Beware Of This Dealership Jargon The Next Time You Buy A Car

Never let a salesperson talk over your head again.

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Every profession has their own jargon or slang and automotive sales is no different. Most of the vocabulary is meant to streamline communication, but knowing these terms could make the difference of you being ripped off or not.

According to Automotive News, A lemon law attorney from Ohio obtained a list of terms from a dealership that was involved in a case. You can see the full list here, but below you will find specific terms that should raise a red flag if you hear them during your next purchase. Keep in mind that most of these tricks happen not on the sales floor, but in the finance office.

COME ON: This is where the buyer is led to believe one thing and it turns out to be really something else.

EIGHTY FIVE FIFTY FIVE, 8550: This is the GM paint code for black paint. It is sometimes used by a dealer to refer to the race of a prospective buyer as a slang term. It may also occur with other franchised dealers using their manufacturer paint code for the color black.

ETCH, ETCH-A-SKETCH: Often called theft guard or a similar term, it is a soft add on product promoted as a product that will reduce the chance of a vehicle being stolen, to apply it the dealer uses a chemical that eats, or etches, into one or more glass windows a series of numbers that the dealer claims can enable police to find the owner of the car if they recover it after it was stolen, usually sold for hundreds of dollars by a car dealer, the product itself can be found on the internet as a self-installed kit that will cost about $20, the window etch scheme makes maximum car dealer profit at little cost and some say etch gives little or no real benefit to the consumer.

Five Finger Close: A technique used by some car dealers to get the sales papers signed by the consumer without the consumer realizing that the numbers on the papers have been increased above what was orally discussed with the consumer, such as, the dealership Finance Manager holds the stack of sales papers still with one hand planted in the middle of the top document while pointing to the signature line with the other hand and asking the buyer to just sign here and here and here, etc., using their hand to cover up an area of the sales document where numbers appear that the dealer does not want the buyer to see. Then the dealer sets that sales paper aside and puts another one in front of the consumer and again puts one hand in the middle of the page while pointing to the next signature line with the other hand. The process is repeated through all the sales documents so that the buyer does not realize that the sales figures were changed on the earlier document, in other words, the repetitive routine disguises the fraud that earlier occurred in the process. It appears to the consumer that the Finance Manager is being helpful in holding the page still but in reality the technique is used to deceive the customer into believing that the numbers, such as the price, etc, are the same as what was talked about earlier when, in reality, they are not. It is sometimes also called a five finger spread or five finger push.

HEAT SHEET: A document in the sales paperwork that the dealer has the customer initial, usually along the right margin, which says that the customer has been made aware of a long list of specific disclosures and disclaimers, many of which may not have taken place at all. Then when the buyer later discovers an act of dealer fraud and returns to complain, the dealer will pull out the Heat Sheet and point to where the buyer signed or initialed saying that the act did not occur or they were informed, etc. In other words, like a heat sink used in soldering metals, the Heat Sheet takes the buyer complaint and neutralizes it.

HIGH PENNY: To adjust a customer’s monthly payment. For example: from $101.13 to $101.93. It is safe to assume that if the customer will pay $101.13 for a car payment, he will pay $101.93 without giving it a second thought.

HIGH PENNY ROLL: is where the finance sales person’s computer is rigged to automatically increase, i.e., roll up, numbers in the transaction to a higher number without tipping it to a dollar increase. Doing this on every transaction can create $20,000 to $40,000 of extra profit a year since it adds 1 to 98 cents to every payment. Also called High Penny or Penny Pumping.

PAYMENT PACKING: where the sales person quotes a higher than necessary monthly payment number to the buyer in order to overcome objections when the finance sales person jacks up the payment even more because they are adding into the deal, with or without the buyer knowing it, soft add on products like Etch or extended warranties, etc. For example, the sales person knows that the normal monthly payment amount might be $275 but they deliberately tell the buyer that it will be $325 so that there is $50 of room for the finance sales person to pack the deal with added-cost soft add on products. A more deceptive way of payment packing is to get the buyer to agree on a monthly payment number without the buyer knowing the loan length. That way the finance sales person can create more profit in the deal by simply upping the loan length without the buyer even realizing that the overall cost to the buyer is higher than it otherwise would be.

SEALING THE CUSTOMER: Means the customer sales paperwork has been signed and put in an envelope which was licked and sealed and put in their hand, usually with the dealer sales person telling them that the envelope contains important sales papers that the customer should take home and put in a safe place. If the dealer has packed the deal with soft add on products that the buyer does not know about, doing this detracts from the fraud since it discourages the buyer from looking at the numbers to make sure they are what the sales person said they would be. If the dealer staples the envelope, it may mean that the dealer is definitely trying to hide something printed on the sales papers by making it more difficult for the papers to be removed without tearing them, usually right in the spot where the false number is typed.

SOFT ADD ON: This refers to the items sold by the F&I Manager which increase the overall vehicle transaction price to the consumer but add no hard value to the goods being sold, which is why they are called soft add on items. They typically include such things as service contracts, Etch, disability insurance, wheel protectant, Gap insurance, etc. Many times these additional items are preprinted on the sales and financing forms. This is where most dealers make their biggest profit margins in a deal.

YO YO DEAL: This is when all phases of the purchase and delivery are completed the same day and a few days or so later the dealer calls the customer back and claims they have to sign a new finance contract or put more money down or that the lender requires the buyer to get a service contract or extended warranty in order to get loan approval, etc. It may or may not be true. It sometimes is used by a dealer to strong arm the buyer into buying more soft add on products in the deal. Sometimes this is also called a Spot Delivery.


Of course most of the time the customer is not privy to these conversations among dealership employees, but given how personally the dealerships took that Edmund’s Ad that criticized haggling, it’s no wonder many stealerships want to keep you in the dark.

While there are plenty of dealerships that don’t play these games, and I’ve worked with many of them, you can’t be too careful. Here are some quick tips to reduce the risk of you being “sealed.”


-Always get your quotes in writing.

-Read all your paperwork carefully and make sure the numbers match with your quote.


- Bring a calculator and do the math.

-Question charges that don’t seem right.

- Be prepared to walk away.

If you have a question, a tip, or something you would like to to share about car-buying, drop me a line at and be sure to include your Kinja handle.


This story was originally published on October 30, 2014