Ask the Best and Brightest: Are Car Buyers Well Informed?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

This pitch for a car sales seminar is based on one single assumption: car buyers today are better informed than ever before. Mr. Rodgers even raises the specter of 83-year-olds armed with information they found on the Internet, in hopes of convincing dealership sales staffs that it’s a whole new world out there. Of course the fact that car sales are at their worst levels in years probably helps his argument, but is it true? After all, as TTAC commenter Mike In Canada points out in our most recent Sebring/Avenger bashing post:

Here at TTAC we all love badmouthing these two hunks of junk (God knows I do). But, we are missing the trees for the forest.

Someone is actually buying these things….!

So there are still suckers born every minute, but on balance are car buyers better informed than they used to be? Is that coincidental to the car market’s recent downturn, or did one phenomenon cause the other? Personally, I don’t see a lot of “civilians” making particularly well-informed car-buying decisions because they usually believe a quick decision will be less stressful than taking the time to make the right decision. What are you seeing?

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Steven Lang Steven Lang on Sep 29, 2009

    FreedMike is right. People invest in the experience. That's why folks pay $3+ for a coffee, $100+ for a hotel room, and $100,000+ for a private school education. Then again you can brew yourself a great cup of coffee for about 20 cents, spend $200 for a week long getaway at an even nicer resort (but end up enduring a 90 minute timeshare presentation), or spend your education on a lifetime of books, travel, and self-guided learning. Most consumers choose A... and pay the price. I look at the dealership model in the same way. You're investing in a facade of honesty, integrity and quality when we could easily be dedicating all this humanity towards a better purpose.

  • FreedMike FreedMike on Sep 30, 2009
    Steven Lang : September 29th, 2009 at 10:51 pm People invest in the experience. That’s why folks pay $3+ for a coffee, $100+ for a hotel room, and $100,000+ for a private school education. Well, I wouldn't quibble about the $3 coffee being overpriced...but other "experience-based" purchases are often worth the extra price. To wit: You most likely won't have to deal with a lumpy bed in a Marriott. You will in a Super 8. (Unless you're in New York, in which case all bets are off) Often times, a private school education might offer a course of study not available in a public college. And if you're in college to end up getting rich, who wouldn't argue that a degree from Harvard might be major step in the right direction? A car is a very big ticket item, particularly in today's economy. There are some customers who'd prefer buying them like you'd buy a book on, but most folks like to know that dealers service what they sell. For example: My '05 Focus had two (!) OEM tires fail at the same time. Discount Tire told me it'd take three days to get me the tires, leaving me without a car. The dealer I bought the car from ended up towing the car under the roadside assist plan, and the sales manager lent me one of his used cars for free for two days until my car was ready. I'd say that's a good experience, and well worth the few bucks extra a tire I paid at the dealership. I know who gets first shot at my business next time around.
  • Oldowl Oldowl on Sep 30, 2009

    Do dealers now typically work with buyers to get the exact car buyers want: color, trim, accessories, and so on? If so, can buyers expect to pay a premium for that level of help?

  • Timrodger Timrodger on Oct 02, 2009

    So a dealer won't give a customer a price unless there is a commitment (here's your bone), because they are afraid that the customer will take the price, go down the street and shop the number. So instead, they don't give any numbers, and the customer goes down the street and shops. Dealers need to treat customers like buyers, not shoppers. And I'm a dealer.