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Buying a Car: Is a Deal Really Available “Today Only”?

If you’re interested in buying a car, you may have dealt with a salesperson who told you that a certain price or a special deal was available “today only.” So is it true? If you came back tomorrow, would the dealership really not give you the same deal as they would if you bought the car today? We have the answer.

Why Today Only?

Before we get into the accuracy of the “today only” statement, it’s important to understand why dealerships make these kinds of high-pressure offers. One reason is that they don’t want you to take a long time to make your decision, since you may ultimately talk yourself out of it. If you sign the papers “today only,” the deal is done and you won’t be able to back out after you spend more time thinking about it.

While that’s a classic sales technique, there are other reasons for the “today only” tactic, and they’re not as high-pressure or forceful as you might think. One relates to manufacturer incentives, while the other has to do with dealership sales targets. We’ll look at both.

Manufacturer Incentives

One reason a salesperson might tell you that a particular deal is available “today only” is that an automaker’s incentive expires on that particular day. If that’s true, it’s a perfectly logical reason to suggest that a shopper should sign the papers today rather than wait until later.

In this case, an incentive is a special deal — usually a cash-back offer, a low lease payment or a better-than-average interest rate — provided by an automaker to help persuade shoppers to buy a certain vehicle. But incentives aren’t offered for months at a time. They’re usually only good for one month, and dealers rarely know if the same offer will be available the following month. As a result, a salesperson who knows that manufacturer incentives are about to expire might advise a customer to act now in order to take advantage of a good deal.

Last Day of the Month?

Like any business, car dealerships have to meet certain quotas and goals, meaning they’ll be more willing to offer excellent deals when it might help them hit a certain target. For instance, say you visit a car dealership in May and the dealer is trying to sell 50 new cars that month. If you walk in on May 31 and the dealer has sold 49 new cars that month, then they might be willing to offer you a great deal in order to reach their number.

If you walk in on June 1, however, when the dealer is no longer under as much pressure to reach a sales goal, they might not be so willing to offer such a great deal. In that case, it’s likely that the dealer was being honest about the deal being good for one day only. Of course, you might have to take the dealership’s word for it, since it’s hard to know what their goals and targets are.

When It’s Not Today Only

While expiring manufacturer incentives and month-end sales targets are certainly good reasons why a deal might be “today only,” it’s also possible that a dealer is just telling you that to get you to sign the papers. Our suggestion: No matter the reason, don’t feel pressured when buying a car. Yes, you may get a better deal today, but you’ll have to live with this purchase for a long time. As a result, you’ll want to be sure that you’ve taken as much time as possible to make the right choice, even if it means losing out on a few dollars per month.

Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More

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