Essential Car-Sales Lingo To Know On The Lot


An up is a customer ready to be helped, as in “up next.” A sales person might have an up on the lot, or a “phone-up.” Think “batter up!” but replace batter with buyer. Must be better than being referred to as a down, right?

Duck on the pond

A duck on the pond is a customer on the lot who is wandering around, needing help. Seems innocent enough until one starts to imagine it as a hunting-season metaphor . . . hmmm.


The word mooch is a derogatory one for a person who avoids paying their fair share or one who feigns poverty. It is rooted in the Middle English mucchen, which in the 1300s meant “to hoard, or to be stingy.”

A sales person sees a well-informed shopper, who is simply pushing for a good price, as a moocher, feeling like they expect something for nothing. Hey, we all like a bargain.


A grinder is a little different from a moocher. It’s a buyer who takes forever to actually close the deal, sometimes stuck on a very small detail or amount of money. They take up a lot of time and energy, as they grind away at that sales figure to see just how low it can go.

Sometimes, the word chisler is also used, which evokes the same idea of chipping away at something with patience and focus. Buyers take note.

First pencil

The sales person’s first quote in a negotiation is also referred to as the first pencil. The figure is written in pencil because it’s a higher number, sometimes ridiculously so, and negotiable. And, even with all the technology available, this is still used today. The first pencil is usually delivered using our next word.


When the sales person pulls out a printed worksheet with four squares on it, and starts filling them in with first-pencil scribblings, pay attention. This is where trade-in, sales price, down payment, and monthly payment figures start swirling around (on some sheets, the boxes are labeled with those words).

That four-square can be tricky to follow, and it’s used for two reasons. One: The sales person needs to show you how they’re arriving at their numbers. Two: Participation in the back-and-forth makes a customer feel like they are actually part of the deal-making. SPOILER: That’s not usually the case.


In a deck of playing cards, an ace is usually the most valuable card. The word ace is also used when describing something that is very good, top grade (an “ace bandsaw” or an “ace golfer”). No wonder the word is used to describe the perfect car shopper, as well.

An ace is typically very agreeable and likely to sign immediately on the dotted line. For whatever reason, haggling over price is not something they want to do. Also, referred to as a laydown, meaning “someone who gives up the fight pretty easily and lays down” . . . they may be getting steamrolled in the process.


This is an up who’s allegedly in the market for a car, but they might want to buy one using smoke and mirrors . . . as they have bad credit. Known both as a rat and a roach, or cockroach, by those in the biz, it seems that sales folks view these people as little more than vermin who take up too much time.

Isn’t life tough enough if you don’t have good credit? Maybe a gentler word, like chameleon (a creature often pretending to be something it isn’t) would be nicer.

Lot lizard

This term currently has a number of meanings. By some accounts, a lot lizard is one who visits the lot regularly—perhaps weekly—and yet has no real intention of buying a car. Other sources indicate the word is used to describe sales people who linger on the lot, waiting to pounce on customers as they drive in.

Careful though: These usages are not to be confused with a prostitute or sex worker plying their trade at truck stops.


This customer has excellent credit history. That top-of-the line model will be no problem for any bullet who wanders into a dealership. Likely used because of the speed with which the process moves during the financing portion of the deal, it’s a much more PC-term than gold balls, which is also used for these pleasing transactions.

The be-back bus

A customer might suddenly have doubts and make a hasty exit, promising, “I’ll be back.” That customer is now referred to as a be-back, or someone who has gotten on the be-back bus, “a mythical vehicle that is never seen again.” (By the way, a favorite old adage of car-sales folk is, “Buyers are liars!” Unfair?)


If a buyer seems to be waffling, and the deal is in jeopardy, a new sales person suddenly enters the picture. Also known as a T.O., turning the buyer over to a new sales person just might do the trick. And, if that persona fails, yet another may show up, in the hopes of sparking some new chemistry. Keeping the customer interested (and on their toes?) is the key.


As it sounds, a closer is someone who closes the final deal. Closers are highly skilled in negotiating, and they are often called in when another salesperson is having trouble making the best deal for the dealership.


This is the sale of all sales: dealership wins. A homerun means no deal for the buyer on final price, they might have gotten a terrible deal on their trade-in, and maybe even were talked into high-interest dealership financing over their own pre-arranged financing. Another phrase meaning the same thing is bit more brutal: to tear someone’s head off means the sales person will be celebrating later on. That seems weird, but all in a day’s work!

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