By on January 10, 2009

I am stealing Jack’s thunder . I admit it. But, he opened up a tasty can of worms and I intend to eat the last drop. Or something. Anyhow, the dealership experience is absolutely insane. You’ve all heard of the dreaded four-square, right? Essentially, it’s four separate opportunities for the dealer to bend you over and drop trou. And they will, trust me. As (essentially) every car purchase involves a group people trying to screw you from multiple angles, these stories should be– and will be– fantastic. Mine, sadly, isn’t that great. But it goes like this… Back during the tail end of the dotcom boom, I was rich. Well, rich for a 25-year-old. Six-figure income and $425 a month in rent. Life was sweet. And I wanted an Audi S4 Avant more than anything in the world. So, I bop down to the Audi dealer. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have worn my ratty old Alice Donut T-shirt with a dead hooker on the front. But whatever. My plan: drive the Avant and put down $20k, hoping to get another $18k for my Grand Cherokee and only owe the remainder of the S4’s $45k price. The salesmen wouldn’t even look at me. After standing around feeling stupid for ten minutes, I approached one of them. No way could I test drive the car. Get serious. Now, I had just read an article about some new fangled car by Subaru called a WRX. It not only came as a wagon, but made 227 hp, AWD, and weighed 500 pounds less than the Audi so it was actually faster. Hmmm. Bopped over to the Subaru dealer. Got a test drive. AWESOME! They gave me $16k for the Jeep and I wrote a check for the rest. Done. The Audi dealer called me a few days later wondering if I was still interested. And I got to tell him all about my awesome new Subaru and the $45k he left on the table. You?

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72 Comments on “Question of the Day: Your Worst Dealership Experience...”

  • avatar

    Hands down! Sherway Acura Etobicoke Ontario. I was with my future wife. Innocent young adults. Good jobs. Didn’t realize what snakes dealerships can be. They asked for a credit card and license to test drive any car. No problem. After one test drive of one 1992 Integra on a saturday afternoon, they demanded she buy the car at their price and make many repairs to her car prior to trade in. She/we refused politely and asked for the credit card and license so we could be on our way. Not so fast stupid innocent little kids. We put $1000 on your credit card and we can’t find your license. The manager and sales person said and I quote, “it’s only $1000”. (This is 1994 and we weren’t making a lot of money as we were starting out) We were being held hostage essentially. They were laughing as we refused and we scared by the threats. Their irrational intransigence raised my ire to the point of me yelling and screaming in the showroom with a plethora of expletives. I started to scare away the customers when they finally capitulated. I was ready to cause physical violence to the weasel manager and sales person. I notified Acura Canada with no response in return. Never bought an Acura probably won’t and now keep the cars for as long a possible so as to limit my dealership experience. Even then I buy used from a friend.

  • avatar

    While you think you want that S4 or WRX… have you considered the Aerostar? See Jack for details.

  • avatar

    Well this one’s easy. It was October 2006 and with baby on the way I decided that the only responsible thing to do was trade in my beloved Mazdaspeed Miata. Four cars were on the menu: The WRX, Civic Si, VW GTI, and the Mazdaspeed 3. The rex was too pricy, and the Civic too slow, and the GTI just didn’t feel right with all the potential trips to the dealer. With all praise heaped onto the Speed 3 by the MSM and this very publication, and years of happy Mazda ownership I decided that one was just right for me.

    Tom (or so I’ll call him), my salesman was a great guy, but he wasn’t working there long after I bought the car. Perhaps he just didn’t have it in him, but with the sales manager breathing down his neck, boy did he try his best.

    First up was the $1000 markup. I wasn’t going to pay it and that was that. I wasn’t in any great hurry to buy, and I was willing to pay close to sticker, but paying over wasn’t in the cards. I made that known from the start, and despite promises to “work with me,” it took over one hour of negotiating time to have the $1000 stricken from the bill. They kept telling me, “you are only the 2nd person in the area to buy this car, you’ve got to pay the thousand dollars.” This was also followed up by, “the last guy paid this!” Peer-pressure? Really?

    Then it was on to the finance guy. A real piece of work this one. Big fat grease ball with a belt and suspenders. He got angry and me when I wouldn’t listen to his lojack push. My knowledge of my outstanding credit score kept knocking the rates down further.

    All in all, it took 3 1/2 hours to buy that car. The worst part – 31 days later it was totalled when someone smashed into the back of my car on the freeway. So I had to do the whole thing over again…

  • avatar

    Always be ready to walk/run out of a dealership no matter how much you “need” that car. Salesman need to sell, you don’t need to buy.

  • avatar

    Last year I took my friend, his brother, his sister and their mother to a CHRYSLER DEALERSHIP (go figure) on Merrick Road in Valley Stream long island, NY

    The mother was ready to buy a new minivan and I figured she’d like the Pacifica – but she ended up going for the Town&Country.

    The asshole dealer acted like we didn’t exist and neither he or the two other people there came to help. I went up to him and told him “I brought customers and they wanted to buy” and he told me “It doesn’t work that way” as if he couldn’t be bothered to help.

    My friend’s mother complained to a secretary and we left.

    we went to Chrysler on Jamaica Avenue in Hollis and got much better service.

    She purchased a brand new town & country with everything but the Mygig just a few days later.

  • avatar

    6 months ago, Toyota dealership took 3-4 HOURS just to do registration paperwork because they “mixed up the VIN of the car on the paper” just to wear us out. They also lied about their Camrys and tried to force us to buy a 1k alarm system when you can get an aftermarket one for 50 something without explicitly telling us.

    We also had to lie to get the price down another 400, by saying another dealership made a counteroffer of 500 bucks less when they really hadn’t.

    They had amazing tacos, though. I think I was cranky because we were at the dealership from 11-4 and they only gave us one water bottle. :(

  • avatar

    My worst experience so far has been, unfortunately, at the Troy Acura dealer here in SE Michigan. A few years ago, when I was prepping my Integra GS-R for SCCA road racing, I dropped by the dealer to ask a few questions about some parts I was planning to take off as I was gutting the car.

    The service manager would not give me the time of day. He wouldn’t let me near the techs either, basically saying that they’re all busy and he’ll charge me labor rates if I talk to them.

    I demanded his business card and planned to call Acura to ask why they employe a service manager with such poor people skills. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that if I can afford to build a car for racing, then I am obviously gainfully employed and I will probably buy another Acura? Anyway, I never called, but I did tell a lot of people about this guy and this dealership.

    This experience left such a bad taste in my mouth that two years later, I bought a Lex RX330 for my wife instead of the Acura MDX that I liked better.

  • avatar

    I had a similar experience as jckirlan11. I stopped at a Toyota dealer a few blocks from my home in Pueblo Colorado. I naively asked the salesman for his no-haggle price on a new truck. He said he would be glad to give me a quote but needed to prove to his sales manager that I was serious, by showing him my drivers license and credit card. I was an idiot for not walking right then. Instead I gave him what he asked for.

    The quote was the sticker price. OK thanks anyway, can I get my cards back, I’d like to leave now, I said. After a good 15 minutes of back and forth BS by the salesman and manager, I finely had to follow the salesman to the managers office, force the door open and demand to have my cards back. When the Manager said “wait a minute, don’t get exited”, I called the police and began my report, naming names. They gave my cards back and I left.

  • avatar

    How about good experiences? My last new car–a 2001 Prius–showed me the right way. Having owned several new Dodge Colts and Hondas, with the associated distasteful dealer experiences, this was a breeze. For a time you could order the Prius over the internet. It was MSRP, so there was no haggling. You filled out a form online which was forwarded to the dealer of your choice with a confirmation. I called the dealer and explained the program to them(!), gave them my credit card number for the deposit. All done by email and fax–painless. Car arrived six weeks later. They screwed me slightly on my trade-in (a 96 Taurus) but I was expecting this; after all, it was a Taurus…not worth much at all.

    I wouldn’t necessarily pay MSRP again, but I also won’t subject myself to the four-square treatment. I’d buy a new car again over the internet any day rather than spend 3+ excruciating hours at a dealership. I’d rather scrub my toilet.

  • avatar


    We’ve been bashing dealers all day over on the Pontiac editorial thread. I’m too tired to write a long entry. Plus, I’ve had so many bad experiences both as a customer and as a dealer employee that it will take me some time to sort thru my experiences and come up with the worstest of the worst.

    But I’ll give you a clue, it’s got to come from the employee side……To those uninformed, dealers like to screw their employees just as much as they like to screw customers. If whores and car dealers/salesmen were the only professions in the world I’d rather deal with the whores.

  • avatar

    jckirlan11, that was a horrible experience. I’ve heard of the “we can’t find your keys” excuse for continuing to harangue a shopper who wants to leave, but putting a charge (hold?) on a credit card! It smells of extortion.

    If there’s a lawyer out there, I’d like to know if this fits the definition of false imprisonment. Sure seems similar to me; maybe with an attorney threatening a lawsuit you could have gotten a free car from those jerks.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    We visited an Acura dealer to examine and drive a new MDX. The salesman insisted on photocopying our driver’s licenses. We had no issue with him confirming our identities and our entitlement to drive but rejected photocopying, referencing police identity theft warnings and to prevent covert credit checking. He said we might not bring their expensive car back!!! As we walked toward our car, a late model Acura, he chased after us withdrawing the photocopying requirement as he ran.

    The salesman then touted us onto a used MDX with about 10,000 km which was on showroom display. He attempted to apply freight, PDI, air and gas tax charges to the transaction. I pointed out they are not applicable to used cars. He insisted, saying it is a demonstration car. We excused ourselves and quickly left.

    The Infiniti and Lexus representatives neither asked to see nor photocopy our driver’s licenses. We bought a new Infiniti.

  • avatar


    I have had some real Pontiac doozies myself with a dash of Chevy stories to toss in. They all must attend the same seminars on how to screw the customer. Pontiac in Brighton mi, be-on-guard.

    The expectation from a dealer is a good experience

    Ok a Chevy dealer story. I took my NEW truck back to the dealer after a week and a couple hundred miles because I noticed the tailgate had been repaired, and there were dried drips of clear coat at the bottom edge of it. They repaired it so I went to pick it up. The battery was completely dead. They decided to charge it and ask if I could come back tomorrow, so I did.

    I went back to pick it up and the driver door had a giant gouge with a deep ding. I was sick. So they kept it another two days to repair. I went to pick up, and they had painted the entire driver side of the truck, and there was over spray all over the underside, you name it, it had paint on it. The paint to boot, did not look that good as well, they put the Z71 decal on the side of the bed level with the ground rather than matching the body lines of the truck.

    BTW the battery was dead thanks to a TSB they neglected to address that had to do with the dome light door switch needing to be shimmed so the interior lights would turn off when the door was closed. A comedy of errors.

    Pontiac dealers OMG! Here is one. I put a deposit on a 05 GTO, it was rainy out. I went back three days later to look at the car which had 38 miles on it. I notice tape lines in the hood, door, and trunk jambs. It looked like the LH door had been repaired but they had to shoot most of the side to get the paint to blend.

    They denied it was ever repaired. Perhaps not at the dealer but most likely at the factory which does happen time to time but they would be privy to that. The salesman went to get one of the service guys to get their opinion. He tried to tell me the BC/CC acronym indicated it was a two tone paint and that is why the paint looked a different shade on the bumpers.

    BC/CC stands for basecoat clearcoat identifying a base color with a clearcoat finish over the basecoat. I got my deposit back.

  • avatar

    63CorvairSpyder: “But I’ll give you a clue, it’s got to come from the employee side……To those uninformed, dealers like to screw their employees just as much as they like to screw customers.”A while ago (years?), a writer for Edmunds did a superb story about being a car salesman for a while and wrote about the experience in a several part series. It’s a great insight into the dog-eat-dog world that selling cars entails from the inside. While many salesmen and dealerships deserve the reputations they have, there are some who are just trying to make an honest living, too. Unfortunately, given the nature of the business, they don’t seem to last very long.

    One of the more interesting anecdotes was the story where the dealership had actually finalized a deal with the customer paying more than the actual agreed upon arrangement for the vehicle. Of course, the slick sales manager was able to manipulate the numbers so the customer’s payments remained the same and the dealership could legally keep all the money that she had agreed to pay on the signed contract.

    The upshot of the article was that, generally speaking, it’s as bare-faced, make-money-any-way-you-can business as is possible this side of organized crime. It’s a great read worth looking for if it’s still available on the Edmunds website.

  • avatar

    The Caddy dealer in Bedford Hills, NY who tried to sell me a flood damaged ‘new’ SRX. I knew something was wrong when he refused to consider any lease (they were still leasing at the time).

    Rusted seat tracks and copious grit under the carpets sealed the “no” deal for me. They of course denied everything while they tried to lease me a SRX for the cost of the Q7

    The other story was a few years back, a Toyota dealer who sent my mom a payment book with higher payments. They said “just make one payment and we’ll work it out”. (once you pay you are locked into the deal)

  • avatar

    First I’d like to mention a pet peeve… I loathe when sales people beg you to give them 100% positives when the company calls about the survey. If you’re a good sales person you shouldn’t have to beg for it.

    My Dad had a terrible experience at Paramus Chevrolet in NJ. He bought a ’08 Corvette Z06 and wanted to pay for the car in cash, but the dealer told him to leave his money in the bank and take out a 0% loan from GMAC. So my father finances the whole Z06, takes the car home, and gets a call a week later saying his loan was not approved and he needs to come back in. It took almost a month of going back and forth with the dealer and faxing bank statements proving that he had more than enough money to pay for the car before my dad told them to just take it back. Finally the GMAC folks gave him the loan.

    Saddest part is he has not driven the car in months because he is petrified of scratching or damaging it in anyway. It sits in the garage after the 1984 BMW 533i, which he barely drove and stored in the garage, now sits in the driveway.

    On a more positive note… if anyone is looking for a Honda in the NY Hudson Valley area I’ve had to good experiences at Honda of Nanuet. Bought an Accord and a Civic. Both dealers were very patient, and when I went to pick up the Civic I noticed there were wheel locks on the car I had not asked for. I though they were trying to tack this on and hoped I would not notice. When I brought it up the dealer said he didn’t even notice them himself, and that they were complimentary. Also, I got a great price on the Civic without much haggling, and this was when gas was $4 a gallon and Civics were selling fast.

  • avatar

    Morries Mazda in Minnetonka Minnesota Hands down the sleaziest dealer ever.

    I was negotiating on a least for a car for my wife. It was a stop gap measure for a couple of years until we could save up for a more appropriate family truckster. The car was a used Millenia. I was negotiating with them for a 36 month lease. No more because the car would go beyond the extended warranty. We were going back and forth with the dreaded 4 square pictured above and finally they dropped the monthly lease payment to what I was looking for. I remember looking the sales lady straight in the eye and stating that I was glad they had dropped the price finally. She said NOTHING. Come to find out down the line that they had upped the lease term to 42 months without even saying so. They must have been holding their breath when I was signing the papers. Of course I didn’t read it, my fault. They sleazed me good on that one. Second part of that was when I went to turn the car in I had to buy two tires because the lease company requires them to match…THEY WERE THE TIRES THE CAR CAME WITH!!! I bought two of the cheapest used tires I could to get by.

    Down the road they damaged my car and blamed me for it too. What a great dealership.

  • avatar

    As a dealer employee for over 20 years and a salesperson and manager for 15 my worst experience is going to come from that side. In fact I have two that are tossups for the worst so here goes.
    In 1985 I was a rookie selling Fords in Rockland County NY. One Saturday morning,(as we all know Saturday is sell day) I wait on customer on the used car lot. He was looking for a car for his daughter.(she was not with him) I spent about 2 hours presenting and test driving several cars with him. I then asked which he was leaning towards and when would he like to come back with her. And he told me his daughter was 12 years old and he was “getting a feel for the market” for when she would be ready in four years. And that his wife was cleaning the house and he needed to “kill some time”. 6 cars were sold that morning while I was wasting my time with him.

    Back in 1998 I was selling Fords again at a dealer in northern NJ. One evening while I was writing a deal with a good customer of mine, a customer that I sold a Taurus to the previous week comes in screaming and yelling at me that I sold him a lemon due to the fact that one of the lights on his dashboard was on. This guy was going absolutely ballistic cursing, screaming threats, and the like. I excused myself and went to help him. Even though service was closed I got him a loaner car and wrote up his problem so service would have it first thing in the morning.
    In doing so I needed the mileage on his car and when I turned it on, it was not his check engine light or ABS light that was on, it was his low fuel light. I walked in the showroom where he was still making a scene, and said “the light on your dashboard is your low fuel light. You need gas! If you were paying attention to me when I showed you the car last week instead of rushing me to leave you would know that”! Without a word he left. I went back to my customer I was writing up and said he could not believe what he just saw how people can be so mean. And that I walked a away from writing up a deal to help this jerk. And that level of service is why he buys his cars from me.

    BTW Gardiner Westbound:some dealer insurance companies require the drivers license on file for any one driving a dealer owned car. Not all, but some.

  • avatar

    Some time ago, we were at the Honda dealer looking at a used Accord. I had already figured out exactly what the OTD price I was willing to pay, however, we couldn’t come to an agreement. Later that day, we got a call from the sales weasel telling us that they could do the deal. We pile the kids in the car and set off for dealership. While filling out the BOS, the sales weasel gets a funny look on his face and says “Oh, I forgot to include the taxes in my calculation – this means that the you will need to pay a bit more”. Needless to say, we left immediately and told our story to anyone who would listen.

    Some time later at another Honda dealership, I was negotiating with another salesperson who had recently started at the Honda dealership. She made a comment that she had spent the last few years at a Toyota dealership and was surprised that her Toyota customers weren’t showing any loyalty and coming to her for Hondas instead. I kept my mouth shut, but was laughing all the way home.

  • avatar

    Every experience I’ve had with the Rosenthal chain of dealerships in the DC area has gone badly, including visits to dealers that I didn’t realize were Rosenthal because the name wasn’t on the sign.

    Arlington (Rosenthal) Mazda advertised heavily several years ago that their storage lot had been hit by the very rare tornado that had gone through the area. They claimed to have “HUGE mark downs” on storm-hit cars. Not realizing they were a Rosenthal shop, my wife and I went down there to see if we could score a deal on a new Miata.

    After driving with the sales guy (actually very nice) down to the storage lot, we found a sweet black Miata with no more paint damage than you’d expect to find on a year-old car. We drove it, liked it, went back to the dealership to get the price.

    Their offer? MSRP. WHAT? Where’s my deal?

    Our sales guy vanishes at this point, and we’re left with the manager. We ask for the promised discount, he starts talking financing, asking what we want our payment to be, all the usual double talk. He kept swapping things around on his computer, offering us this much down, over this term, with this interest rate, but not really lowering the price of the car at all. My wife, unlike me, can keep track of this stuff in her head and finally noted that the overall deal actually kept getting worse for us as he increased the total we’d pay by manipulating the terms! The manager was flustered that we’d called him on his crap, but didn’t back down.

    We walked. Later, I learned that it was, in fact, a Rosenthal dealership and felt pretty stupid for even going in there.

    One more thing about this chain:
    I returned from an experience at one of their lots, and told my dad that they were: “the worst bunch of snakes and liars I’d ever encountered.” My dad said: “Son, I could have told you that in the 1960’s.”

    How do these people stay in business?

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Back when I was wide-eyed and bushy tailed, I bought a Toyota Celica. This was right after the voluntary restraints the Japanese manufacturers put on themselves, so I got screwed numerous ways from Sunday.

    But from that day forward I swore I would learn everything I could about their business to make sure it didn’t happen again to me or anyone I knew who wanted help and guidance. That has been my passion these last 25 years (a zealous hobby if you will) and in that time I have helped literally hundreds of people not get screwed.

    Living here in a big city (Houston), thankfully there are a multitude of dealers to choose from when shopping. I have a little rolodex of sales person’s names that I refer ‘clients’ to time and again.

    There are excellent dealers out there – fair and honest. The Toyota dealer where we got my wife’s car has now sold close to 35 vehicles to folks I’ve referred. As I explain to the real cheapos that ask my advice/opinion/etc, you want the dealership to make some money because you might need them tomorrow. The sales person has a mortgage, light bill, etc…. same as you. But you don’t want to get screwed royally.

    I don’t want to sound sexist or racist, but if you are a minority woman a “stealership” will have a target on you the second you park your car. It’s pathetic and disgusting, it really is. One of the folks I helped post-sale was an open-heart recovery patient. Bill Heard (there is a God) not only called her back in because of a “messed up contract”, but had sold her trade from under her. I got involved, and for the same payment they not only traded her up from a Malibu to an Impala, but gave her 10 free oil change coupons. I urged her not to utilize that service with them.

    I find it humorous that Saturn, very successful in the early ’90s selling mediocre cars to mostly women because of the excellent, non-hassle dealer relationship, finally has perhaps the strongest line-up they could imagine under the circumstances and yet they’re swirling the bowl as we speak. That’s a whole ‘nother rant.

    In my dreams about what I want to be when I grow up, I’d love to flip my hobby into a post-retirement part-time career, and I’d love to include being a regional watchdog of dealer want-ads so the ridiculous shit like what we’ve seen over on the Pontiac editorial thread could be called out and banished…. again, many of these dealer games are pitiful.

    Finally, all hail the internet. It has done more than anything else to level the playing field for a customer buying a new car.

  • avatar

    Metro Volkswagen, Irving, Texas.

  • avatar

    Similar to Johnny’s story. This would have been in fall 1996. The dealers were advertising great lease deals on Audi A4s. So I went to the dealer, where they had several on the lot. All colors, option levels. There was an a4 1.8 quattro. Bright red. That was what I wanted. Went to talk to a salesperson. No one would help me..or even acknowledge my being there. Finally, after 20 minutes or so, I just sat down at a sales persons desk, and said “I want to test drive that A4″. He said,”NO”. I was shocked that he wouldn’t go for test drive. I walked out. Went down the street to the Nissan dealer. Saw a very nice Maxima. Loaded, unlike the lesser equiped A4. The salesperson saw me, came out, and said “Take it for a drive. Be back in an hour, as we close then” Threw me the keys. I drove for a while, came back in, and signed the papers. For no money down, and $125 a month less than the A4. The only problem I had was when i came in to pick up the next afternoon, it wasn’t prepped. The salesperson was embarrassed and threw me the keys to a 300z Turbo to kill an hour, while he did the prep himself. Came back, it was clean, shinning, and full of gas. THe whole dealership came to thank me for getting a car from them. I then drove down the street to the Audi dealer, and found the sales manager. Showed him my new car, and laughed at the commission they lost. That red A4 stayed there all winter.

  • avatar

    My worst experience came a couple weeks ago when I went to check out a 2009 WRX. As usual, I was hooked up with a salesman, and the red flags should have gone off as soon as I saw him: cowboy hat, gold chain necklace, gold bracelet. I hate to judge based on appearance, but I should have seen the whole pushy salesman thing coming. Despite what the dealer’s website claimed, there were no WRX’s on the lot, so I asked if I could check out a pre-owned V6 Accord coupe (6mt) that was also there. The salesman got the keys and we went to go for a drive. That’s when the fun started.

    First, we got in the car, and upon starting it, found it was all but out of gas. No problem. We drove over to the dealer’s gas pump, and the salesman put a few gallons in, but as we went to leave, the engine wouldn’t turn over. Dead battery. The salesman gets out of the car to get the jumper cables. When he returns, he remarks in a not-too-joking tone, “If you don’t buy this car, I’m going to kill you.” Fantastic.

    We start out on the drive, and with that starts the interrogation: “Why the hell would someone looking at a WRX want one of these?” “How much do you make?” “How old are you? I bet you can’t afford the insurance on an STI.” When I told him that I was only looking at the WRX, he became argumentative: “Why would you say STI? Don’t you know the difference?” Even though I was sure of what I said, I admitted a mix-up just move things along, but he still insisted on his point. “I know you said STI.”

    Finally we returned after the 2-mile trip that he allowed me. When I tried to leave, he said, “Well if your not going to buy that car, then you’ve wasted my time…Hey, you still have the keys. You can’t just leave with them!” I had given them to him before we left the car. After following him inside to make sure that the keys were found (by him), I realized that it was obviously a ploy to keep me around.

    None of things that this salesman did would have been troubling by themselves, but having them crammed together into a 15-minute block made for a very negative experience. By the end I just wanted to get back in my car and drive away as fast as possible.

    The weekend after that, I test drove a MINI where the salesman was polite, helpful, and best of all, laid back. The car was a hoot, too.

  • avatar


    I remember that story at Edmunds, it was a great read and so true. Could probably find it in their archives, I’ll have to look.


  • avatar

    partsisparts :

    Fellow Rockland Countyite here… were you selling cars at Shultz where practically everyone in Rockland buys a Ford? My family has bought 3 Ford from them with no problems, BTW.

  • avatar

    The only bad experience I’ve had was when a salesman kept trying to get me to sign papers to buy a car I had zero interest in. It was funny to watch, because I knew full well I wasn’t buying that car, but he kept badgering me to sign. I wanted one with different specs, and he wanted to move the metal he had.

    The rest of my dealership experiences have been pretty good. Never had any trouble getting a test drive, rarely had dealer people get pushy. Just lucky, I guess. Still, I ended up buying online, and I think that’s the only way I’ll ever do it again.

  • avatar


    As your were a rookie in 1985 I’m sure you gained valuable experience from your lost Saturday morning….. you probably should have qualified the age of his daughter alot sooner, gotten rid of him and you could have grabed one of those 6 sales.

    And yes the dealers and salesmen are getting bashed today and rightfully so, but as another who spent 20 years in the business I fully understand it can be very very frustrating with the number of “strokers” that come into the showroom to waste your time.

    Hey, we’re in the same area. I’m in northern Bergen County.


  • avatar

    This doesn’t compare to some of the stories above, but years ago I took my 86 Mazda 626 in to the local Mazda dealer for something (I forget why; it was a while ago). They called and said the car was ready so I called my mom to take me down to the dealer on my lunch hour. B*stards couldn’t find the car!!! Close to an hour later they find it parked on a side street. Being hungry and pissed off is *not* a good combination.

  • avatar

    No real horror stories, myself. Luckily, my older brother invited me along one time decades ago when he wound up getting the “we won’t give your keys back” routine, so I just won’t give them anything — and that may have kept the abject horror down.

    PDA’s and now smart phones are wonderful things to bring — you can find spreadsheet applications for most of them, and you can build a little spreadsheet to plug the dealership’s numbers into, and “double-check their math.” My worst experience was when I brought my own financing, but let them “see if they could do better” first — and their numbers kept on turning out to be about double the interest rates they were claiming.

    I’ve actually run into a couple of truly excellent salesmen — I remember one, who was just super-busy with buyers every time I dealt with him, while every other guy in the place was standing around, watching the lot. Kind of shows you what an honest guy can do in the industry.

    That said, the afore-mentioned Edmunds article is excellent — check it out, here:

    Indeed, the salespeople are usually getting screwed worse than the customers are.

    Finally, my last purchase was from one of the newfangled “no screwing you around” dealers, which puts a firm price on each car’s sticker, has the salesperson do the whole transaction, including financing and everything, and so on. It really was a good experience: The price was right on Edmunds’ TMV value for my area, the guy was able to get better manufacturer financing than the credit union financing I had in my pocket, and the only extra I wound up getting was a competitively-priced extended service contract that I wanted. Quite a refreshing change from the rest of the sordid industry!

  • avatar

    @ highrpm: Acura of Troy is only the finest example of what the typical Acura dealer wants to be: captive market (northern suburbs’ wealth, perfect for upscale imports) and lots of boring old people who will pay their high prices for sales and service.

    I bought my Integra from Jeffrey – I don’t like to go east side and the dealer probably isn’t any better if you mod your car, but Troy has always been a pain. They want a ‘service appointment’ for anything and everything.

  • avatar

    63 Corvair: It never happened again. Lived in Orange county NY for years now I live in South Jersey.

    Carguy: Shultz is a great dealer, I have a friend there. No, I worked at Faulkner Ford (now gone) years ago and I also worked at Mahwah Ford. Mahwah is a good store also, like Schultz, honest and family owned.

  • avatar

    I decided to buy an ’05 Legacy GT and gave first crack to the local dealer – Subaru of Santa Cruz. I went in ready to go and…
    no one…
    to me.
    OK, so I’m a longhair, but I was decently dressed, having turned up from work in my ’93 Legacy wagon. No one said a *thing* to me. I spent twenty minutes looking around, making eye contact with whomever went through the showroom.

    I bought the car from Carlsen Subaru the next day.

    It’s a hell of a shame, because Subaru of Santa Cruz was very well known for good service. They recently closed their new car sales department. Service has been moved to the Toyota dealer down the road.

  • avatar

    Between me, my wife, kids and assorted relatives, I’ve negotiated perhaps 50 car purchases over the last 20 years. Most were relatively painless, tedious at worst.

    Two stand out: A rushed offer on a Mercury Mystique (we were moving from rural Alaska to Seattle and needed something smaller than an F250). It was salmon colored. I’d passed it on the lot every day for a year. The first offer was $5k under sticker; the manager said we must be joking. My wife said, “You don’t ask someone who’s just offered to buy a pink car if they’re joking.” We walked.

    By the time we got home there was a message accepting the offer. It cost them another $500 to get us back.

    The other was after Katrina, when we bought a bunch of rental-grade Altimas in Atlanta to replace family members’ vehicles. I was dropped off by cab; the crowd of smokers by the sales floor nodded but didn’t even say hello. I went to reception and asked for the newest salesman. It was his first day; he didn’t know what hit him but happily took six “mini” commissions.

    I’m with 63CorvairSpyder; a good salesman recognizes someone who won’t waste his time and returns the favor.

  • avatar

    When I was 16 my parents bought me a new Mustang V6. Now, before I am accused of being spoiled, there were extenuating circumstances: my mother was dying from cancer and one of the things she wanted to do before she died was ensure that I had reliable transportation. My car at the time was an 86 Buick Somerset with ~120k miles on it and a cooling problem.

    We found a black one I liked at D&D Ford in Greer SC. My dad went in to negotiate with the salesman, but came out empty handed and said that they were asking too much for it. Years later I found out the truth: that my dad had wanted to do the paperwork outside at our van (my mom was in the van and didn’t feel up to walking into the dealership). The salesman and his manager refused to do any negotiation or paperwork outside his office, despite my dad explaining the situation. Therefore, he walked.

  • avatar

    I have never worried about the salespeople. I won’t have a relationship with them. I can see the price of the car on the window and I negotiate down from there. I walk away fast if I sense a bad attitude or get more than one “Let me ask my manager.”

    The issue for me is the service department. That’s where thousands will be saved or lost over the next four years. BMW are relatively honest: they build that hose job in up front.

    While I lived in San Diego, my Outback H6 VDC was serviced at the Subaru dealership on Balboa. I was always worried that the service manager’s card only had his first name. It was the usual crap with them: A/C solenoids not covered under warranty failed, the gas gauge began not working on an intermittent basis, which began to sap my confidence in the car… The doozy, though, was the $2,000 bill that came with the 60k service. They replaced all four rotors and calipers because of “excessive oxidation” and tried to bill me for it. Evidently, no-one there had ever seen a car that had been driven through a New England winter. Several hours of arguing, a call to Cherry Hill and 2 days later, I got my VDC back…with new, free binders at each corner.

    Not long after that my wife decided to move home to RI (another story). Funny thing is, once I got back and returned to my old service manager, that gas gauge worked fine and not one thing went wrong on that car for the remaining 80k miles I drove it (except for the rear wheel bearings, but it was a Subaru and they all do that). :-)

  • avatar

    I can’t say I’ve had a truly bad car dealership experience. Only funny ones, like watching a salesman jump-start a G8, drive it slowly off the curb where it was parked on display and scrape the underbody, only to run out of gas on the test drive, 2 blocks away.

    The F&I guy at the dealership is, in my experience, tends to be the worst part. I bought my car through the fleet department and there wasn’t much negotiation. I gave him my CC #, (which he didn’t do anything with) and when we met, he spent more time talking abou all the awards and certs he’s gotten from Nissan North American and his life in the Phllippines, than he did about the car and cost. The price was something like $100 over invoice (good enough for me) and no haggle or hassle.

    I had told him I would not need financing. He bumped us to the F&I guy to get the car. That guy kept trying to badger me into financing with them and buy an extended warranty. He used some classic examples, like showing me the work done to his wife’s car and saying how the warranty pays for itself, and how it would only be $10 a month. I figured there wasn’t much to break on my car, so I kept turning it down. He got livid when I turned him down at $1800 (the original price was $3200).

  • avatar

    One time I was going to buy a used Jeep from a dealer. Took for a test drive, with the salesman as passenger. I liked the car, and asked him to tell me how much they wanted. He refused to give an asking price. He claimed he could only give me a price after he ran my credit report. I told him (a) I was paying cash, (b) I would never give him my SSN. He refused to budge, despite me calling him on his game. I still don’t understand what he was trying to do. He lost a sale.

    Other time I decided to buy a 3 year old Mercedes 300E for my wife. Went down to my local Mercedes dealer, then Cutter Motors, in Santa Barbara. The salesman refused to talk to me. He claimed he wanted a $20k cash deposit before he would let me test drive any of their used cars. I told him to get stuffed, went down to LA and got a good deal on what I was looking for.

    The day after I bought the Benz I had to get a part for something in the new car, so I went back to Cutter Motors. That jerk salesman was standing outside smoking, saw me get out of the car, and asked me about it. It was great. I told him that (a) I was serious about buying a car yesterday, (b) that was the sale he just lost for being such a jerk. Anyhow, that dealership lost me for life.

  • avatar

    @ Sabastian:

    That wasn’t the horrible excuse for a Subaru dealer in Huntsville, Alabama was it? What was once a small yet well equipped dealer has now been over-run by Landers Mclarty used car stock and all the Subaru’s are around back in the dirt.

    When I was looking for a car I stopped at the dealer to inquire on the ’08 WRX. Within seconds of arriving the salesman was on me… I inquired as to why there were no Imprezas on the front lot. His response was “We needed the room.” Room for what? The Dodge Dakotas and Aspens that cover the lot next door? Anyway, I notice there are two STI’s indoors. The man had the nerve to say “Those are STi’s and you can’t afford them.”!

    After the WRX was off the table, I began looking at the MazdaSpeed 3. I visited 5 dealers and was never once was able to test drive one. Not offered, and I even asked…

    I <3 my Astra.

  • avatar

    bozz: “My wife said, “You don’t ask someone who’s just offered to buy a pink car if they’re joking.””Now that’s a good line…

  • avatar

    I could write chapter and verse about bad dealer experiences, but the worst one was buying my 2006 VW Phaeton from Checkered Flag VW. I flew in to pick up the car, they tried to sock me with a $399 extra fee, there was an exchange of views during which I expressed my feeling that the F&I person who had negotiated the deal (and who was conveniently absent for the pickup) was a dirty lying whore…

    …at which point the leather-jacketed tough-guy-wannabe sales manager disclosed that he was the F&I person’s husband, at which point tempers flared, voices were raised, I called a cab to leave, and finally it was all worked out and I drove my scratched-up Phaeton home.

    Why’d I go through all the trouble? It was simple. I wanted a 2006 Phaeton to sit next to my 2005, there were very few left, and I paid… wait for it…

    $54,050 for a car with a sticker of $68,695 or thereabouts.

  • avatar
    red stick

    Every car buying venture offers a bad experience at one of the dealers.

    When I bought my first car, a ’91 Sentra SE-R, a salesman at a suburban New Orleans Nissan dealer made a great show of demonstrating all he could do for me before arriving at a bottom line price that was $1000 over sticker. When I politely pointed out that he had wound up way over MSRP, he complained that he had to feed his family and suits cost $800.00 . I walked. At the Honda dealer the salesman kept telling me I didn’t want the Civic I asked to look at. I walked.

    My second car, a ’98 Ford Contour, was a relatively easy purchase, but not before I’d eyed a ’97 at a local dealer that had about 8000 miles on it. After a test drive, I entered the salesman’s office and offered the going price for a ’97 Contour with 8000 miles on it. He looked confused and walked off to talk to the sales manager, who evidently instructed him to tell me it was a new ’97 because it had never been titled, and should be priced accordingly. I stuck to my price, and the next time the salesman returned he had the sales manager with him to make the point more explicitly. The conversation about whether the car was new ended when I asked if I could have a 3 year, 44,000 mile warranty.

    I don’t mind buying cars, but I’ve done a lot of walking.

  • avatar

    “First I’d like to mention a pet peeve… I loathe when sales people beg you to give them 100% positives when the company calls about the survey. If you’re a good sales person you shouldn’t have to beg for it.”

    Want to know why this is? The manufacturers score their surveys in such a way that it essentially pass/fail. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being perfect, if you give me an 8, I lose my manufacturer spiff money for an entire month – which can easily be $1000.

    I used to sell Fords. Their survey was A-B-C-D-F. A got you 100%, B got you a 50%, a C = 0, a D was actually a -25%. They really stuck it to you.

    And what customer will honestly give someone an absolutely perfect score on a survey without prompting?

  • avatar

    My worst experience from the dealership side: I lost 2 deals on the same day – during delivery – in the span of one hour due to the finance manager. Cars cleaned, gassed, my paperwork gone over, walk around done etc.. Then, boom 2 dead deals.

    Finance is where the real snakes are. From the salesperson’s end, the F&I guy can cut into the sales gross so he can put in the extended warrantys and insurances. So on the off chance I make a nice gross, i have to cross my fingers that F&I won’t chop it back to make room for his paycheck. Sucks.

    The worst customers are the unrealistic ones. I got an email offer of $9000 for a 2007 Sonata SE V6 with roof that we have online for $13,995. If only we got to mark up cars $5k! I counter offered with a 2004 Elantra. Or the credit challenged that don’t get why they can’t get cheap financing. Sir, you are a 560 credit score, your rate is gonna be over 10%. Why? BECAUSE YOU DON’T PAY YOUR BILLS!!!!

    Strokers, aka Phillip J Timewasters, are hard to spot, and it really pisses me off to be stuck with them.

    Every salesman ever has been caught out pre judging a customer, losing the deal to another salesman that took the time to say high. It goes with the business.

  • avatar

    Honda West, in Calgary. They lost me by screwing up when I had the car in for service on two different occasions. Both times they misinformed me, and the second time didn’t communicate about when the car would be ready. I wasted many hours and $40 in cab fares because of that. Before these incidents, I had been a regular customer.

    They’ll never get another dime from me. The last two times the car needed work, I took it elsewhere. When it comes time to buy another car I won’t set foot on their lot.

    BTW, Midas on 17th Ave. SW just did the brakes, and I’m very satisfied. I was ready to have the rears done as well as the fronts, but they told me by phone that the rears were still good and didn’t need it. They’ll see me again.

  • avatar

    In December 1988, I was a newly commissioned 2nd LT in the USMC and was screwed over buying a new Toyota Corolla SR5 for my lieutenant-mobile at Atlanta Toyota. To this day, I still feel somewhat sleazy after leaving that place. Virtually every stereo-type, every caricature of a car dealership experience was confirmed there.

    But there’s an upside to this story – a kind of revenge if you will.

    As an (then) active duty member of the military and today as a veteran, I am a member of USAA, a bank/insurance company/brokerage firm designed for military and dependants. Their bank has a car-buying service that is included with every new car loan. So…

    In August 1994, I was ready to replace the Corolla SR5 with a new Mazda Navajo (Ford Explorer) and went on a test drive with a salesman at a GM/Mazda dealership in Kingman, AZ where I lived at the time. This salesman had an oversized cowboy hat, greased back hair, too small jeans, pot belly, pointed lizard skin cowboy boots, and apparently took a bath in old spice – how nice. And oh yeah, was wearing several huge rings and tacky gold chains. How classy.

    This guy knew I wanted this SUV and I could tell he was excited at the prospect of his upcoming commission. I copied down the vehicle VIN and dealership address/phone #, contacted USAA, got their car buying service to deal directly with the dealership fleet sales manager, and got a better deal on the Navajo than I ever could have gotten on my own. When I went to pick up the Navajo a couple of day later, the salesman I went on the test drive with was pissed and started to argue with me and bitch about how I bought the vehicle from the dealership and how he had been cut out of his commission. Still seething over how I had been screwed in Atlanta, GA in 1988, I just smiled, shrugged my shoulders, and kept walking inside to finalize paperwork. So in that moment I felt somewhat redeemed from my earlier experience in 1988, although it was a hollow victory because it was not at the same place as then.

    Fast forward to October 2005, the same USAA car buying experience with my wife’s ’05 RAV4. This was in Farmington, NM at Webb Chevrolet/Toyota. And again, the salesman was pissed and perplexed by it all, and we got a good deal on a new RAV.

    However, I came back to them in December, 2005, only 2 months later, to buy an ’06 Corolla. The dealership was wise to me then and the salesman and sales manager just said “USAA” to each other, code for this guy used USAA on us once, so let’s not let it happen again (as if I wouldn’t know what that meant). I should’ve walked and gone to the Toyota dealer in Durango, CO about an hour’s drive away for the Corolla – they weren’t wise to me and USAA. But I was lazy and really needed a car fast. My mistake – the dealership refused to deal at all with USAA’s car buying service that time and insisted that I pay full sticker. This was in late ’05 after Katrina and gas had spiked to over $3.00 a gallon. USAA tried to convince me that smaller cars were being sold nationwide at $1500 over sticker and that their experience with Webb Chevrolet/Toyota in Farmington, NM was typical at that time for small cars.

    USAA wanted to sell me a car loan, I needed a car, the Toyota was a known quantity with me after having owned the ’89, and so I caved in and bought it. Over 3 years later, the Corolla has been absolutely troublefree – if not the most soul numbingly boring appliance on wheels I’ve ever owned. So that last experience was not necessarily “bad”, just more of a draw.

  • avatar

    My worst dealership experience was at a large Chicagoland Subaru dealer, in northwestern Cook county. I’m sure it isn’t too hard to figure out which one…I think it rhymes with Schaumburg.

    Shopped online, received an email quote, a promise over the phone of a choice of colors, but when I showed up they didn’t have the car or anything like it. So, I let them do a dealer trade, but when I went to pick up the car it had a rock chip they “didn’t notice” even though it was pretty obvious from a large distance. It took hours to get them to agree to let me have an auto body shop do the repair. They received a check in full from my credit union, but they had already taken out a loan which I didn’t find out about until I got a payment book in the mail a week later. I faxed them information about the auto body repair, which they had agreed to pay for in writing, but they never seemed to receive anything no matter what I did. I called them repeatedly about the second loan, but all they could do is tell me not to worry about it, because it was their responsibility, but of course it was my credit. After about a month of the runaround, it took a call to Subaru of America, which got things resolved fairly quickly.

    I filled out the customer survey honestly, and unlike the unpaid/redundant loan and auto body repair, this prompted a near immediate response. After I received a follow up survey, they called me daily, promising me accessories, and other goodies, but all I wanted was to never hear from them again. I never filled out the follow up survey, and got my wish when they stopped calling me.

    After that it took me a long time to feel any “love” for the Subaru…

  • avatar

    I’ve avoided dealers, but my dad related a good story. We were ready to buy a new car, had test-driven it as a whole family, loved it, and were about to buy. My dad took the car back to the dealer and said that he would need to talk it over with his wife. The dealer pointed to the phone and said “talk with her right now.” Dad declined, saying that he was going to go home to talk it over with her. Freaked at losing a sale, they got some huge bruiser to come in and ask my dad “is something the problem here?”

    My dad eventually escaped and we went elsewhere. The sick thing is that if they hadn’t pulled that shit we would’ve bought the car.

  • avatar

    1991, also in NW Chicago suburbs. Scummy Dodge dealer refused to give back my keys after their “appraisal”. I asked again and again; we were outside on the lot. I just kept repeating myself louder and louder, “Give me back my keys”.

    This went on for a while, as the group of employees encircling me got bigger and bigger.

    When other customers started coming outside to see what the fuss was, I knew I had beaten them.

    They gave me back my keys. I promptly threw the keys to the demo onto the roof of the dealership :)

  • avatar

    A few years back my wife and I wanted to buy a Mazda5 but my wife (bless her heart) insisted on getting one with a manual transmission. Mazda’s web site indicated that the only one in the immediate area was in the inventory of a dealer on the busiest dealer street in town. Let’s just say that the sales person talked down to her so badly she insisted that no matter what we did we wouldn’t give them our money. Yet, this was the car we decided we wanted.

    The guy who owns that first store has another Mazda dealer on the other side of town. No problem, I thought. I talked to the sales manager at their sister store figuring they could just dealer-trade and we could have the car (the second store seemed to be from a totally different universe in terms of friendliness). Can you believe it, but due to some sort of rift between the management of the two dealers they refused to dealer trade any cars between them?! We ended up driving 25 miles to another dealer who did trade successfully with the first place and we bought the car… again, they turned out to be very nice to work with.

    I was more amazed at the hoops we had to jump through to buy this car. Undoubtedly most people would have just walked and bought something else.

    Back in 2003 I was looking at a used Saab 9-5. Their terrible resale value seemed to make them great second-hand buys. I had been perusing sales on eBay and Craigslist and had a good idea what dealers and individuals were selling them for. The local dealer had a CPO model (I liked he idea of a 6-year 100k mile warranty on a used Saab) 9-5 Aero. They were asking $24,995 for the car when they were typically selling for about $16k on eBay (by dealers). I figured the warranty and excellent condition of the car were worth a couple grand or so to me so I offered the dealer $18,500 for theirs (I already knew it had been on their lot for nearly 6 weeks). The sales manager basically called me a cheapskate and said “no way.” I told him that my offer still stands for another month and he could call me if he still has the car. A month later I owned the car for 18k. Why do dealers think that their used cars are worth so much more than the rest of the market? Other than a CPO vehicle with a warranty they often know nothing about the history of the car they bought at auction and if something breaks a week later they won’t remember your name anyway. I would much rather buy my used cars from the previous owner so I can see who had it before me and how they took care of it.

  • avatar

    My worst dealership experience had to be at a local honda dealership to buy a new accord. We had gone to other dealers, but this was the closest and we have bought two previous cars here and knew they were willing to give us a deal on the car – per past experience. We were ready to negotiate and buy that day, but we wanted to see the exact model and color I wanted and they had 20 in stock – just none on the lot, it was all on their holding lot. We asked if we could wait for them to bring one over before we talk -and they made excuses saying they didn’t want to spend the time if we weren’t serious about the car, and they didn’t want to talk to us about the price of the car if we weren’t serious about buying. We weren’t worth their time otherwise. (No I’m not deducing this from their attitude, this is what they said.) They complained it might take them an hour or two to find the car, and another 30 minutes to commute to pick up the car. Well we decided fine we’ll talk about the car, while the salesman goes and picks up the car. No big deal right? WRONG. We made it very clear to them, by repeating 5 times “We will not sign ANY form OR agree to a price until we see the car in person, and get to do one test drive in the vehicle.” Their response. “you’re serious about the car right? you aren’t fucking around with us. You’ll buy the car right?” And our response was always “we will see what you will offer, but we won’t even sign anything and agree with anything until you bring the car over.” We kept talking about the price bargaining for the car – and then also talking about the trade-in …. and at every time we talked about it and we asked them when the car would arrive they asked “We won’t get the car until you promise us that you’re going to buy it. It’s not worth our time or his time to spend the time to go over there and pick up the car.” Finally after about 20 minutes and them telling us “okay we can agree on this price …. ” and then a minute later “I don’t know… maybe not.. our finance guy isn’t sure anymore” and then a “okay this price” “okay maybe not” … we left the dealer and called it a day. The next day we went to another dealer – no bs, no hassle… got a good deal on the car and they searched for the exact model of the car even though there was only one and it was in a separate lot.

  • avatar
    Ken Strumpf

    Since there’s been a lot of Acura bashing on this thread I thought I’d add a good Acura story. Back in 1994 my wife was leasing a 1990 (I think) Integra. It had six months to go on the four year lease and the transmission died, out of warranty of course. Went to Miller Acura of Syracuse (now called Crest Acura) and they told me it would cost $2,500 to fix it. I was pretty upset about paying so much money to keep a car six months but was resigned to my fate. But the service manager really felt guilty and went to his boss who told me that if we bought a new Integra they would take the old one off our hands and we’d owe nothing, not even the remaining lease payments. Of course we said yes. We got 14 years of pleasure out of that ’94 Integra and a good dealership memory.

    OTOH, there was the Toyota dealership in Milwaukee that sold me a new Corolla in 1984. I negotiated a good price and went to pick up my new car. The salesman went through the whole handover routine and finally I started her up and saw the gas needle was on E. I said “There’s no gas in this car!”. He said “Don’t worry, there’s a gas station on the corner.” Needless to say I never took my car for service at that dealership.

  • avatar

    Wow! Anyone surprised at the number of import dealers mentioned?

  • avatar
    red stick

    I’m surprised at the number of Toyota dealers mentioned. Never had a problem there (SE Louisiana). OTOH, I’m still waiting for my first good, let alone exceptional, Honda experience. These have ranged from the above-described “You don’t want that Civic,” (1991, bought a Nissan) to “You can buy an Odyssey but you can’t test drive one” (1999, bought a used Taurus wagon). Nissan dealers have been hit and miss too.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    Yesterday I got dragged into a fight on the way in the door.

    Quirk Mazda, Quincy Ma. I have a chip on my shoulder because I bought Quirk once. 2001 Jetta with out of straight rear suspension assembly, never got alignment fixed right and they denied all aspects of the affair to the very end including that I previously mentioned it.

    Won’t buy there again, all I want is to see if I fit in Mazda3. I have long legs and like to stretch them out, not drive with knees in air. Its the right car on paper but I want to know if I fit in. And they are 1/2 mile away.

    A well dressed, apparently decent looking young (remind self how Quirk is evil) sales guy watches me get out of my mint 99 Miata right in front of showroom door. I walk up and he comes out fast as if to pick up $100 bill on curb. Spins backward and shouts at me still moving backwards to snow bank.

    I nod at him.

    -Do you want sales or service?

    -Neither, I don’t want service and I want less than sales. I only want to see if I fit in the seat of a Mazda3.


    -I want to see if I fit in the seat of a Mazda3


    -Mazda3. Front seat. If I fit.


    -This is a Mazda dealer. I lean out and look up and point to sign. OK. Thats a Mazda3. Point ten feet to right to cold car in snow. OK. They are warm inside. Point. I want to sit in one. I am not going to buy today.

    -I get it. I am not retarded. You said you need less than sales. What the hell are you talking about.

    -OK I have to go now.

    I hold hands up in surrender. Turn my back to him and head in. He heads away. Inside its apparent he is working alone on a bright clear Saturday morning. Two miserable looking customers are stranded, waiting with sick looking patience, one at each little dirty deal table with paper scraps scattered about.

    I sit in the thing and its tight. I cant stretch legs out with seat back full. OK. I will wait for 2009s to arrive. And search the forum archives for seat and pedal mods. 2009 Mazda6 same thing. Restricted seat range.

    I wont go back to Quirk showroom.

    They do have good guys in parts department though, I will go there. They open up ’99 miata parts diagrams, I point with my finger to the screen and tel them the right number before they hit enter. They discuss it. Everybody is happy.

    There is another multi brand dealer, 20 miles north. Ira Motors. They employ friendly, know-nothing sales people. Last one could not drive a manual and was actually impressed by how I could let the clutch out without him feeling it. The back office guys are intelligent and seem not dishonest. They seem to care at least a little that I bought two cars before. I will buy there again in spring. If they make it through the winter.

  • avatar

    “They were asking $24,995 for the car when they were typically selling for about $16k on eBay (by dealers). I figured the warranty and excellent condition of the car were worth a couple grand or so to me so I offered the dealer $18,500 for theirs (I already knew it had been on their lot for nearly 6 weeks). The sales manager basically called me a cheapskate and said “no way.” I told him that my offer still stands for another month and he could call me if he still has the car. A month later I owned the car for 18k. Why do dealers think that their used cars are worth so much more than the rest of the market? “

    They don’t. Its just that most customers will cave and won’t walk away so they make more money. I’ll give you a hint if you hadn’t said my offer is good for another month they probably would have called you the next day. Out of the last 4 cars I have purchased 3 of them I stuck to my guns and only allowed myself to be bumped a hundred dollars or so from my initial offer. Then I walked and then they called me the next day. This happened in 82, 91 and 2000. I always make sure to spend a decent amount of time (hours) in the haggle room. I always make sure they’ve written my number down (almost all the good dealers do it anyway) and always make sure they have the info (license number SS #) because I want them to run a credit check on me.

    My main problem is that I don’t believe this is how cars should be sold. I actually purchased my last car on a whim. I visited a Toyota Scion dealer the day before new years eve just to look at an Xb. I liked it and bought the same day in an hour. I was flabbergasted. If only we could go to the Saturn scion model. I am all for dealers manufactured etc making a profit. I just want to be able to buy things like I do other things

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    I have a million, but my worst was oddly enough, one of my first.

    May 2002. Husband’s Hyundai Scoupe was getting to be more trouble than it was worth and we were about to get married and wanted something with 4 doors and a touch more reliability. We poked around online and found a used elantra at stan olsen hyundai in Omaha, NE… the price was high but we figured that was what negotiation was for. Went over to check it out. They were running a deal where they paid your sales tax, sounds good, right? Anyway, we checked out the car (I think it was a 99 or 98), thought it was pretty nice. But then we had to deal with the salesman from hades. He made us sit and wait in the showroom for an hour while he put his feet up on his desk and talked to a friend of his about their kids — should have just left right then. I had a good idea of what the car was worth, and their pricing was… high. “But we’re paying your sales tax!” “That means nothing to me if you’re just tacking it on to the price of the car. In fact, I pay *more* sales tax that way.” We showed him our trade, he laughed at us and told us they’d maybe give us $50 for it. He bullied us to drive to lincoln that night and get Rob’s parents to co-sign the loan, even though that was unnecessary. We finally left, pissed off as hell, swore to never return, and bought a new focus from the nearby Ford dealership, where they treated us like human beings.

    The same dealership group owns an audi dealership and we went with a friend to check out an allroad and S4. They wanted way more for each than they were worth (they had a new S4 convertible that sat on their lot for years because they wouldn’t budge on the price). He dealt with them on and off for more than a month trying to negotiate (they would call, say they’d take his price, he’d go there, and they’d offer the original price again) before he bought an LGT from the same guy that sold us ours.

    My experience dealing with Jim Ellis VW led to my first editorial and becoming a writer here. So while it may have been a terrible experience, it did me some good in the long run. :)

  • avatar

    This is transportation related, not car related.

    Back in the late 80’s I did a lot of bicycle riding.

    Shimano shift indexing had only been around a couple of years and I wanted that and a lighter bike.

    So, I’ve got the cash in my pocket ($600) and I hit a local bike shop. I look the bikes over and there’s a Panasonic (they made real good bikes back then) that is my size and about $600. I ask for a test ride.

    “Are you going to buy today?”

    Maybe, if I like the way it handles and fits.

    “Maybe isn’t good enough. The bike will come back dirty and I’ll have to clean it.”

    It was dry outside and the only cleaning would have been dust.

    Showed him the $600 and walked.

    Went to another bike shop about 20 miles away. They actually put me in a cheaper bike – a Schwinn (a couple of pounds heavier all around) based on what I told them what I was going to use it for (Fitness riding, non-competition). They also gave me a discount on bike shorts and a jersey. Bought the bike.

    I made it a point to show the 1st bike shop owner the new bike and that I had been serious about buying and that he had lost a sale by being a dick.

    He went out of business a couple of years later.

    The bike shop I bought from lasted about 10 more years before closing the location that I bought at.. They had another store about 10 miles away and stayed in business until the early 2000s.

  • avatar

    Bridge2far “Wow! Anyone surprised at the number of import dealers mentioned?”

    No if a sleazy tactic makes a dealer more money at dealer A you can bet that other dealers also do it because it makes them more money. Greed, Arrogance Contempt for the customers and Laziness are hallmarks of car shopping experience with a dealer. Import or domestic. Now the better ones won’t curse at you ( happens all the time) or hold your keys or credit card hostage or won’t refuse you a test drive, but it is simply in their nature much like the tale of the scorpion stinging the frog

    Which is also why the deals are not so apparent even though they are dying on the vine from lack of business. Its simply in their nature to screw you over even if they will die due to their actions

  • avatar

    My wife and I were in the market for a new pick up or mid size SUV. We went to a local Toyota dealer (Superior Toyota – 8400 W SM Pkwy, Merriam, KS 66202) on a Saturday morning, and the sales manager practically elbowed my wife out of the way, to shake hands with me and introduce himself. Needless to say, this didn’t go over too well. We ended going to a Nissan dealer instead. I was tempted to drive by the Toyota dealership the next weekend, so they could see our new Majestic Blue Pathfinder.

  • avatar

    @ Tyler D

    Nah, this fine episode occurred at Stocker Subaru/Chevrolet in State College, PA.

    “Wow! Anyone surprised at the number of import dealers mentioned?”

    Actually, I’ve noticed the most stereotypical car salesman stuff at local domestic dealers. Pushy salespeople, sleazy dressers, ridiculous test-drive requirements, etc…

  • avatar

    I have two to share:

    One was 2 years out of college when I decided to finally go buy a truck, in my case a 02 ZR2. Make fun of my choice all you want but I loved that truck. Went into the local GM dealer on a weekend dressed casually, like many others have said couldn’t get a salesperson to look at me.

    Some really young guy (found out he had just started and was the youngest salesman) walked in and asked if I needed anything.

    Bought the truck from him 10 minutes later. Told the other three salesman (all well over 40 and still sitting on their butts) “great job ignoring a 10 minute sale” on the way out.

    The 2nd was better, I bought a “Certified used” F-car at Tim Lalley GM in Ohio because it was the best thing I could find at the time. Week later I took the car to the dealership by my work (Bob Jeannotte in Plymouth, MI) for warranty service. Regardless of me having all the paperwork for the car, the warranty wasn’t in the system. This resulted in some nice discussion which eventually ended with the service manager saying “for all I know you stole that car”. WTF?!? It took 2 months (GM warranty on certified is 90 days) before the warranty was in the system… The only thing that made it easier to swallow another GOOD dealership (Lou Lariche in Plymouth) took care of my warranty work. 4 years later the car is still worth more than I paid for it.

    I’ve favored GM since I was 16. Over 15 years I drove only GM products having bought 3 new and 3 used. I work in the auto industry and in some cases directly with GM. I am frankly, the poster child for a customer GM should be able to keep.

    But my last new truck purchase was a Nissan. Frankly the buying process was miserable for that, as well. But at least I haven’t had to see the dealer again for almost 2 years.

    GM’s problem is not all in product. I’ve had some of their worst cars (S10/Z28) and been very well served by them. But, you treat your customers like dirt and they will stop coming back. I understand customer service is difficult but there are too many rotten dealerships out there.

    I don’t want to see GM dissolve. I don’t want to see UAW retirees get hosed out of their pensions or benefits.

    I just hope GM kills off or trims all of these arrogant, cheating, poor quality dealerships. That, I won’t regret seeing.

  • avatar

    Bridge2far: “Wow! Anyone surprised at the number of import dealers mentioned?The explanation may be that import buyers are, generally speaking, more savvy and informed about the whole car buying experience. The old, tried-and-true tactics that have worked so well with the domestics for decades are part of the reason a lot of those very buyers switched to imports. Many import buyers know and recognize the tricks immediately and won’t tolerate it, even to the point of traveling far out of their way to buy at a dealership where they’re dealt with in a much more professional manner.

    Many domestic buyers, OTOH, may either not care or even recognize the shenanigans. Remember, most domestic buyers are people who will never, under any circumstances, touch an import. For salesmen, they’re easy meat, and the victims may not be willing to admit (or even know) when they’re being taken, probably on a repeated basis.

    Reminds me of the King of the Hill episode where the naive young Hank buys his first new car (a Ford Maverick) at the special ‘secret’ price of full MSRP, and continues to buy his next five new cars at the special ‘secret’ price. Everytime he does, there’s a big fanfare both when he comes in and after the deal is concluded. He feels great about the ‘special’ personal service until he finds out how he’s been taken over the past two decades.

  • avatar

    It’s easy to bemoan the behavior of individual salespeople but in my experience they usually just reflect the culture created by the dealer and his or her management.

    Employee turnover in retail auto sales is horrible but the rate really differs between dealers. In my area there was one import dealer who consistently sold over 100 new cars a month. He had six full-time sales people on the floor and the average tenure was about 3 years. Another dealer of the same marque was on a busier street filled with dealers but struggled to sell 50 cars a month and had 14 sales people on the floor… average tenure about 45 days.

    Do the math, six experienced salespeople given a chance to make a living wage were outperforming 14 untrained newbies who who were constantly waiting to get fired. They were like goldfish in the pirhana tank waiting to see who got eaten and spit out next. Needless to say, this attitude was reflected in how they treated customers. If you, as a salesperson, have no expectation that you will be there long enough to ever reap the rewards of repeat business then you simply aren’t concerned about it.

    I know that dealers will hate this idea as all I ever hear about “CSI surveys” is how unfairly they are scored, but bear with me for a second…

    The OEMs spend millions of dollars surveying custmers to death every time they buy or service their car. These figures are used to calculate bonus programs, spiffs, membership in gold-star super-premier ranking programs, whatever. However the numbers are kept invisible to consumers who also don’t know what a “gold-star” dealer means other than the fact that they bought a vinyl banner for the showroom.

    I suggest that these satisfaction ratings be made public and displayed on the OEM websites when using the dealer locator.

  • avatar

    Wow, talk about insulting the intelligence of anybody who purchases a domestic automobile, rudinger. Certainly it can’t be remotely possible that you’re hearing less horror stories from domestic dealerships because maybe the arrogance that we’ve lampooned them for isn’t as prevalent as we thought. No, that certainly can’t be it.

  • avatar

    “The explanation may be that import buyers are, generally speaking, more savvy and informed about the whole car buying experience.”

    Are you serious? Is the Hyundai buyer more sophisticated than the Buick buyer? Really? I severely doubt it.

  • avatar

    I don’t go into dealerships very often because I tend to keep my cars for a long time. My experiences on the sales side have been positive.

    Bought a Honda in 2007 (1st car purchased since 1995) and a Toyota late in 2008. Also had looked at Subaru and Ford prior to these recent purchases.

    While the dealership experience was not enjoyable I felt that I was treated courteously and fairly by the salesmen. The only painful part is dealing with the finance person (yes you have to deal with them even if you are paying cash). When completing the paperwork it becomes annoying to keep refusing all of the “add-ons” that are offered when you have already made it clear that you are paying cash and do not want any accessories or prepaid service contracts.

    I only negotiated on cars I ended up buying. I was a cash buyer, had no trade-in, knew what I was willing to pay (invoice), knew the amount of current dealer incentives and hold-backs that would allow the dealership to make some profit even selling at invoice.

    IMO this approach works if you are polite but firm, are purchasing a car already in stock and don’t really need to purchase the car.

    If you want a popular car, need marginal financing or have a trade-in it is much harder to leave the dealership feeling well served.

  • avatar

    Dealing with the service department at Acura of Troy was shocking. I’ll never buy or lease a new car again.

  • avatar

    I’ve been lucky enough to not have truly bad dealership experiences during purchases, although there have been annoyances.

    Instead, my bad dealership experiences have been over the phone, whenever my wife brings a car in for maintenance or warranty repairs. Every time, every time, she calls me with the dealership’s long list of BS that they insist is part of the maintenance schedule or absolutely has to be done and isn’t covered by warranty, and I have to spend ten minutes listening to the list and telling her “no…no…no…no…yes! yes, have the oil and filter changed.”

    And yet, whenever I go in, they only suggest the scheduled maintenance that’s actually due, or fix the warranty repair and that’s it. Such nonsense.

  • avatar

    Weird experience – Ron Carter Toyota south of Houston – back in 1994 my mother was flush with cash from a recent divorce, and wanted to finally get a good car she could keep for a decade. She walked in and asked to see a Camry, and the first salesman asked if she would rather see a Corolla. She repeated that she wanted to see a Camry, and the salesman said that it would probably be out of her price range. Mom then asked at the top of her voice, “Is there anyone in here who would like to sell me a Camry?”, and a nice young (first week on the job I think) salesman popped up and the deal was done without even a test drive – quickest commission that guy probably ever made.

    My lesson that I took from it – the newer ones haven’t been pressured by their bosses to wring the most money from every person and have some humanity in the transaction. The comment above where they asked for the newest salesman off the bat was probably spot on.

    We actually bought two more Toyotas from that specific salesman over the next few years, and when he left the family started shopping at a different dealer.

  • avatar

    Best – Wayzata Nissan, Wayzata, MN

    Went in to look at a low-mileage 2001 Maxima just off lease. The advertised price was about $2k below the book average. Looked it over, no suprises. Drove it, no surprises. All my questions about it’s history were answered with supporting documentation. Signed the paperwork, drove it off the lot the next day. No hassle, no last-minute changes, no baloney.

    Second best – Carousel Audi, Minnetonka, MN

    Very interested in the lease deals on 2006 A4s. Went in numerous times and talked with a very friends saleswoman. I drove the cars when I wanted to with no hassle, and she did what she could to find a car equipped the way I wanted. I was always greeted warmly by everyone, always treated with respect. I ended up buying a Passat instead, but the impression they made has lasted and I’ve passed the saleswoman’s name on to several friends.

    Honorable mention – Feldmann Imports, Bloomington, MN

    This is a Nissan/Mercedes dealership where I went for routine service several times. They treat all their service customers the same – absolutely top notch. Hands down the best service experience I’ve ever had. You pulled in to a warm, clean reception area, the advisor greeted you, your car got whisked away. When it came back it had always been washed, hand-dried, and vacuumed. The prices were equal to other Nissan dealers, so they became my service provider of choice. I will shop there again, too.

    Worst – Morrie’s Mazda

    Got excited about advertised deals on “leftover” 2005 RX8s. Great prices were advertised, so I cleared my afternoon and went in. Of course, the cars were total phantoms. They didn’t tell me this, though, until after I’d already driven a 2006. The advertised cars, if they ever even existed, were “already sold.” They then proceeded with extremely high pressure sales, trying to pry out “the payment I was looking for” and trying to make me purchase to the 2006 I drove. I finally escaped when the salesman stepped away to talk to the sales manager. I literally ran out of the dealership.

    I’ve also had some appalling experiences at Chevy dealerships, which I won’t repeat here…

  • avatar

    Last September I went into RJ Burne Cadillac in Scranton Pennsylvania to order touch up paint for my Cadillac Deville. I bought the car in July and even though I’m 19 I still love the car. But, anyway I park right in front of the dealership and walk in I was wearing some basketball shorts and a Green Turtle shirt because I was done with classes for the day. Literally I just walked around for about 10 minutes, later on I sat down and started reading one of the brochures for the new CTS. About 10 minutes later a salesman walks over to me and says,”Hey buddy why don’t you go and loiter in someone elses dealership?” I look up at him and point to my car and say,”You see that car out there thats my car and I was waiting for one of you guys to come over and show me where the service department is. But since you just pissed on any opportunity you had of gaining my business I’m going to leave now.” I threw the brochure on the floor and told the salesman to pick it up. Went to another Cadillac Dealership and was in and out in about 15 minutes

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