Quirky Phrases You May Hear at a Car Dealership

When visiting a car dealer, you might hear the salesmen say a lot of things that you don’t totally get. Over the years, car salesmen have developed their own car sales lingo based on their experience with selling cars and interacting with customers. Not all phrases are things that pertain to customers. A car that has had problems from the moment the first key hit the ignition is called a “lemon”, or a “Friday Afternoon” car, but that is something more commonly said between a salesman and a service person.

Here are some of the top commonly used phrases you may hear at a car dealership!

Appointment – A customer who has made a phone or email commitment to meet at a certain time.

Back Door Trade – A trade that is not presented until the customer has already negotiated the best possible price for the car they are purchasing.

Be Back Prospect –  A potential customer who says they will “be back” to buy a car. Often this is because they want to consult their spouse, or they say they have an appointment.

Cancer – A common term for rust on a car

Closing – The last part of a car deal. When a customer is closing, they are completing the last paperwork to buy a car.

Demo Car – A new car that has been used for test drives, and has often been driven by a manager or dealer. Demo cars will have some miles on the odometer, but still have a new car feel.

F&I – The Finance and Insurance office. This is where all the financial documents are signed. F&I will usually offer to sell alarms, extended warranties, or fabric protection.

Four-square – A worksheet that is divided into four squares that are the four parts of a car deal: selling price, trade-in value, monthly payment and down payment.

Hat Trick – Stolen from the hockey league, a hat trick is when a car salesman sells three cars in a day.

House – A nickname for the actual dealership.

Ivory Tower – Taken from the days when the big boss’s office sat above the sales floor, the Ivory Tower is the General Manager’s Office.

Showrooming/Tire kicking – Going from lot to lot to find the best deal.

Tricked-Out – A car that has aftermarket parts or has been modified to make it look and/or perform different from its original condition.

Upside down/Flipped/Negative Equity – When the amount owed on a vehicle is less than the value of the car. A buyer that owes $5000 on a car that is worth $1300 is “upside down”

Walk-In – A customer who comes through the door without an appointment.

Knowing the quirky jargon on a car lot can help you understand exactly what you are getting (or just be entertaining), and help the sales associate get you in the car that you want. Of course, there are many other car sales terms that are used, some of them are funny, and some just downright technical, but these phrases are the ones you're most likely to hear.


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