Though COVID-19 has had a profound effect on the car market, it has not brought the often-predicted revolutionary changes in the dealership experience. While remote deals and online transactions have increased, the old-school way of buying a car persists, and that means dealing with hard-sell tactics in the finance office.
The internet has empowered shoppers to find their desired car, and even negotiate a price, without stepping into a dealership. Shopping the deal from the comfort of your computer keyboard is one of the more effective ways to compare quotes. However, customers may have to make the trip to the dealership to sign the paperwork and complete the deal. This trip to the finance office can easily negate any savings a customer scored on their car if they buy contract add-ons like extended warranties, service plans and other finance extras.
I’m not going rehash whether these products are worthwhile, as that really depends on the car, the cost of the service and the type of coverage. I will say that generally speaking, service plans and warranties are designed to favor the retailer, and often car buyers do not get the full value from their purchase. But of course there are always exceptions to the rule, especially in cases like an out-of-warranty Range Rover. The key thing to understand is that the finance office is an important profit-maker for a dealership.
A hard sell by the finance manager is one situation where a decent car-buying experience can sour, so often car buyers want a way to stand their ground firmly without being overly confrontational.
I’ve developed a two-step method for dealing with these pitches when they are presented. Step one is fairly self-explanatory. As soon as the pitch happens, just say, “No thanks, I’m not interested.” If the finance person is insistent, especially since they are trained not to take the first “no” at face value, your next move is to say something along the lines of the following:
“I don’t mean to interrupt you, but I am only interested in buying the car and not any other products. If you can move through the paperwork quickly and get me out of here, I will give you a good score on your survey.”
This approach works on a few levels. First, it sends the message that you are clear you have no interest in any additional costs. Second, it gives the dealer an incentive of sorts to cut their pitch short and complete the paperwork as quickly as possible.
The survey system that automakers send to customers often has compensation for the dealer tied to it based on customer feedback. Now, I will say that the survey system is not fair: Basically, the scores are looked at as a 10 (perfect) or a zero, and anything in between is considered not good. By mentioning the survey you are demonstrating your understanding that these scores can mean something to the dealer, and that you are willing to score them well if they cooperate. The subtext here is that you can also penalize them on the survey if they continue to play hardball.
Of course, this may not work 100 percent of the time, and I’m sure there are folks in the comments who may suggest a more aggressive approach. But I have had a number of customers looking for a firm but civilized conversation use this approach effectively.