 2) the 1.9% financing, 3) a reduction in the price of the car, 4) I’ll only speak to a decision maker (i.e. owner or general manager), and 5) the new contract ready in five minutes.
We got what we wanted as they met our terms.
Here’s an observation I have. If you go into a dealership and all the salespeople are very new and don’t yet have business cards – beware. It could mean a lack of commitment by ownership and/or unrealistic starting goals.”
The Sports Coat Was A Red Flag
“I went with a friend to offer him support with buying a used car. At a Chevy dealership, we wandered through the lot and he decides that he really likes this white Impala in front of us. I think the price was $13,000.
Up walks a used car salesperson, in the absolutely worst-looking sport coat in history. I didn’t want to spend 3 hours in a small room staring at that coat; it was that bad, but for my friend I took one for the team and followed them into the sales office, I mean closet.
We sat down and the first thing Mr. Salesman does is pick up the phone on the desk (old school phone with the 5 buttons across the bottom).
Even though all 5 buttons were unlit, he pushes an unlit button and says, ‘Oh hi Mr. Smith. Yes, the white Impala is still available. $14,000? Yes, I’ll still do that price. You’re on your way? Okay, I’ll see you in a few minutes.’
He hangs up the phone and tells us that he has a firm offer for $14,000 and if we can beat that, he’ll try to get the sale approved. My pal and I look at each other, our jaws dropping. Then we got up and walked out. I only had to look at the grotesque sport coat for about 2 minutes!”
Listening Goes A Long Way
“Kind of a long story – but years ago I got a big bonus and decided to buy an expensive car. A $75 to $85k car.
I went to three different Porsche dealerships with a checkbook in hand ready to buy a car. Super easy sale for them.
I wasn’t a real Porsche-phile and didn’t understand all the 993, 996, etc. designations for what is called a Porsche 911. The first dealer treated me like an idiot because I didn’t understand the insider lingo so I walked out.
Went to the second dealer and sat down with a sales rep. We started to talk and then his phone rang. He picked up the phone and proceeded to have a 10-minute-long personal conversation. I was gone before he hung up.
Went to the third dealership and started to talk to the sales rep about 993 vs. 996, etc. and he said, ‘Let’s just sit down and talk a bit – then we will get to the car.’
He asked me about myself, the cars I had owned, which ones I liked, and how I planned to use the car. This was kind of a long conversation.
When we were done, he said, ‘I have two cars you should test drive and then you can make a decision.’
We drove a really clean used 993 (1998) and a brand new 996 (1999). After we were done we talked a bit more and I decided to buy the 996. I wrote him a check and picked it up a few days later.
Moral of the story? Listen to your buyer. Ask a few questions. Try to understand what they want and if what you have to sell meets their needs.”
They Played Themselves
“In 2001 we were transferred from Delaware to North Carolina. We owned a house in Delaware and were building a new one in North Carolina. When I tried to buy a car at the local Pontiac dealer, however, my car loan was questioned because we had not owned our home for more than 1 year. In the end, my car loan was rejected because I had only worked for my present company for less than 1 year. Now, understand over the previous 16 years, we had owned homes from Georgia to California to North Carolina to Delaware. And, though the company I worked for was technically ‘new’ due to a merger, and had a new name, it was in fact the same actual company I had worked for the past 14 years.
So, the next day, my wife called around to other dealers to see if she could find the model I was interested in. She found one at a small dealership across the line in Virginia. The ‘best’ the dealer could do was to let us have it for $1,000 less than the one I had tried to buy in North Carolina. Could I pick it up in two days to allow them to transfer it and get it prepped? Sure.
When we picked up the new car, the dealer said they felt lucky they’d been able to transfer a car like I wanted so quickly. It was the same model, had the same features and color as the one I was denied two days before in North Carolina.
Car dealerships commonly transfer cars from other dealerships to get the car a customer wants, usually for a small transfer fee. I was very familiar with the concept, as when I was a teenager, I did transfer jobs for my neighbor who was a Pontiac dealer in Georgia. Can you imagine giving the keys to a brand new LeMans, plus gas and food money, to a 16-year-old kid in 1971, then telling him to drive it across the state so he could drive a brand new Trans Am back, and, ‘Oh, we need it tonight so we’ll pay for any tickets?’ Sheesh, but that was a different time and that’s a different story). So, I understood the process of dealer transfers, I just hoped the kid they hired was as ‘conscientious’ as I’d been.
Back to the current story, when we picked up my new car, it was not only the same model and color as the one I’d looked at two days before in North Carolina, it was in fact, literally the exact same car as I’d looked at two days before in North Carolina for $1,000 less.”
It Seems Like He Was Prepared For That Answer
“My wife and I were at a Dodge dealership looking at used cars. A salesperson was showing us what was available in the price range we were wanting to pay. We found a car, quibbled on a price, and came to a deal.
As we were walking to the sales office I asked for one more thing, to fill the tank with gas. It was about $1.25 a gallon at the time and I knew the dealership had fuel pumps around the back in the service area. It always seemed that whenever I bought a car after I signed the paperwork and went to drive away I finally noticed there was an eighth of a tank of gas. I never paid attention to the gas gauge when I test-drove the car. My bad. So this time I asked for a full tank up front.
She said no, she couldn’t do that.
I said thanks for your time and turned to walk away.
She said, ‘Are you going to squirrel the deal over a tank of gas?’
I said, ‘No, you are,’ and we left.”
Maybe His Shift Was Almost Over
“Years ago my husband and I were looking for a used SUV. Our budget was $15,000-$20,000.
We were driving around getting a drive-by to peek at dealers’ lots and trying to decide where to start. When we happened passed one lot, I remembered an acquaintance had a husband that worked there. It seemed a good place to start. And we both liked the idea of any commission from the sale going to her family.
I recognized him right away from photos I had seen.
I don’t like negotiating. Didn’t need special treatment. And didn’t want to make things weird for either of us by mentioning that I knew his wife. So we never mentioned it.
He was the worst salesman ever. It was seriously like dealing with a bored child that was being forced to participate.
Lazy, short answers. No inspiration on showing us anything that we didn’t point out or walk up to. It was really like trying to force a bored kid to participate.
My husband and I both had a tendency to dress drown in old jeans and flannel shirts. And mostly remember to brush our hair. It occurred to me that maybe he didn’t think we were serious buyers.
Just in case, I let him know, ‘We’re interested in buying today and paying cash’
His response was, ‘I don’t care how you pay. I get paid whether it comes from you or comes from the bank.’
We looked at each other and left. We bought a Chevy Tahoe down the street. I never mentioned to Sarah that her husband really sucks at car sales.”
A Blessing In Disguise
“The salesman calls the sales manager on speaker. He was trying to get me a better deal. The sales manager guy told the salesman to come to his office. He excused himself and headed over to talk to the big boss.
He left the phone on speaker.
I heard them laughing, I heard salesboy bragging about how he’s got this guy strung along and he’s going to make a bunch of profit on the car I’m buying, plus get a great deal on the trade-in. I’m sitting there in silence just listening. He got back to the office shaking his head and telling me how tough he argued to get me the best deal he could.
I listened, just staring at him, as he sat down. That’s when the guy I assumed was the sales manager came busting into the office.
‘Bobby! Uh, your phone is off the hook!’
That’s when I smiled. ‘Give me back my keys,’ as I got up to leave.
There was a lot of back-pedaling, and the sales manager tried to tell me he was not sure where my keys were. I didn’t say a word but I walked up way too close to him. I was 6 inches from his face, and my face was not happy. We walked to the back to get my keys and I got in my car and left.
It took about three miles but I started to laugh. I drove into a carwash and left my car to get detailed while I walked across the street to Outback and had some Prime Rib for dinner. After that, I picked up my car and drove it for another 5 years. It had half a million miles on it, ten years old before it got crunched up in a parking lot at work. I loved that car. It was a 1976 Volkswagen Scirocco Special Edition.
Mine had a glass sunroof, black leather and plaid cloth, a spoiler in front with fog/driving lights, seats by Recaro, stereo by Blaupunkt with six speakers. Two 10″ speakers in the back, two 6″ speakers in the doors, and another two in the console. It even had a cassette drive! I loved that car!
So, it was a good decision to not trade it then. I had it painted, and put a new clutch in it that year. Upgraded the AC to a newer version that fit and still looked stock, had an engine rebuild at 400,000 with mostly new fuel injection, keeping it running like new for over 500,000 miles. It was a blast to drive, right up until 1987 when it finally was just destroyed. A very big panel truck smashed it in the parking lot of my office in Orlando. Best car I ever had.”
I Can’t Believe He Didn’t Give Up Part 1
“A couple of years ago I found what I thought was the perfect Mustang. It was a 2016 GT with a modified exhaust. I’ve always loved the sound of the 5.0 liter V8.
After a test drive, I was hooked and decided to buy it. A fair sale price was negotiated and we began to fill out the paperwork. I should have known something was up when the salesman asked me to sign an ‘intent to purchase’ before we started any of the other paperwork.
As we did the paperwork I saw the total price start to skyrocket with the addition of unmentioned ‘extras.’ One of these extra expenses was something called an ‘appearance enhancement’ treatment.
I asked, ‘Just what is an appearance enhancement treatment and why does it cost $895?’
‘Well sir, the vehicle is meticulously reconditioned and the paint receives a special treatment that makes it hold up in the hot sun better. All blemishes are removed from the interior and a special water-resistant coating is applied. The glass receives a special coating so that it repels water allowing the driver to see out easier. It’s the same thing they do to fighter jets.’
Now, I’m not stupid, nor was I born yesterday.
I said to the salesman, ‘So, you waxed it, used armor all on the interior, and put rain X on all of the windows?’
He looked like I had just insulted his entire family. ‘No sir, it is much more than that. Everything is professionally applied.’
‘Well, I don’t want it.’
‘You have to take it, sir, it’s already been applied to the vehicle.’
I smelled a rat. A very expensive one. ‘Fine, but I’m not paying for it. I don’t want it, I didn’t request it and I shouldn’t have to pay for it.’
‘But sir, you have to. It’s on the car, we can’t take it off. You signed the intent to purchase.’
Now I was kind of angry because the very intent of that document was to trap unsuspecting suckers into paying for treatments and extras that they don’t want and didn’t agree to.
‘I don’t have to do anything. Let me see that form.’ I was speaking about the intent to purchase.
He didn’t want to hand it to me, but a second glance in my direction showed him I was dead serious.
He handed it to me and I ripped it up.
‘You can’t do that sir!’
‘I just did. I don’t want the car today.’
I turned and walked towards the exit doors. The sales guy, his manager, and the finance guy were all following me and calling me to come back so we could talk about the matter.
Too late. I had a plan.
I walked straight up to my old Subaru wagon with over 200,000 miles, got in, fired it up, and headed home.
I got home, called the dealership I was just at, and asked to talk to someone in the service department. A nice, young-sounding guy took the call.
‘Let me ask you something. This might sound a little odd, but I was just wondering if all of your cars on your lot automatically get the appearance package.’
‘No, that’s a customer-selected option.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘If the customer chooses to buy it when they buy the car it gets done afterward.’
‘It’s done after they buy the car?’ I wanted to be certain.
‘Yes sir. We outsource it.’
He then told me the name of the company that took care of the appearance packages for them. I forget what it’s called. It’s not important.
‘Thanks.’ I hung up the phone and called the company he had just named.
‘Hi, this might sound a little bit odd but I have a question for you guys.’
‘You do all the appearance packages for the local Ford garage, right?’
‘Can you tell me if you put the package on a particular car?’
‘I can look.’
I thought he would say ‘no,’ but he was willing to look it up for me. Great. He asked for the VIN and I gave it to him. It took him a minute or two to look it up.
‘You mean you didn’t put the appearance package on that car?’
‘Thanks, buddy, have a good one.’
Busted! That sales guy was trying to rip me off! I was a little miffed. Before I called up and let him have it, I wanted to be absolutely certain.
Sure, I could have just let it go and moved on with my life. I just couldn’t do it though. It’s one of my issues.
To be certain, I decided to call one of the other salespeople at the dealership. They would be able to give me details about the car.
I quickly got another sales guy on the phone and started asking him questions about the orange Mustang GT. At one point I started acting dumb.
‘I heard you guys offer an appearance package on your vehicles for an additional cost.’
‘Yes, we do,’ He went on to describe it.
‘Does this car have it?’ Here comes the moment of truth.
‘Are you certain?’
‘Yes sir, it would show here if it was applied to the car. Besides, we only have it done once the customer has bought and paid for it.’
‘So, it’s completely optional?’
‘Thanks, have a good day.’
I let out a string of four-letter words that would make a Marine blush. I have this thing about being lied to, especially when it involves money.
I called the dealership and spoke with the sales manager. He wanted to pass me on to a salesperson but I asked him to please indulge me with one question.
‘That orange Mustang GT that you guys have, (they only had one) has it already had the appearance package applied to it?’
‘No, that’s an option. We only apply it after a customer has bought the car.’
‘I thought so. Have a nice day.’
Since I have so much time on my hands and I was so upset about being misled, I decided to call the general manager of the dealership and fill him in on what had happened. For a brief second, I considered talking to some kind of legal authorities, but it just wasn’t worth the effort.
I called the dealership again and asked to speak with the general manager. The big boss. I figured he would either vigorously defend his employee, say that this was all a big misunderstanding, or capitulate and do whatever he could to put me in one of his cars.
He was out of the office, so I left my number on his voicemail. Later that same day, he called me back.”
I Can’t Believe He Didn’t Give Up Part 2
“He turned out to be a pleasant, reasonable guy who listened to what I had to say.
He was patient as I recounted the story as I’ve recalled it to this point. To my surprise, he didn’t deny anything. Of course, he didn’t come out and say, ‘Yeah, that’s what we do,’ either. He was a pro.
I spoke my piece, and he said he’d speak to the salesman about my concerns. Then he said, ‘What can I do for you to make up for this?’
Wow. I wasn’t expecting that. Years ago, I was taught that if you want to take the fight out of someone you just agree with them. Once you do that, they’ll more than likely stop their argument. That’s exactly what he did.
‘Well,’ I said, ‘I like the car. The price is a little on the high side though and I hate paying dealer fees.’
I reminded him of the fact that about half an hour away in Orlando there was a huge Ford dealer that didn’t charge dealer fees. Most places in this state do. When you are talking about almost $900 extra that is a significant expense in my book.
‘Fine,’ he said. ‘We’ll waive the fee and knock $500 off of the price.’
I told him I could live with that and I thanked him for his time. Better stop while I was ahead.
It was about mid-morning on a Thursday and a holiday weekend was coming up. My family and I had made plans for the holiday well before any of this stuff happened. I figured in my head that I’d just come back next week and buy the car. I’m a bit of a procrastinator by nature.
We went through with our long weekend plans and I came back the following Monday to finish the paperwork for the car and take it home.
Guess what happened next. I’ll give you a second.
That’s right! When I returned to the dealership on Monday the Mustang wasn’t there. ‘This isn’t happening,’ I thought to myself. I probably even said it out loud a few times too.
None of the salespeople working that day were familiar to me. The general manager and sales manager were both out of the office. Maybe they were just prepping it in the back before delivery. They do that sometimes. I’ll ask.
‘Where’s the orange Mustang GT?’ I asked the first salesperson I could find.
‘Oh, they sent that to Jacksonville.’
What? Jacksonville is about 100 miles away from this place. This dealership was part of a national ‘family’ of dealerships all owned by the same people.
The nice new salesperson says that they move vehicles to their other dealerships all the time when they’ve been in inventory too long. I immediately think that the guy who tried to sell me the appearance package got chewed out and had the car moved. There was no way to prove it, but I’ll just bet.
Here was another point where I should have just thrown up my hands and walked away from the deal. No, not me. I would have seen that as quitting. I was gonna get this car and I was gonna get it at a good price.
I asked the salesperson what they could do. Basically, they said there was nothing that could be done at this point, it wasn’t even their car anymore.
Big mistake. Don’t ever tell me that there is nothing that can be done or that something is impossible. That’s just throwing down the gauntlet.
‘You could call Jacksonville,’ they said, trying to help.
‘I’ll do that.’
And so I did. The friendly folks at the Jacksonville dealership were willing to sell me the car for $2000 more than the price I negotiated here at home plus the $895 dealer fee, plus some kind of ‘convenience fee.’ This whole mess was anything but convenient. They just got the car and wouldn’t budge from these numbers, but they did invite me to drive the 100 miles so I could take another test drive.
‘No, thank you.’ And that was the last time I spoke to the Ford garage in Jacksonville.
First thing Tuesday morning I called the GM of our local Ford dealership again asking him politely what just happened. This is getting to be like a full-time job for me.
I have to be fair, he was a pretty decent guy. He told me he’d look into it, and he did. Later that day, he told me it was a mistake (yeah, right) and that he’d have the car brought back to DeLand (my hometown). I could buy the car at the same terms we had agreed upon earlier.
‘Okay, let’s do it.’
What could possibly go wrong?
It took about a week, but I received a call from the local dealership saying they brought it back and it was all ready for me. Finally. We arranged a time for me to pick it up.
I drove up to the dealership and they had it sitting right out front in a place of honor usually reserved for their newest high-end models. You never saw used cars there.
It was buffed to a high gloss and looked perfect. From a distance. The new sales guy that was assigned to me was all excited, in that overly eager way that some commissioned salespeople can get. I’m fairly even-keeled and he looked a bit disappointed that I wasn’t jumping up and down high-fiving him.
I walked around the car slowly, looking it over carefully. It really was just what I was looking for: competition orange (the color of my first car, also a Mustang), GT package, aftermarket Flowmaster exhaust that sounded flat-out amazing, Brembo brakes, black interior, black wheels, and over 450 horsepower.
There was one new addition to the vehicle though. A series of dents on the roof right above the driver’s side door. My heart sank.
‘What is this?!’ I said, pointing out the damage.
‘Right there above the door. Hard to miss that.’
I swear that’s all he said, ‘Oh.’
He flipped on his happy switch again. ‘So, are you ready to go get the paperwork finished so you can take this baby home and go have some fun?’
I believe that my jaw literally dropped. Did he think I was an idiot?
‘No, look at this effing damage. It was perfect and now it’s all messed up. This isn’t what I agreed to buy.’
People that buy cars like these tend to be a bit OCD. They want their cars to be perfect, with everything buffed to a high gloss. No one wants dents. No one wants to buy dents.
‘We have a really good dent guy that can take those all out. You’ll never know they were there. Let’s go sign the paperwork!’
‘Are you crazy, I’m just going home. This really sucks.’
At that point, I had given the car up in my mind. It’s like getting a brand new pair of really cool sneakers and then getting that first scuff mark on them. They’ll never be quite the same after that. For the longest time, that will be the first thing you see when you look at them.
Then I had one last idea.
‘Tell you what, if you can have your dent guy take them out so that I can’t tell that they were ever there I’ll buy the car.’
I figured that would never happen. They were in a curved part of the roof. I guessed there was no way to perfectly restore the car to the way it was. My OCD eyes would see a repair and then that’s all I’d see when I looked at the car.
‘Done,’ he said. ‘I’ll call you when it’s ready.’
‘Sure,’ I muttered. Then I drove home disappointed.
About three days later the sales guy calls me back.
‘It’s done. You can’t see a thing. You can come and get it.’
I figured it was only fair that I drive out there and look it over again, even though I knew I was wasting my time. I did make him a promise, and I’m a man of my word.
‘I’ll be right over.’
Again, I drove across town to the Ford garage. The car was in the same spot where I last saw it. The spot of honor, front, and center.
‘She’s ready to go,’ the sales guy said once again.
Remember, this is about the fourth or fifth time I’ve heard this. I didn’t get my hopes up. I must admit, I was ready to look for fault.
‘I’ll check it out.’
At first glance, things looked okay. Then I got closer. Things still looked okay. I looked at the spot from every angle. I got my eyeballs inches from the paint. I couldn’t believe it. What kind of black magic was this? The dents were gone. There were absolutely no signs of repair.
I used to work in an auto body shop so I knew what to look for. This wasn’t just a good repair, it was as if the car went back in time before it was damaged. It wasn’t fixed and re-sprayed it was just perfect.
I looked for problems for ten minutes at least and there weren’t any. Their dent guy must have made some kind of deal with the devil.
‘I’ll take it,’ I said. ‘Let’s go do the paperwork.’
So, we did all of the paperwork and I walked back to the car. It was mine now and I was excited about it for the first time in weeks. I fired up the engine and it sounded beautiful.
Pulling off the lot, I hit the throttle just a little too much. The tires squealed a bit. I was having fun, and I smiled. I noticed a couple of other drivers checking out the car a little bit. Someone even gave me the thumbs up.
I rolled down the windows and cranked up the stereo. For a few brief seconds there I was 16 again and then halfway home the check engine light came on.”