12 Lies a Car Salesman Will Tell You to Close the Deal

A car salesman prepares a car for a new customer
Though most are honest, consumers need to watch out for some lies car salesmen tell. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Are you in the market for a new or used car? If so, you’re in luck: Automakers are delivering high-quality products almost across the board. Safety features that were once expensive options now come standard, and fuel economy made impressive gains in the past decade. In other words, the enthusiasm a car salesman shows on the lot might actually be real.

Unfortunately for consumers, salesmen still have incentive to lie. Pressure from a manager may be forcing them to close deals or find a new job. Though there are countless professional and honest car salesmen out there, others may look you in the eye and lie for their personal gain.

The next time you go shopping for a car, keep these factors in mind and watch out for the scams and half-truths you might hear on the lot. Here are 12 lies salesmen will tell to close a deal.

1. Clean Carfax = pristine car

An overturned car sits on a snow-covered highway February 18, 2003 near Milford, Delaware.
A clean Carfax does not a perfect car make. | Josh Coleman/Getty Images

When there is a car crash and the owner reports it to make an insurance claim, you will find the record on a Carfax report. However, in the event someone crashed the car and had it quietly fixed by a local mechanic, that accident would never appear. So when a dealer declares that the Carfax is clean, so you’re good, it’s not necessarily true. Have your own mechanic do an inspection and see if there were any unreported wrecks.

2. Your trade-in will fetch big money

A car salesman chats with two cutomers over potential buys
A salesman cannot show you the money for a trade-in until he sees it. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

A car salesman without a customer on the lot is like a basketball player without a court. They have no way to practice their trade without a potential buyer, so salesmen will go out of their way to get you in the door. One common trick is telling people over the phone they will get big money for the car they plan to trade in. Even if you describe a car in detail, a dealer won’t know for sure what he can offer until he sees it. So you can’t know what your trade-in will get and therefore you don’t know if you can afford the car in question.

3. Your credit is bad

A man prepares to make a deal with a Ford car salesman
Car salesman may downgrade your credit score in order to get higher interest rates on a loan. | Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

In the list of lies car salesmen tell, ones about your credit are usually the most subtle. Carbuyingtips.com describes it as a full-blown scam in which finance managers tells you your credit is 100 (or 200 or 300) points worse than it actually is. Using the false score, a car dealer will then offer you a loan at a higher interest rate. You could end up paying thousands of dollars more over the life of the loan if you believe these lies. Meanwhile, the salesman will make more from the high-interest loan. To avoid the trap, know your credit score before you enter the dealership.

4. An award makes the car great

GM's Bob Lutz poses with Chevrolet Malibu, 2008 North American Car of the Year
GM’s Bob Lutz poses with Chevrolet Malibu, 2008 North American Car of the Year, which had terrible reliability and owner satisfaction ratings. | John F. Martin/Getty Images

If a car that appeals to you won an award from J.D. Power or a media outlet, a salesman might convince you it won because the car is better than the rest. Actually, a vehicle can win awards for many reasons. For example, J.D. Power’s Initial Quality awards come from owner feedback taken 90 days after purchase. When a model shows no problems over that span, it might win. Unfortunately, you have no idea what happened on Day 91. Likewise, a vehicle that won Truck of the Year in 2015 but had a full redesign in 2017 is completely different. Model years count, so make sure salesmen reference the precise vehicle you are considering.

5. The price is not negotiable

A car salesman helps a man as he browses potential purchases
When a car salesman says the price is not negotiable, he’s usually lying. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Everything is negotiable — cars especially. When a salesman says the price listed is the final one, he is most likely lying. Selling a car at $27,500 versus $26,750 means very little to the dealership’s bottom line and the salesman’s commission. Why would they not bend to this small demand? Should a car shopper threaten to leave because of a high price, they’ll discover it was all a ruse. Suddenly, the price will become negotiable. Beware of a manager who will play the “bad cop” in these situations.

6. You need a co-signer to close

A salesman looks at a potential buyer sitting behind the wheel of a Chrysler PT Cruiser
A car salesman discusses a deal with a consumer. | Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Knowing your credit score helps when you hear this lie. A shady car salesman may tell you a co-signer will be necessary to purchase a vehicle. This situation usually arises when a consumer has a poor credit history and a low-paying job. Instead of rejecting your application, a dealer will look for someone in your family to purchase the car. In other words, they are looking for a buyer, not a co-signer. They will say you need a co-signer and make that person the primary owner rather than a guarantor.

7. That car you called about just sold

Second-hand cars sit on the forecourt of a used car lot
The bait-and-switch still exists after all these years. | Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

It might sound impossible, but the old bait-and-switch is still in effect, though it is usually more subtle. When you call about a car listed in an ad, the salesman will assure you the vehicle is still on the lot. However, by the time you make it to the dealership, the salesman tells you it sold the next day. In its place, he can offer you something much better. Unless the story sounds plausible, consider it a bait-and-switch and move on to another dealer.

8. No one offers better interest rates

A brand new Fiat car is offered for sale on the forecourt of a car dealership
If you have an offer for a better rate, don’t believe the dealer who says he has the best. | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Preparation is the key to getting the best car deal, and it starts with the interest rate you get on a loan. Talk to your bank and online lenders to see what they are offering on car loans in your price range. You can get approval at those rates and bring the figures with you when you talk to a car salesman. If he tells you the dealership rate is the best one you can get but it’s higher than your rate, you know he is lying. Tell him you will find your financing somewhere else, and watch the rate drop.

9. You cannot trust online lenders

A customer looks at a brand new Mazda car offered for sale at a dealership
Going to a dealership with a loan approval can help you spot a common lie | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

A great way for salesmen to build trust is by telling you how other people lie. Politicians do it all the time, and this sort of projection works better than you think. You might see it when a car salesman tries to discredit an online lender who offered you a good rate and supplied a blank check so you could make the deal. If a salesman says he won’t accept the check because online lenders bounce them, don’t believe it. He will follow up that claim by offering you a higher interest rate, raising the price of the car.

10. A lower monthly payment won’t cost more

A salesman assists a customer in inspecting a car on the lot
If monthly payments go down, the total price of the car goes up | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

This lie seems impossible to believe, but the best car salesmen find a way to sell it. The topic arises when they see that you cannot afford the monthly payments. In order to keep the deal alive, a salesman will extend the term of the loan to lower the amount you owe every month. Of course, the total price of the car rises when the monthly payment drops. You will end up paying more in interest when you extend the term of a loan. This goes for student loans and every other type of debt as well.

11. He can’t match another dealer’s price

Unregistered cars are offered for sale on the forecourt of a car dealership
If another dealer offers an excellent price, you have negotiating leverage. | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

As you make the rounds at dealerships, you may find the car you want yet find it priced higher than you saw on another lot. When you ask the dealer to match the price, he may say there is no way for him to do so. You can pierce through this lie easily: Simply say you’re going back to the other dealer and see what happens. If they let you go, they are telling the truth, but chances are the price will drop fast.

12. This deal expires today

Hondas are lined up for sale on a lot
Salesmen may try to create urgency where none exists. | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

There is always a tomorrow in auto sales. If you don’t find the price you want on July 4, hang out until the “summer sales event” or following promotion. Car salesmen will try to create a false sense of urgency to close a quick deal, but you hold the power in these transactions. When there is an element you do not like, keep looking for the deal that gets you the car you want.