Free Guide to Car Dealer Terminology & Slang

There is a reason why most dealerships have a bad name or reputation, and most of it has to do with how they perceive their customers. Dealerships love customers who pay retail price for their car, and hate the ones who pay thousands under invoice (that’s you). Granted, they are very good at withholding this negative emotion towards customers, but nonetheless the following slang still exists:

A Quarterback / Maven: a person other than the buyer who starts negotiating the deal, often a friend, relative, significant other or “someone in the business.” Car salespeople hate this.

An Up: a customer who walks on the car lot.

Holdback: money the dealer receives from the manufacturer once the car sells (typically between 1-3% of either the MSRP or invoice price of a new vehicle). Helpful holdback guide from Edmunds.

A Be-back: a customer who leaves without buying, and comes back at a later date.

A Laydown / Real Buyer: a customer who buys at whatever price the salesperson quotes.

a Buy-Down Rate: when a dealer charges the customer to buy the rate down to 0%. You need to be aware of this when the dealer is advertising 0% APR, and the manufacturer is offering a higher rate.

A Get-Me-Done: a customer with borderline credit at best, willing to take almost any vehicle at any terms just to get financed.
The Bump: when the Sales Manager sends the salesperson back out to get a higher price.

A Rat / roach: a credit challenged customer, typically under 600 credit score.

Gold Plated: 750+ credit score.

A rock / solid: 700+ credit score.

A Lowball: an unrealistically low price that the salesperson gives the customer before they leave to shop price at another dealer. A lowball can also be when the salesperson give the customer less money for their trade than it’s worth.

Upside Down: when a person owes more money on their trade-in then the vehicle is actually worth.

Negative Equity: the negative amount on a customer’s car loan after computing the trade-in value minus the payoff (happens quite frequently, read this article on “the real reason you’re broke“).

Positive Equity: when a trade-in is worth more than the payoff amount (more rare).

Croak and Choke: when the Finance Manager sells Credit Life Insurance and Disability Insurance on the car loan.

Spot Deliver / Brick: the dealership wanting the customer to take the car now, often times having the customer sign bank papers before the loan is officially approved.

Buyers are Liars: how car salespeople are taught to think about customers.

The T.O.: when one salesperson can’t close the deal he/she will T.O. (turn you over) to a manager or closer; this process may repeat until the customer either buys or walks out of the dealership.

A Packed / Loaded Payment: getting customers to purchase additional products (credit insurance, service contracts, chemical protectants, security devices) without revealing the true impact on their monthly payments.

Packing: when a customer finances their vehicle through the dealer and agrees to a purchase the car at a higher monthly payment than what is needed to cover the price of the vehicle. This creates a “pack” or room in the payment so the dealer can add extra services/products, typically without the customer knowing he/she is actually paying more for the products.

Buyers Remorse / Coming Out of the Ether: when a car buyer starts having second thoughts about the car purchase (customer begins wondering if they got ripped-off, did they do the right thing, can they really afford the payments, etc.)

A Today Buyer / Hot to Trot:  when a customer is prepared to purchase a vehicle the same day they enter the dealership

ACV: stands for Actual Cash Value, which is what dealers use when referring to the amount of money they are actually putting in a trade. This number is often different than the number communicated with the customer (a salesperson is paid by holding back money on a customer’s trade-in). Customers are often led to believe (e.g. lied to) that they are getting more for their trade than what the ACV is.

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