Why Does The Dealer Want Me To Agree To A Price Before A Test Drive?

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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 shady test drive procedures, delivery miles that were more than promised and treating yourself—to a reasonable car.


First, why would a dealer make a buyer agree to a price prior to a test drive?

“I recently tried to buy a Nissan Leaf and the local dealer only had one available and told us we had to sign a paper agreeing to the price before we were permitted to drive it. We declined that offer and they said, we could only look at it. Why would a dealer do this?”

It never ceases to amaze me how some dealers, who supposedly aim to sell cars, make it so difficult to actually sell a car. Usually, the “agree to numbers” tactic or “submit a credit application prior to a test drive” thing is put in place for in-demand sports cars that appeal to younger people, like a Honda Civic Type R. These “policies” act as a filter for buyers who have a need for speed but not much money in the bank. These dealers want to avoid joyrides, and while it’s not exactly fair, I kind of understand it.

But you want to drive a Nissan Leaf, not a Mclaren 720S. The compact EV is a fairly affordable and common car. Honestly, I don’t really know why a Nissan dealer would put that policy on a Leaf, but I suspect that they know their price isn’t competitive with the other stores and they want to “force” you to agree to their price. You made the right decision to turn down their offer, and you should never sign any agreement prior to a test drive.

I would suggest finding another local dealer and making an appointment for a test drive. It may not be a bad idea to request a salesperson who specializes in the Nissan Leaf so you get someone who is a bit more knowledgeable about that product.

Next up, what if the dealer says the car will have a certain amount of miles on it but it ends up being more?

“I’m looking to buy a new car from “X” dealership. They are getting the new car from “Y” dealership. “X” dealership told me and written down on a contract as 150 to be the approximate mileage of what it will be. If the mileage ends up being let’s say 300. Do I have any bargaining chips to add a small accessory, get a couple of dollars off, etc or is it take it or leave it? I know the mileage difference is not a lot, but the principle of what they promised.”


If the car arrives with more miles than promised you have nothing to lose by asking for some additional discount, or for them to throw in something like free oil changes. The service coupons are pretty easy for a dealer to offer.

I will say that regardless of the number of miles on a car, and even if it’s fresh off the truck, look it over for any cosmetic damage like major scratches or dings. Sometimes mistakes happen and brand new cars get damaged. If you see something this should be addressed and something needs to be put in writing before you sign your sales contract.


Finally, is it really foolish to trade it a perfectly fine car for something that is a bit more fun?

“I am currently driving 2015 Honda CRV...it’’s ok but boring..I so want a jeep wrangler Sahara for one time my life while I can still drive...ha..is this a foolish choice?”


On the one hand, the best financial advice is to keep what you have for as long as possible. On the other hand, you only live once and something like a Jeep Wrangler isn’t an overly ridiculous purchase. I say if the Wrangler works for your budget, get your Jeep and enjoy it. The smart move is to still drive that Honda until it falls apart.

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



“ On the other hand, you only live once and something like a Jeep Wrangler isn’t an overly ridiculous purchase.”

I struggle with this so, so much. I mean, it’s very probably I’ll have to drive a junior around within 3 years, and then I’ll be stuck with car seats for the next like 10 years or whatever. Why not drive something coupey for now.

On the other hand, I like debt free. Anyway, wranglers kind of do go for ridiculous money for the year. I don’t drive a wrangler, but the jump from crv to similarly priced wrangler sounds like a big change in maintenance.