Help with a sketchy car reservation experience


I just reserved a new '23 Toyota Highlander Hybrid XLE at a large, reputable dealer in NorCal, and the experience was very…odd. I just thought I’d check to see if this was totally normal, or if I should be concerned.

I called the dealer as they had the color and packages I wanted. I went to the dealer, and was able to negotiate from a $5k markup down to MSRP. I told them I would pay cash via a Cashier’s Check. The car is being built, so it went be delivered to the dealer until the end of February (6 weeks from now).

Here’s where it gets weird.

They are extremely incessant that I fill out a financing application (with references, income, social, etc) as that’s the way they will “reserve” the car. The guy even tells me to put in a fake social if I don’t want the credit report to be run. I ask him why I need to do this, there’s a song and dance with the manager, and it always comes back to this application. I finally relent and fill it out. I fill out a few other forms (for when I pick up the car), but there’s no deposit, or no actual document that says I have a reservation.

Is this normal? Do folks think I have an actual car reserved?


Sketchy AF.

These scumbags will find a way to scam you once the car arrives.


Some dealers have this as part of their reservation process to try and flip you to financing, some don’t hear “cashier’s” when you say check (or know what it is) and think it’s a personal check, which would require a credit check. I had a similar issue with a very “no games” Subaru dealer this past summer (and then when my car arrived late on a Friday and I couldn’t get to the bank before going to pick it up, I ended up financing).

Whatever the case, your credit bureaus should always be frozen, then a credit app can’t be run until you thaw them


Check the marketplace section here. There are plenty of brokers/dealers that deal with Toyota. You’ll probably get a better deal and a far better buying experience here.

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I just went through the same but was buying out my lease. The Internet Sales Manager insisted on me filling out a credit application even though I told them I would pay with a cashier’s check (three times). A quick call to the manufacturer resulted in them telling the dealership to stop the shenanigans – a credit application was unnecessary if I was paying by cashier’s check. Once I got to the store, the individual tried again, and I asked to deal with someone else. Two things:

  1. I will never purchase from that dealer again.
  2. I will go through a broker for my next vehicle. Unfortunately, dealerships play too many games.

The bottom line is that a call to the manufacturer solved the problem, but that did not stop the dealership from continue trying. @jeisensc is correct, and it comes down to money. When I got there with the cashier’s check, they kept resentfully reminding me they were not making any money on the deal. But, true or not, that is not my problem. Some love to get a good deal and haggle, but car buying can sometimes be too complicated.


Put down a deposit via credit card and get something in writing to say what kind of car it’s for. They should not need to run your credit. Fake credit app is a no no as others have said.


When I was looking to buy a Lexus NX 350h last year, several dealers I contacted wanted a credit application completed before they would put me on a waiting list. They told me they would not actually run a credit check. I completed three different applications and no credit checks were performed.

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I think that’s normal, but to make sure a car is reserved, one should get something in writing along while putting a small deposit. I swapped out all my cars last year, I think the most expensive one did required a credit app but they did not run it. The Honda and Acura dealerships I dealt with didn’t care but they took $1000/$1500 deposit on credit card and sent me a confirmation that I have reserved the cars.

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As others have said, often times it’s SOP to get a credit app as they don’t trust you to know how you want to pay and figure they can flip you to finance with them and make them some profit. And if they know you’re averse to hard inquiries they can use that to create a mental barrier to getting competitive (direct) finance offers.

As for deposit, it used to be that they want to take a deposit to ensure you go forward with the transaction so they don’t get stuck with the car. These days it’s always a game to see if they can get someone else who wants it more and sell it out from under you. With no deposit you have even less recourse than you would with the deposit, which frankly they could always just refund to you, but it makes them look worse than “customer didn’t have a deposit, and was not entitled to the vehicle”. For some dealers this is SOP and does not necessarily signal that’s their intention but the flexibility is on their side.

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Just went thru this with a Sienna. Found an allocation in November that was due to be built and the dealer asked us to fill out a credit app and a $500 deposit. I asked them numerous times about not wanting our credit run. They held true to their word and didn’t run our credit until the day the van came in. If they are a good dealer, they may just be looking at it to see that you are good for it. They may also try to talk you into financing as they get something out of it.

great advice on the freeze!

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Thanks to everyone here for their thoughtful replies. Going to go ahead and ask the dealer for something in writing.

Appreciate it!

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May I ask which dealership?

Paid cash for a Venza and had to fill out a application as well while the car was in transit. I guess it varies by dealer.

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