Car dealerships, like all businesses, are out to make as much money as possible — and as soon as you enter the showroom, their target is on you. There’s a reason in-person vehicle negotiations average about 3 hours: The dealership assumes that once you’re captive, you’re there until they make a deal. But don’t let this process force your hand. Strategize up front with these 5 “Dealership Don’ts” to ensure you have the right defense and tactics to successfully negotiate the right car for you at the right price for your budget.

Don’t Talk Too Much

Dealerships know how to make you more comfortable — friendly smiles, soft chairs, weekend tryouts, even free popcorn for the kids. But take care not to let your guard down: Every bit of small talk offers a salesperson more insight into how much they can manipulate a vehicle’s price. Just changed jobs? Trade-in not in great shape? Kid going to college? Absolutely in love with the test drive? Not great at math? Really, don’t mention it.

Don’t Agree to an Up-Front Credit Check

Six out of 10 shoppers are undecided when they walk into the dealership. Don’t agree to a credit check until you are sure that you’ve found the vehicle you want because every “hard pull” lowers your overall score by a few points. It’s also important that you know your credit score before negotiations begin — shady dealerships can sometimes manipulate that number to increase your payments and their profit.

Don’t Be Oversold

You walked into the dealership looking for mid-sized hatchback; don’t leave in an overpriced SUV. The salesperson’s job is to upsell you with fancy features, fully loaded extras, and “exclusive” deals, but don’t buy into it. Studies show 59% of car buyers research their purchase online before walking into the showroom; staying confident in your purchase decision will make you less susceptible to suggestion.

Don’t Discuss Payment Options Too Soon

Dealerships make a lot of money on financing deals. If you’re not using their financing, they will try to compensate by raising the price, lowering your trade-in, or bundling add-ons (keyless entry, free oil changes, etc.) that you didn’t ask for. If you are planning on paying cash or have come to the table with your own pre-approved financing deal (we offer those at CTFCU!), it’s in your best interest to keep that to yourself until you’ve locked down a price.  

Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away

There’s a lot of power in being able to walk away from a deal that won’t suit your needs — even if you’re still tempted to sign off. Your trade-in value is low-balled, the monthly price is higher than you’d like, the color isn’t for you — whatever your reason, know that you can at any stage leave when you’re not 100% happy with a proposed deal. The dealership might be upset, but knowing they are losing business could entice them to lower your costs or add free incentives.

The best tool to take with you while vehicle shopping is pre-approved financing from Common Trust Federal Credit Union. Our ongoing auto loan promotion offers you rates as low as 2.49% with terms at 60 months, 72 months for 2019 models, or 84 months for loans of $50,000 or greater. Visit our auto loan promotion page or stop by the branch today to get started!