10 Biggest Reasons Why People Hate Car Dealerships

Toyota FJ Land Cruiser on display
Toyota FJ Land Cruiser on display | Micah Wright/ Autos Cheat Sheet

My favorite crazy uncle once said that he’d “rather go skinny dipping in a jellyfish swarm than visit the local car dealership for anything,” and for as ludicrous as that may have sounded at the time, in retrospect he would probably have done it if the chips were down. We can’t really blame the old geezer either, and since most buyers aren’t hip to the art of outsmarting car dealerships, we can picture a large portion of the American public opting to do the same.

Naturally, there are plenty of dealerships out there that are trying to dissolve the stereotypes of sterile environments, shady salesmen, and unnecessary pressure, but unfortunately many of the old stigmas seem to stick. Pushy salesmen still prowl used car lots, spawning in low-lying marsh areas under the full moon before unfairly forcing buyers to buy a crappy car for all the wrong reasons.

Having said that, not all car salesmen are out to fleece everyone, and with companies like Lexus orchestrating “no haggle” pricing, purchasing pressure has begun to abate to an extent. Physically, the car dealership itself is changing as well, with the luxurious aspirations serving as fodder for leather couches, big screen theater rooms, full espresso bars, and on premise eateries that serve things like panini sandwiches and freshly squeezed lemonade.

But we’re still a ways away from seeing swanky sales environments becoming the norm, and currently only a handful of auto dealers offer these kinds of amenities. That means most of us are left sitting in uncomfortable plastic waiting chairs, as we sip cheap cups of coffee in tiny Styrofoam cups, while a shady snake with a polyester necktie tries to convince us that we are a bunch of fools for not opting for the most expensive model.

Here are 10 reasons why most people dread the thought of visiting the dealership, because regardless of whether you are shopping for a $100,000 luxury sedan or just popping in for a complimentary oil change, the unpleasantness associated with these establishments is often rightfully founded.

1. Pushy salesmen syndrome

buying a car
A car salesman tries to make a sale at Santa Rosa Chevrolet in Santa Rosa, California after the financial crash in 2008 | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This is often the primary reason why people avoid car dealerships, and justly so. You could be in the waiting room, reading a delightful article about pickled asparagus canning procedures, and some guy in a suit starts trying to convince you that your maintenance minder means it’s time for a new car. While this kind of harassment may not always occur at new car dealerships, used vehicle lots are prone to housing crappy clunkers and the pressure to move them.

2. The weekend time waster

A Tesla Service Center in Dublin, Ireland
A Tesla Service Center in Dublin, Ireland | Tesla

How many hours do you think it takes to find the right car in the appropriate color, with all the options you want, and in a price range that can be easily digested? After spending endless hours researching what car to buy online, you have to go test drive a few options, all the while explaining to salesmen that you are “just looking.” By the time you’ve hit a couple dealerships your entire Saturday is shot, and if you plan on driving what the competition has to offer across the street, your Sunday will probably be toast as well.

3. Rip-offs run rampant

A line of FCA products on display at a local dealership showroom floor
A line of FCA products on display at a local dealership showroom floor | Zimmer Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram via Facebook

If buying used, we strongly suggest getting the vehicle in question inspected by an independent mechanic that you know and trust prior to signing on the dotted line, because getting ripped off remains one of the biggest complaints people have about car dealerships. Regardless of what kind of sale is going on, dealers are in this game to see how much they can get out of you, so play hardball, don’t talk price until the very end, and always know that you have the ability to walk away at any time.

4. The elements are often against you

A snowstorm batters drivers as they attempt to flee its vengeful winter wrath | Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Unless you plan your visit to the dealer around weather that should be reserved for activities like yardwork and hiking, it’s likely the car lot is going to be either smoldering hot or freezing cold, neither of which makes for a fun test drive. Chances are you’ll get scorching hot leather seats and a steering wheel that singes your hands every time you touch it, and winter isn’t much better, as braving sub-arctic temps just to test drive a CUV or two typically doesn’t appeal to most people.

5. No one knows how to bend the rules

Zoila Lopez from Miami, Fl, looks at the Ford Excursion
Zoila Lopez from Miami, Florida looks at a Ford Excursion at a local used car dealership | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Most people have more wiggle room when it comes to negotiating a transaction than they think, and the odds are typically in their favor if they know that the vehicle in question is sound. Always remember that there are certain times of the year that are prone to being the best and worst times to buy a car, and use the competition’s offerings across the street as a bargaining angle.

6. No free time in the open air market

car dealership
Low pricing and ballons at a Ford dealership in California | Gabriel Bouys/Getty Images

In high-pressure sales environments it can often be difficult to get a break from the employee in front of you. So when buying a new car, stepping back in order to collect your thoughts or have a quick conversation with your significant other should be mandatory, especially when the salesperson seems a bit pushy. Remember, these guys are on your time, and having an excuse to recoup and re-evaluate your options should always be a step in the buying process.

7. Overpriced limited edition models

LED headlamps and running lights make the nose of the $90,000 2016 Lexus GS F even more intimidating
LED headlamps and running lights make the nose of the $90,000 2016 Lexus GS F even more intimidating | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

While getting ripped off by a jackwagon who sold you a used car with bad ring landings certainly sucks, getting fleeced over a brand-new, limited edition sports car is an absolute abomination. Just because it’s a special version of something and has a full performance package attached to it doesn’t mean that dealerships have the right to overcharge. Shop around, do your research, and don’t hesitate to haggle, because while vehicles like the all-new Ford Raptor will retain a premium, getting an outgoing generation of something special will often expose some extraordinary deals.

8. Restrictive warranties and felonious financing

A Honda dealership readies for another day of handling car buyers and servicing vehicles
A Honda dealership readies for another day of handling car buyers and servicing vehicles | Honda East via Facebook

Having a warranty that covers your car bumper-to-bumper may sound like a blessing, and most times it is, especially since the staggering number of moving components and technologies on modern automobiles have created a slew of new weak points. But be sure to read the fine print, because if that truck is covered only if you keep stock wheels and tires on the chassis and you live on a farm that often requires all-terrain tires during the rainy season, that coverage could disappear quick.

Then there is the issue with the financing department, which has its own agenda, especially since high interest rates on financing a vehicle mean big money for the lender. Don’t get tricked into thinking that the dealership is your only financing option, and do some research to find out in advance whether a bank loan or a third party lender has better rates.

9. Ignorant salespeople

A man shows the inner workings of a Honda touchscreen infotainment display in the all-new Ridgeline
A man shows the inner workings of a Honda touchscreen infotainment display in the all-new Ridgeline | Honda East via Facebook

The heading says it all. Often car shoppers are left alone with a person who doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the cars they are selling, and only want your money. When it begins to appear that you know more about the vehicle in question than they do, it might be time to ask for another employee, or simply head over to the next car lot in search of intelligent life and a better deal. 

10. They never have what you really want

A group of performance Chevrolet products on display at a local car dealership
A group of performance Chevrolet products on display at a local car dealership | Jake Sweeney Chevrolet via Facebook

This problem usually has less to do with the dealership itself and more about customer preference. If a particular location has historically done well with high performance sports cars, but can’t give away plug-in hybrids, chances are they won’t stock much of the slower selling platform. That makes sense, but take the case of electric cars for instance: Poor manufacturer allocation has created a dearth of in-demand vehicles at dealer showrooms. The problem doesn’t end at EVs; since dealers can’t stock every variation of every vehicle, finding the car that you truly want can be a chore.