The single best tactic we could possibly use in negotiating a deal for a car is painfully simple and at our disposal any time we choose to use it. Here it is: If you don’t like the deal they’re offering, just get up and leave! It’s your nuclear option at a car dealership. It’s the one action that’s guaranteed to stack the negotiations in your favor no matter what else is happening.
When is the right time to pack up and leave?
- When you feel pressured
- When you feel confused
- When you’re certain you’re paying more than you can afford, even though the dealer says otherwise
- When you sense based on your research that you’re being given something less than the best deal available
- When you feel like the sales staff is ganging up on you in the classic car dealership ambush
- When that little voice inside is screaming “something isn’t right” (the little voice is never wrong)
Exactly when should you do it? Optimally, it would be best to do it anytime after you’ve established your intent as a serious customer, but before signing the final contract and turning over your trade-in or check.
The reasons you might not use your best negotiating tool
If walking out is so simple and easy, why don’t more people do it? I’m no psychologist, but I’m guessing the reasons for this are rooted deep in the recesses of our emotions.
- You feel like a victim (you’ve always been a victim, and buying this car will be just another example)
- You want the car more than the salesman wants to sell it to you
- You know nothing about cars, you don’t think you know anyone who knows any thing about cars who might help you, so you’re prepared to throw yourself on the mercy of the salesman
- You hate negotiating
- You didn’t bother to (or don’t think you can) line up your financing and/or to sell your old car and bring your down payment in cash before going to the dealer, so you’ll have to rely on them for that too; you hope they’ll give you a good deal on those but you’re worried and don’t want to push them too hard
- Though you you’ve only known the salesman for 30 minutes, you’ve convinced yourself in that time that he really is a nice guy (has your best interests at heart, would never cheat you, knows your third’s cousin’s second wife’s former mother-in-law, etc)
- You hate making major purchases and you just want to get it over with
- You need to get a car today (a.k.a., the car dealer’s nuclear weapon)
None of these, or any others we could come up with, are legitimate reasons for not walking if the deal doesn’t look right.
Why you MUST be prepared to walk out of the car dealership at any point in the negotiations
For a variety of reasons, it’s absolutely critical that you be prepared to leave the store even before you get there!
- You can’t out-deal a good salesman. A good salesman has, shall we say, a killer instinct. It may be this quality more than any other that drives the most successful people in sales. They can sense when and where you’re weak and they know how to exploit it. They’re keyed into certain words, facial expressions and even your body language (there are sales courses devoted exclusively to this one!). Your only defense is your will to resist, best demonstrated by your willingness to walk.
- You’re on the dealerships home turf. To put the situation into sports parlance, you’ll be the visiting team in this game, and all the “officials” on the field will be pulling for your opponent, the home team salesman. Your best defense in this hornets nest is to be prepared to remove yourself from unfriendly territory at any time.
- To keep you from paying too much. It’s a reality that you and the dealership are on opposite sides of the fence when you’re buying a car. You need to establish this early on as a counter to the salesman’s attempts to convince you that he’s your friend. He’s not.Absent recognizable resistance from you, he will charge you the highest price he thinks you will tolerate, and then pack the deal with extras that will raise the price even more. A bankable idea on when to walk: set a price in advance that you won’t exceed – when it does, you’ll know it’s time to make your dramatic exit.
- To keep you from closing the sale before you’re ready. To the masses, a car dealership is where people go to buy cars. To the dealership staff, it’s a place where sales are made. Do you see the difference? They’re on commission – the more cars they sell, the more money they make. They need to sell. There are quotas – they need to sell a lot. They need to sell now…like tonight…like before closing.Every effort by the salesman and his management buddies will be geared toward making a deal happen before closing. That’s they’re problem – not yours. Be prepared to walk when it starts looking as if you might be caught in that trap. If fact, if they really need to make a deal (they usually do), threatening to walk increases your bargaining power considerably.
- It tells the dealer you can’t be pushed around. Every advantage the dealer and his salesman have in the negotiations collapse in the face of a customer who can’t be forced to do anything against his will. Unless you’re a skilled (and fully prepared) negotiator yourself, the best way to let the dealer staff know this is by making it clear from the start that either you get what you want or you walk out the door. You can do this simply by dropping hints that you’ve either spoken with his competitors, or fully intend to do so.
Walking out isn’t a substitute for smart negotiating, but it can cover a multitude of sins if things aren’t going the way you want. Use it wisely, use it sparingly…but use it when you must.
Have you ever left a car dealership in the middle or even at the end of negotiations? Do you think it’s something you have the nerve to do?