Minor Car Dealership Rant

I just wanted to get this off my chest and see what other people on here thought–maybe I’m off-base. So I’m in the market for a used car. I’m 25, about to graduate from law school, and my parents will be helping me out with it financially. A bigger dealership about 30 minutes away had a 2012 Mazda6 almost within my budget and I was interested in test driving it. I did an online chat with one of their reps and scheduled the test drive for this afternoon. I get there and speak to a salesman after a minute. His first questions are “how are you going to finance this,” “are you in a position to put $500 down today,” etc. I was honest - I said I probably won’t be putting any money down today and that my parents would be helping me out. “Can they come in if you’re ready to buy today?” No, I say, they live close-by but they’re out of town this weekend. He says OK, that I can still take the car for a spin if I want, and he takes my license and disappears for about 5 minutes. When he comes back, he says something about them being really busy (which, admittedly, they appeared to be) and that his sales manager wants me to come back with my parents on Monday–they won’t let me do the test drive. I say OK and leave.

I was a little insulted by all this. I’m also irritated I wasted an hour of my Saturday. Yes, my parents will be helping me out financially, but I’m an adult and will be making the decision about which car we end up purchasing. I was legitimately interested in the Mazda they had for sale but wanted to try it out myself before I drag my folks away from their lives and jobs. I understand the dealership was busy and they wanted to make a sale today, but I felt they were rather condescending and I’m not sure I want to go back. Am I right here or is this all that I should have expected?

For me, it’s very simple. If you’re not comfortable doing business with anyone, then don’t.

Like anything in life it can’t always be about dollars and cents. I often tell my customers that we’re never going to be the cheapest place in town to get your car serviced. But we are fair, honest, competent at what we do and we’ll talk to you like regular people.

Find a car dealership you like where they will treat you well and the price of the car will soon fall into line. True, the first place may have had the better price, but from the way you say you were treated I doubt the price will be low for very long.

If I asked customers how they intended to pay for the timing belt service before the job was even sold I doubt I’d be in business very long.

@bkj517 In my opinion, you made things far more complicated than they should have been

Once you found a dealer with the car you wanted, you should have approached a salesman and said “I’m interested in test driving this vehicle”

And then he’s going to think “I’ve got one on the hook.”

Then, after the test drive, if you like it, don’t agree to anything. Thank him for his time, and leave.

You shouldn’t have mentioned your finances and your parents before the test drive

Any information you give a car salesman will somehow be used against you

Sometimes too much honesty backfires. Most of the time when I go in for a test drive, I am sure I am not going to buy that day, but I don’t tell that to the salesman. I do my test drive and then decide. If I like the car, I might make an offer. If they accept, then I make sure I go back with the same salesperson so he/she earns money/commission. Usually there is something wrong with the car or the price is just too off, so the “are you ready to buy today” is irrelevant.

I told the story before but our neighbor who was also the school superintendent at the time went down to the local GM dealer looking for a car. The salesman told HER, to come back with her husband to look at the car. She dressed that guy down in a hurry and told him she was buying the car not her husband. I don’t do business with people that are condescending or insulting.

I think you’re a bit offbase here and making more of it than necessary. They run a business and the salesman’s sole job is to sell you a car. His income depends upon it.
Salespersons face people every day, all day, who are not able to buy the car for whatever reason be it cash on hand, bad or no credit history, no co-signer, etc, etc.
Their tolerance for time wasting is very slim.

Your license was used to pull your credit report and quite likely they found an iffy or skimpy report with little income or employment history. Lacking a co-signer readily available they have to assume that you’re a tire kicker because they hear everything in the book about why the deal can’t get done that day. Of course they’re not going to allow a tire kicker on a joy ride is the way it would be looked at.

Please don’t take this the wrong way as it is not meant to reflect on your character or financial standing.
If you’re interested in the car I would suggest just taking a deep breath and returning with your parents to iron the deal out.

(And pulling your credit report off of your driver’s license is acceptable and legal in case the thought comes to mind.)

“Your license was used to pull your credit report and quite likely they found an iffy or skimpy report with little income or employment history. Lacking a co-signer readily available they have to assume that you’re a tire kicker because they hear everything in the book about why the deal can’t get done that day. Of course they’re not going to allow a tire kicker on a joy ride is the way it would be looked at.”

A BIG +1 to ok4450’s comment!
As I was reading through the thread, what came to my mind was exactly what ok4450 posted.

Like it or not, once you hand a car salesman your DL, he or she is going to check your credit rating, and if it isn’t very good–either because of negative information or because of no significant credit history–the salesman will be much less interested in doing business with you, because he/she feels that it might be a waste of time.

As was said, once your parents have the time, go car shopping with them.
I can virtually assure you of a much better experience at that point.

I had similar experiences when I was younger and looking at cars. I’ve been treated like a dimwit at my present (ahem) advanced age, too. Don’t offer too much info, as @db4690 says, it will be used against you.

If you are offended, go elsewhere, there are millions of cars in thousands of dealerships. If you really want to test drive that car, go back and insist. Remember, this is just business, not personal. The salesman is not your friend now or after the sale, he’s just trying to make a buck and you are trying to make the best deal you can. Keep the transaction in perspective.

“If you are offended, go elsewhere there are millions of cars in thousands of dealerships”


Many years ago, when I was beginning my car shopping, one of the cars that I was considering was a Mazda 626. I was interested in whatever the “top” 626 model was at the time.

So, I went to the closest Mazda dealership, and noticed that they only had the mid-level model in the showroom. Eventually, I was able to buttonhole a salesman to ask if they had one of the models in which I was interested in their storage lot.

He pointed to the one on the sales floor, and said, “There it is”. I replied, “No, that is the mid-level model and I am interested in seeing the top-of-the-line model. Can I test drive one of them?”

The salesman’s new reply was an exasperated, "This is Saturday!"
My response was, “Ummm…Yes it is. What does that have to do with anything?”

With an expression of supreme superiority, he yelled, “You can’t take a test drive on a Saturday!”, to which my response was, “And obviously I’m not buying a car from you guys”.

And…no…his refusal had nothing to do with my credit rating, as we never even got to the stage of presenting a DL. If he had bothered to check my DL, let’s just say that he would have been…very impressed.

His attitude led to his loss.

Trust me, I have never returned to that dealership.

I dunno, since I was 16 nobody has ever refused me a test drive. Of course I had good credit since 16 too and nobody ever had to co-sign for me. Usually now the guy rides along on a test drive anyway and for a 25 year old out of law school? Seems a little severe. Of course law schools are cutting back like crazy due to low demand-kinda like a psychology degree in the past.
Maybe it was the answers to the questions or the manner they were answered but still seems like it was the kid’s problem on how to pay for it and when and not the salesmans.

I remember once a Riviera was advertised and went to look at it that next night. I said I would take it but the guy said someone else had already bought it pending approval of the loan but they weren’t very optimistic that the loan would be approved. I had to insist that the guy take my money to hold the car in the event the other guy’s loan didn’t go through. Sure enough a couple days later I got the car. I’m still not sure the story was true and maybe were just using it as a leader and didn’t expect to sell it. Maybe the guy wasn’t supposed to sell it at all but the car was priced below book and not a spec on it.

Thanks for everyone’s opinions. I’m really not that bent out of shape over it. I’m more annoyed that I wasted my time driving all the way out there and back after scheduling the test drive in advance. I understand it’s a business and they’re just out to flip these cars as fast as possible, and I guess my complete frankness wasn’t the best policy in this case. I had a professor who once said that “there’s no room for scruples in used car buying.” The car was already a little out of my budget anyway (even before they tack on dealer fees and other nonsense), and seemed under-priced by a good bit (so who knows what’s wrong with it). This is just one more incentive not to give it a second look. Their loss.

I was once told by an overweight, pompous guy in white shoes that he would only let me drive that 3 year old K Car “if you are buying it”. No point in explaining to this guy what the purpose of a test drive was.

I ended up buying a car elsewhere. Not all dealerships are like that. I was once allowed to test drive a 3 year old Jaguar XK-150 when still in college. The salesman seemed impressed I knew something about the car, but insisted ion going with me on the drive.

The salesman and the internet rep work in different departments. If you did not ask for the rep you communicated with by name you actually set the departments against each other. But you just did not know that before you went there. As others stated do not offer more information than necessary .

I’ve experienced annoying dealership behavior too. One time a salesman (at probably the most well known asian car manufacturer dealership in the area) told me unless I was going to buy a car that day he didn’t have time to talk to me. But that was a Saturday afternoon, he probably had more potential customers than he could handle, and I indeed wasn’t going to buy a car that afternoon, so I overlooked the insult. Decided while the behavior was rude, there was a reason for what he said, and it would be best if I wanted to talk to a salesman there to go in at a less busy time.

Another time I was walking my dog past a dealership and the dog was sniffing on that little strip of lawn that runs parallel to the sidewalk, by the street, the salesman came screaming out the door “get your #!$#!#$$!# dog off our lawn”. I replied “no problem, will do, and I’ll be happy to not never buy a car here too”. His reply? “Good, we don’t want your business”. Well, we reached an agreement anyway. I’ve kept up my part.

So what should you do? First, try to go in at a time when they aren’t quite so busy. Second, if they ask if you are prepared to put $500 down, say “yes”. After all, you probably could if you wanted too. Saying you are prepared to do something isn’t the same as saying you will do it. This is typical salesmanship btw. They are always trying to get you to make some kind of commitment to them, even a soft commitment like “yes, I am prepared to put $500 down”, even though that actually doesn’t mean anything.

Third, at the time you think you may want to make an offer, be prepared to show the salesman unambiguously you have a way to pay for the car. If that means you need to take your parents along, take them. Better though to not involve your parents in the transaction if at all possible. I take a copy of my bank statement to the dealership with me for this very purpose, blanking out the private info first. Once they see I have enough to make a down payment, that issue doesn’t come back into the conversation once they see the statement.

As far as taking your license, I think you understand that they have to be reluctant to let just anybody who walks in off the street to take a test drive. You wouldn’t let just anybody who happens to ask to test drive your car, once you buy it right? Same thing. They want to know you are a licensed driver, your license is current, and as mentioned above they probably enter the license number into some kind of database which spits out if you might be a problem, either financially or for a driver’s record reason.

So I guess what I’m saying is what they did, while rude, I probably wouldn’t automatically exclude them for the list of vendors you are considering. Just remember these folks are experts at what they do – getting your money in exchange for a car – they do it every single day, know all the tricks, so get your ducks in a row a little better next time you go there. Best of luck.

Edit: You might want to read this too, “Secret tricks of the Car Salesman”, posted by the staff of Car Talk.

Firstly, sincere congratulations on your impending law degree.

In NH they always take a photostatic copy of your driver’s license as proof that they didn’t let an unlicensed driver take the car. If something should happen, they like to have your license on record for their own protection. They all started doing this about 15 or so years ago.

The dealer experience varies wildly by dealer, by salesman, and even by customer. There’s one salesman that I’ve bought a number of cars from starting in about, oh, 1982. We just greet one another, “catch up” (chat) for a bit, he copies my current license, and gets me the keys and a plate for whatever I want. We don’t negotiate much, he knows me too well. He lets me get a good level below the list price, and I allow him a fair commission. In '93, he even encouraged me to take a brand new fully loaded Mazda 929 home for the weekend. I loved the car. My wife didn’t. I returned it. I should have kept the 929 and gotten rid of the wife.

The bottom line is that if you weren’t comfortable there, go elsewhere. There are plenty of fish in the sea.

Sincere best.

Yeah but then the wife would have gotten the 929 instead of the Saturn.

Once a sales person loses his winning attitude he can lose a few sales. I was so bothered by the bad attitude toward sales that I really lost the winning attitude. That and the fact that I wasn’t very good at sales got me out of there. It takes me about two months to do a job really well and I only got five weeks before going bad.

The salesman they kept never sold more than two cars a month. If I hadn’t started acting foolish I would have been the sales leader at the halfway point of the month. That isn’t saying much at the time but they wouldn’t have asked me to get lost right then. I went right to the golf course and settled into that routine. Then I got a job there.

When a sales guy is nuts, crazy things happen.

I remember when I was still at the dealership, we were instructed to treat everybody respectfully, because they are all potential customers

It sounded like a load of BS at the time, but I suppose there’s some truth in it

In defense of the salesman and car dealer, they had the credit report pulled in minutes and saw what appeared to be a dead end as far as making a sale at the present time. There was really no sense in going much further with the process and the decision was made by someone above the salesman; the sales manager, the F & I person, etc.

They hear the “be back tomorrow” and “for sure” thing multiple times each day so it’s all taken with a grain of salt as they know the majority won’t ever come back.