I've already made every imaginable mistake so that you don't have to.

Four Square

Photo Credit: pexels.com Patrick Case

Car Shopping > Four Square >

Four-square is a technique that car dealerships use to encourage potential buyers to focus on payments instead of price of vehicle, trade-in allowance, and interest rate.
The customer will be presented with a piece of paper with a grid composed of squares for trade in and price of the new vehicle on the top half with squares for down payment and monthly payment on the bottom half.
The section in beige in the table below is what the salesperson will try to present to the prospective buyer:

My Commentary
Interest RateNumber Of PaymentsThis Row Won't Actually Be Included!!!
Trade InNew Car PriceDealer Wants You To Ignore This Row!!!
Down PaymentMonthly PaymentDealer Wants You To Focus On This Row!!!
Hat Size?Zodiac Sign?May As Well Add These? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

While yes, trade in and price of the vehicle should in fact be critical elements in the negotiation process, the salesperson will encourage the customer to focus on down payment and monthly payment.
The salesperson may go so far as to fold the worksheet where I have the dotted line such that only the down payment and monthly payment squares are visible.
I argue that when the salesperson folds the paper that he or she should then extend the grid to include squares for the customer's hat size and zodiac sign.
Negotiating based on elements of phrenology and astrology would make about as much sense as negotiating based upon down payment and monthly payment.

Does this sound crazy yet?

Well hang on, it gets crazier!!!
On the grid that the customer is presented with, there may be an intentionally low value for trade-in value, a high dollar number for down payment, and a high number for monthly payment.
If the customer takes issue with the numbers, the salesperson may meet with his or her manager, then come back and adjust the down payment and monthly payment numbers lower, and perhaps even adjust trade-in higher to make the customer feel like he or she "won".

My Takeaway

A customer negotiating with a salesperson using a four-square sheet is almost certainly not winning.
Allowing yourself to be lead through a four-square presentation is akin to turning car buying into a WWE wrestling event.
It is not merely rigged, it is outright choreographed.