Ep: 175 – How to Protect Yourself from the Persuasive Tactics of the Car Salesperson


In the market for a car? They have seen you coming and are ready to use sophisticated techniques to persuade you to buy. Be prepared. The video above shows you some of the persuasion techniques used to get you to buy the car THEY want you to buy. Avoid these subtle techniques and buy the car YOU want.

How Cialdini’s Persuasion Techniques are used in Car Sales

  • Cialdini’s book Influence: Science and Practice (5th Edition) is a classic. A must have for people interested in psychology.
  • Authority: posters and awards from well known car testing companies are attempts to persuade you to buy because we all tend to trust experts.
  • Liking: we like to buy things from people we know, so the sales person will try to be as likable as possible – telling jokes, smiling, sharing stories – appearing to be similar to you. We feel more comfortable buying from people we know and like.
  • Scarcity: people are very “risk averse“: we hate to see something good slip away. Salespeople will tell you that “these cars are selling like crazy” or that they “may not have a car like this one again for a while”, or that the deal they are making you now they won’t be able to make if you come back later or the next day. Some cars do sell like crazy, but don’t be swayed by an attempt to get you to make a decision out of fear of loss.
  • Social Proof: we are strongly influenced by what other people who are similar to us are buying. Salespeople will tell you that people like you love the car, or simply that is a very, very popular car.
  • Reciprocity: if someone gives us something, we feel compelled to give them something in return (think holiday gift giving). Car sales: the salesperson is ready to give you matts, mud flaps, etc., but will hold these back if it looks like you’re not interested in buying. They they will “throw them in” as a way of making it appear that they are being really nice and “giving” you something. You feel compelled to return the favor and buy the car. Sales folk will also “think carefully” and may decide to “give” you more for your trade-in or lower the price of the new car as a “favor” to you. Believe me: they were already planning to do this if it seemed necessary. They are doing you no favor. Don’t fall for it.

  • Commitment (or Consistency): if it is clear that you are not going to decide to buy the car right then and there, a salesperson may tell you that they can “hold the deal” until a certain day/time if you write a check for X amount of money. This is an attempt to get you to buy because we all feel a certain pressure to be consistent with ourselves. It’s a foot in the door kind of technique: if I can get you to make a small commitment then you are more likely to follow through and make a larger one later on. Beware.
  • Anchoring (not Cialdini but a good persuasion tactic): salespeople will often show you cars that are way above your price range and then show you cars that are only slightly above your price range. Now those cars that are slightly above your price range don’t sound so expensive anymore. Be very careful about telling the salesperson how much you want to spend. They will quickly use that information (or really any personal information about you) to their advantage.


  1. Stephanie says:

    Really enjoyed this podcast – I remember the ‘anchoring’ technique (starting at the top end of the price range) has been used on me before!

    Not sure about the new music though – preferred the old tunes you’ve used

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