June 23, 2021
8 min read

How to Identify a Tire Kicker?

Explore the differences between buyers and people called tire kickers.

Vaida Lek
Marketing, Atlasmic
If you’re a retailer operating a physical shop or a service provider with a physical office, you’ve been there. A person walks into your store, checks things out, spends a lot of time in there but is hesitant to buy and isn’t looking to commit. These people are called tire kickers. They’re a part of society and you can’t just expect them to go away. However, tire kickers need to be identified. Why? Well, because if you can’t spot them, your sales team or you personally will be wasting time on their behalf which is bad for business. So, let’s look at what tire kickers are, how to identify them and which measures are most effective.

What is a tire kicker and how do they appear?

Tire kicker is a term given to customers who seem interested in your service or product but never commit. The term comes from a very strange phenomenon in the used car trade. Whenever a buyer comes to look at a used car and they seem reluctant to strike a deal, they would walk around the car, looking at every potential thing that could drive the price down or avoid making the deal while simultaneously kicking the tires of the car. That is where we get the name – tire kicker.
These people can be everyone, all the way from a person who’s genuinely bored and has nothing important on their agenda to your competitors or just individuals with the craving for attention and the desire to test out new things. Most notable tire kickers appear in inexpensive or upmarket trade. Thus, they’re frequent visitors of car dealerships, open houses, luxury watches, luxury clothing and fine jewellery stores as well as electronics.

Identifying a buyer and a tire kicker

Regardless of how a person looks, when they walk into your store, you must be neutral. There’s a great fable of a Persian King who would dress in poor man’s clothes and walk around his subjects to seek out good and pure hearts and reward them. In today’s world, a lot of affluent individuals might not dress in Versace or Gucci clothes and might look very casual on the outside. Thus, if you’re a franchise for a luxury French watchmaker, and your buyer is the typical CEO with business-like attire, don’t profile the guy or lady who walks around in sweats just yet. Even though they might appear out of place, you don’t want to lose their business just yet.
Tire kickers will seem out of place + be indifferent to your and your sales’ reps being around them. The first indication which helps distinguish tire kickers is
the want to try and test many, completely unalike products
. So, for example, the person comes into a car dealership and tries two top-end pickup trucks and then goes for the flashy red convertible. Makes no sense, right? That will be a tire kicker 95% of the time.
The second trait which helps distinguish tire kickers is their
complete lack of concrete needs, wants, must-haves
If they’re just window-shopping and are just browsing, that’s just looking. But tire kickers tend to just waste the time of your sales representatives without ever intending to commit. However, when identifying a potential tire kicker, your sales representative should be asking these questions:
  • What are you looking for, specifically?
  • Which materials/colours/textures do you prefer?
  • Have you looked at this or similar products anywhere else?
  • What’s the occasion or reason for making this purchase? (Just in a nicer, more informal way, e.g. “Looking to upgrade your current hardware?”)
Whilst potential customers should open up and interact, giving that vibe, tire kickers won’t give any concrete details and give vague answers.
And the third, very common trait of tire kickers is
0 knowledge about what they’re looking for
. Put yourself in a position when you’re coming to buy something. Rarely would you have the cash to spend and just buy a random thing from the store you’ve just accidentally stumbled upon, right? Before the purchase is made, a person gets the need, browses a bit of information or tries to grasp his/her essential wants. Then they visit the shop to seek advice and test it out. A tire kicker will skip all the previous phases and will just test drive.

How to deal with tire kickers?

Back in the 1950s’ or around that era, a store owner could just kick an unwanted window shopper out. Things were much more direct back in the past.
Nowadays, even if you identify a kicker, it’s impossible to come off right dealing with the situation hands-on. Since they are just time-wasting and don’t cause any direct harm to your business, there’s actually nothing you can do. In whichever way you might ask them to leave or make a purchase, you’ll be coming off as rude, unprofessional, etc.
So, what to do? Leaving them alone seems like the best option. Train your sales reps to ask control and informational questions to find out whether the customer is serious or will just waste your time. However, at the same time you should understand that if you’re selling desirable products, there will be a lot of people who just come in and won’t buy because they just can’t. Make sure you discuss this with your legal staff and sales reps to find the best method for dealing with this in-house. Example - enforce a 6-question policy. If, after 6 questions the customer still doesn’t have any concrete goals or aims for the purchase, maybe it would be best to just leave them alone. Stop time-wasting and your reps can focus on other people who might be coming in.
In COVID times, if restrictions for gatherings apply, you can ask people who have been window shopping for too long to leave, to make space for newcomers. However, as we mentioned, this might come off as rude, regardless of your tone, but that’s just the way it is.

Are tire kickers dangerous and harmful to a business?

In all honesty – they’re annoying at best. Tire kickers won’t cause damage and can only waste the time of your sales representatives but nothing more than that. If everything in your store is insured, you have nothing to worry about. Besides, most tire kickers are just spending free time on their hands by browsing fancy stores that they might never purchase from.
Don’t be afraid of encountering tire kickers. In car sales, tire kickers make up around 50-70% of visitors. For example, do you know how many people come and visit your local Mercedes-Benz or BMW dealer? Probably hundreds if not thousands each day. But, how many of them make the purchase and sign on the dotted line? A few. It’s even worse for luxury clothes retailers in downtown locations of tourist hotspots. But that’s the idea of those shops. With massive flocks of tourists barging in each hour, the store is bound to make a sale now and then, even if 80-95% of their visitors are just the tire kicker type.

Is it possible to turn a tire kicker into a customer?

To be honest – nope. If a person doesn’t have the budget or the know-how about your products, there’s actually nothing you can say to make them buy. And if you or your representatives do that, it’s actually just showing that the person wasn’t a tire kicker after all.
The best you and/or your staff can do is to just sit tight and wait for them to leave or get bored.


Tire kickers are less of an issue online. Of course, people who create new emails for free 30-day Netflix passes can be labelled as modern-day tire kickers but this type of store visitor is most common in high-end, upmarket retail. By giving your staff enough knowledge about what questions to ask and what to look out for, you can quickly identify such individuals and avoid wasting precious time on a deal that leads nowhere.
Genuine buyers:
  • Ask questions about their personal needs.
  • Seek advice and guidance.
  • Have an opinion about what they want and don’t want.
  • Want to know the benefits of your product.
  • Listen to what your sales representatives say.
Tire kickers:
  • Spend a lot of time looking and touching things without asking questions.
  • Ignore useful information about your brand, products from sales representatives.
  • Aren’t very detailed-oriented and don’t have the characteristics of your usual customers.
  • Don’t have any precise info about their budget, goals, needs, wants, etc.
  • Shy away from discussing or negotiating potential purchases.
  • Eager to test but shy away right afterwards.
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