14 Pros and Cons of Being a Car Salesman

If you enjoy working with people, love explaining the features and benefits of each car, prefer freedom from a desk, and understand how and when to ask for a sale, then car sales may be the right profession for you.

However, the job has benefits and drawbacks that you must consider before investing yourself in a sales career.

The pros — working with people, spending at least half your day outdoors, and not needing a college degree to qualify for the position — and the cons — doubtful job security, the necessity of always being “on,” and the trend away from in-person auto shopping requires careful consideration.

Pros of Being a Car Salesman

1. Student Loan Debt

With student loan debt still a key topic, becoming a car sales professional will help you avoid the albatross of those high student loan balances.

If you finished college but have not yet found the correct position in your field, car sales provide you with a living while allowing you to pay down that crushing student loan burden.

At the very least, your weekly draw will provide your minimum payment.

2. No College Degree Required

If you recently graduated from high school and prefer to avoid student debt altogether, a car sales career does not require a college degree.

You will, however, attend numerous hours of training in sales techniques, product knowledge, and industry best practices.

As a further benefit, this training typically occurs on company time, at company expense.

So whether you stay, move to another dealership, or switch careers, you will obtain a thorough education in the sales process, product knowledge, and closing techniques that will transfer to other customer-facing professions.

3. You Control Your Income

Because auto sales professionals make a base salary or draw plus commissions, bonuses, spiffs, and perks, you can increase your pay through your efforts rather than waiting for a raise.

Learn which vehicles have bonuses attached, and focus on selling them first.

The car that has been on the lot longest, for example, often provides a hefty premium.

Not waiting until a predetermined date to receive a raise means your annual income increases faster.

4. Working Indoors and Outdoors

Instead of being tied to a desk in a cramped cubicle all day, car sales personnel spend at least a third to half their day “on the lot.”

Walking the lot provides great exercise while allowing you to check available inventory.

Knowing where to find the popular vehicles helps you sell more cars in less time.

In adverse weather conditions, spending time making calls or watching sales training seminars allows you to avoid extreme heat or cold and stay dry.

5. Spending Time With People

According to the 2020 Cox Automotive Car Buyer Journey survey, you will spend nearly three hours, on average, with each buyer.

During that time, you will establish trust, provide knowledge the buyer did not find online or at other auto dealers, and close the sale.

Although you will not spend all three hours face to face, you will have ample time to find common ground and forge a bond that will lead to referrals, repeat sales, and service calls.

In addition, auto sales allow extroverts plenty of time to engage in conversation and establish friendships with customers.

6. Employee Discounts

As an employee, you obtain inside knowledge of the costs of various features on each vehicle.

As a result, you can strike a better deal because you know which features come standard and constitute upgrades by forgoing add-ons such as top-of-the-line rims or sound equipment.

In addition, the ability to have your payments automatically deducted from your paycheck could save you hundreds per year in late fees.

7. Autonomy

Working in auto sales provides a great deal of freedom from micromanagement.

Since you spend so much time on the lot, ensuring that the vehicles stay clean and ready to drive, managers have less time to stand over your shoulder.

Following the sales process mandated by your dealership keeps you busy.

Your ability to ask for the sale at the correct point in that process prevents you from spending too much time showing the car versus helping the customer take home their chosen vehicle.

Cons of Being a Car Salesman

1. Reduced Job Security

Car sales increase between December and May and decrease between June and November.

During that slow period, car dealerships fire or lay off sales staff who sell fewer than 11 cars per month to save money.

Since other dealerships typically suffer the same seasonal dips in sales, getting hired at another dealership usually cannot happen.

Weeks spent jobless and hunting will eat through any accrued savings from more prosperous times.

2. Meeting Benchmarks

Most dealerships fire you for not selling your vehicle quota.

Dealers prefer sales staff who sell 15 or more cars per month and cannot afford to carry sandbaggers, especially between December and May.

On top of sales benchmarks, dealerships expect you to make 100 customer contacts per day, set 10 appointments, and sell at least two vehicles to the customers who show.

Failing to meet benchmarks creates anxiety, affects your believability and customer satisfaction, and erodes your confidence.

Sales managers weed out the weakest sales staff before summer doldrums begin denting sales.

If you cannot sell during the lucrative tax season, you will not make enough sales to equal the cost of keeping you on staff in the lean season. 

3. Commissions, Spiffs, and Draws

Although most sales result in commissions of about 25 percent of the deal, previous draws might eat your entire paycheck or leave you in debt to the dealership.

Draws provide a weekly base pay while you train or during slow times when you do not make enough sales, but they often require repayment.

Moreover, spiffs, or incentives to sell specific vehicles or meet benchmarks, may not provide enough weekly income to avoid taking draws.

Spiffs may provide a decent monetary reward, but some dealerships use a spiff wheel or a game of chance to determine the amount.

In those cases, the spiff could be very high or nothing.

For example, losing an expected spiff in a hand of blackjack could quickly occur.

4. Integrity and Self-Image

Most customers arrive expecting to fight for a fair deal, believing they will hear lies and misdirections thanks to consumer reporting agency news articles.

Consequently, establishing your trustworthiness requires constant effort.

This endless cycle of convincing customers to rely on your advice erodes confidence and exhausts you. 

For those whose job provides their self-image, this perpetual lack of trust may strike the heart of how you see yourself.

When you feel like the villain, the job feels unfulfilling.

That lack of personal gratification eventually leads to burnout.

5. Boredom

Downtime proves tedious.

As a result, you may move vehicles around, put out balloons, and lug the blowers for inflatables into place.

Then, after placing these attention-getting objects, you head indoors to prospect for leads.

Fortunately, good managers will hold morale-boosting meetings or provide inspirational, motivational videos to keep enthusiasm high.

Fortunately, you have power over downtime.

First, work with your leads and take classes to improve your sales skills and product knowledge.

Then, when customers arrive, you have the information they require to make well-informed buying decisions.

6. Obsolescence

Thanks to online shopping, customers spend three times more hours researching online than with the dealership where they buy their chosen vehicle.

Armed with typical pricing for similar cars, customers now grind salespeople down rather than being ground.

In addition, because customers can now have their selection dropped off at their homes, dealerships may close.

Online sales will never end, so making customers feel valued and providing information they cannot find from other sources will be vital to dealership survival.

Acknowledge customer diligence, encourage discussion of the features and benefits of the type of vehicle they have researched, and tie everything to the cars on your lot.

7. Morale Loss Due to Customer Perceptions

In a 2021 Gallup poll, people rated car sales staff as the second-least trustworthy professionals, only surpassed by their lack of trust in lobbyists.

This dynamic of mistrust leads to lackluster sales performance.

It includes a reluctance to approach customers and a detached attitude that customers interpret to confirm the salesperson’s lack of integrity.

Low morale also affects other areas of your life.

For example, you socialize less due to the job’s lack of social standing.

Finally, you may also find the cutthroat work environment too hostile to continue.

Pros and Cons of Being a Car Salesman – Summary Table

Pros of Being a Car SalesmanCons of Being a Car Salesman
Student Loan DebtReduced Job Security
No College Degree RequiredMeeting Benchmarks
You Control Your IncomeCommissions, Spiffs, and Draws
Working Indoors and OutdoorsIntegrity and Self-Image
Spending Time With PeopleBoredom
Employee DiscountsObsolescence
AutonomyMorale Loss Due to Customer Perceptions

Final Thoughts

When weighing the pros and cons of becoming a car salesperson, assign more weight to the items on each side that fit your personality and lifestyle.

Extroverts will find this job more rewarding than introverts, and those who need predictable incomes might do better in a field that does not depend on commissions.

Outdoor types might find the phone bank time tedious, while office staff will discover that the time needed outdoors requires too much physical effort.

Only you know which parts of this job will fulfill your needs.


Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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