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RPM Blog

The RPM Auto Wholesale Blog provides tips for buying and selling vehicles, humorous stories and narratives from the underbelly of the automotive industry.

Slang Terms from the Automobile Sales Floor (Part One)

Whenever people get together in an occupation, hobby or other field of interest, they form a vocabulary unique to that field. This vocabulary is referred to as slang or jargon.  Like any other subculture, their shared language serves to separate them from the rest of society, to unite them and to announce to one another that they belong.

If you are a baseball fan, you will be familiar with an announcer describing a play as a routine 4-6-3 Double Play.  This play begins as a ground ball to the second baseman (4) who throws to the shortstop (6) covering second base who then throws the ball to the first baseman (3) for the second out.  If you are a newcomer to the game, you will be unfamiliar with what the announcer has just told you.  You are an outsider and the jargon used reinforces your feelings of being on the outside.

With this post, I hope to bring you inside the world of the automobile sales profession, to help you gain an understanding of just what the heck is being discussed the next time you buy an automobile.  Let's peel back the curtain and take a look under the hood.

This post, Part 1, covers the Finance Department and Part 2 highlights the slang of the Sales Department


The Slang From the Finance Department


Mouse House: Finance Company used to boost a customer down payment in order to qualify for a bank loan on a vehicle purchase.

Sticks: Furniture. Typically a mouse house will require collateral on a loan so the customer's sticks are offered as the collateral.

Double Dip: When two sources of financing are used on a vehicle purchase, it is a double dip.  If a customer requires additional down payment in order to qualify for the primary loan, a deal can be structured with a mouse house as a second loan source.

Note: The loan on a vehicle can be referred to as a note.

Tote the Note: Some dealers have an in-house finance company to make loans on automobiles.  In this case, the dealer is said to tote the note

BHPH: Buy Here Pay Here. Refers to a dealership that totes the note and then accepts monthly or even weekly payments on the vehicle financed.

Tattoo: Refers to a dealer principal's signature on a finance contract.  Fairly rare.  Some dealers will guarantee payment (essentially acting as a co-pilot) to the lender in order to fund a vehicle purchase contract with an edgy buyer; We're going to have to tattoo the paper if we want to get this deal bought.

Co-Pilot: A person who signs a loan document (co-signer) with the purchaser of a vehicle when the primary buyer is edgy, has no prior credit, or limited down.

Paper: Refers to the finance contract or promissory note for the purchase of a vehicle.

Bought: Term used to refer to the act of obtaining lender approval on loan applications; I need to get yesterday's deals bought before I can go to lunch.

Unwind: Act of returning a sold vehicle to dealer inventory.  Usually happens when the dealer has exhausted all possibilities of obtaining a loan for the buyer; You're going to have to unwind that deal because we aren't tattooing any more deals this month.

Five Finger Close: In reality this technique of document signing is more fiction than fact.  More braggadocio than anything else.  In it, the finance manager places a hand, hence the five fingers, over the form and points with the other hand to the area where the customer should sign the contract documents. The purpose of the hand over the forms is to hide the finance and trade amounts from the consumer.  In the day to day world of the retail automobile industry it is more a saying that signifies to the finance manager that they should hurry through the signing process for any number of reasons.  As an example; He's coming out from under the ether.  Let's get him in the box and give him the five finger close.

Down: Down payment.  Synonyms include down stroke and chunk of change.

Ether: Fog like blissful state entered into when a buyer reaches agreement on a car deal.

Back End: Dealer profits made through the F&I Department. These might include extended warranty, mop & glow, pre-paid service, etch-a-sketch, croak and choke, and dealer reserve.

Leg(s): Difference between true payment required to pay for an automobile purchase and the amount quoted to the consumer during the negotiation process. Often times, the consumer will agree to purchase a vehicle for far more than the true payment required for the purchase.  When that happens, the F&I Department has a far easier job of selling back end products to the consumer.  A customer can be told that everything was already included in the price for their benefit and since they have already agreed to the payment they are made to feel as if everything is free!

Nickel: $500.  I packed a nickel into the deal is a phrase often told to the F&I Manager prior to delivering the consumer to the finance department.  Many times this is accomplished by negotiating a payment with the consumer and never discussing the cash price or difference price of the transaction.  In that situation, the consumer has agreed to pay $500 more than would have been required to purchase the vehicle.

Dime: $1,000.

Bureau: Credit report of the individual purchasing the vehicle.

5 Liner: The top five lines of a credit application.  Often times during a negotiation to purchase a vehicle, the salesperson will ask the buyer to provide a 5 liner so that the dealer can then pull a bureau for the purposes of ascertaining the credit worthiness of the buyer.

Gold Balls: A buyer with a high credit score; This guy has gold balls.

Stud: Synonym for gold balls.  Can also refer to the quality of a trade-in vehicle when it is in excellent condition and a desirable used car.

Edgy: A buyer with a very low credit score; This guy is edgy.  Can also refer to an undesirable trade-in vehicle.

De-Horse: Removing a customer from their trade and asking them to leave the dealership in a borrowed car.  Utilized when the vehicle being sold is unavailable for immediate delivery.  This can be due to low customer credit score or inventory problem such as availability.  The dealer will de-horse a customer if they want to exert some control over the customer but are unwilling or unable to spot deliver the customer purchase.  This strategy helps the dealer gain some amount of control over the deal since the  customer has to return to the dealership at a later date with the borrowed car.

Spot DeliveryThe delivery to the customer of the vehicle they are purchasing right at the time of the sale.  For a cash buyer this poses no risk to the dealer but if the customer is a finance buyer the dealer risks being unable to have the loan and the deal approved (by a lender) as written.  The risk to the customer is that they must return to the dealership at a later date and renegotiate the purchase with either a greater down payment, different rate or length of contract.

Throw it Against the Wall:  When the F&I Department is uncertain of obtaining finance approval for an edgy buyer or a young buyer without a co-pilot, they will sometimes spot deliver the vehicle and hope for approval the next day.  In this instance, they will inform the sales manager that they intend to throw it against the wall and hope it sticks (is approved). More often than not, the dealership decides to tell the customer they will let them know of approval the next day and avoid a possible rollback when the deal is not approved by the lender.

House:  The dealer or dealership place of business.  Sometimes also called the store.

Kink: A problem deal or customer;  The co-pilot has bad credit too.  That throws a kink in the deal.

Pack(ed): The act of increasing the payment quoted to the customer in order to build additional profit in a deal.  The sales department will add legs to the deal so that the F&I manager has an easier time selling back end products.

Straw Buyer:  A buyer of a vehicle who is not the intended driver/user of a financed vehicle.  This act is always in violation of lender policies with a dealer because the intended driver of the vehicle is usually unable to sustain or support the monthly cost of the vehicle due to poor credit and/or job stability.  The lender would be unwilling to make a loan to the intended or real buyer of the vehicle and is defrauded into making a loan they would not normally accept.

Box: The F&I office, the place where legal documents are signed;  Let's get him in the box before he comes out from under the ether.

F&I: Finance and Insurance Department in an automobile dealership.

Mop & Glow: Paint and fabric protectors.

Etch-A-Sketch: Chemical process that etches a theft recovery number into the glass of a vehicle.

Dealer Reserve: Also known as reserve Difference between the buy rate and the loan rate quoted on a finance contract. Recent Consumer Protection Laws in some states have sought to limit the amount of dealer reserve (or markup) that a dealer can pass on to the consumer and/or require the disclosure of the dealer reserve amount.

Reserve: See dealer reserve.

Buy Rate: The lowest rate at which a bank will loan money for a purchase contract on an automobile.

Croak & Choke: Life and disability insurance on a finance contract sold by a dealer F&I Department.

Cash Price: The total price of a vehicle including tax, license and registration fees.  Sometimes referred to as the OTD (Out The Door) price.

Difference Price: The price after the trade-in ACV is subtracted from the cash price.

ACV: Actual Cash Value.  This is the price that a dealer would be willing to pay you for your trade-in if there was no purchase of a vehicle involved.

Rollback:  Synonym of unwind.

Rate Sheet: Each lender that works with an auto dealer publishes a list of interest rates, known as the buy rate, that they are willing to accept for an automobile loan contract.  It changes with the age of the vehicle, miles, credit score of borrower, new or used and length of contract.  This list is called the rate sheet for that lender and it changes frequently.  In addition, it will inform the dealer the maximum reserve they are able to earn on each loan they write with that lender.


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