Let’s face it, buying a car is the worst type of psychological warfare. The back-and-forth between you and the salespeople can be exhausting and excruciating. There are a lot of things you should watch out for when negotiating the slippery slope of a car deal. There are also certain salesman phrases you should listen for that might not mean what you think. On the other hand, there are also a few things that you, as the buyer, can say to take control of the negotiations. Arming yourself with these words will go a long way to getting yourself the best deal possible.

These are phrases that will disarm, confuse, and put the car salesmen on the defensive. In the psychological battle that takes place in car dealerships, words (and following through on them with actions) are often your best weapon. Here are 10 phrases that will help you when buying your next car.

10. “I need to have my trade-in appraised.”

Appraised? Say what? Car salesmen never want you to have your current vehicle appraised. Furthermore, they certainly don’t want you coming into their dealership with a written appraisal from an outside third party. The sales staff at your local dealership want to give your current car a quick glance and then low ball you on the trade-in value. Anything else, and they lose.

Telling them that you’re getting the car professionally appraised will make the salespeople nervous. It will put pressure on them to get you to trade-in your current car right then and there, before its true value becomes known. This is a bit of a role reversal where you put pressure on the sales staff to make a deal before the value of your used car goes up. It’s a smart tactic, especially if you think an initial trade-in offer is insultingly low.

9. “I like this car, but I don’t love it.”

Car salespeople know that you’re more likely to buy a car if you love it. That is, really, really love it. A lot. When you utter a phrase such as “I like this car, but I don’t love it,” you’re telling the salesman that they need to offer you more. Whether it’s a cheaper price, or some some freebies thrown in (winter tires or free satellite radio, for example), you could buy this car, but only under the right circumstances.

This phrase will likely be followed by the salesman asking “What would make you love it?” Don’t be afraid to put some demands on the table. Alternatively, you could play dumb and see what the salesman conjures up as an offer. It could be a year of free oil changes, a set of floor mats, or a better deal on an extended warranty.

By seeming less interested in the car, you put pressure on the salesman to sweeten the offer. What you’re really doing is looking the salesman right in the eye and saying “convince me.” Never seem too enthusiastic about a particular vehicle. Play it cool and you could be rewarded with upgrades, additional options, or even a better price.

8. “I don’t have a credit card.”

The first thing most car salesmen do is ask you for your credit card. There’s a psychological reason for this tactic. It’s to make you feel trapped — that you have to make a deal and buy a car to get your credit card back. Don’t fall for it. Better yet, tell the salesman that you don’t own a credit card. You can always change your story if you do decide to use a credit card for a down payment. The salesman won’t care at that point, because the deal is done.

By not giving the salespeople your credit card right away, you’re forcing them to work harder to reach a deal with you. Again, put the pressure on the sales staff. Don’t let them put pressure on you by holding your finances ransom. Be subtle but insistent. If the salesmen asks for your credit card more than once, ignore them. If they refuse to discuss things any further without a card, just walk out.

7. “I know the deal is done. But can you throw this in too?”

Car salesmen love to try and throw in extra charges after a deal has been reached. Nothing says they are the only ones who can employ this tactic, though. What’s preventing you from asking for some extras or upgrades before the money finally changes hands?

Remember, the deposit you put down on a vehicle—typically $500 or $1,000—is refundable. Until you exchange the full agreed upon amount for a car and take possession of it, you can always back out of a deal. Most dealers also give you 30 or 60 days to return a vehicle if you’re not happy with it.

So take full advantage of this time to try and squeeze every last thing you can out of the car dealership. Ask for rubber mats to be thrown in or for Bluetooth to be installed. Why not ask for the tow package or an aftermarket DVD player to be added? Trust us, now’s the time to negotiate these extras. Once the salesman feels he has a deal, he’ll be under pressure to placate you and ensure that the sale goes through.

6. “If you sell me the car for this price, I’ll buy it right now.”

Car salesmen work on commission. That means the more vehicles they can sell, and the faster they can sell them, the more money they will make. This means that the words “I’ll buy it right now” are music to their ears. However, buying a car immediately is contingent on you getting the price you want.

You’ll be surprised at how hard salespeople will work to get you the price you demand, if they feel you’re serious about buying a vehicle on the spot. Just be sure to stick to your guns. Always have a top price in mind that you are willing to pay and never go above it. Use the fact that you’re willing to act quickly on a purchase as leverage with the sales staff. This is one of the best ways to get the deal you want on a vehicle.

5. “I’ll pay cash.”

The conventional wisdom is that dealerships prefer for customers to finance their purchase. That way they can charge interest and earn additional money over the repayment period. However, offering credit is a risk. Many dealerships actually use a third-party (like a local bank) for their financing. That means they aren’t always the one cashing in on interest payments anyway.

Most dealerships would prefer for clients to buy cars outright, in cash. This is especially true on used vehicles, which are obviously not as expensive as brand new ones. So whether you’ve saved up your pennies, or secured a third-party loan elsewhere ahead of time, use this as ammunition in your sales talks. No credit checks. No haggling over interest rates. Tell the salesman you’re ready to plop down a fat stack of hundred dollar bills — as long as the price is right.

4. “Can I take the car for another test drive?”

If you asked most salespeople what they hate more than anything else, they’ll tell you “indecision.” No salesman wants to spend time stuck with a customer who is indecisive. All that hemming and hawing over a vehicle is just a waste of their time. They certainly don’t want you to spend time test driving a car multiple times.

Time is money for these people. They want to get the deal done as quickly as possible. Every minute they spend trying to convince you to buy is a minute they aren’t working on a difference sale. By making it appear that you are lukewarm on a car, it will put more pressure on the salesman to close the deal. Plus, when you finally do make an offer on a vehicle, the salesperson will be so happy. They might even look past the fact that you’ve dramatically low balled the price, just because they want to stop dealing with your flip-flopping. Let’s hope that’s the case anyway.

3. “I see the following problems with this car…”

A knowledgeable customer is every car salesman’s worst nightmare. The first thing most salespeople do is feel a client out. You know, to see if they can run their standard game on them. By pointing out problems you see with a vehicle you might buy, you’re letting the salesman know that you are knowledgeable and experienced.

Whether it’s pointing out that a used car is no longer under warranty or that the brakes squeak a bit, let the salesman know that you’re no dummy. This will intimidate the salesman and probably force them into a straighter, more honest discussion. It will also give you power and confidence when negotiating the price.

2. “Let me sleep on it.”

The last thing any salesperson wants is to see you walk out the door. They know that a customer who leaves is unlikely to return. You leaving is the equivalent of watching money walk out the door. By threatening to leave, you are putting pressure on the sales staff to keep you engaged and close the deal immediately.

This will make the sales staff more reasonable. They are more likely to negotiate with you on the price (and any extras) if they think you’re ready to bolt for the door. If you do leave, the last thing you should do is offer the salesman your rock bottom price and offer your phone number. Tell them to call you if they change their minds. You’ll most likely get a phone call the next day from the dealership, either accepting your offer or at least countering it with another offer. At that point, you’ve already won.

1. “No.”

As every toddler learns before the age of two, “no” is the most powerful word in any language. By simply saying “no” to car salesmen, you render them helpless. You can give yourself back all the power in a transaction. Remember, you can say “no” to just about anything at a car dealership. You can say “no” to administrative fees, the current interest rate, an extended warranty, undercoating, and fabric protection services — to name only a few items.

The more often you say “no,” the more the sales staff will have to hustle to earn your trust, win your business, and get the deal done. Remember, you are under no obligation to buy a particular vehicle at a particular price. If they truly want your business, they must meet your (reasonable) demands. If they don’t, simply tell them “no” and go elsewhere.


This article was worked on by a variety of people from the Autoversed team, including freelancers, editors, and/or other full-time employees.