Buying a used car compared to a brand-new vehicle can save you cash, but navigating the world of the used car salesroom can be intimidating. So, to help, we’ve asked a few car salesmen to share some of the more unscrupulous tricks of the trade, so you can be fully clued up before you set foot on the forecourt.

Invaluable advice for buying a second-hand car

Car dealers are, for the most part, reputable outfits that aren’t there to rip you off. But second-hand car salesmen have a reputation for being ‘predatory’ and the whole process can be anxiety inducing – especially if you’re not sure what type of car you’re looking for. Alongside our insider advice that’s sure to prove invaluable, read through our checklist for buying a used car so you’ll know exactly what to look out for as you assess your potential second-hand purchase.

Hook, line and sinker

‘Every second-hand car salesman I know has used this trick at one point in their career, almost without exception,’ explains 27 year-old Ben**, who’s been selling used cars in Surrey for five years. ‘It involves using an expensive car at a bargain-bucket price as “bait” or a “hook” to draw in customers.

‘Dealers will advertise a particular car on their websites for hundreds of pounds under the market price, but when customers come in to buy it, it’s miraculously no longer available, already sold or has something major wrong with it. We’ll then show the customer the same model, which is only “marginally” more expensive [read: the actual market price or just above]. You’ll be surprised how many people will go with it because they just want to get in and out as fast as they can.’

Advice: ‘The best way to avoid getting pulled in to this kind of a scam? Make sure you go with a clear idea of what you want and a limit of what you’re happy to spend or can afford. And stick to it.’

Good cop, bad cop

‘This move is risky, but has always had a really high success rate for me,’ explains Martin, 37, who manages a second-hand car dealership in Nottingham. ‘One of my colleagues will play the “bad cop” and promise the buyer a deal that either isn’t available, or is totally unrealistic and way too cheap. When it comes to make the sale I, or another senior manager, will step in and berate my colleague loudly and aggressively for promising the unscrupulous deal in front of the customer. The buyers then trust that I have their best interest at heart and are much more likely to go with what I’m offering them, over and above my younger colleague’s “mistake”. Yes, it may mean that the buyers don’t come back to our dealership again, but it’s an effective way of pushing a sale if someone is on the fence or hasn’t responded well to the negotiations of one of my subordinates.’

Advice: ‘If you suspect this is happening to you – or if you feel like anyone in the dealership is trying to pull something – my advice would be to step out for a few minutes to get a breather. Not only will it give you a chance to collect yourself, it will also interrupt their “flow”.’

Don’t fear the FOMO

‘If I was buying a used car myself, I’d be hesitant to go for a deal that was only available for a limited time,’ explains 52-year-old Mark**, who has his own car dealership in south London. ‘If we offer you 0% finance “that ends tomorrow”, a discounted model “that won’t stick around” or extra free equipment for a “limited time” then, chances are, I’m just trying to push a sale.

‘The same thing applies when someone says there’s another customer vying for your vehicle – chances are they don’t exist or aren’t as serious as I’m making out, so make sure you play hardball. In my dealership we call this a “Dutch Oven”.’

Advice: ‘If you’ve got niggling doubts about buying a car and you’re only convinced because of FOMO (fear of missing out), it’s sensible to take some time out and really think about whether the car is right for you, or not. Special deals or prices happen all the time in the car dealership world, so chances are you’ll have another opportunity to jump on a deal before you know it.’

Don’t be fooled by the test drive

‘Ever noticed that car dealerships are a bit far off the beaten track? This is often to do with the price of renting the lot, but a happy side effect is that they’re often surrounded by absolutely mind-blowing drives,’ explains George**, 34, who works in a used car salesroom just outside of Brighton.

‘When you’re selling a car, you’re really selling a lifestyle, so if you’re able to show someone what their life could be like with this new car – just them and this stunning open road – you’d be surprised what a difference it makes. Our sales almost double on sunny days and it’s in part to do with the test drive looking its best.’


Advice: ‘Go in with the knowledge that this is a trick often adopted and concentrate on the car, rather than your surroundings. If you can, encourage the dealer to take you for a test drive around your area so you can get a real sense of how the car will fit into your day-to-day life.’

Cash is no longer king

‘You’d be forgiven for believing that having enough funds to buy your car outright would put you in a strong negotiating position, but actually the opposite could be the case,’ explains Ben**. ‘We’re often incentivised to sell cars on finance, so we could push for a sale to someone wanting a finance deal over and above your cash purchase.’

Advice: ‘Keep your cards close to your chest as much as possible, whatever your payment method, so you don’t get pushed to one side to make room for someone who will make up my quota of finance purchasers.’

Get a good deal on your car insurance

So now you’re fully equipped with everything you need to know about buying a used car, you might want to explore the insurance options on the new motor you’ve been eyeing up. And where better to find the right car insurance deal for you than here

**Names have been changed.

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