By on June 12, 2007

theking.jpgI have a conflict-avoidant personality. I never lose my temper and I hardly ever engage in verbal jousting (never mind confrontational conversation). That’s why I wander around new car lots on Sundays. The dealership is closed, locked and silent; I can browse in pleasant solitude. Otherwise, conflict is inevitable. I can count on my fingers the number of times in my life that I got so angry my legs started shaking. Half of those instances occurred in car dealerships and that ain’t right.

Of course, this avoidance strategy runs counter to my pistonhead predilections. During GM’s “Hot Button” OnStar promotion/gimmick, I couldn’t help myself: I pulled in to the local Chevy dealer to try my luck at winning a new car. Even before I put my foot to tarmac, a salesman sucker-fished my face (Aliens style). I almost drove away right then and there. But I didn’t.

When I relayed the purpose of my visit, the salesman didn’t even try to hide his disappointment. In fact, I was a dead customer walking. I’m not sure which was worse— the initial attack or the subsequent invisibility. Either way, I enjoyed the experience almost as much as my last visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles. 

You want to talk about hot buttons? Whenever a car salesman approaches me with that stupid happy grin– as if I’m the first human being he’s seen in seven months of solitary confinement– I feel my normal sang froid melt. Of course he’s smiling. I’m chum in his shark tank.

Of course, like most of you, I consider myself to be a lot higher in the food chain. As an enthusiast, I have an excellent grasp of automotive facts and figures: engine options, competitors, warranties, etc. So why do car salesmen try to Lord it over me, even after I demonstrate superior knowledge? It’s who they are. It’s what they do.

And it’s not for me. People like us, people who devour buff books, surf car sites and share a passion for automobiles simply cannot go to a car dealership for the sheer fun of it. The marketing gurus suggest that visiting a dealer should be as enjoyable as hanging out at Borders. I’d rather spend 45 days in the Black Hole of Calcutta than 20 minutes at a Chevy dealer.

There is name for this pain: ultimate transaction price. Walking into a car dealership, no one knows how much it costs to buy any given vehicle. Not the customer and not the salesman, whose job it is to add as much profit as possible to the deal.

So sales pressure is applied, and then applied again. Surreptitious administrative fees get tacked on in dark corners of contracts— well after customers have supposedly negotiated the “final price.” The entire system creates an environment of distrust, dishonesty, and confrontation. 

Me? I don’t discuss numbers. When salesmen demand “make me an offer,” I don’t reply. They plead with me as if in pain. “Make me an offer. Come on.” I can’t. I don’t. Instead, I reply with fierceness that surprises even me. “If you want to sell this car, YOU give ME a price.” They never do. The deal goes nowhere, and we part ways. And I put another year on my tired old beater.

Last year life thunked me on the head: my wife needed a minivan. This had to be done. Salvation arrived in the form of an auto broker. For a few hundred dollars fee, he did all the backbreaking negotiating with the dealership for a new Toyota Sienna minivan. We paid an astounding $2k less than what I was prepared to pay based on my research. And I do a lot of research. Huh, I mused, even Toyota has wiggle room for dealmakers.

Unfortunately, I still had to go to the dealership to sign the papers. It was an utterly simple process that took three excruciating hours filled with sales pitches for additional service agreements. All this after the end of the so-called negotiation process. I was living a scene from the Sopranos. “I’m in the back office of a dealership, man. I’m not agreeing to anything.” They tried to wear me down. But I held steady. No extras.

Of course, some dealerships do promise a more honest approach. CarMax and Saturn, for example, are known for not submitting their customers to the auto-buying equivalent of root canal surgery. But these user-friendly experiences still come at a cost, financial or otherwise. 

Automakers devote huge marketing dollars to reach reliable bill-paying customers like me. Yet they don’t understand that the car ain’t the issue. The car is fine. The car I understand. The dealership is what I abhor. Fix that sorry, broken, demonic institution and I will replace my cars more often. It’s that simple.

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71 Comments on “Autodealerphobia...”


  • avatar
    GS650G

    I was in Ed Morse Honda, North Palm Beach Florida, some 17 years ago looking at Honda Civics. I put money down on one while I arranged financing. They don’t like “Up’s” to get their own financing. Anyway I decided not to spend too much on a car without a radio, floormats, hubcaps, or a passenger side mirror that still cost more than I wanted to pay. I went for my deposit back, all 500 clams.

    The deal could be broken by failure to get financing, that was the only way out. I sat there for 1 hour while they tried to “get me financing” which I had to say no once more than required.

    The kicker was the finance guy. He had a crooked eye that did not move while the other eye did. They actually had a shifty eyed guy you could not look in the eye. I picked an eyeball and said “No. I don’t think 12% is a good rate and do not want your financing. Now give me my money.” In the end they had to because it was on a credit card, their one fatal mistake.

    My single worse day trying to buy something my family needs to depend on. Later I lived abroad for 5 years and owned no car. I miss those days.

  • avatar
    miked

    I feel the exact opposite. I love the negotiations at the dealership. It’s too bad I don’t (can’t) buy cars that often, so I always try to talk friends into taking me along when they buy a new car.

  • avatar
    pete

    For me “phobia” is the wrong word.

    Phobia = persistent illogical fear

    There’s nothing illogical about this. This is more like distaste, detestation or even loathing :-)

    …and you get to pay for the displeasure!

  • avatar
    Point Given

    Woah! You’ve obviously been at many a rough tough dealership. When I was selling cars for Nissan I did nothing of hte sort.
    If someone knew more than me I let them talk about it and I shut up. Makes them feel in control.

    i was the polite, honest salesman (an anti-stereotype) and never harassed anyone over the phone despite relentless and intense pressure from the dealership to “conform” to the way it’s always been done.

    I’m sorry your experience has been so bad but don’t whack all salespeople with the same club.

    Finance guys are the ones who do the true screwing. Protection packages for $1299 when they pay Ziebart $350 to do it, or $300 internally if detail department has time to do it. Extended warranties, insurances….Those guys are near crooks. Many times I made a deal about $300 over invoice making my self a tiny $150 and the back office made $2000.

    I guess I better write a rebuttal, lots of car salesman bashing ;)

  • avatar
    86er

    Anecdotally speaking from personal experience, the distasteful dealership experience is even more painful for me because I used to sell cars for a brief period and hated what I had to do. I can tell in the faces of these guys (and it’s always guys) that they hate what they have to do to me but that’s the schtick.

    My last car purchase was private and was not without headaches but certainly more pleasant overall. My purchase before that was through an auto credit firm attached to a Ford dealer that purchased a vehicle for me at a Chrysler store.

  • avatar
    Brendan

    Exactly correct. My recent dealer experience was as excruciating as you describe. Although I don’t think I’m as conflict-avoiding as you, Matthew, I hated every second of every dealership.

    Nowadays, when I walk into a retail store, I expect to be greeted with a smile and some polite questions, and to generally be left alone. Car dealers can’t do this, since every conversation with a customer is a potential mortgage payment.

  • avatar
    TheNatural

    I don’t know why everyone seems to hate car shopping so much. Do your research then go to the lot and let the salesperson be excited. If he is excited, he will show you lots of cool things about the vehicle you want. Then sit down, let them make the first pencil and then pull out your information. If you can’t agree after that, then move along. Don’t let yourself get stressed out or upset! That is the only real key.

  • avatar
    zoomzit

    miked, I actually get a kick out of negotiations as well, it is actually a part of my job. There is something to that mix of psychology, debate and economics that I find exceptionally interesting.

    However, I still hate car dealerships. I went to a ford dealership a few years ago in the bay area. I test drove a Ranger that was loaded to the gills (which I didn’t want). It was new, yet it had a huge dent in the door. They tried selling me that particular car for way over sticker, even though the ranger had been available for something like 7 years at that point and they weren’t going to fix the dent. It was insane.

    I just wanted to leave. But, they pulled the “we need to see your license before the test drive.” After I returned from the test drive, they were unwilling to return my license until I had to resort to pulling out my cell phone and threatening to call the police.

    I suppose I like negotiating at work because I am on a equal playing field with the person I am negotiating with and we are civil and show respect for each other. At car dealerships, I feel like I am an inmate at Gitmo negotiating with the guards.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Great article. Nice photo, Robert…that pretty much says it all.

    Can’t say I don’t like the arguments, it’s kinda fun. At least when its not my money. Case in point, I recently helped my uncle buy a leftover 2006 model for $4700 under invoice: Invoice – $4000 dealer cash – $700 dealer holdback.

    Sometimes it’s worth it.

  • avatar
    lzaffuto

    This is why the only new car I’ve bought is a Scion TC. I know I could have had more car for less money. But the no-pressure, take as long as you want, do whatever pleases you, low interest rate, no bullshit approach sold me. I’d rather pay $1000 over invoice and deal with someone honest than pay $1000 under invoice and have to haggle with someone all day long who is doing his best to try to screw me. It is exhausting, depressing, aggravating, and stressful. The oppressive, hostile atmosphere makes me physically ill. And I’m more likely to let in and do something stupid just to get it over with. Right now I’m looking for a Miata to replace my Z and I’m already almost fed up with the bullshit… and I just started.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    When salesmen demand “make me an offer,” I don’t reply.

    Ah, but it’s so much more fun to reply, especially when you are very familiar w/ new and used prices for a vehicle. Whilst car shopping at a high-pressure Nissan dealership, I spied a 2005 or 2006 RSX. Lust. But the previous owner had been a smoker and had a jealous ex-girlfriend — the stink may have gone away eventually but the fact that it had been keyed viciously and repeatedly wasn’t going to fix itself. Salesdude pulled the whole, “Make me an offer” line and I told him $15k… less than what the car was worth were it in pristine condition, but I was pretty confident it was more than they took it for as a trade. Cue sputtering and stammering… I must have hit a nerve. He tried to negotiate up, but I shut him down pretty fast. I could have pushed, but I didn’t want the car that bad. I just thought it was fun to see his eyes pop out of his head when he realized that I knew what I was doing and wasn’t going to play any games. I’m sure most people waffle about the price, and make some vague guess — one that’s probably too high, so the salesman is at an advantage. Little did he know…

  • avatar
    partsisparts

    I have said it before on these boards and I’ll say it again. If you are not comfortable doing business at the dealer you are in, LEAVE. Go somewhere else! There is no shortage of dealers.
    I sell Mercedes-Benz and we bend over backwards for the customer.
    I am helpful,polite and honest with all my customers. I want to see them back the next time they need a car!! If I don’t do the job right the first time there will not be a second time.

  • avatar

    TheNatural “I don’t know why everyone seems to hate car shopping so much”

    Your kidding right.

    Maybe its because no other mass produced consumer product is sold in this manner.

    Maybe its because as the article stated one never know what the ultimate transaction price is until you jump through 200 hoops.

    Maybe its the rudeneess and hostility displayed when you don’t just go along and agree to the nonsense spewed forth by the salesperson.

    It is ridiculous that I have purchased three houses and each and every one of them was quicker and easier to negotiate the price and the closings were as quick as the paperwork on getting the car after the initial agreement was signed.

    The system stinks but the dealers make more money in the current system so it will not change. Why would they?

  • avatar
    lzaffuto

    partsisparts,

    I think the difference there is that you are selling for a Mercedes dealership. The premium brands, like Lexus, Infiniti, Acura, MB, BMW, and Audi, etc, don’t seem to be as afflicted with this disease, although there are always exceptions. They sell a premium product for a premium price and as a result they don’t tend to haggle, bullshit, or try to screw their customers. They lay it out on the table and what you see is what you get… if you don’t like it move along. Toyota, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, GM, Chrysler, etc are selling discount cars at discount prices, so they are willing to do anything and everything they can to get that very last cent from the customer, no matter what it takes. As an example, I went to both the local Infiniti and the local Acura dealership to look at different models. They were the same as the Scion dealer. Pleasant, honest, great. But I just couldn’t afford what they were selling, and they weren’t coming down much, because as they pointed out, if I didn’t buy it at their asking price someone else right behind me would. But every mid to low market dealership I have been to in my city, and I mean every single one, has been a high pressure, hostile bullshit fest. That is how they do business, and they won’t change. Even pointing out the fact that I’m willing to pay to bypass that doesn’t stop them… they aren’t satisfied with just making a profit on a car, they have to take it as far as possible and push you to the breaking point for every cent they can take from you and every scam they can try on you. If every car dealership treated its customers like Mercedes and etc did, then I don’t think you would see many complaints. But then again, that is part of what makes them premium brands, isn’t it?

  • avatar

    I pick the car, then send my wife… a tenacious litigator… in to do the deal. It is my revenge for the shoddy treatment I’ve always had at dealers. Both sales and service. I make sure she knows not to give an inch… and knowing her, goes in with heels dug and barrels blazing.

    Prior to that strategy, I would just walk as soon as I felt like I was being railroaded. I must have walked away from 15 or 20 cars in my life.

    I can’t wait for the whole concept of the “car dealer” to die a deserving death. The first carmaker to go 100% into Internet ordering and sales will kill the rest of them if they don’t also adapt.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    compy386

    Lzaffuto, get a Mazda S-Plan from either a friend or one of the Ford forums. It’s not the best price that you can get, but no negotiations and the prices are reasonable (dealer invoice). Most car companies offer friend’s pricing that’s non-negotiable. Just get a pin online and do your shopping that way. It’s how I got my Focus. Easiest experience I’ve ever had. Go, drive, buy, leave. Nothing extra.

  • avatar

    chuck I hate dealers etc but they are not going away. They have the state laws on their side. Car dealers are always among the top dollar political contributors at the state level.

  • avatar
    radimus

    Another good tactic is to negoiate the price near the end of the month. Go in informed about what the car costs them and what it’s really worth, what your trade is worh, and have your own financing already pre-approved. Between that and the dealer’s need to make a sale to help close the month out, gives you a stronger position at the table. If you’re coldhearted enough, and the dealer is desperate enough, you can have them squirming.

  • avatar
    partsisparts

    The other side of the coin is, if you don’t like to negotiate, just pay sticker price. No need for negotiation.

  • avatar
    yalej

    That show (King of Cars) makes me cry. Many of the people there should not be even be buying cars, their finances are in such poor shape. And the 4-square gimmick, they use it all the time. And shopping on monthly payments, ugh.

    I actually recently bought a new used car, and it was pretty painless. I knew the max amount I was going to pay, and I brought the money with them. In the end I told them, take this money, or I walk. And they took it. I think it is very hard for them to resist cold hard cash when it’s sitting right on their table.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    This was a great read, with clever prose that actually made me laugh out loud.

    That being said, TheNatural has a point. I would agree that the average dealership has all the charm of a snakepit filled with rattlers who haven’t eaten for months, and that the sales tactics are often more gimmick than give-and-take. But this is more amusing than confusing, for I see the whole car buying process as a sport, and I take a certain (admittedly sick) pleasure in playing my own game that is designed to end-run the sales team. At the end of the day, it’s your money, and as a customer, you are always in control of the transaction if you so choose.

    Car dealers are nothing but predictable, so besting them is actually quite easy, if you accept the rules of the game and know how to play it. If it takes you all day to buy a car, then you’re probably doing something wrong…

  • avatar
    beken

    I ran away from the Big 2.8 dealers a long time ago and recently had to deal with a Honda dealer that was outright antagonistic. Makes my friend owning her new car less satisfying. Not much luck with others. My best experience in car buying has been with a Mercedes-Benz dealer and more recently, my local MINI dealer. However, last minute “see if we can extract more money from customer” thing still happened with both. My MINI showed up with upgraded wheels and tires that I didn’t order. Dealer saw the look on my face and then said I didn’t have to pay for it. The fact that they waited for my reaction suggests to me they were playing the game.

    Glad it’s not just me….

  • avatar
    Paul Milenkovic

    It is also the little things.

    I was in a Ford dealership getting the transmission fixed in my 1996 Taurus. There is a metal tab that breaks, which prevents the car from shifting into overdrive, and it costs about $700 to fix because of all they have to take apart to get at it, but I was service-department shopping because the dealer who sold me the car wanted something north of $1800 to replace the valve body.

    So I hanging around the dealership waiting for my wife to pick me, who was mad at me because I was leaving the car instead of driving myself to work (in third gear) while waiting for parts to arrive, and a young salesman came out.

    He was a pleasant enough fellow, and I explained that I was having a Taurus serviced and that I had some interest in the Fusion and Five Hundred models, but was a ways away from a purchasing decision, and we chewed the fat amiacably enough.

    The topic of conversation came to the new Fusion, and it was mentioned that Matt Kenseth drives a Fusion in NASCAR and that he has been winning races with it.

    It is kind of like, how wet behind the ears do you think I am, young man, who is probably half my age. The only common thing between Matt’s Fusion and the Fusion on the lot is the shell made in the outline of the car, and I believe the shell of the racing Fusion is tweaked aerodynamically as well.

    The other thing is that while Mr. Kenseth is a home-town boy from the greater metropolitan area where I live, Mr. Kenseth was making sports news more for his “anger management issues” regarding a feud he gotten into with another driver regarding bumping collisions on the race track. I was having similar “anger mangement issues” with the other dealer’s service department that was giving me the treatment of high costs, vague estimates, we can’t tell until we take the tranny apart, and we never just fix the broken clip problem on a car as old as yours treatment.

    To talk up the Fusion in context of Matt Kenseth’s racing career was a little amiable chit chat and not a deal breaker on a car purchase. But why do we have to maintain the fiction that a V-8 pushrod spaceframe rear-drive racing Fusion has anything to do with a V-6 overhead cam front-drive unibody Fusion on the lot? Or that one can invoke the name of Matt Kenseth without eliciting hidden snickers from a customers when Matt Kenseth was being talked about all over town in the same tones as Paris Hilton?

    Or the time when my wife and I engaged an equally youthful and enthusiastic salesman to replace her Pontiac. My wife was driving a 20-year-old Firebird, purchased when she was in grad school, and was looking to getting whatever kind of Pontiac luxo-barge driven by a friend of hers.

    My wife expressed interest in the Pontiac luxo-barge, but the salesman pointed out a Grand Am “and this one is a GT, which means it is fast!”

    I really had to stifle myself on that one, especially with my wife looking at me that I was going to start an argument, but I asked, without a satisfactory answer, “What is fast about the GT? Does it have different engine or transmission tunings than the base model?” Of course the GT was a question of a paint stripe and some plastic trim.

    Again, it is the question of how stupid do you think I am. If he said, “How about the GT model — it has racing styling not found on the base model, which is very popular among Pontiac customers” I would have thought, OK, the paint stripe and plastic trim is worth several hundred bucks to look cool. But if it has anything different about the engine, transmission, or suspension, tell me about instead of gushing about how “fast” this model relative to the generic GM powertrain.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    During my last car shopping experience there were only two dealers that really tried to make the experience a pleasure, and in both cases the salesperson connected with me on an enthusiast level. Every other dealer visit was worse than a dentist appointment.

    Astonishingly one of these good dealers was a VW dealer. I would have liked to have purchased from that dealer, but I couldn’t convince myself that a $28k Jetta was a smart idea.

    When I decided on which car I was buying I requested internet quotes from all of the Acura dealers in my area. Most did not respond with a quote. The one who got my business responded the same day with a no-nonsense and professionally written offer of $200 over invoice and included a list of color selections that were in stock. When I went in to sign the paperwork, he said “I’m not even going to ask you about any of the extras”. All in all I had much more pain dealing with my bank and insurance agency than at the dealer.

    Brokers are good too, but in the Internet era you can find a good dealer yourself. I could have taken the price down had I been willing to play multiple dealers off each other, but I was satisfied with the $200 over invoice deal and felt my sanity was worth the few hundred dollars I could have saved.

  • avatar
    craiggbear

    Actually, I (generally) LOVE car shopping.

    I even offer my services to friends who despise the experience – and I don’t charge anything for the help. No, I am not a masochist, although perhaps I am a sadist (hehe). I just love the behaviors of car salespeople – and dealing with them at their level.

    I think it started when I was 16 and really couldn’t afford anything but went to the lots anyways – mainly to dream and oogle but once in a while, at the corner lots, I would consider buying – and did. I got to know the sales tricks – although they have gotten a lot more slick and tricky. Over the years, I have owned over 32 cars (plus motorcycles) and found that practice does, indeed, help. I made a couple of mistakes, but few. None lately.

    The fact is, the internet has made most car salespeople impotent – and some of them, but not all, know this. I now have more information, and comparisons, on anything they have and know more than they do. Unlike many, I relish the “stupid grin” moment and, depending on the situation, feel that I can be quite pleasantly dismissive without an issue. When I am getting serious, I can shop on-line and walk in with a deal nearly made in my head, if not reality.

    The absolute key to success is being able to “walk away” – to psyche oneself up to the reality – and it is reality – that there are ALWAYS more fish in the automotive sea – and behave accordingly.

    Research and a positive attitude – along with being able to tell a car salesperson to get lost – and I neither fear nor despise the experience. Car sales do what they do – more or less. To go after them in their own element -means you just respect their behavior, but not their methods.

    I guess I am kind of an automotive crocodile hunter. Crickey!

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    The absolute key to success is being able to “walk away” – to psyche oneself up to the reality – and it is reality – that there are ALWAYS more fish in the automotive sea – and behave accordingly.

    Amen to that. It’s the people that walk in thinking that they have to have THAT car TODAY that are the fish in the proverbial barrel. Salesmen prey on that. There are other cars, there are other days, and other deals. If you get taken advantage of because you had to have a car today, or because you couldn’t just say no and walk away, you have no one to blame but yourself.

  • avatar

    I always thought that buying cars was the worst, lowest experience you can go through.

    Then my wife did an eight year stint as a real estate agent. Anything you can think of dirty about cars, I can come back with even dirtier regarding buying or selling a house.

  • avatar
    LoserBoy

    If you get taken advantage of because you had to have a car today… you have no one to blame but yourself.

    Or in my case, a father who isn’t nearly as handy with a wrench as he’s led you to believe. (Or perhaps he was more handy: it isn’t just anyone who can take a car whose only problem is a bad fuel gauge and turn it into a blazing inferno.)

  • avatar
    Eric_Stepans

    There is a very simple obvious flaw in the “Be willing to walk away” tactic.

    How much is your time worth? At what point does eking out that last few hundred dollars on the price become less important than continuing to waste your time and energy on the negotiating games? How long do you spend before giving in is less onerous than starting the whole ridiculous process over again from scratch?

    I’ve gone through 3-4 hour car buying experiences enough in my life. I’m done.

    I think the best way is to separate your testing from your purchasing. Go for test drives, pick the car you want, then use the Internet to do all the negotiating from the comfort of your own home.

  • avatar
    kph

    My strategy for my last two cars came down to “if you don’t waste their time, they won’t waste yours”.

    I’ll ask for a specific car I saw on their inventory online and test drive it. If I like it, I offer the invoice price and show them my own financing. By then they know I know exactly what I’m doing. I’ll let up one or two hundred dollars for the salesman, and hold firm after that. Whole process shouldn’t take more than an hour and half.

  • avatar

    One comment regarding the Internet and how it empowers the customer, etc., etc., etc: A couple of notes ago someone claimed that he now had more knowledge than the salesman, was more empowered, whatever.

    No you don’t, and no, you aren’t. What you don’t have is THE critical last bit of information that the dealership always knows and the customer will NEVER have – what is the absolute, to the penny, lowest price the dealership will take on a certain car to move it off the lot. Only they know that. The customer is still guessing. Yes, it’s a more educated guess, but it’s still guessing.

    The Internet levels the playing field. Said field will NEVER tilt in the direction of the customer.

    Get used to it.

  • avatar
    craiggbear

    Sykerocker

    Sorry but this is not true. Yes, the playing field tilts toward the knowledgeable customer – this is due to the golden rule.

    You know the golden rule, don’t you?

    He who has the gold rules.

    I don’t need to know what their price or cost is, only mine. A good deal is one where I paid what I think it’s worth – not what it cost. If cost was the only factor, you wouldn’t eat in many restaurants.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    I just bought a new Honda Pilot.

    I had my financing pre-approved before I even started negotiating. Did all my negotiations via e-mail, and arrived at a fair price (based on my research beforehand).

    I only set foot in the dealership to sign and drive. It still took over an hour to get my tour of the service area, walk around the car and get oriented to the features, sign the papers, etc.

    All in all a painless transaction.

    It’s the only way I’ll EVER buy a car.

    BTW, Team Honda in Lithia Springs (Atlanta), GA.

    Now the odd part. Team got the car from another Honda dealer who wouldn’t meet my price point. That dealer e-mailed me later asking if I was still interested in buying a car. I thanked them for supplying the car to Team and told them that they could have had the profit if only they had done the deal. Too bad, so sad.

  • avatar
    N85523

    In a perfect world, the car dealers would be owned and operated by the manufacturers (or some other entity thereof). Salesmen would not work for commission and would be trained to know their product better than any customer. Prices would be non-negotiable, like those of tubes of toothpaste.

    Alas, this is not a perfect world and such a dealership, or more appropriately an automotive retailer, is unlikely to exist with existing state legislation and so forth, but the first manufacturer to come close to such an approach will sell a lot of cars.

  • avatar
    Acd

    Buying a new car really does not have to be that difficult. You can get all the information about dealer invoice prices and incentives–customer and dealer–on the internet. Go in armed with the numbers and figure you’re going to pay a little over invoice minus any applicable incentives depending on how hot the model you are looking at is. Figure that a volume model like a Camry, Impala, etc. will sell closer to invoice while a Solstice or Toyota FJ Cruiser may sell at full list. Let the dealer know that you are prepared to do business right now and if they don’t come back with an acceptable figure get up and leave. The sales manager’s biggest fear is that his salesperson is going to let you, the customer, leave in the middle of negotiating the deal. Make it very clear at any time that you’re prepared to walk out. Know what interest rate your bank can get and if the dealer can do better than go with them, otherwise use your own finance source.

    Many people talk about how easy it is to buy a Scion or Saturn. In reality they are all paying full list for the cars. If you really want an enjoyable car buying experience tell any dealer (especially a domestic) that you’ll pay full list for the car right now and see how well you are treated and how easy the transaction is.

  • avatar
    C. Alan

    My experience at two local Honda dealers over the years has pretty much put me off from ever buying a new Honda. If there is a weak spot in Honda car division, it is their dealers. Both of my local dealers seem to have the attitude that ‘If you don’t buy it, some other sucker will.” I have walked out on two car purchases from these dealers, and have purchased from other companies.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    In a perfect world, the car dealers would be owned and operated by the manufacturers (or some other entity thereof). Salesmen would not work for commission and would be trained to know their product better than any customer. Prices would be non-negotiable, like those of tubes of toothpaste.

    A world of vertical integration, oligopolistic dealers and cars sold at MSRP sounds far from ideal to me.

    I look at negotiation this way — I spend a couple of hours doing the test drive, drinking bad coffee and musing about the bad suits, and I end up saving hundreds or thousands dollars as a result. I then have more money that can go into my retirement account, some nice vacations or — dare I say — a better car than I would have bought otherwise.

    If happy talk and a wonderful purchase experience are going to cost me an extra several hundred dollars, I’m not interested, and I’ll gun for the cash and the greasy sales manager, instead. The green keeps on giving, but the happy chat and handshake fade fairly quickly.

    You know the golden rule, don’t you? He who has the gold rules.

    This is more true than you know. The dealership needs to sell cars to stay business, and the sales manager and sales grunt are both motivated to move inventory for the sake of their incomes and continued employment. In contrast, the customer can always afford to walk away.

    Unless the car is one of the very few models flying off the shelves, the customer has far more leverage in the transaction. The sales process is largely intended to convince you that the tables are reversed, but a smart buyer can see through this and act accordingly.

  • avatar
    Darrencardinal

    Why do all you guys buy your cars at the dealer? There is a much better way: find a private individual selling their car in the classifieds. This person is not trying to make a certain profit, they are usually just trying to move the car along. Since they are not salesman they don’t try a bunch of retarded mind games, i.e. no extended warranties or protection packages.

    Of course, you can only do this with used cars, which are a far better deal anyway. If you are not a millionaire, you do not need to be buying new anyway. It is purely a luxury.

    Another point: Have a reliable mechanic to check the thing before you buy. DO NOT skip this step. It costs a little money, usually around $50.00, but it is money well spent if you avoid a lemon.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    My last car buying experience was great. I’m with some of you who enjoy beating the dealer at his own game but the Subaru dealer I bought my wifes car made it so easy. 45 minutes in and out the door, including the 20 minute test drive I had.
    My experience was just the opposite when she bought the Cadillac before we got married. What a POS, the car and the dealer. Ironicly I’m the one stuck driving it on rainy days I can’t take my motorcycle. The dealer was just as described in the article, I would rather be tortured.

  • avatar
    mrdweeb

    I was in a Mazda dealership here in Denver when a salesman and the sales manager herded me into an office. Big mistake on my part. Then the manager said they weren’t going to let me out until I bought a car. I though they were joking. I would probably still be there if I hadn’t grabbed the phone and told them I was dialing 911.

  • avatar
    lzaffuto

    “Many people talk about how easy it is to buy a Scion or Saturn. In reality they are all paying full list for the cars. If you really want an enjoyable car buying experience tell any dealer (especially a domestic) that you’ll pay full list for the car right now and see how well you are treated and how easy the transaction is.”

    Except full list is only $1000 over invoice. How many cars list MSRP for only $1000 over invoice? Then they try to screw you on top of that by adding a “market adjustment” over list, then “undercoating, clearcoating, etc” then high finance rates, then dealer prep, etc etc etc. Scion and Saturn do none of these things. Well, at least Scion doesn’t, I’ve heard some bad stuff about Saturn dealerships and Skys…

  • avatar
    ejacobs

    In a perfect world, the car dealers would be owned and operated by the manufacturers (or some other entity thereof). Salesmen would not work for commission and would be trained to know their product better than any customer. Prices would be non-negotiable, like those of tubes of toothpaste.

    Yes!

    I live in Denver, and there are several car dealers who operate with no-haggle pricing and commissionless salespeople. For example, Automotive Avenues is where I bought my last vehicle, and I had a great experience buying the car (priced a fair amount below book value) from one of the coolest, most laid-back dudes around (he even stopped talking about the car the second I told him a bunch of stuff about it that he didn’t know). The finance people did offer a zillion warranty/accessory options, but it was not high-pressure. Ralph Schomp Honda/BMW also offers this style of selling cars. My advice would be to shop from those types of operations, brokers, or private parties.

  • avatar
    Acd

    A Scion TC has about $860 markup according to KBB while a Ford Focus has $991 markup and a Mazda 3s has $1129, so they’re all about the same. Since the Focus has a $2500 customer rebate on the hood and the Mazda 3 doesn’t, your Ford dealer should be happy to eat into his $991 to sell you one that’s sitting on his lot. In mid-sized cars the Saturn Aura only has $1322 markup while the Camry has $2204 and the new 2008 Taurus has $1795. Toyota’s allocation of hot models is usually based on Camry and Corolla sales so they’re more willing to deal than they first appear.

    When a dealer tries to add a market adjustment to a car that he has thirty of sitting on his lot or tries to add rustproofing (does anyone actually do that any more?)just tell him no. If he insists walk out and find another dealer who will sell it to without the extra crap. Just because a dealer puts it on a sticker doesn’t mean you have to pay it (you weren’t going to pay MSRP that’s printed on the sticker anyway were you?). The bottom line is to do your homework, know what the margin is–and it is usually much smaller than most people think it is–stick to your guns and don’t get too stressed out over buying a car. Remember you have the power to choose who you do business with and who you don’t. If a dealer does something that you find objectionable let him know what he did and go somewhere else to spend your money.

  • avatar
    AGR

    Its almost surprising that everytime the subject of dealers comes up, its a repeat of the same stories.

    As many have already commented, its your money, especially if you are an enthusiast you should be empowered and know what is going on. You should also immediately “step back” if you do not like the direction of the transaction.

    There are bad “showroom processes” and there are good “showroom processes”, and there is always ” the other car, at the other dealer, at a better price”. There is absolutely no reason to endure any form of treatment that you do not agree with, that you do not like.

    There is an incredible amount of “downloading” from the manufacturers to the dealers and ultimately to the customers.

    All the available technology puts an increased emphasis on price, that is customer driven not dealer driven. An aggressive price is required to generate interest and showroom traffic. The aggressive low price does not generate enough gross profit, this is when the “tactics” start to recoup gross profit.

    Most reitaling in North America functions with “dynamic pricing”, from grocery stores to furniture stores, to car stores (dealers), consumers in general love “dynamic pricing”. Lower the price on item A, and recoup on item B and C.

    Same thing for most dealers drop the price of the car, and recoup with the financing, extended warranties, and so on.

    The consumer presumably gets “ruffled”, the low price brought him in the showroom, he is empowered, he should know that the price is too low, and then gets all “ruffled up” when the “recuperation process” is initiated.

    The empowered consumer should do most of his “transaction” online from his home or office, and visit the showroom for a road test, and to close the transaction.

  • avatar
    NickR

    ‘Last year life thunked me on the head: my wife needed a minivan.’ Sorry to hear that Matthew.

    On a more serious note, looking back on my worst three retail experiences of recent memory, two were at car dealerships. The third, if you must know, was at FutureShop whose extended warranty is utterly worthless.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I (literally) help dozens of people purchase vehicles every year. I love the hunt and the ‘kill’. Hearing some of these stories of ineptitude amuses me – it seems universal. Generally, I’ll know more than the salesperson about any given vehicle, including crash ratings, reliability, etc.

    I make sure each of my ‘clients’ (friends/family/coworkers or their relatives) understand that a dealership and salesperson HAVE to make money, but our job is to minimize their profit while making sure they’re still in business to tend to warranty and service issues.

    The upper end dealers are more low keyed, but then again they have a much bigger profit window (especially the Euro brands, keeping in mind that down the road they’ll make plenty of money on service). Beyond the usually low rent 2.8 dealers (usually large staff turnover, usually the most desperate tactics…), Toyota is the biggest pain in the ass as far as getting a straight deal. “No, I’m quite aware that the $1300 of ‘pad-ons’ you claim ‘every Toyota comes with’ is just additional profit….there are no mandatory ‘port’ packages….”. Finally did find a local dealer who is reasonable and respectful of the buyer (out of 16 area dealers!), and thus have helped them sell close to 2 dozen cars now.

    Honda is the most arrogant. But then again, the product does perhaps have that extra “oomph” that makes the arrogance seem less distastful. VW and Audi THINK teir shit doesn’t stink, but I steer people away from those cars unless they plan to lease and then the poor reliability is covered (except for time lost and aggravation).

    Finally, when you have multiple dealers of a brand in a given area, I have found that the smaller, locally owned family operations may be a little more expensive, but well worth the small change you’ll pay since they have a personal reputation to protect.

    I just bought a car last week at a dealer 26 miles away (4 dealers closer to me of that brand….), but they acted like they wanted my business, respected me as a buyer, and finally deserved my hard earned dollars. Great people, and very active in the community. I respect that.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    What I hate about the car salesmen is how they want to qualify you prior to even discussing price. I have always paid cash, or arranged my own financing before walking on to a lot.

    One time I was interested in a 2 year old Jeep. Took it for a test drive, and I wanted to make an offer. I asked the salesman what they were asking for the car. His answer was “It depends”. “Depends on what?” I asked. “It depends on your credit”. After arguing with him for 15 minutes I realized that he was not going to give me their asking price until they had run a credit check on me, which I refused. I told him to shove his car where the sun don’t shine. To this day I still can’t understand why he didn’t want to sell me a car.

    When I bought my first Mercedes-Benz, the local dealer refused to even start negotiations unless I gave him a $10k deposit. I told him to shove it and bought my Benz the next day from another dealer.

    When I went to buy my second Mercedes, the sales man asked me to make an offer on one car I had decided I wanted (if the price was right). I had done my homework, so I opened with a low-ball offer (about $10k less than I expect to settle on). The salesman look at the number and told me to leave the premises or he would throw me off the lot personally. No counter offer. Just “Get out of here”. Nice. He lost my biz to another dealer that did negotiate.

    The last new Mercedes I bought was in Tampa for a female friend of mine. I dickered hard for 4-5 hours, even walked out the door twice with the salesman chasing me down the street. I refused to budge from my last offer. We hit an impass of a price I refused to go over. After some heated words with the sales manager, he grabbed the sales contract off the desk and just glared at me. I honestly through he was going to punch me. I stood up to defend myself, and he took the paper and threw it on my feet, spit on it, turned on his heel and said “Fine.. you have a deal”.

    Such nice professional behavior.

  • avatar
    EJ

    For a stress-free purchase I have followed the following simple steps in the past:
    1. Go to dealers to take test drives, but don’t buy anything or talk deal. Take lots of test drives.
    2. Decide what you want and find out a good price by researching it on-line.
    3. Get on-line quotes from multiple dealers or call their fleet sales department for a quote. Get commitment to a firm quote close to your researched price. Don’t visit anybody in person at this stage.
    4. Select one dealer with the best price and go there to sign the paperwork (there should be no gimmicks when arriving there).

  • avatar
    EJ

    Oh, and, of course: sell your old car yourself and get your own financing, so you can pay cash in a simple transaction.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Matthew,

    If you paid a broker a few hundred, and it took 3 hours to get your car bought, you should have told him you wanted his fee back. That is what he is supposed to prevent.

  • avatar
    barberoux

    Last car I bought, in 1999, I bought through autobytel. I got a good price, the car that I wanted and only minor pressure to get an extended warranty, I said no. Altogether it was a painless experience. I’ll never let a salesman get near me again.

  • avatar
    fallout11

    Multiple surveys over the past two decades consistently rate the car buying experience as worse than having a root canal.

  • avatar
    lewissalem

    I was verbally harassed at a Subaru dealer after calling her advertising deceptive, which it was: a classic bait-and-switch. That’s a great way to sell cars to people, insulting them. Especially since every reader of this forum knows more than she does. The best dealer experiences I have had have been at the premium dealers. You probably get what you pay for when it comes to sales staff.

  • avatar
    MgoBLUE

    My favorite greasy used-car-salesman technique is:

    (after making them an offer below asking price0

    “We can’t afford to lose money on a sale, sir.”

    (Buyer) “What is your cost basis on this vehicle?”

    “I don’t have that information.”

    Give me a break. I was born at night, but not last night.

    A close second is this line of questioning:

    “What is your ultimate focus, Sir? Total Cost of the car or just monthly payment? Because I can get you that payment.”

    The sad thing is people fall for this stuff every day.

    I’d love to see a TTAC article on the individuals (at the beginning of the 20th century, I’m sure) who were involved in setting up ‘dealerships’ in the automotive world….and why the manufacturer’s didn’t hang onto this piece of the industry.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    MGO: My understanding (corrections welcome!) is that the current “make me an offer” style of car buying came out of WWII. Here’s why:

    As most of us know, during the early part of WWII civilian car manufacture stopped so the car makers could manufacture military gear (not only vehicles but also aircraft and even weapons.) Combined with the huge ramping up of military spending which pumped millions of $$ into the economy, this created a massive market for used cars. In those days, a salesman with even a mediocre lot of used cars knew he had a pile of gold sitting on his lot and would charge whatever the market would bear. And if there was a big munitions plant or military base being built next door, filled with workers who had money coming out of their ears and the need for transportation, he could charge highway robbery prices and still sell everything he could get his hands on. In that kind of an environment, fixed pricing makes no sense because a car that’s worth $600 today can be worth $1600 tomorrow.

    This continued into the postwar boom era for the same reason: Even though civilian vehicle production resumed in 1944, many of the manufacturers took years to re-gear their factories from military to civilian hardware, and in the meantime, returning GIs with money in their pockets demanded transportation, so, again, it was a seller’s paradise. The economic boom continued, so dealers had no reason to discontinue the practices that had benefited them so much.

    From what I gather, the pre-WWII buying experience was a lot more mundane, with new vehicles generally selling for more or less fixed prices. Again, if some automotive historians have insight on this, I’d welcome the corrections.

  • avatar
    ruffneck858

    It’s not just Chevy, it’s virtually all the car dealerships. If you look at customer satisfaction surveys, Toyota consistently ranks amongst the lowest rated becuase their products are “hot” and their salespeople are often not willing to work out a good deal. Couple tips – ask for the dealer invoice and negotiate from invoice price (they have to show it to you upon request) and make sure they are willing to give you your exact credit score if you are financing. Often times dealerships will finance through a bank because the terms are better for them, and they will tell you that there are a couple “hits” on your credit.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    My understanding (corrections welcome!) is that the current “make me an offer” style of car buying came out of WWII.

    Martin, I don’t know the history, but I seriously doubt that there is much history behind this.

    It comes down to this — there’s a cardinal rule to negotiations: He who names the first number loses. The seller loses if he does it because the price will go no higher, whereas the buyer loses by making the first offer for a similar reason, namely that the price floor will have been set. The seller will try to avoid naming the first number, for the price is only going to fall from there.

    The dealership understands that some consumers have a tolerance for high prices, and other customers do not. The dealership’s mission is to extract as much money out of each customer as each customer is willing to pay.

    By getting the customer to make the first offer, discovering this maximum price becomes easier for the seller, which leads to higher profits. It’s just a negotiation tactic that applies to buying virtually any product.

    In addition, dealers would prefer that you think of the transaction in terms of monthly payments, rather than purchase price. (This is one of the goals of the “four square”, to get you to forget about the price and to be distracted by the monthly payment, down payment and trade-in value.) By getting the buyer to focus on payments, the price gets lost in the transaction, and the seller can manipulate the other moving parts to extract a higher interest rate and longer loan term out of the buyer than he might otherwise get. Again, it’s just about transferring more of the buyer’s money into the dealership’s pocket.

    Contrary to popular belief, fixed pricing without the expectation of negotiation is a relatively recent phenomenon. The “Monroney” window sticker on cars sold in the US wasn’t even a legal requirement until 1958. Cars are so expensive that they are obvious purchases to negotiate.

    I’m not sure what happened, for people have been haggling their purchases since the beginning of time. (I can imagine that tens of thousands of years ago, cavemen would have grunted the equivalent of “Look, buddy, I’ll give you one chicken and three eggs for that stone club over there, and not a single egg more!”) It’s really only recently where some of us have come to believe that there is something odd, unusual or distasteful about negotiating…

  • avatar
    AGR

    In the US many dealerships are owned by “public companies” Auto Nations – United Auto – Lithia – Sonic are a few public companies that own dealerships.

    As for factory owned dealerships, in the US many state franchise laws do not permit factory ownership, in Canada there is one luxury manufacturer that owns several of its dealerships. Does the factory owned dealer do a better job than a public owned dealer, than a private owned dealer, than a “mom and pop” dealer?

    In what other sales envorinment can a “prospect / suspect” visit the business and take off with a $ 40,000 item on a road test, return and say “thank you I’ll think about it”.

    How often so “prospects” visit a showroom with young children that are all over the interior of 1 or 2 vehicles with the parents looking on. “Hey its only a dealer let the kids walk all over the seats, Oh look at the little one he’s standing on the armrest”.

    As to why manufacturers do not own their own dealerships. Manufacturers have no desire to be in the retail business, a lot easier for a manufacturer to squeeze and arm restle a dealer, than to go out and do it themselves.

  • avatar
    jackc10

    I still am amazed a little with car buyers referencing list price on the MSRP tag. That is like trying to find out a hotel/motel rate by starting at the posted daily rack rate on the back of the room door.

    When purchasing my wife’s last car, after she picked it a Solara convertible out, I got prices from the usual suspects and even Toyota.com. The Toyota .com price was within $10 of the other prices. Toyota.com even told me that the exact car she wanted was being delivered to my local Dealership in Marietta that day. Turns out it was coming off the truck at that moment.

    Also, thanx to the internet I found two Toyota dealers on the east coast advertising a similiar vehicle at more than we were going to pay.

    Took longer for them to clean it up and make sure it was OK than it took for the paper signing. Still had to go through the finance man’s office. I wrote the check standing up. That keeps the visit short. Do not sit down.

  • avatar
    Seth

    Whoever said Honda dealers are obnoxious… they are right on the money. I’ll go far as saying that same goes for Toyota as well. They all do two things
    1. Give next to nothing on your trade-in
    2. Charge high interest for finance
    I went to Mitsubishi so that I can get the most for my trade-in. It was 6 times what Honda/Toyota were willing to give. First mitsu dealer got smart and talked crap such as “Did you get a discount on that blackberry you have?” Well he more than anyone knows better that car prices are MSRP and nobody buys a mitsu at MSRP. Second dealer was pleasant and chopped off the amount I asked from MSRP while giving solid trade-in amount. In the end, hot off the boat Outlander XLS with all the gadgetries found until recently in high end cars came in at almost the same price as a Honda Accord. It pays to walk from dealers but dealers want to leave a bad taste in your mouth when you do that… such is life. Imagine how many can Honda/Toyota sell more than what they do if only dealers are willing to play..

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    I had an (not really) amusing experience at a BMW dealership the other day.

    I’d bought 3 cars there, but my salesman is gone.

    With the new guy who got his desk, I got the whole show that makes people hate car dealers.

    I looked at a car on the lot and thought it a good deal, even if the price only moved down a little. Pretty normal in BMW land. I expressed interest.

    So I come back the next day
    1. The car I’d looked at the day before is “sold”
    2. My trade is worth below low Edmunds
    3. Although I have my own financing he wants to check my credit anyhow.
    4. When I give him a payment slip to use to check my credit, he comes back with a proposed deal. Remarkably the monthly payment he proposed matches my current payment to the dollar.

    What was even more remarkable was that, since I’d proposed a substantial downpayment he’d increased the price on the car by several thousand dollars to make it match my current payments.

    I suppose he didn’t think I’d notice…. I was just supposed to be happy that the payment was the same.

    Now I have to go find a new dealer :-(

  • avatar
    Marco

    If you are buying new, there is a somewhat easy recipe to get a good price on the car you want:

    1. Decide what you want to buy by browsing the manufacturer’s web site. You want to know what options and packages you will be buying beforehand as it simplifies the whole process. You will also need to have settled your payment structure (cash down + period) before you visit the first dealership. Again, this is easy to do with most manufacturer websites. Rates and trade-in values are irrelevant with this strategy.
    2. Choose the dealership you want to buy from. Typically, it’s the closest to your home or one where you have a good reason to expect good service.
    3. Go to that dealership, test drive the car if you need to and get a first price. Tell them you’ll think about it. Don’t let them con you into the whole “I’ll give you a great price if you promise to buy today” shtick. Just get a price and make sure that it includes all fees and taxes. It doesn’t matter if it’s terrible.
    4. Go to another dealership that sells the same brand. Tell them that you have just been to dealership 1 and that salesman 1 offered to sell you the car for price 1 minus 2% to 5% (it depends on trade-in value). Get a better price.
    5. Go to a third dealership. Tell them that you have just been to dealership 2 and that salesman 2 offered to sell you the car for price 2 minus 2% to 5%. Get a better price.
    6. Keep pitting dealership 2 against dealership 3 until one of them tells you that they can’t beat the other’s price. By the time this happens, you should normally be quite close to invoice. All their trade-in/rate tomfoolery won’t matter as long as period and cash down are set in stone as the only price they can move is your payment.
    7. Go back to the first dealership and tell him the best price you got. Tell them that if they beat that price right now, you will sign on the dotted line.

    This takes a while and requires some patience but usually yields good results.

  • avatar
    pdub

    It’s no coincidence that those who had pleasant buying experiences have generally done some research and offered a couple hundred over invoice. Let the dealer have its holdback and give the salesperson twice his typical mini. These are the keys to a pleasant car buying experience in a world where everyone wants to know the invoice. Most internet managers will give you this price up front if you pick a vehicle in their inventory or tell them what you want.

    It repeatedly astounds me that the same guy who’ll pay $9 for a beer at the ballpark will only buy a vehicle from you if you dip into the holdback.

    Those defending the Saturn-Scion experience because list is only a $1000 over invoice, a little research would show that most mid-size sedans these days under $25k have only a $1000 – $1500 in mark-up.

    If you hate haggling over price, then shut up and pay full list. You’re paying full list every time you go out to dinner, and if your server does a good job, you (should)tip him/her server 20%. Your consultant typically gets at best 1-3% commission.

    Yes, car salesman can be all of the nasty things in the world, but your attitude going into the dealership does a lot to dictate how they treat you. Chill out, be prepared, go through the internet department or a referral from a friend, and let the process be a pleasant one. If it’s not, then get out of there and head down the street. Don’t stick with a dealer who only wants to sell everyone in the city a car one time.

  • avatar
    pdub

    One other thing. If you inquire about a vehicle online, a dealer makes efforts to contact you, and you decide not to go with that vehicle or to put off the purchase, have enough common decency to call or email that internet manager. That guy’s job is to contact you until you answer your phone or reply to his emails. You waste everyone’s time by letting him leave message after message on your v-mail and e-mail. It is people like you that give the buying public as bad a reputation as many perceive the dealers to have.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    If you really want a stressful way to buy a car, find a way to go to an auto auction like Manheim.

    My uncle is a registered auto dealer. He doesn’t operate a car dealership, but he buys and sells vehicles for his business – so much so, that he was legally required to register his business as an auto dealer.

    There is nothing like it. Manheim auctions somewhere around 30 cars every minute. Each auction lane has a line that seems like it never ends.

    The key is to test drive the cars at traditional dealers and then walk away. Next, figure out what you want to pay for the vehicle (dealers buy vehicles at Manheim and then mark them up for retail sale). You should be able to get the vehicle at auction for $5000 to $10000 less than at a dealer.

    The drawbacks:

    You only get the balance of the factory warranty – after that, you are on your own. If you like purchasing “extended warranties” auctions are not for you.

    Only buy a “green light” vehicle. Any other type of auction has lots of risk – accident damage – etc.

    Be ready to pounce. If you are buying for yourself, you are at an advantage. Many dealers will let an auction go to preserve their retail profits. You can afford to go $1000 higher to win the auction since you are not reselling the car.

    It’s a hell of a ride, but if you can stomach the speed, it’s an interesting way to buy a car.

    -ted

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    I’m being sued by the dealer that I purchase an Acura from last year. After picking up the car I got a call and was told that they made a ‘mistake’ and sold the car for less then cost!

    I was kind of concerned until my wife told me that the lawyers at her company are all drawing straws to see who get’s to represent us. I suspect that there is a lot of pent up anger regarding previous car purchases among the employees of the legal department.

    See you in court next month!

  • avatar
    craiggbear

    To continue the boy scout advice of “be prepared” is the secret to success, here are a few more tips to reduce stress:

    If you see a car you think you like, rather than a test drive, see if you can rent one for a day or two. Then you can really see what the car is made of. Perhaps the stereo or interior is the lower level, but you can certainly experience it better than a short test drive.

    If there is a specific used car you are interested in, get the serial number and run a CarFax – you can buy unlimited access for 30 days for $30 – best money I ever spent. Tells if there are accidents, registration dates and even, in some cases, service activity. Many ads now show the serial number in the photo array. If not, just look through the windshield.

    Finally, back to behaviors of car salespeople – firm but fair is my motto. Unlike some of the advice given above, I don’t lie to the salesperson – rather I make sure they know they are in a competition. I am amazed at how many salespeople have no clue about their competition’s products – many haven’t even sat in another makers car, let alone test drive. Maybe they get a competitor’s car on trade but rarely do they drive them.

    With today’s cars, and the length of warranty, a used 1 or 2 year old car is a great buy. Removed the massive first year depreciation hit and they are generally available in great quantities due to short term leasing and such. The extended warranties are generally not needed on many high quality brands – you know who they are. If warranties were a good deal for the customer, the dealers would up the price. They know the average is against you.

    Just another 2 cents worth.

  • avatar
    NickR

    I’m being sued by the dealer that I purchase an Acura from last year. After picking up the car I got a call and was told that they made a ‘mistake’ and sold the car for less then cost!

    That sets a new low for dealer stupidity…the suing part I mean. Make sure you ask for costs and interest when they lose. A first year law student should be able to put this one away.

    Good to know that stunnedness extends across foreign and domestic brands.

  • avatar
    gfen

    I completed a used car purchase last Friday after starting it sometime in April. I like to take my time, it makes it so much easier to smile and walk away.

    I’ve got lots of things to share, but the one that to this day _still_ makes me incredibly angry is the snotnosed 19yo at Cooper Nissan of the Lehigh Valley who wrote one price on paper, and circled it with the words “customer agrees to buy today at this price.” Then, I walked outside for a minute to let the wife make her decision, to come back and find the sheet gone and the numbers on our trade different by $800. I was then told what it was worth to them, and how they’d show me in NADA (actually, was worth $1800 more, there) and in KBB ($100 more, there). When he saw his own lies were refuted with the sources he tried to use, he tried to persuade me with, “You obviously can’t afford a new car, so buy mine.”

    We left. I’d never seen my wife so angry before.
    There’s been countless emails to the dealership and the corporation, they probably won’t do anything, but I don’t care. I will never buy a Nissan from them, and neither will anyone I know.

    For the record, the car we finally bought we’d looked at 3 weeks previous. They’d give me $700 less on my trade than I wanted, and wanted $2500 more on theirs. Amazing what me walking out and telling them to call me nets me in the end. :)

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    Well, I have to say that there are definitely some horror stories here. Being sued becuase the dealership screwed up, thats rich. I think a countersuit for court costs and your time are in order.

    For the guy that got cornered in the office by the two sales people and wasn’t allowed to leave, You should have given the chioce of selling you a car for $2000 under invoice or being arrested. Then the shoe would have been on the other foot.

    I can’t believe the physical intimidation tactitcs. It’s times like these that I’m happy that I’m a big guy.

    Some tips that have been helpful for me:

    1. Get internet prices
    2. get a general invoice price off of the internet
    3. Visit several dealerships and have them write you a quote.
    4. Pick the dealership with the lowest offered price and open negotiations with a low-ball offer ($1k under invoice works for me), then negotiate up. If that isn’t lower than the number in your hand, pull out the quote and make them match it.

    When my mother was shopping for a Honda CR-V a few years back I found a salesman I had spoken to a month prior and began negotiating. We went back and forth for a little while and he stated that he couldn’t go any lower than $21,500. I pulled out his card with the specs and price quote of $20,300 on the back. He had a dumbfounded look on his face and then gave me the lower price.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Twice we’ve bought from the nearest Honda dealer, and twice it’s been a pleasant experience.

    We arranged financing through our CU beforehand, and we told the salesman that fact up front. Our CU has a computerized database of car prices and tells us how much below sticker we should be paying. It also tells us -supposedly- dealer’s cost, though I’ve never been sure how accurate that info is.

    We looked at the model we were interested in, test drove it, and decided we liked it. We reminded the salesman that we had our financing arranged and we simpy needed the dealer’s best price. Both times we were presented with numbers that were at least a thousand below sticker. Could we have gotten another $500 or more off the sticker by negotiating the better part of the day? Perhaps. When you figure the differnce in monthly paymets, another $500 or even $1K only makes a small monthly difference. How much of our time do we really want to spend haggling? Does a few dollars a month really justify spending most of the day in a dealership? It was a reasonable deal – not a great deal – meaning we were presented with a good but not great price, and the dealership made a good but not great profit. What’s wrong with doing business that way?

    Sure, the salesman tried to interest us in extras, and since he’d been polite and reserved the whole time, we let him go through his schpeel. Each time we said we were not interested, he dropped it and moved to the next item. He felt he’d tried to make a bit more profit, and we at least got to hear about the various extras available (who knows, maybe we do want one or two of those items). That part of the excercise took 15 minutes.

    The only thing that has ever stopped us from buying a Toyota is the dealership experience. Our local Toyota dealer is staffed by sharks in plaid suit coats and white shoes with gold pinkie rings who swoop down on customers before they get out of their car. Great product, terrible buying experience. We’ll stick with our local Honda dealer.

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