It might be you.
It might be someone you love.
It might be someone you hate.
It might just have been some random person you saw at a car dealership.
But inquiring minds want to know, what was the worst purchase negotiation attempt you ever saw? It could be a new or used vehicle, a classic, a tractor, a motorcycle, or just about anything with wheels.
To be honest, I haven't had a bad experience...or perhaps its been so long I can't even remember it? I learned a fair bit about negotiations from my father (he was pretty good) and these days the Internet makes it a lot easier to make a deal happen. And when I am selling, anyone who makes it far enough to test drive one of my cars is already sane/mature/pleasant enough to work with. So I am hoping others will have a fun story to share!
I had an '84 Celica GT for sale. It was a Texas car so it hadn't dissolved like the rest of them here, had been parked indoors for the better part of 15 years but also hadn't been driven for that time period. It was a super clean and solid car (and a pretty cool one at that) but I didn't have time for it, and didn't have a place to keep it indoors.
The ad was VERY clear, and mentioned that although the car ran and moved under its own power, it had been sitting for 15 years and you weren't driving it home since it was going to need tires, brakes, hoses, etc, etc, etc, etc. I think I was asking $1500.
Anyway, a guy shows up from 3 hours away, and immediately starts pointing out all of the flaws that were mentioned in the ad and saying he wouldn't be able to give me anything close to asking price for those reasons.
So I sold it to my neighbor's 16 year old kid (who was there admiring the car) for $250.
"I'll give you more than that!"
"No you won't, it's sold now."
The kid fixed the Celica up quite nicely, and I still see it around occasionally, over a decade later.
My late father in-law always purchased cars and trucks from the local small town GM dealership. He would pick out what he wanted and then tell the salesman "I really like this one, I'll buy it - how much is it? "
After I married his daughter, I was able to convince him to negotiate before purchasing. He told me years later that I probably saved him thousands of dollars from that time on.
When I was negotiating for a Porsche back in my sports car days, I happened to overhear a negotiating session over the cubicle wall that went something like this:
Customer: "Look, I need to make a deal tonight - I'm not driving that Chrysler home, I want it gone!"
Salesman: "Well, I'm just as interested in getting a deal done as you are. What you are thinking you want for the trade-in."
Customer: "You tell me. It's worthless to me. I caught my wife cheating and her boyfriend drove her to his house in it. I can't stand to look at it anymore, let alone drive it."
Salesman: "We'll look it over and see if we can agree on a trade value."
Customer: "Yeah, I need it to go away, now."
Salesman: "Is the Porsche going to be for you?"
Customer: "Nah, it's for my wife. It's the only thing she says she'd want more than the Chrysler. I need to bring it home to her to make her happy about the fit I threw over how I couldn't stand the Chrysler anymore."
I had a kid offer me about $1500 for my $10k plus Boxster. He thought I should sell it to him for that because that was all he could afford for his first car and he really wanted a Porsche.
I sold a hot little Fox body mustang I'd built many years ago. The first interested party was a 16 year old kid and his dad. The kid was grinning from ear to ear after the test drive so I pulled dad off to the side and told him that it was the wrong first car for most people much less a 16 year old boy. I told him I'd hold it for him for 48 hours and if he still wanted it it was his.
Dad called me back two days later and told me they'd bought a Taurus for junior.
A dealer salesman approached as We were looking over a Cosworth Vega on the front line of the used car lot. He replied with , "how much are you looking to spend?"
A terrible icebreaker.
Another dealership owner had a sign on the window, something about one can only open and shut a car door so many times before it needs adjustment or develops other problems.
I thought, This doesn't say much about the quality of the cars being offered for sale .
3,) When a prospect nit-picks every single flaw and acts out as a complainey pants.
I usually end the negotiations with. I have an idea, DON'T BUY IT !!
I once went to look at a car on a dealer lot and they wanted almost $1,000 more than any other dealer wanted for a similar car (Subaru outback wagon). There reasoning was that it had new brakes and tires, they didn't like when I mentioned that they wouldn't be able to sell it for $2,000 less with bald tires and squealing brakes so they had to do that work.
Online Low Ballers that offer 60% no matter what the price even if it 60% below market. Alos people that show up and nit pick every single mark, ding and speck of dust on a 120,000 mile car as if it is a brand new factory fresh car. There is a reason why cars on dealer lots are priced higher than those in used car ads.
In the early 1980s my wife and I were walking through a shopping mall where several car dealers had placed a car with a salesman to answer questions. It just happened that my wife was interested in a new car then so we stopped and looked at cars and she asked questions.
One man salesman had the annoying habit of taking my wife’s questions and looking straight at me to answer. After this happened 3 times she walked away and we never did visit that dealer. This salesman did not understand who his potential customer was.
Any good salesMAN knows-you had better pay attention to the wife. And even if the husband is one of those jerks that says, "Oh you don't talk to her, she's nothing."
A wife may be completely quiet when shopping with her husband, but she will state her opinion to the husband when they get back in the car to leave.
Had a fresh build Z06 corvette race car up for 55k , online guy offers me 25k , I Ignore it. All of sudden he starts texting & messaging calling me every name you could imagine, saying I dont know how to sell a car. (Im a dealer ) I sked him what was his problem , he said you didnt return an offer. I simply replied when someone offers me 50% of my ask I ignore it, and then asked does offering 1/2 the price work for you? I really want to know.He berated me and said he buys 10 cars a month off RJ that way & I must be (explitive deleted) . I told him to have a blessed day & while we were going back & forth the car just sold at buy it now on eBay for the ask . Arguing with a seller is a bad way to approach things, calling him names might get you shot
Whenever I get low-balled online I include the offer in my reply but add a zero into their response implying they made a typo. In your example "sure, I'll take your $250K but do you realize I'm only asking $55?
I went to look at a 1988 M5 at a dealership and I really wanted to buy it. I asked the salesman if we could take it for a test drive- he said the manager really doesn't like to let people test drive it- I said I don't buy anything without test driving it, I walked away.
maybe it was because I was in shorts, sandals and a t shirt.
When I am selling a car, I point out and tell of all the flaws. People are surprised at my honesty and always buy. When they nit pick, which isn't often, I sometimes explain yes, maybe this car isn't good enough for them. One time a lady called about my wife's car, it was red. She asked "what color is the car?", "red" I replied. She explained she hated red. She showed up anyway and looked over the car with her friend, a retired sheriff. I showed her the car, which was almost flawless except for a small chip edge of passenger door. After much talk, I thanked her for coming out and said I had to get on to something else. She told me she hated red, so I figured no sale. She bought the car, full asking price. BTW, I have always got full asking price, which is usually about 95-98% of fair retail NADA. Once two parties got into a bidding war in my driveway. While on the test drive with one couple, the wife asked "how much over asking did I need to make the deal right now." She paid me $200 over asking.
Wife was looking to replace her current Audi lease (owns her own company) with a new lease. I went along to hopefully influence model choice.
Salesman approaches, looks at me and asks, "What are you looking for today?"
Wife responds, "I'm looking to replace my A4 I leased from you (the dealer, not this guy)."
Salesman. "Ok, what are you interested in?"
Wife, "The A4, the A5 Sportback and the Allroad."
Salesman, "You don't want an Allroad."
Wife, "Well, I'd like to take a look."
Salesman, "Your realize the A5 Sportback is more expensive than your A4."
Salesman, "Do you need to check with your husband first?"
Wife, "For what?"
Salesman, "To see if you can afford the A5."
Wife, "We're done here."
She has an Alfa now.
When I and my husband go to look at a car if the dealer will not answer my questions about the abs system (brakes), fuel, oil etc; but answers the same question if my husband asks it. We leave - you can guess at the dumbfounded look on their faces (dealers).
It was fascinating to watch and to see the salesman fail to understand his error, even when she walked away. Later, a manager called to ask what happened and his response was "He's young." I agree with you that the misogyny runs deep.
Ok, fifteen years ago, my first mid-life crisis purchase, I turned 40 and NEED a used Mustang GT. My reasons: (1) Now I'm 40 and officially "old" (2) "old people" like me finally qualify for lower insurance rates on irresponsible performance cars because we're mature now, and 3) muscle car performance was back to stay from the manufacturers and used examples were going for used car prices. I went to this particular Hackensack, NJ Ford dealership because they have "American" in their name and had a "special program for first responders." After a test drive & grueling negotiations with a young salesman who had made a zillion trips to go "talk to his manager" for approvals for anything and everything, I had what I thought was a decent deal on a used Mustang GT and 4 new performance tires, mounted & balanced thrown into the deal. The deal sheet was signed by me, the sales kid and the "Manager."
I was now on the phone with my insurance company to advise them of the VIN - Insurance Co. advised the discounted rates for "responsible mature" males is age group 41-65; Forty-year-olds are still in the high risk category (I had no tickets or points on my record), but I digress. My phone call is interrupted by sales-kid who advises there's been a terrible mistake, the car was just sold to another customer, pointing to a teen-something girl and her friends who had come in after me (didn't test drive it) and had paid full asking price (with no new tires I'm sure). After arguing I had a signed deal in my hand they countered with the argument that she had paid for it in full and it was a terrible mistake of overlap.
Two days later I get a call from another "Manager" who deeply apologizes for the incident because they love to take care of their first responders and they would like to earn my business and offer me the same deal I had negotiated. Apparently, the teenager's dad wasn't aware his daughter was buying a car on his credit card and he didn't authorize her purchase of the Mustang. I thanked him for the very late apology and advised him I would NEVER buy a car from them no matter how good the numbers were since it was obvious what had really happened, plus they don't stand behind their signed contracts so why would I trust anything they say? Also, I would no longer be bringing the government Crown Vics to be serviced at their un-patriotic dealership.
I had a friend who was a salesman at the local Chevrolet store. All of the salesmen there had a signal they could give to another salesman by looking at him and rolling their eyes. This was done if a salesman had spent far too much time with a customer he figured wasn't going to buy the car they were looking at.
They would be in his office and he would signal another salesman. Then that salesman would go in his own office and call the one with the customer. As he answered, he would act like he was having a real conversation with the other salesman. He would say things like, "Well, yes this couple has been looking at that car. In fact, I think they really want it but they haven't signed any papers on it so if you have someone else who wants it, let them have it."
And he said that worked every time. When they heard that, they committed to buy the car right on the spot!
The worst tactic is happening today. Two year old Tahoe Premier with 25K miles and the dealer is asking $5K over original MSRP. Won't consider an offer or any further discussion and complains its the market today. I leave the dealership with no further discussion.
When arriving to inspect a 1962 Fairlane 500 for sale in Wenatchee, WA, we saw the car idling in the driveway, all quiet and smooth. 'T was only after purchase we learned that move was to keep us from pulling a long watery crank case dipstick. Sneaky retired Sate Patrolman 'helping' his daughter sell.
I wanted to buy a second generation Intrepid. Went to the local dealer to test drive a 3.2 liter ES and liked it. Had a Ford Probe GT to trade because I didn’t have time with work and such to sell it outright. Gave them a key to test drive it and then the negotiations start. After nearly 2 hours I am getting nowhere close to my ask based on the books, including a good fair percentage for them. They kept holding my key, basically strongly suggesting the deal wasn’t getting any better. I stand up an tell them I’m done and walk out the door and they wave my key at me. I pull out my factory key and wave bye
to them. Bought the car at another dealer that took literally 45 minutes to reach a fair price for both sides and sign all the paperwork. Sent the new dealer a whole lot of referrals until the Obama apocalypse of the auto industry.
In the late 1980’s we were looking for our first ever family car (Sigh). Sitting behind the ugly wheel of a god-awful Dodge Caravan in an ugly shade of blue to make it even more demoralizing, the young FKIA grows an ear-to-ear grin.
”You know what?” he says with all of the conviction of a car salesman. “You look REALLY GOOD behind the wheel!”
Oh yes, our oldest daughter ran into this tactic many years ago. The sales guy sat her in a red Eclipse, reached in and turned on the stereo, then stepped back and said, "You look great in this car, and you'll love rockin' out to that killer stereo!"
Our daughter was/is not easily duped by flattery (even if it's genuine, which this obviously was not). She was leaving to go far away to graduate school, and wanted dependable transportation. It took her about 3 seconds to turn off the stereo, almost castrate the dude when opening the door and hopping out, and heading off the lot. Left him with his jaw on the ground with her parting remark - which I am not allowed to reproduce here, but I'm betting you get the gist.
She bought a used Golf and lived happily with it for many years...
My biggest pet peeve is "What's the best you'll do on it?" They expect you to negotiate against yourself on their behalf. My response is ALWAYS "What's the MOST you'll offer me for it?" They don't even have a figure in mind.
Absolutely my mine as well. Happens with anything I sell now. And it’s rarely even a full sentence or even a question. Usually: “lowest price” WTF, you saw my price in the ad, now it’s your turn.
I sold a car on auction. The customer sent me a cashier's check and I sent him the bill of sale to sign and send back to me as well as the signed ownership papers. A month and a half later, he still hadn't picked up the car or sent me his signed bill of sale. After several emails for him to pick up the car as I needed the space, he wants his money back...Sorry...
Worst negotiating tactic? Well about 4 years ago, i volunteered to help a friend sell his 1998 Mercedes SLK320 Kompressor. The car was in relatively rough shape. I even had to jump to take it home to prepare it. Once I proposed a reasonable selling price, he didn't like it. So i advertised it at his price. Of course no one called. When he finally agreed to lower the price, we got a couple of calls. When someone asked to see it, he told me not to allow a potential buyer to lower the convertible top because it had problems. I told him I couldn't sell a car with so many limitations. I dropped back to his house and it still sits there rotting for the last 4 years. So much for that.
Many years ago I was looking for a new car and went to a VW dealership. After wandering around looking at stuff a salesman approached and we talked a bit, then he invited me into a cubicle and wanted to get down to business. I said something like, "I've done some research before today and I'd be interested in the silver GTI out in your lot, the one with the red interior. I'd be willing to pay $X for it, all cash. "
The answer, "This isn't some Mexican street market, the price on the tag is the price of the car. Your attitude is insulting to me, I'm a professional automobile salesman and I don't waste my time."
I remember smiling at him, saying something like, "We're done here. See ya." and walked out. And he let me go.
The car biz has always been a horse trading business. What else is new? Much of the problem stems from shoppers trying to nail a salesman working entirely on commission to a price. If the salesman gives the customer a low, doable price, the shopper runs to another dealer who manages to shave another few bucks and gets the sale.
So smart car salesmen have no recourse but to low ball customers, give them a "shopping price" which of course no other dealer can touch. The customer returns, the salesman says he neglected to include freight, California emissions, doc fee, this, that. Most of the time, the customer, upset or not, figures they're there, they've shopped around, so sigh and buy.
It takes two to dance. The above posters' alleged exchanges, tactics are simply because cars and houses are about the only things Americans negotiate, unlike in Europe, where people haggle over the price of produce at the market, etc.
And because the above works.
Anyone with two brain cells to rub together can consult the annual April Consumer Report's auto issue, get a good idea of invoice, figure a reasonable amount of profit, go into the dealer where he or she plans to have the car serviced because a dealer that sold you will be more apt to be in your corner if something happens as the warranty expires, or otherwise go the extra mile, and buy the car.
The only variance dealer to dealer is that a given model might've been inventoried longer at one store over another, dealers not owning the cars but paying the bank flooring each month.
The above is really all you need to know to buy a car smoothly, fairly as possible.
The rest is just noise.
"The only variance dealer to dealer is that a given model might've been inventoried longer at one store over another, dealers not owning the cars but paying the bank flooring each month."
This. 100% this.
And this is what separated the okay deals from the screamin' deals between dealerships in large cities with multiple dealers sporting acres of inventory. Well it used to, before pandemic times: I remember when leftover vehicles from two years ago were still sitting on a lot, and dealer holdback would be insane on them.
A friend of mind never made it to price negotiation.
She went into a Chevy dealership to buy a pickup truck… and was told to come back with her boyfriend.
The Toyota dealership was glad to sell her a pickup truck.
Several years ago, I went to an out-of-town Ford dealership to buy a specific used Jeep that I had seen on their website. They had changed their closing time to an hour earlier and had not changed it on their website, so I had much less time than I thought I had. The salesman told me that the Jeep had passed the state inspection as well as the county's emissions inspection and was in fine shape, and he offered to let me test drive it. I was unfamiliar with the area, so I told him to direct me. It turned out that he was unfamiliar with the area as well, and the test drive took over 45 minutes to complete. Back at the dealership, as I negotiated, people were scurrying about closing up, and the salesman pointed out (several times) that we had very little time. When we reached a deal, the salesman told me that a paint repair firm was coming the next day to correct a number of flaws that I had pointed out and was told not to worry about. I told him that with my father, who was in a wheelchair at the time, it was difficult to come back. He told me they would deliver the car to me three days later. I asked if they could clean the front floor mats (carpet) as well. He agreed.
He showed up at my home a day late (a matter about which I had to call the dealership to find out why no one had come when they were supposed to), and only a very few of the paint flaws were corrected. He told me that he had stopped at a car wash to clean the carpet floor mats. When I opened the front door, I saw that he had hosed them off and promptly put them back in the car. I commented to him that I was unhappy, and I was nearly ready to cancel the deal. Because I liked the particular model, I didn't cancel and gave him my check, and he gave me the pink slip. As he left with his return driver in a company pick-up, the driver (a teen) had difficulty turning the truck and left about a dozen tear-up tracks in my rather freshly sealed driveway.
Apparently, when he got back to the dealership, he told his supervisor that I was unhappy with the deal and had commented that I was nearly ready to cancel it. Three days after that, I received a letter from the dealership apologizing for the botched deal and that included my check. At that point, the pink slip, my check, and the now cost-free Jeep were all in my possession! I called the dealership and described the situation to a very upset and most apologetic sales manager. I put the check in the mail.
I took the Jeep to my mechanic, and he told me that the muffler and two sections of exhaust pipe had rusted through on top, so the inspection story was a lie.
I sent a very lengthy letter to the dealership describing the fiasco. A few days later, I received a call from an upper-level manager who opened the conversation with, "I understand there were a FEW problems with your recent purchase." My response was, "Ma'am, that is the understatement of the millennium!" Since the dealership is still in business, I can only assume that they have not completed many deals like mine, or there are far more honest people in the world than we are led to believe!
My worst experience was we found a SUV at a dealer late on a Saturday. They even got it out of the storage lot.
The salesman asked if we would come in Monday to work the deal. He called at 8 AM and said the suv was sold?
I found another dealer and found the sam model with extras for a better price.
It will be a cold day before I go back to that dealer.
I have two stories. First, not really a negotiating issue, but rather an interesting sales tactic: back in 64, my parents were looking at a 63 Ford Galaxie. It was a 6 cyl, 3-on-the-tree, no P/S or P/B, it was a BASE model. Mom asked how difficult was it to steer with manual steering. Salesman replies: "With that inline 6, the weight is centered across the front wheels, not over the tires as it would with a V8". Even 11 year old me thought that was a ridiculous explanation. They bought the car without even test driving it! Dad HATED that car, which leads to story #2. Two years later, Dad wanted out of that Ford. We stopped at a Pontiac dealer, and Dad was looking at a 65 GTO convertible. OH, he wanted that car (as did I)! He must have asked the salesman 10 times what is the out the door price of the car? And the salesman only would answer: "We can put you in that car for $XXX/month. Never did name a price. So, they lost a sale! (They later bought a leftover new 65 Ford LTD 390. Now THAT was a nice car, and over $1000 less than MSRP (which was $3700)
One more story about GOOD negotiating. Back in 97, Nissan was literally giving away Hardbody pickups. They advertised $75/mo for a regular cab, and $95/mo for the Xtra-cab. While they did adhere to those numbers, they wouldn't give us what we wanted for our 94 Ranger Supercab. This was my first time buying a car with my wife. Holy Cow! Three separate times she got up, and went to leave, with the salesman almost trying to tackle her in the showroom! Three times we went back in. We were there for SIX hours, but wifey got the deal she wanted! (BTW, I hated the Nissans! They didn't do anything wrong, but they didn't do anything well, either. They were just boring. I was overjoyed when we turned them in, and I got to go back to my 88 MK Vll Lincoln LSC!)
I'm with you on this point: play the wife card. I'd take Mrs. DUB6 with me to any dealership if I ever again bought a new car (doubtful, but possible, I guess). She can out-negotiate me seven ways to Sunday!