I believe I've been had in what seems like one of the most genius negotiating moves I've ever seen.

I went to see this 2016 Nissan Versa S, priced at roughly 10k for 20k miles.

It was exactly where I wanted it, at the mileage that they'd had listed.

I arranged financing through my bank and was ready to pay the sticker price if nothing was wrong with the vehicle.

I got to the dealership, and the car had 25.7k miles on it, a bit more than advertised. As soon as we started the test drive, the sales person (Who of course joined me on the test drive to sell me) very quickly jumped into a conversation about their certified pre-owned program, and that there was a $2000 'Certification' fee they added. It wasn't clear whether this was something factored into the price already, or added on.

Eventually, after I ask, he says this is added onto the price. I let him know, flatly, that I wasn't interested in paying $12k - Near MSRP - for this 2 year old, used car, and that it wasn't worth it. We had some debate on what the vehicles sell for, him trying to tell me that base model versa's (Valued at roughly 12-13k) are selling for about 18k out the door after 'dealer fees' (He went back and forth with me on 'dealer fees', instead of 'doc fees, taxes, title, registration', saying that this was a normal fee and that it's usually tacked onto the online sticker price as it's a 'dealer fee')

Anyways, I get him to back off about $1750 from where he's at, to $10,250. It looks good at that moment, right? He's come down significantly from his position, roughly 15%.

What's getting at me, though, is that this is $250 above the original asking price.

We get back inside, and he drafts a purchase order for me (didn't sign, was running late for an event and said I'd be back tomorrow).

Purchase order has the selling price listed at $10,250, with the normal doc, tax, non-tax fees adding up to roughly $1000.

I'm thinking that this may have just been a tactic for him to sell me this car at above asking. I don't even know if this is something the dealership pushes, or just something very clever that this individual salesperson has invented on his own. I've never heard of a 'certification' fee before.

Anyways, I emailed him this morning to come down to about $9750, which I suppose I'd be alright with. I'm annoyed that it's not lower, given that the thing had more miles on it than expected, and was a fleet vehicle for two years, but it is - according to kbb at least - actually below what the 'fair' price would be buy a couple hundred. So I might be happy with that.

My question is - Is there such thing as a 'certification' fee getting added onto certified-pre-owned cars? I know they'd cost more, but that's supposed to be factored into the sticker price, right?

Update: Found out later that the dealership had an extensive history of negative online reviews where others had experienced similar 'made-up' fees and other similar behavior. Walked away.

  • 2
    Probably opinion-based? Dealerships are sort of known for tacking on extra costs wherever they can, so I wouldn't be surprised if this is just another fee. That being said, I wouldn't call it a scam per se - it's just how car sales work. The only real way to avoid this is to demand everything be included in the sticker price, and be prepared to walk away if he says no.
    – Steve-O
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 14:24
  • 1
    I was buying a car once and the dealership wanted $1,000 extra for the clear bra and floor mats they added to all the cars on the lot because that's "industry practice." Some dealers are shitty.
    – quid
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 18:17

1 Answer 1


I'm thinking that this may have just been a tactic for him to sell me this car at above asking.

You are correct in your thinking. Whatever the dealer can do to jack up the price of a car they do. You did a smart-ish thing, arranged for your own financing. I would have you preferred you pay cash for cars, but it is far better than taking the dealer's financing.

When one takes the dealer's financing, they probably only look at the monthly cost. That 2k, would have translated into a few dollars per month on a typical loan. It seems like a small amount which is why it works a large percentage of the time.

Arranging your own financing allowed you to negotiate a better deal. It allows you to communicate strength as you can take that same financing anywhere. Had you paid cash for a car, you probably could have negotiated even a better deal as it indicates even more strength and more options.

Car dealers will use a wide variety of tricks to make the uninformed to pay more for cars.

  • 6
    Thats what I do. 10k? I have 9 in my pocket - can we get a deal or should I proceed to these other three cars I have in my list for today?
    – Daniel
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 14:33
  • 1
    Car dealers are a bit ridiculous. They try to pretend they are doing you a favor by selling you a car "if you qualify". By doing what you do @Daniel you totally take that power away from them and point out the truth. That truth is there are plenty of cars for sale, and I have the money to buy one.
    – Pete B.
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 14:34
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    @schizoid04: I hope this works out for you, sounds like a loaned high-risk investment to me.
    – Daniel
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 14:57
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    Updated post; I ended up walking away from it. @Steve-O - What's the difference in what you've lost between someone wrecking a car you've paid in full and someone wrecking a car you owe money on? Don't you still lose the difference in value between a (Implied) gap in insurance payout and what you paid on the car?
    – schizoid04
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 17:53
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    @schizoid04 If all you're looking at is costs, there may not be much difference. But imagine if the worst happens, the difference between losing an object which was fully paid for long ago, versus the feeling of owing money and needing to pay now for something which has just become utterly worthless. Especially if you don't have the money now because you spent it on something else, due to those low low monthly payments.
    – Beanluc
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 23:47

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