A couple looking at vehicles in a car dealership

These are four signs that a car dealership isn’t treating you fairly. The worst dealers use bluster and pressure, so it’s important to remember that you—not the dealer—set the pace for buying a car. Be aware: 90 percent of car dealers pay their salespeople on commission, according to a MAXDigital survey, so it’s in the salesperson’s interest to sell you a car. Do your research ahead of time, and remember that you can walk away at any time. After all, it’s better to take a break from negotiating than to get stuck with a car you paid too much for.


They Won’t Quote You a Price by Email
If a dealer won’t offer a price quote via email, or if he responds only to say you should come into the dealership for a quote, it’s time to find one who will commit to a price in advance.

They Pull Out the ‘Four Square’
This old-school sales technique uses a worksheet divided into four boxes—your trade-in value, the purchase price, your down payment, and the monthly payment. Focusing on that monthly payment is meant to distract the buyer from negotiating down the vehicle’s overall price or to hide the length of a loan or interest rate (or the money factor, in the case of a lease).

They Pressure You to Buy
A dealer may ask, “What will it take to get you into this car today?” or pressure you to sign paperwork during the negotiation process. Some of these documents are legally binding, and others aren’t. Take as much time as you need to read every document carefully, and don’t sign anything until you feel comfortable with the numbers you’ve been offered.

The Final Hard Sell
Often, the car-buying experience sours when you go to the finance and insurance office. This is where you’ll be pressured to buy extras like extended warranties, VIN etching, upholstery protection, and GAP insurance. Most of these are unnecessary or can be negotiated down in price. Do your research beforehand, and don’t agree to any charges until you’ve had time to think them over.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the January 2019 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.