Can I Trick A Dealer Into Thinking They Can Upsell Me In The Finance Office To Get A Better Deal On A Car?

Photo Credit: Aaron Brown/Jalopnik
Photo Credit: Aaron Brown/Jalopnik

As Jalopnik’s resident car buying expert and professional car shopper, I get emails. Lots of emails. I’ve decided to pick a few questions and try to help out. This week we are discussing an interesting strategy for getting a car deal, test drives on an affordable performance car, and inspections on cheap rides.


First up: Would it be worth it to have the dealer think they can sell you all kinds of stuff in the finance office so that they negotiate better on the car?

Do you think that giving a dealership the impression that they can milk you in the F&I office can help get a low price on the purchase of the car itself?

So during the negotiation process, you let the salesman hear your wife/kids saying that they want rustproofing, extended warranty, etc. So the salesman will think that they can make up for their “losses” in a low selling price with all the bs add ons in the F&I office. What about not mentioning that you are approved for a loan? Will they find out when they run your credit for their financing? Thoughts?

I’m not so sure about this strategy. First of all, it supposes that you are doing your negotiating in person, which is not really advisable. Secondly, I think the salesperson would suspect something because no one asks for “Rustproofing, extended warranties, etc...” out of the gate, and opening with that may lead them to believe you are a someone who is easily ripped off, and therefore their initial offer on the car probably isn’t going to be that great, which is just going to increase all the back and forth.

That being said, in regards to profit, if a dealer knows right away you are paying cash it that usually means any profit from the finance office is gone, so they may be less likely to wiggle on the car. While I have not seen this to be the case at better dealers, because to them a sale is a sale, but telling them you are “possibly open to offers from the finance office” may keep them a bit more flexible in the negotiations.

Of course, I happen to think the best methodology is to request itemized quotes in writing from the comfort of your computer and see who is willing to give the best deal with the least amount of hassle.

Next up, how do I test drive an affordable but performance-oriented car when the dealer says I have to “buy today”?

“I’ve had the same, Honda Civic through college, law school, and the early part of my career. Now that I’ve paid off my student loans and my car is nearing 15 years old/200k miles, I’m starting to think about replacing it. But I’m finding it difficult to test drive some of the cars I’m considering like the Hyundai Veloster N. I’ve had two dealerships tell me that they had one on the lot to drive, only to walk in and find they didn’t even have a manual transmission car on the lot, let alone an N. I finally found a dealership that had an N on site for me to look at, but was told that they wouldn’t take it out of the showroom for a test drive unless I was looking to buy “today.” I’m guessing some dealerships are jaded by tire kickers & people coming in just to take advantage of a gift card promotion but do you have any advice as to how I can get seat time in performance-oriented, manual transmission cars that, while not rare, aren’t found on every dealership lot? Or should I wait to see if any turn up on an alternative like Turo until I’m at the point where I’m ready to make a purchase?


This comes up a lot and I also understand dealers don’t want kids with a need for speed but a lack of funds coming in to hoon their Veloster N (pictured above) and wasting their time. What I recommend is to keep an eye out for inventory and make an appointment for a test drive. An appointment signals you are a serious buyer. If they say “You gotta buy today,” then you can say “Sure if I like the car and the price is right.”

Do not under any circumstances sign any paperwork. After your test drive says “I don’t know if I really like the car... I need to sleep on it.”


Lastly, are inspections worth the cost on really cheap rides?

My current search is for a low-cost vehicle with which I plan on using to learn to drive a manual transmission and then use for errands to save wear, tear, and gas on my daily. I’m looking mainly at vehicles in the $1000-$3000 range, which translates roughly to 1995-2005 model year and 150k-220k+ miles. I’m generally limiting my search to Honda and Toyota (read: decent reliability) given the age and mileage I’m encountering. Odds are I won’t be keeping the car for more than a couple years.

My question is, should I still get a pre-purchase inspection performed for a lower-priced car? In Missouri, all sales (dealer and private) require a recent (<60 days) “pass” on the state safety and emissions tests. The safety inspection is fairly basic and the emissions generally passes as long as the Check Engine light is not on. Would these serve as a proxy for a PPI, or should I still have that done even at this price range?


Just because a vehicle passes a state inspection doesn’t mean it doesn’t need major repairs. Unless you are buying something super cheap that you know is going to need a significant amount of work and you have the knowledge and ability to do that, inspections are always a good idea on used cars.

They may be even more critical on super cheap cars because you are often buying things on a tight budget and the last thing you want to do is spend a few grand for a daily driver only to have to dump another several thousand dollars to have it be functional.


Got a car buying conundrum that you need some assistance with? Email me at!

Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (



That “make an appointment” thing has actually worked out well for me. The salesperson has set aside time for me and has a couple of versions of the car I spoke to them over the phone about ready to go.  Nothing fancy either, I was working a couple hours away and my wife’s Saturn was on it’s last legs and she really, really wanted the latest version of the Beetle.  We looked at what they had and what fit into our parameters and she still loves that thing... now if she’d only stop running into shit with it all would be well.