Car Buying Articles

Confessions of an Auto Finance Manager

A Former F&I Guy Explains How He Did


Confessions

Introduction

"Congratulations, you're getting a great deal!" the car salesman says, pumping your hand. "Let's sign the paperwork and you'll be on your way in your new car!"

At first you're relieved. The negotiating is over. But then the salesman walks you down a hallway to an office with "Finance and Insurance" on the door. Inside, the finance manager greets you and begins to review the sales contract. An hour later you walk out in a daze: You've bought several new items and had them added to the contract. Now your monthly payment has increased.

What just happened? Are you still getting a great deal?

This three-part story, told by veteran auto finance manager Nick James to Edmunds.com Senior Consumer Advice Editor Philip Reed, teaches you how to safely navigate this crucial part of the car-buying process.

Part 1: From Selling Used Cars to Becoming a Finance Manager

Believe me, I never set out to be an automotive finance manager. I was just looking for a good job that paid decent money so I could finish my education. But thanks to a few unexpected twists I wound up being a used car salesman for two months and then became a finance and insurance manager: the F&I guy. I did that job for six years.

In that time, I made serious money while closing hundreds of new and used car sales and leases. I sat across the desk from countless people as they nervously signed the contract on their cars. I advised them on which loans to take and persuaded them to buy extended warranties and other extras. I also peered into their finances — their salaries and, yes, their foreclosures and repossessions too. In fact, I probably knew more about my customers after 15 minutes than their friends knew about them in a lifetime.

During my time on the job, I never knowingly lied to my customers or cheated them. But I can't always say the same for the other people I worked with. There was this one guy they called the "Shredder," who took a couple's trade-in as a down payment on a lease. He said he was giving them an $8,000 credit for their trade-in but really only gave them $2,000. At that Saturday's sales meeting, they treated the Shredder like a hero for making so much money. But I remember thinking, "This isn't right; he just stole $6,000 from those people."

The lesson for you, as a car buyer, is simple: If you don't know what to watch out for and you run into someone like the Shredder, you can lose your shirt. If you have a complicated deal with a trade-in, manufacturer financing and extra products, there are thousands of dollars at stake. But if you have a little bit of knowledge and some preparation, an unscrupulous auto finance manager won't be able to hurt you.

The Guys in the Nice Suits
Before going to grad school, I decided to get a part-time job: anything that would give me the maximum amount of money for the minimum amount of time. I got a job selling used cars. It took me a few days to finish my training, a lot of which was about isolating objections. If a customer said, "It's too expensive," I would say, "OK. But other than the price, is there any other reason you don't want to buy it?" This approach worked really well on the car lot.

After I'd been selling cars for awhile, I became aware that right after I sold a car, my customers disappeared into the finance and insurance offices. I began to wonder what went on in the finance offices in the back hallway of our dealership. The F&I guys looked like banker types to me, since they always wore nice suits. Obviously, they made a lot of money because my commission slips clearly stated how much their slice of the pie was. One deal I saw had a $1,200 commission on it. That's a lot of money for a half hour of signing papers.

After only two months of selling cars I heard about a position in the F&I office of another dealership nearby. I applied and got the job. My first thought was that now I'd find out what goes on in the F&I room, and how auto finance managers make so much money.

Next: Part 2: Tricks of the Trade

Comments

  • atiaga0903 atiaga0903 Posts:

    good article. i do disagree with him saying not to buy extended warranties. a warranty is a good idea expecially if your on a budget and 5 years down the road you have a $3,000 car bill. but, as he said, do not take the first offer for the warranty. make an offer for the warranty, it shows the f&i guy that you would consider buying it but not at retail. a fixed budget at $420 a month car payment with a warranty than a invariable budget of $410 a month car payment with no warranty. : )

  • tel703 tel703 Posts:

    As with any industry, there is good and there is bad. Ours is no different however I do believe, regardless of the type of industry, the majority of company's in business today are conscientious, straight forward and honest in their dealings with their customers. To act in any other fashion is not only wrong; it is a recipe for failure. Some of the points raised by the author of this article imply his employers were unfortunately those in the minority. Case in point: • employing convicted felons • allowing finance departments to operate with no internal profit caps • improper disclosures As for his 10 items of advice on things not to do: • #3 Don't buy the service contract - I disagree. For some customers a service contract can and often is a life saver. Factory coverage will expire based on which ever occurs first; the years or the mileage. The average customer in our market drives 18,000 to 20,000 miles per year which means their 3 year 36,000 mile factory warranty expires in two years or less. In addition, the longer term power train warranties while good are limited in coverage. • I agree customers should do their homework regarding financing however there is nothing unethical about charging a fee in the form of a rate markup for securing and processing loan arrangements for a consumer. In fact in our market, it is rare that a customer can obtain a lower rate than we are able to offer them even after a rate is marked up. And rate markups cannot be excessive as they are regulated by the individual lender. • GAP insurance is just as valuable on a retail contract as it is a lease contract based on the amount of equity going into the deal In conclusion, I agree completely with the statement, "When the F&I process is done right, and the customer is informed, it works."

  • felisaj felisaj Posts:

    consumers need tobe informed. my second car purcahase, after reading several articles i realized i made several mistakes and now im armed with infromation. if you go to car buying tips.com there is a wealth of information espically about warranties and where to purchase them cheaper and what they cover. knowledge is power

  • doc83 doc83 Posts:

    how about we saved the customer , the future bill on repairs . or gap insurance to proctect you if yoour car is in wreck pays the differnce that your ins company wont pay. not to mention death ,but credit life ,you buy from us finance guys . my office is up front by the way . covers you if you die or sick pays car off. so your loved ones left behind dont have to worry doc Scott petricone morgan auto group

  • This is the inside scoop from an auto dealer's Finance Manager on how they make profit on the deal - great to know.

  • rbdeli61 rbdeli61 Posts:

    I've helped a lot of people with car financing by changing their philosophy. We are pretty much leasing our time here on earth, so to me, it makes no sense to finance an entire car. We will always need to depend on a vehicle that gets us from point a to point b.. Leasing a car means no repairs and driving a reliable car at a lower payment than with buying one. Monthly Car Lease

  • alansmith alansmith Posts:

    I am an "F&I" manager of some 28 years and I have met a range of people who do this job. However, I find that the tenet "those that can do, and those that can't teach" has a fundamental flaw - It excludes those that have a fundamental character, or morality, deficiency that enables them to see, and indulge, the obvious opportunity to fleece the unsuspecting client. This is a short term philosophy that means that long term business managers are few and far between - but those that stay the course, and don't "do the expose for cheap returns" - are a valuable member of a successful sales team, and close more deals than the whole team combined - I despise your synopsis and your weak analysis, and find it unsurprising that you post under a pseudonym - sad sad sad

  • johnnyfi johnnyfi Posts:

    I'm a Finance Manager, F&I... Whatever you want to call us. I prefer Business Manager... I am here to say a couple of things, it is articles like this that ruin the car business. As a young man in my mid 20's working behind the desk its hard enough having to deal with people thinking they are getting "hammered", "beaten" or "robbed"... WE DO NOT ROB YOU. Everyone makes a profit, if you weren't sitting in front of me then that means you wouldn't be making a profit at your job or your employer wasnt and therefor you couldnt get paid! Stop baggering us there may be some bad guys out there but for the most part we are just trying to make a living just like you, with families! Here is a true story just three weeks ago I was sitting with a customer and I was trying to sell my products, he inquired about Tire and Wheel so I began to pitch a bit harder... He felt the price of 695 was too high for him! He also said how its a crock. Well needless to say he now has to pay for a blown tire and curb damage on his vehicle guess what his bill is??? Well over $1000, he begged me for the protection so I sold it to him today... We are all not bad and if we didnt believe in the products we were selling we wouldnt sell them point blank! Stop spending 7-10 dollars on a cup of starbucks a day bc guess what YOU'RE GETTING ROBBED! Welcome to how the media mis construes with your way of thinking. Sincerley, "Your Business Manager"

  • tommydoug tommydoug Posts:

    Great article and very true, what I know and see most dealers are crooks. You hardly find an honest decent dealer out there. Their sale tactics are BAIT and SWITCH. Every price quote must in writing email or fax, NO VERBAL quote since those crook dealers can change their deals or words once you bite the BAIT. Don't ever fall in their traps, just say NO for everything they try to sell unless it really needed that's why I did on my first NEW CAR purchased in 2001. Didn't buy a thing of they trying to sell beside the car. After nearly 12 years my car Honda Accord still running strong without any problem since then. NO or NEVER NEVER TRADE in your car, otherwise you would loose a lot of money. One important thing, never believed in online reviews 100% if you see all good reviews. It's too good to be TRUE, YES it is. Just beware of those crook dealers out there!

  • nhundan nhundan Posts:

    I think this guy is an absolute joke. It's amazing that he pats himself on the back like he's some saint. Schemers are always the most delusional. He has "no regrets" but feels funny about "all the mistakes his customers make." Are you kidding me? He never felt compelled to "fix" those mistakes, did he? After all, his job was to make as much money as possible for himself. Who do you serve, Nick James? God or Mammon?

  • There is no such thing as a good F&I manager. They are only there to make additional profit for the dealer because their profit margins on auto sales are low. Do your homework and secure your financing before heading out to buy. Then, once you make the deal with the sales person, tell the F&I guy that financing has already been secured and that you are NOT interested in his scum products and services. Less to the dealer and more in your pocket is always a good thing.

  • dkramone86 dkramone86 Posts:

    See, I find it kind of messed up that just cause so and so is retired he feels the need to bash the rest of us. When I used to work for big domestic dealers as a salesmen you always get people who want to piss on you. Here's some better advice, buyers are liers. You can do yourself a favor and treat your salesman with respect cause in the end I have the ultimate power and if you show respect you will get it in return. Treat me like I'm beneath you and ill be the one laughing in the end just to spite you by ripping your face off cause you are an [non-permissible content removed]. As far as finance goes most of these guys are right, I can't tell you how many times a month I got called from insurance companies asking me what a car was worth someone just totalled. You just might be that guy who owes 10k on a vehicle that's only worth 3k now and when you total it guess what? You now owe 7k on a vehicle that you don't have and when you get your next one you now get to add 7000 on the bottom line. Instead of adding that few dollars a month for piece of mind you now get to pay an extra 150 a month for the next 5 year's unless you are the above described jackoff then its going to be an extra $200. Point is finance is there to help you protect your investment and if you feel otherwise then take your chances but know the facts. Karma.

  • car_guy88 car_guy88 Posts:

    There are way too many generalizations. Not only that, but how many customers come in "informed" and offer $3,000 less than invoice on a vehicle? A lot. Fact is, the finance officer/manager isn't there to steal from people. If you have a crooked person in a dealership where those kinds of practices are greeted with a slap on the back rather than a threat of losing their job if they threaten the reputation of dealership again, then that is unfortunate. This day in age with all of the technology, it is not common practice to "steal" from customers by selling products with huge markups. If making a profit is a crime though, don't buy anything.......ever. I am warning all of the consumers that ALL businesses make a profit!!! Even Wal-Mart. This guy is either trying to get right with "God" or trying to get better sleep at night because he is probably the guy that "stole" $6,000 from the couple mentioned in his story. What a joker.

  • gopats77 gopats77 Posts:

    I have a good idea.....why doesn't everyone just pay cash and none of this would even matter? Obviously because everyone CAN'T and dealership F&I is not only vital to the dealership nut NECESSARY to the consumer. I don't see how getting a $35,000.00 loan in an hour is "annoying" or "time consuming", but I guess whoever wrote this worked in a dealership and had the "inside scoop" so they must be right.

  • andy682 andy682 Posts:

    This is a terrible and totally misleading article. I am a finance manager at a high volume store. Telling people not to purchase extended warranties is not only reckless by you but by edmunds.com for publishing it. Are you going to pay for the repairs once their bumper to bumper is done with? What about used cars? What do you know about peoples driving habits, maybe they will put 36k miles a year in 2 years like I do. Sounds to me like you my friend and the place you worked at where scumbags, not every place is like this. $8,000 in back end? I almost peed myself from lughing when I saw this..what bank is going to buy 8k in back end. Hell I can sell every product I have and not make 8k in back end. You were just a rookie and it probably wasn't costed out. My warranty company paid out over 140k in claims last month to my dealer alone. What about GAP insurance? Are you going to suggest not to purchase that as well? Everything in this article is a misrepresentation and gives buyers a worse impression of my industry. With all the information out there, the majority of my customers are well informed. If you are buying a 30k car, why wouldn't you spend an extra 2k to protect it...be kinda stupid not to. Even if you buy these products, you don't want to use them...that means something bad happened. Do you have life insurance? Do you wish to use it? Didn't think so...What about medical insurance? Want to use that? NO! Means you got sick or hurt. Same thing with an extended warranty and GAP protection. You don't want to use the product because that means something bad happened...its called peace of mind. I'm done ranting...this article is awful, and shame on edmunds.com for posting it when this guy specifically says do not buy extended warranties because its a reflection of your site.

  • marvinlee1 marvinlee1 Posts:

    Extended car warranties, in economic terms, are a profit making enterprise for the warranty sellers. The profit comes from the disparity between the cost of the warranty and the actual cost of repairs paid for by the warranting company. Most car buyers will lose money over the life of the warranty if they pay for the extended warranty. There are exceptions, and they should be recognized for what they are: non-typical events that most car buyers will not experience. A risk factor not discussed is that extended warranties work only when the promised services are delivered in reality. A Google search reveals that extended warranty buyers sometimes have problems collecting on the extended services promised. Consider also that money has time value. You pay early for the extended warranty, thus losing interest on your money, but collect later, after the warranting company has already made a profit on your payment. If you finance payment for the extended warranty, you are also paying interest on your purchase. An alternative approach is simply to buy a new car that is known for reliability and a strong factory warranty. Most new cars have excellent warranties and you can check these out before you buy.

  • susanc310 susanc310 Posts:

    Extended warranties/service contracts are a waste of money. By time your car needs a major repair the warranty will have already expired.

  • keestbo keestbo Posts:

    seriously? don't buy an extended warranty b/c the factory gives you a 3/36? First off, that makes NO sense. Do things work better right when you get them, or 8 years down the road? I am a finance Mgr. I DID buy an ext warranty for an Acura. Warranty paid a 4800 dollar bill. You are a genius, sir. Plus your f&i office was in a crack hut tailer. Nice op! HA!

  • observer9 observer9 Posts:

    dude are you seriously trying to write a behind the scenes "reality show" expose on what it is to be a F&I guy? The [non-permissible content removed] GM bailout coupled with secured loans to people like Elon Musk have forever absolutely and completely doomed this country. For god's sake, when you go talk to anybody who sells cars anymore, they want to talk about the Internet. NOBODY sells cars anymore. [non-permissible content removed] you clowns.

  • observer9 observer9 Posts:

    Oh and since nobody else has ever said this to you. Nobody cares about your job dissatisfaction because you didn't set out to be the guy in the office signing people up. Try being the guy bringing you the deals. Like I said, a nation full of clowns perpetuating more clown college because they saw a picture of [non-permissible content removed].

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