You're talking to a salesperson.
Remember, salespeople can have any title on their business card. They're in sales, they're the managers, and they're "the finance guy." Basically, every one you meet during your visit to a dealership is measured by the number of cars they can move. Each one of them is trained first and foremost to get you to spend more money, not less. Helping you is not their concern. In fact, helping you would directly contradict their primary goal.
They hesitate to share all their numbers.
You have a right to know everything about any deal proposed to you. This includes the interest rate, residual value, trade-in value, down payment, upfront payment, purchase option fee, disposition fee, TT&L and any other hidden fees. If you're discussing a lease, ask about "cap cost" and "money factor." These are industry terms they don't want you to know about, because if you did, you could find out their math doesn't add up.
They ask you for credit information before you've found your car.
They don't need any financial information to provide good service. Running your credit early means they're trying to determine if you're "worth their time."
They ask what your current monthly payment is.
How much you pay for your current car has no bearing on the value of your next car. Don't tell them. They just want to know where your comfort zone is, so they can figure out how to get the most out of you.
They don't adequately explain industry jargon and fine print.
The car business has a lot of lingo that doesn't make sense to consumers. If you insist on shopping at a sales-oriented organization, rather than a service-oriented one, you will need to force them to explain each and every vague or misleading term. Be skeptical. If they don't explain anything adequately, ask them to do it again until you're confident you've got the whole story. Also, fine print is small for a reason. They'd prefer you didn't read or understand it.
They don't offer their best price upfront.
You shouldn't need to struggle with them or convince them to work with you. They should want to help you. Unless a car is exceedingly rare, sticker price is never acceptable. By opening with the sticker price, they're banking on the idea that you're a sucker. Don't be a sucker.
You feel pressure about any decision.
Getting a new car should be exciting and fun, not belabored and stressful. If you become uncomfortable at any point, get up, walk out and take your business elsewhere. There are plenty of places to get a new car. A few of them actually do it right.
They charge a lot of fees at the end of your term.
Many lease agreements charge around $0.18/mile for every mile you exceed the agreed-upon limit. That's too high. You can find a better deal. Also, demand a lease without a "return" or "disposition" fee or a purchase option fee. Good leases are out there. Don't settle until you find one.
You're getting your car at fleet prices.
There's nothing wrong with getting a car at fleet prices, but these lower prices often are subject to excessive title and license fees. To protect yourself, be sure to ask for a buyers order and if you're working with a leasing company make sure it comes from the dealer that has the car. That way, you can check the numbers before any markup.
They steer you toward a long-term, low-mileage agreement.
This is the oldest trick in the book. They're trying to get you to commit to a car you probably can't afford by lowering the monthly payment. If you want to change cars before the agreement is over, you'll probably find yourself "upside-down." In spite of their promise to "get it done" when you're ready to trade out, you'll likely find yourself stuck in hole that you can't get out of. It's a similar story with short-mileage allowances. They'll bring down the monthly payment, but you could very likely owe a mountain of fees at the end of your term.
You feel something is too good to be true.
Either you're the one person in history that lucked into a great deal at a typical dealership, or there's a catch somewhere. Getting a good deal from a run-of-the-mill auto provider requires a lot of hard work and knowledge of the process. When you get a good deal, you'll feel it because you had to fight for it.
The numbers of your deal change from the time you come to agreement and the time to sign the paperwork.
Something's up. Especially if the dealer isn't able to give a valid reason.
They won't tell you the amount you're getting for your trade.
The car you're currently driving is YOUR car. As a courtesy alone, they should tell you how much they'll give you for it. Of course, it's more than a courtesy, as your trade-in value is one more place they can fudge numbers. Don't let them get away with it.
They don't volunteer the actual price of the vehicle.
Many dealers want you to focus on the total amount financed or the monthly payments. They'd rather you didn't question the math behind the deal or any fees they might be hiding.
You don't know what you don't know.
See if there's a hidden story behind the vehicle. If you're shopping used, insist on a CARFAX report. If it's new, make certain the vehicle wasn't previously titled.
You don't get simple, straightforward answers.
This one seems obvious but it's not.
You feel pressured to take a car that's on the lot, instead of the one you really want.
Given a few days or weeks, it's possible to find virtually any car, with any options package you're looking for. If you're going to live with this car for years, be sure to get the one you'll be happy with.