How to Buy a Car (With a Car Salesman)
Everyone wants to know the best way to buy a car. And they should. I mean, it makes perfect sense. Most people find dealing with a salesman to be difficult, but in this post, I’m going to teach you exactly how to buy a car and let the salesman do the work for you.
The car salesman doesn’t exactly have a great reputation in today’s society. In fact, most people say that there isn’t a need for the car salesman any longer. I don’t necessarily agree with that.
Here’s why I think the best way to buy a car is through a good salesman:
Benefits of a Car Salesman
- Faster access to inventory than you
- Up-to-date manufacturer information
- Primary role is to represent the dealership well
- Incentivized to provide you with solutions to your needs and wants
- Even more incentivized to build long-term relationships
- Will do research for you.
I will go into these more in detail a little further down. But first, let’s talk about why car salesmen generally have a bad perception.
To most of us, a car salesman is a predator stalking the lot waiting for victims to pounce on. They will use all forms of trickery to get you to buy a car.
That might be true to a certain extent, but I think that’s a bit over the top. Remember, these are people just trying to make a living like anyone else. They just sell cars.
Ugh, how dare them.
Building a Relationship With a Car Salesman
As a consumer, I think one of the main problems with how car salesmen are perceived is that we don’t really know what they do. This lack of understanding causes us to fill the gaps with prejudices that have been passed down. We already don’t want to talk to them when we get to the dealership.
When we are approached we throw a wall up under the impression that they are just trying to con us and in turn, they have to do everything they can to get us to buy a car.
This type of situation leads to buyer’s remorse. It forces a salesman who doesn’t really understand our needs to jump through hoops to get us to buy a car, not because they are a con, but because we refuse to communicate with them and they gotta eat.
It’s a super healthy relationship.
Actually, it’s not a relationship at all and I think that’s the main problem. As consumers, we don’t build long-term relationships with salesmen.
It’s weird to me that we spend so much time in our cars, but so little time getting to know the people that sell them to us, or the manufacturers that make them, or even the type of car that we are driving.
The average person spends 6.5 years in a relationship with their new car, but only a couple of hateful hours with the person that introduced them. No wonder there’s no trust. There’s no relationship. People don’t immediately trust one another, they need time to build a relationship and develop trust.
Now, pepper in these disgusting sales environments that dealerships have created and you have a recipe for a total shit show.
You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones where there are like 50 sales people running around and you go into some back and forth negotiation for a car with a salesman that makes you sign a piece a paper a bunch of times agreeing to a price.
The type of environment where you’re openly making deals at a table with other people making deals well within earshot. Basically, a shitty car dealership is what I’m getting at here. These places definitely are not the best way to buy a car.
But it’s not just consumers and dealerships that are to blame, it’s the salesmen too. Sometimes they just suck. At their job and as people. But hey, they aren’t the only ones, right? That being said, it’s important to understand how car salesmen sort of fit into the whole car-buying process.
Once you understand where they fit into the purchase process, it helps you as a consumer identify what they should be doing for you. If you know what a salesman should be doing for you, it will help you identify a good one.
After you identify a good one, you can begin the process of building a relationship with them to build trust and make yourself comfortable with buying from them.
And that is the best way to buy a car through a car salesman. Through long-term communication and relationship building.
Such is the way of the car buying Jedi.
What a Good Car Salesman Does
- Act as an agent for the Manufacturer
- Assume the role of an agent for the Dealership
- Represent the customer to the dealership
- Provide solutions for client’s needs and wants
I’m going to go into each of these areas one at a time in no particular order.
Each point is equally important, but remember, no one is perfect and you might come across a car salesman that practices most of these points well, but not all. That doesn’t make them a bad salesman.
Also, this is just like my opinion man.
But it’s a good opinion. As someone who has purchased several vehicles, I actually have real-world experience putting what I’m about to say into practice. And it’s paid off.
In fact, I have a great relationship with a salesman I consider to be one of the best (looking at you Wade Days). He once covered the repairs on a used car I purchased from him out of his own pocket.
So, read on to understand why identifying a great salesman and building a long-term relationship with them is the best way to buy a car.
What a Good Car Salesman does for the Manufacturer
- Educates consumers on manufacturers product
- Relays applicable manufacturer rebates
- Recommends other relevant manufacturer products
The first true role of the salesmen is to act as a middleman between the manufacturer and the customer.
In a perfect world, they would be able to tell you about all the models in the showroom, walk you through the features, explain what each model is designed for, and so on.
But, the reality is that many salesmen don’t take this approach. In fact, the vast majority are not product experts.
This is a concrete rule for me. If a car salesman doesn’t understand their own product that means they doesn’t truly care about what they’re doing and it means they likely don’t care about me either.
However, I never hold them up to used cars of different makes or model years they wouldn’t be familiar with. That’s just not fair.
If you need some insight into various models before you get to the dealership check out any of the models on our Best Models page.
All salesmen will know about factory rebates going on and should be communicating those to you. They are easy to find online, so they should be transparent and you should know what’s going on before you show up.
Finally, a salesman will always represent other products for the manufacturer like warranties or prepaid maintenance and that is understandable as well. I never hold it against them for doing their job because I can always just say no.
What a Good Car Salesman does for Dealerships
- Represents dealership to public
- Creates business relationships
- Achieves local sales goals
Don’t get it twisted, the dealership is the salesmen’s employer and as such, they really are bound to represent the dealership over the manufacturer.
Some say this is good and some say this is bad. It sort of incentivizes dealerships to only hire quality salespeople they can trust.
The idea behind this is that salesmen who are responsible for representing the franchise they work for will diligently work to develop strong relationships that are good for the business.
We touched on this earlier and why it’s so important for you as a consumer but realize it’s a two-way street. Any good dealership should want their salespeople doing this. If they don’t, then walk from the dealership.
That being said, the dealership is hoping that by representing them well and building strong relationships with consumers that a salesman will be able to achieve their sales targets in the region.
The problem begins when dealerships place targets over relationships. A smart dealership realizes that good relationships lead to better sales over time.
You can find some of the tactics dealerships will employee in our post: How Much Do Car Dealers Make.
What a Good Car Salesman does for Buyers
- Provides a solution to buyers needs and wants
- Educates buyers on models and options
- Acts as a liaison between buyer and dealership
The most obvious thing a good car salesman would do for a buyer is to listen to their needs and wants and help to find a solution for them.
This is where it really helps to have a pre-existing relationship with a salesman. If a salesman knows what you are looking for well in advance it gives them time to search for the right vehicle for you.
If you have a relationship with a salesman they will take the time to search through all of their available inventories to find the right car for you.
The other thing a good salesman will do for you as a consumer is to educate you on other models that might be a good fit, even ones you hadn’t considered.
It’s always a good idea to at least test drive one of these options. By this point, they should have already shown you that they are there to provide you with a solution to your needs and wants and you should let them do their best to achieve that goal.
If you’re ordering a new car the salesman will often possess a lot of knowledge around options and trim packages. With some manufacturers, this can be a long and confusing process.
Having that pre-existing relationship with a salesman means you have already communicated what you are looking for and they should already have options in mind that are “must-haves” and “don’t wants”.
Finally, they will represent you to the dealership during negotiation which is sometimes a terrible awful process. If you have a good relationship with a salesman they are more likely to go to bat for you and really work to get you a good deal.
It’s a win-win for them, they keep you as a client, the dealership gets a sale, and you leave in a perfect car for a price you’re happy with. You will be back. If your sales scenario doesn’t feel like this do yourself a favor and walk away.
How to Buy a Car (With a Car Salesman)
- Identify your needs and wants
- Communicate those needs and wants in advance to various salesmen at various dealerships
- Wait for them to contact you with options to satisfy your needs and wants
- Perform independent research on the options provided to you
- Respond with either satisfaction or address concerns
- Schedule a time to test drive, drive more than one option
- Never buy immediately – always sleep on it
- Follow up with the salesman and communicate pricing expectations
- Negotiate on the price of the car before arriving
- Negotiate on any trade-ins when you arrive
These 10-steps outline the best way to buy a car utilizing a good car salesman. Essentially, let them do the leg work while effectively keeping in constant communication with them. Remember, they have access to inventory you don’t always have access to.
They are also highly motivated to make a sale. That doesn’t mean you have to hand it to them. The best car salesmen understand that relationship building is the key to long-term success in auto sales.
If you read through the steps they make perfect sense.
Practicing How to Buy a Car
First, identify what you are looking for in your next car. Next, pick up the phone and contact a few dealerships. Let the salesman know you are ready to buy, but first, communicate what you are looking for in your next car.
The good ones will either provide options they think are a good fit immediately, or get back to you. Once you have those options take your time to do some research. Don’t be a dick about it either, just tell the person you want some time to look into various models.
Once you have done your research contact your salesmen to schedule some test drives. Again, don’t be hasty, even if you absolutely love a car take the time to sleep on the decision. Trust me, you will thank me later.
When you are ready to buy, use your research and know what you should be paying for the car. One of the best ways to buy a car is when you are not under pressure. So, remove it from the equation. Do the price negotiations from the comfort of your own home at your own leisure. Even do it through email.
Once you have a price hammered out it will allow you to deal with a trade-in separately when you arrive. I’ve written before on the importance of treating trade-ins and purchases separate during negotiations in my piece: How Much Do Car Dealers Make.
In utilizing this method you essentially let someone else do the legwork for you while freeing up your time do research and enjoy what’s important – driving the car.
It makes for a much better purchasing experience and it helps build trust with a salesman when it’s time to repeat the process in the future. It’s a win-win and it’s the best way to buy a car in my opinion.
The role of a salesman hasn’t really changed over time. What’s changed is the environment in which they operate. In a lot of ways, I feel like some dealerships have gotten so bad there’s no way to bounce back. It’s up to us as consumers to demand better sales experiences through our actions. As buyers, we have all of the power. Never forget that.
Admittedly, I’ve fallen into the mindset before that salesmen are just vultures and a total waste of time.
I always hated buying cars because my experience was soured by a shit dealership who employed shit salespeople. That changed for me when I took the time to identify a great salesman and build a relationship with him.
It’s important to build a relationship with a car salesman. They can do a lot for you as a consumer and your whole car buying experience can be changed once you identify a good one and take the time to foster a good relationship with them.
How to Buy a Car – Wrap Up
Don’t forget that finding a good dealership is just as important. Read our post: How Much Do Car Dealers Make to educate yourself on how to identify a good car dealership.
With online car dealerships popping up and now even “car vending machines” I really think it’s important we take a look at what actually constitutes “the best way to buy a car”. It’s easy to get caught up in technology, but it’s important to remember the power of human connections.
Now that you know how to buy a car in the easiest and best way go out there and start establishing relationships with good salesmen.
The power of a good relationship can go a long way in life. Buying a car is no different and that’s why I still contend that one of the best ways to buy a car is through a good salesman.