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Buyer Beware: What Car Salesmen Don't Want You to Know

Monday, 4 Aug 2008 | 8:41 PM ET
Steals & Deals
Tips for getting you back on track, with CNBC's Carmen Wong Ulrich

Philip Reed is the senior consumer advice editor for Edmunds, but he also recently went undercover as something else -- a car salesman. And what he found wasn’t pretty.

Salesmen aren’t your friends, Philip says. By and large, they’re manipulative and deceitful -- and they will do whatever it takes to get you in a car that day, whether it’s the right deal for you or not. He recalls one meeting he attended where all the salesmen would chant in unison that they have to “rip their heads off” -- they being you, the customer. Makes you feel better about the whole process, doesn’t it?

But there’s plenty we can do, as shoppers, to prepare before stepping foot on the lot. The first step seems simple, but you’d be surprised how few people do it: research. Use the web, do some comparison shopping, figure out your car payments ahead of time (check out the Edmunds Finance Calculators for that). The more informed you are, the less inclined the salesman will be to take advantage of your situation. Knowledge is power, and it’s especially true in the customer-salesperson relationship.

Your wheels are typically your second biggest purchase after your home, Carmen likes to say. So don’t rush the purchase. One of the strongest hands you have to play with a car salesman is simply the ability to walk away. Remember: If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

To read more about Phil’s undercover adventures – or comparison shop for a new set of wheels – check out Edmunds.com.