Skip to main content
salaries series

Job: Car salesperson

The Role: While selling new cars is a major part of the job, salespeople working at dealerships are also responsible for helping with maintenance and service, marketing and advertising campaigns, helping customers with finance products like loans and leases, providing warranties, and more.

"There's no typical day," said Michael Hatch, the chief economist for the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association. "Any day can bring any challenge on any of those business fronts in which dealers are engaged."

Salary: Automobile salespeople enjoy a higher-than-average salary, but one that is often tied closely to performance.

"Sales positions are certainly heavily commission-based, so there's a wide variety of income levels for those jobs, and different dealers have different structures," said Mr. Hatch. "Commissions are a big part of that; the more you sell the more you make."

With commission playing a major role, Mr. Hatch says that salaries can range between $30,000 a year to well over $100,000, and can shift dramatically year to year for individual salespeople. According to CADA's annual economic review, the average weekly salary for automobile dealers was $1,015.31 (approximately $53,000 annually), which comes in just above the national average of $931.41 a week (approximately $48,500 annually).

Education: In some provinces, such as Ontario and British Columbia, automotive dealers and salespeople must be certified by their provincial licensing body, such as the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council or the Motor Vehicle Sales Authority of British Columbia.

There are no further educational requirements for automotive salespeople, however most employers encourage a postsecondary education, as well as a vast knowledge and interest in cars.

"At least a postsecondary education is normally required, depending on the job market and the local conditions of the labour market," Mr. Hatch said. "The vast majority of folks out there doing this job will have a postsecondary education."

Job Prospects: While employment growth took a dip during the recession years, which hit the automotive industry particularly hard, CADA's report shows strong employment growth in 2013 and 2014, both of which were record-breaking sales years for the industry. In 2014 dealership employment grew 3.4 per cent, while the rest of the Canadian employment landscape grew just 0.2 per cent. In 2014 there were more than 150,000 car salespeople employed in Canada.

Challenges: There are a variety of challenges automotive salespeople face as a result of working in such a competitive, commission-based industry.

"Most dealerships are lined up next to each other one after the other, it's very competitive, and it's a great time for consumers because if they don't get what they want at the first store they go to they just have to go next door," Mr. Hatch said. "You've really got to sharpen your pencil and be ready to negotiate with consumers."

If competition from other dealerships on the block weren't enough of a challenge, car salespeople today have the added competition brought on by the Internet, which has provided consumers with more information and buying options than ever before.

"The average person that walks into a dealership looking for a car has already done their homework. They know what they want and they know what they're willing to pay, so they're armed with a great deal more information than they would have been a generation ago, which makes life tougher for sales staff," adds Mr. Hatch.

Why they do it: While the stresses of a commission-based sales job might be too much for the faint of heart, the industry is perfect for those that thrive in a competitive environment.

"They enjoy working with people, they are strong communicators, strong at customer service and they, to a great extent, represent the face of the dealership," Mr. Hatch said. "A lot of people would prefer a less risky approach and more of a guaranteed level of income, but those that succeed at this particular job tend to do very well and continue at it for a long time."

Misconceptions: One doesn't need to scour depictions of automotive sales professionals in popular culture for long before arriving at the inevitable image of a morally corrupt character. Mr. Hatch says that this classic depiction is both far from accurate in today's automotive sales landscape as well as one that has been difficult for the industry to shed.

"I think that's probably due to the fact that historically the quality wasn't necessarily there, and also the consumer awareness wasn't there," he said. "Today the quality of the products is – across the board – better than it's ever been, and the level of consumer awareness is higher than it's ever been, so you can't pull the wool over consumer's eyes."

Give us the scoop: Are you a cars salesperson? Write a note in the comments area of this story or e-mail your comment to and let us know what you would tell others who are interested in the profession.

Want to read more stories from our Salaries Series? Find more here.

Correction: An earlier online version of this story incorrectly stated that there were no licensing requirements for auto dealers or salespeople.