Hammer Time: Retail Hell

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang

I’m sitting inside one of the largest auto retailers in the world. Khakis. Shorts. Blue shirts are wandering. Aimlessly. Finally a family of ‘fish’ enter this pond of corporate hookery. They look at the displays. And then a nice middle-aged female lady comes to make her greeting. And the fun begins…

Is this the way car buying should be? It’s not that bad folks but boy is it expensive. And for what? Shareholders, upper level managers, lower level managers, salespersons, buyers, detailers, recon crews, and the list goes on and on. It’s a lot of overhead for a borderline commodity and I’m still not convinced that any of it adds any real value. But that’s okay. If the car sales continue to dry up, this behemoth will be able to make up for it by lowballing their trade-in’s. Which they then resell to dealers who have their own fishes and ponds. Will you take the bait? Will I?

Steven Lang
Steven Lang

More by Steven Lang

Join the conversation
4 of 28 comments
  • Segfault Segfault on Oct 06, 2009

    Carmax's gross profit margins have to be huge (I'm sure the net is much smaller). Sometimes, but not always, their "last chance" vehicles are priced decently. Mostly, their prices are on the high retail side, and when you consider that at a traditional dealership, you could get an easy $1000 off the asking price, it's a hard pill to swallow.

  • Hal Hal on Oct 07, 2009

    CarMax does seem to offer very little for high mileage cars. Earlier this year I sold a 98 ES300 private party for 50% over the CarMax quote. On the other hand I did go back to buy a van after being unable to find one with the model/year/mileage I wanted private party. I maybe could have done a little better on price haggling at a dealership but the time/hassle wasn't worth a few hundred potential dollars.

  • 50merc 50merc on Oct 07, 2009

    Mr. Lang, are you suggesting that ideally, one should try to buy a used car directly from an owner who can provide facts about the vehicle's history? And second best, from a small dealer like you who discloses what you've learned about the vehicle's history?

  • Steven Lang Steven Lang on Oct 07, 2009

    1 & 2 are interchangeable. You should buy from someone who tells the truth, offers a great product, and sells it at a fair price. Knowing the history of the vehicle and finding out it's weaknesses (and maintenance needs) are the primary part of that equation.