Why Are Some Dealers Just Really Bad At Selling Cars?

Illustration for article titled Why Are Some Dealers Just Really Bad At Selling Cars?

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’re talking about salespeople who are bad at selling, why a nice car would not be certified, and test driving cars on Black Friday.


Welcome to an early holiday edition of Quick Car Buying Questions. These usually run on Friday but since most of you will be stuffed with food or out fighting the crowds for holiday shopping, you get your tips early so you can plan ahead.

First up: Why are so many salespeople just terrible at this whole selling cars thing?

I have a question that maybe you can answer: Why do car dealers make it so difficult to work with them? For example, it seems near impossible to get an answer if a certain car is for still available, or the price, or any info on it. Worse yet is when dealers have multiple locations but have no idea which lot has the car, yet they advertise said car on each lot’s website.

Why does it take sales staff forever to find their own inventory when I can navigate straight through their site and find the car?

I know making someone wait is a dominance thing, but it’s just annoying and honestly been a deal breaker for me. What’s up with this?

I speak with hundreds of salespeople every year, and while many of them are excellent at their jobs and provide a great customer experience, I am still amazed at how bad some stores and salespeople are at this process.

A lot of it comes down to the fact that staff turnover in dealerships is staggeringly high. People just don’t last doing that job—it’s got terrible hours, a ton of pressure and you rarely go home feeling good about things. And to make matters worse some dealerships just throw people into the fray with minimal training and hope for the best. Working in car sales is difficult, and unless you do really well, the pay sucks. Thus, finding quality salespeople is a rare event. Usually, the better folks are at your more upscale stores or they are at dealers who understand how to train and treat their people well.

Over the years I have learned not to get frustrated at the man or woman on the phone or behind the computer that doesn’t have it all together. Their skill at selling cars (or lack thereof) usually comes down to the management at that particular store. Some of it comes down to the fact that certain dealers just don’t want to work with informed customers.

Stay calm, stick to your guns, and the right deal will come along.

Next up, why would a low-mile car that should qualify as a certified pre-owned model not be sold as such?

We are trying to purchase a 2017 BMW 230i. We’ve seen the car twice, and test drove it yesterday. Now, the price seems fine to me but my gut is still questioning, why is it not BMW-pre owned certified.

I asked why it wasn’t, and I was told that because it was a lease vehicle, and had such low mileage, it did not require to undergo through BMW-CPO certification. In addition, they said that certification is more likely reserved for models a few years older that are falling out of warranty.

I kept trying to push for that inspection, but was met with, it was not needed, and that if it were done, it would increase the value of the car by several grand.

We’re strongly considering purchasing the vehicle, and they did show us small 20 point inspections that the car cleared. But they said it did not need the other inspection to get certified and I worry that something was found that made it not clear the inspection for BMW pre-owned certification, and they are trying to get around telling us what it is. I wish I could get it down on paper that they said it was not required.


This happens frequently in areas that are especially flush with a lot of lightly used luxury cars. Usually, it isn’t the case that the car isn’t certified because of some glaring flaw, but rather the case that in order to put a market competitive price on this car the dealer opts to sell it without the CPO since that process ads costs and therefore increases the price. It’s possible the dealer paid a little more for it on a trade and therefore their profit margin as a CPO car would be too tight. Since it does have low miles and plenty of warranty left, they are banking on that being good enough for most folks.

Of course, if you are really concerned about the condition of the vehicle, I always recommend getting an independent pre-purchase inspection on any pre-owned car.


And finally: What if you want to do some car browsing on Black Friday weekend but don’t actually buy anything?

I’m in the market for a car but I’m not quite ready to buy. I just want to try a few things out and see what I like. But I don’t want to get dragged into a day-long marathon of negotiating or get blown off because I’m not there to buy. Is it going to be a madhouse this weekend at the dealers? I don’t get a lot of free time to do test drives so this would be a good weekend for me.


I’ve mentioned several times before that car shopping on Black Friday should be avoided. If you are intending on actually buying a car, you want to have all your ducks in a row before you go. However, if you are just there to test drive here are a few tips that should help.

First, make an appointment and make sure they have what you want on the lot to try out. You don’t want to go to the dealer only to find out the model and trim is not available. Second, try to go early in the morning. Most dealers are slow when they first open so it would be easier to take some things out for in a lower pressure environment.


Make sure you tell the dealer what’s up when you arrive. Tell them, “I am not buying today, I am just here to test drive.” You can also say something like ,“I have a meeting in an hour so I need to be out of here by then.” This should dial back the hard pitches and sales tactics to let you just enjoy the car.

A good salesperson will know that if you are happy with your test drive experience you will give them an opportunity to earn your business once you are ready.


Got a car buying conundrum that you need some assistance with? Email me at tom.mcparland@jalopnik.com!

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



Just a quick tip from a long time sales guy, literally none of us fall for the “I have a meeting in an hour” line. We all know it’s a lie, and it’s not going to help you get out of there any quicker because we know we’re being lied to, and just like the consumer, we don’t like being lied to! Just be honest and tell the salesperson that you’re only test driving today and have a long list of cars to see yet. Most pros will be fine with this and as long as their store allows it, will probably just send you on a drive by yourself so that they don’t spend 35 minutes in the backseat of a car when they could be doing something else more productive.