By on June 30, 2011

No one likes to be jerked around. Unfortunately in the car business you can meet an awful lot of jerks. The jerk arbitrating vehicles at the auto auction who says, ‘How do you know it’s True Miles Unknown?” when the Carfax history shows the odometer hasn’t moved since the Clinton administration. The jerk who tries to charge you $800 for ‘computer reprogramming’ when the repair is already subject to the open recall by the NHTSA. Then there are the really bad ones…

I once had to wait nearly eight months to get a title from an auto auction. That’s beyond an eternity in our business. It was submitted by the dealer. Got lost at the auction… and they simply never ordered another one.

I waited for months with all the usual false assurances. Frustrated beyond belief, I finally went to the dealer directly. Turns out the auction had issues far beyond ‘titles’. They were making dealers ‘take credit’ instead of refunding their money. Selling vehicles before the sale with kickbacks to certain managers (allegedly). They even managed to get their employees thrown out of a competing auction by having their salespeople ‘visit’ the auction on their day of sale.

Life is always a bit interesting on the dealer side of the business. But as for the public… what is the biggest runaround you folks have experienced?

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102 Comments on “Hammer Time: The Runaround...”

  • avatar

    It’s interesting that you show the printer. I was a victim of “the roll”. That’s when the F&I guy (finance and insurance) sets up a dot-matrix or daisy-wheel printer so that the lines on the page intersect the figures, making the numbers hard to read. They used the roll to try to hide some add-on charges that I didn’t agree to. Another trick used at F&I is the “3 finger lean” where the finance manager braces all his weight on 3 fingers while asking you to sign at the “X”. This keeps you from browsing the document before you sign it.

    I think the scummiest sales tactic is the “yo yo sale” which the dealers like to call “spot delivery”. There you sign to buy the car, but they call you back the next day and tell you that you have to pay more, using one ruse or another.

  • avatar

    The kind of behavior we allow in dealers is astounding.

    In the market for a small truck, I found a nice late model Frontier, and asked the salesman (a young 20-something) how much they were asking for it. I don’t know why he didn’t just want to tell me what the price was, but it got pretty interesting.

    He volunteered an unsupervised test drive, while he went to find the pricing in the office. After hooning the Fronty, I came back and he still didn’t have the price. He then offered a cold beverage and a seat in the air conditioned sales floor, and started to ask me what payment I could afford.

    Of course, I said that wasn’t important, what I wanted to know was the price of that truck.

    Eventually a greaseball in a suit came up and asked what he could do to get me into that truck, and I said, “Tell me what your asking price is.” Needless to say, he proceeded not to tell me in the most elaborate fashion. I finally had to get up, tell them both they were morons and walk out.

    If their behavior is any clue, it sure doesn’t speak well for the kinds of people they’re actually selling cars to. I never could figure out why they didn’t want to give me a price.

    In 1987, my mom bought a Plymouth Horizon, which had to be taken back to the dealer a dozen or so times for warranty service/repair. Every time it got fixed, something else would come back broken. The dealer never did get it right, and eventually told her (with a straight face) that the reason they weren’t honoring that vaunted 7/70 warranty was because she bought the cheapest car on the lot. We eventually fixed the car ourselves for far less than the warranty and gas for all those return trips cost.

    I guess neither of those are very exciting run-arounds. . .

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I friend of mine had a similar experience with the local Crysler/Jeep and Nissan dealer. All the dealer wanted to talk about was the monthly payment and refused to state what the actual price of the vehicle was even when asked directly. To their credit my friend and her husband walked out. That dealer died during Chrysler’s bankrupcy, and that put a smile on my face, though now the nearest Chrysler dealer is 130+ miles away.

      • 0 avatar

        Just to give a little insight from the other side of the desk so to speak…

        When I was a sales manager at a dealership we used a software program that “optimized” a deal to maximize profit. The role of the salesman was to pump the prospect for “data” we could plug in to the PC and it would spit out a list of the most profitable units in stock that somewhat met the punter’s needs.

        Basically the “deal” offered on paper was completely manipulated depending on what was key to the buyer…if he “ABSOLUTELY HAD TO HAVE $16,000 for his trade in and payments no more $500” then those were the FIXED numbers that were plugged in and the VARIABLES were the price of our car, the interest rate and the term. We could juggle everything about as the negotiation went on, always keeping a hard watch on the PROFIT figure.

        So you can see how. using a system like that, we don’t want to give the price away until we know the STRUCTURE of the deal first.

        Of course, the sales people are supposed to be smart enough to read when they’ve pushed the customer far enough and they should just answer the darn question.

        Forgetting the software for a moment, just understand that for the dealer there are only 2 things that count….how much is coming in (cash, payments, actual value of trade) less how much is going out (what our vehicle stands in at) = our profit (is it enough to roll the deal).

        So the actual numbers sort of lose their meaning…a deal could be written as $25k with $7k for the trade or $23k with $5k for the trade…makes no difference to us (well, tax is an issue but minor) but most punters like to see us give more for their trade which is exactly why dealers pad the asking price with disposable garbage like lot-packs, undercoating etc. so we have room to “SHOW” what the buyer wants to see.

        A dirty game BUT please understand that it wouldn’t be this way exactly if customers were not always looking for a “deal”.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. K

      FWIW I sold cars a little but have worked in the service department for decades. I could care less what you did up front, I want my writers to treat you with kid gloves, I want good CSI (and nothing less then a 4 will do) I want you back, I will work for lower then pep boys money in most cases and still make an acceptable profit.

      Of course I never worked at total rip off shops. Today I think all new car dealers have to treat people right or customers will use the secret CSI weapon!

    • 0 avatar

      “I never could figure out why they didn’t want to give me a price”

      The product that most large dealers are actually selling is a finance package and a warranty scheme. The cars are really just bait to get the marks into the sales office.

  • avatar

    “Rustproofing, transport charge, storage charge, additional overcharge, finders fee, floormats, keys.”

  • avatar

    We’ve been fairly lucky on the runarounds.

    We once got the runaround from a Kia dealership who refused to acknowledge a brake noise. And it wasn’t a regular brake noise like the pads needed to be changed. It was more like a thumping, grinding noise when you got on the brakes. We were back and forth in and out of their shop three times. My wife (then just my girlfriend) didn’t want to cause a huge scene. But one day, she made the mistake of telling my mom about the runaround. She called the service department and let them have it.

    The next time we returned with the noise, we didn’t recognize anybody in the service department. It seems either the dealership was bought by another firm, or they replaced darn near everyone in the department. The service writer was kind, gave her a rental gratis for the day, and told us he’d call once they got a good look at it. We did our usual errands for that Saturday, and he called back in a few hours and told us what they had found: The bolts that held the front brake calipers in position had stripped, allowing the calipers to jiggle and rumble around. Not safe. They replaced free-of-charge. We hadn’t had the car 3 months, to the best of my memory, and it was at less than 20,000 miles (of the much-ballyhooed 100,000 Kia warranty).

    More recently, when we bought our Cube, we, too were nearly the victims of an unscrupulous F&I guy. We agreed to a price with our salesman that we knew to be fair, with a fair trade-in price. When we get to F&I, suddenly, we’re presented with a whole different set of numbers. Our monthly payment (which was not what we negotiated on, but we knew from the conversation with our salesman what our monthly would work out to based on the terms of the sale) had suddenly jumped by $65 or so, adding nearly $4,000 to the total price. We told the guy “no thanks” in no uncertain terms. It was the usual “extended warranty, rust protection, etc.” BS. But other than that blip, the buying experience on the Cube was very low-stress.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, F&I is where you have to be careful. When we bought my daughter’s Kia, after hours of haggling we found $300 tacked on when we were ready to sign, for “security etching” on the windows. Yeah, $300 to engrave a couple numbers and record them in a database. I told them it wasn’t part of our deal, and they said they put them on all their cars and it wasn’t optional. After a half hour of stonewalling, turned out it was optional.

      I don’t really mind that crap, I realize it’s part of the game with a lot of these guys, but my daughter was very stressed during the whole process and will never buy from that dealership again. I’m sure a lot their customers feel the same way, it’s hard to believe the extra bucks they’re making is worth chasing away repeat business.

      • 0 avatar

        My landlady was charged $200 for etching, hidden in a fold on the sales contract. Not only was she charged it without explanation, and with it literally hidden in a fold and added to the tax and title fee subtotal, but her windows were not actually etched. This was done on the contract presented on the sales floor. Once it was signed and the car was paid for in full, she was ussured into the finance office. There, things got ridiculous.

      • 0 avatar

        The Chevy dealer I bought my Impala from was very upfront about the window etching. I said, yeah, whatever, and didn’t worry about it, as I knew I would be covered if somebody ever ripped off one or more of my windows.

        I got a “supplier discount” price that, when the rebate was added, was a very sweet deal, so who cares that they make a few more bucks.

        Still have all my car windows, too…

      • 0 avatar

        I’m sure we’ve all been there. My wife at the time and I decided to purchase a KIA some years ago. We gave the salesman a check and then chose to wait for a couple of days so we could discuss whether we wanted to purchase the vehicle in question or not. We had to ask several times to get the check back from the finance guy, and each time we asked he had ‘reasons’ for not wanting to return our check. The funniest response was “we don’t usually return checks once they are handed to us.” Needles to say we never returned.

        It just dawned on me I clicked on the wrong reply button, but I have a fix! My wife and I ended up purchasing a different KIA at a different dealer, and I noticed some lifter noise soon after purchase. Needless to say after multiple dealer trips to get the noisy lifters under control failed, I traded in the car. I know noisy lifters aren’t a major issue in themselves unless ignored over time, but the idea that two dealers were unable or unwilling to repair the car left me concerned, thus the trade and purchase of another vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      Back in 2000 when I bought my Camry, I took it in to the dealer after 2500 miles with a banging noise from the rear brakes. They told me I’d been driving with the hand brake on. I was fairly confident that I had not committed alleged offence, but they fixed for free so I didn’t especially care about getting into a debate.

      A few months later, another 2500 miles, same problem, same explanation of “you’ve been driving with the hand brake on”. Dealer told me they’d fix for free but next time it was coming out of my wallet. I politely told them that even though I was confident the first time I hadn’t been doing this, didn’t they think that I’d be extra sure to keep my eye on this, just in case I’d been negligent? Back and forth, and after a couple of phone calls I called Toyota and told them my rationale. “What will make you happy?”, they inquired. “Either a guarantee it won’t recur, or give me a new Camry” I responded.

      Two days later I got a new Camry. I was content.

      That Camry has been trouble free ever since, up until a few weeks ago when I noticed some oil leaks, took it in for assessment, and was told the oil leaks would cost ~$1,000 to fix and I needed a new exhaust system for another ~$1,300. If I could guarantee it’d keep going and not need more expensive repairs I’d do it, but at 181,000 miles and 11 years…time to shop for a new car. I just got a new Ford Fusion, and boy was that a drama with a runaround. I’ll post another comment talking about that one.

  • avatar

    This is why the “no-haggle” Saturn pricing was born. It likely died because most people are idiots and can be thoroughly worked over by the common car salesman. I’ve known some salesmen that aren’t full of BS, but its rare.

    As far as buying cars, one of the best tips I’ve heard is to buy with cash. Then you can draw a line in the sand and avoid all the “what do you want your monthly payment to be” tactics. Plus you aren’t paying boku interest for 4, 5 or even 6 years.

    • 0 avatar

      The whole “pay in cash” scenario is a wildly overplayed hand these days. For 99% of dealers it makes no difference if you are paying cash or financing, and of course they would prefer the finance option to make a few extra points on you.

      To avoid the whole “monthly payment” charade, it’s simple: ask for a copy of the dealer’s invoice, which will include the port-added accessories, advertising fees, etc. This should be comparable to what you’d find on From that point, you negotiate a figure over invoice unless you are aware of significant manufacturer-to-dealer incentives that you can use to your advantage. Again, Edmunds is your friend on this one.

      After that, when you get to the finance office, read that document with a fine-toothed-comb. Question every figure you don’t understand and don’t sign if you’re not comfortable.

      I’ve never had problems so long as I’ve come in with good information ahead of time, but I can definitely understand why people get confused/upset/irritated at the games.

  • avatar

    I never bought a new car until I was 60.

    I didn’t exactly get a runaround at the forst BMW dealership, I was just ignored. I guess they thought that a balding old guy with a 10 year old Mark VIII wasn’t really ready to buy a BMW.

    So, I went to another BMW dealer, Erhardt in Farmington Hills. They could not have been nicer. Apparetnly unlimited test drives (I did 4, day and night time), and absolutely no hassling. Of course, I had to pay almost full price for the 335 coupe ’cause it was a new model and in short supply.

    Service and warranty issues have also been no hassle here.

    The first BMW dealer probably did me a big favor.

    I also had a similar experience at teh Aston Martin dealer. They keep the doors locked, and only let you into the showroom if you look like a good prospect, I guess. I tried several times, but I never made the cut. Too bad for those guys, ’cause I had almost talked myself into one of those V8 Aston Martins. Another case of the dealer doing me a big favor, just not like they intended.


    • 0 avatar

      This happenened to my Grandfather back in the early-mid-80’s. He had decided he wanted one of the then new and hot Pontiac 6000STEs. Went over to the local Pontiac store driving the little yellow Subaru hatchback commuter mobile, all set to trade it in and write a check on the spot, and was completely ignored. Idiots. He was so peeved he would not even go to another dealer, and bought the God-Awful ’85 Oldsmobarge Pregnancy instead. Which was about $4K more expensive.

      I can also say, my recent BMW purchase (Bill Dodge BMW) was also absolutely fantastic. Took a little bit for them to meet my price, but the whole thing has been a very happy experience. 28 days to picking it up in Munich!!!

  • avatar

    This happened to me in Chile, showing that the “problems” are more or less universal

    Back in 2004, Peugeot introduced the 307 HDI, the first small diesel hatchback in the chilean market, at a very attractive MSRP. I crossed the street (literally) to a dealer, part of a large chain, and asked for the final price, to be paid in cash.

    Even though they had several cars in the lot, they simply refused the sale, didn’t even want to name a price unless i would agree to some sort of credit with their financier of choice.

    I ended up on the phone with the importer’s product manager, threatening to sue for “denial of upfront sale”, an economic delict. In the end, they agreed to sell to me directly, with a very healthy discount

    Life being what it is, the dealership chain that refused me the sale, went bankrupt a few years later.

  • avatar

    I went to look at a possible replacement to my tired but trusty ’95 Explorer last year. Went to the GMC dealer to test drive the Terrain and the new LaCrosse. Told the saleslady that I was still shopping and wanted to really narrow down my choices and just wanted to test drive and was not buying that day. She obliged, really liked the Terrain and her attitude. the Buick was just too much green for me at the time.

    Went to the Ford dealer, test drove the Fusion and the Escape, didn’t like either one. Same deal told the salesman upfront that I wasn’t interested in buying that day. I figured I’d get a real-world value on my Explorer for trade-in, it’s a clean 16 year old car that still looks and smells new, with 280,000 miles on it. Dealer comes back with a $250 offer, I said politely thank you, now give me the keys. He starts hammering a sales pitch at me. We go back and forth a few more times for 30 minutes.

    At this point my GF and another friend were noticing that I was about 2 seconds from losing my cool. I tell the salesman in no uncertain terms that he will either give me my keys back to the car, or I’m leaving it there, and reporting it stolen. I have another car, and the Explorer can sit on their lot for the rest of eternity and they can’t do a damn thing with it. Salesman goes and gets his boss. I tell the boss to get my keys, he starts in on his pitch. At this point, salesman has wasted my time and his for an hour and a half. I tell boss man that he will get my keys, and get them now, or I will tear his head off. He says he has to go get them from dispatch. I follow him and they magically appear. He then asks me what he can do to get me to buy a Ford from them. I tell him to get bent, get in my shiny red elderly Explorer and tear off out of there.

    This is one of the few times my GF has ever seen me verbally assault someone.

    • 0 avatar

      You hit on one of the things that will p*ss me off to no end at a dealership. I had a similar situation about 20 years ago at a Dodge dealer while looking at a used car. It turned out not to be the car I thought it was, and I decided to leave. I had to go through the same bullsh*t with the sales guy, sales manager and even the service manager (who ultimately held the keys).

      I rarely display my temper in public, but these three stooges finally caused me to go into a snit of epic proportions. The people out on the lot could hear me yelling at the “managers” through the open service bay doors. Several got back in their cars and left.

      I felt like an idiot after I left. But I was an idiot who wasn’t out $10K on a car I didn’t want…

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. K

      During my short auto sales career I did that once (on orders) and felt like such a shit I never did it again.

      Last straw was when we lost a sale for 50 bucks and I was told to call the prospect and tell him he could back out of his deal and come to us. he said he would not do that, I said I was very sorry my boss told me to do this and the guy said he depreciated the tension in my voice, and could tell I did not like doing it.

      A week later I was a service writer.

      • 0 avatar

        The majority of my auto dealer career was spent on the service drive, but they wanted me bad over on the sales side. I dunno why, I’m generally more of an introvert, I hate selling, hate BSing, all that nonsense, unless I’m with a very tigh knit group of friends. I think they felt that since I was clean cut with a business degree and knew my ish about the brand, I’d be a good sales person.

        Didn’t last too long. Didn’t have that personality type needed to move the cars, just didn’t give off the vibe of some hotshot badass, which I guess is what you need when selling euro cars. I sold one Z4 to a guy buying it for a daughter’s graduation present, and one 328i coupe to a friend’s father. Didn’t make to much on either one, just wanted to get back to the service drive and they let me.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve worked customer service for 14 years in various industries and I hardly ever lose my cool with anyone. By the time I left the Ford dealer I was seeing red and fuming mad. The sales manager was so stereotypical that even my non-car friend was seeing through his game.

      I got a CS call from them a week or so later and gave them my opinion, and told them frankly I wasn’t buying a Ford from them as long as the sales manager was still there. They hung up quickly after that.

      I still have the Explorer, decided to pay off other debts before tackling the car again. so I’m $25,000 richer thanks to the dealer. I know it will never darken the door of that dealership unless it’s for recall work.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      @texan: after 5 minutes, you are legally allowed to perform a Citzen’s arrest of the F&I guy based on Grand Theft Auto and Kidnapping. Tell him that you are placing him arrest, subdue him, and restrain him. Demand that someone call the police.

      If he resists arrest, beat the living shit out of him, demanding that he “stop resisting arrest”.

      When the Police arrive, press Felony charges, and you can tack on assault & battery charges if he resists arrest.

      By not giving you your car back you were being held hostage against your will, and he was not returning your property in a timely fashion.

      Get the whole thing on camera, and you’ve got a #1 news lead for the evening…

    • 0 avatar

      This sounds similar to a situation I found myself in.

      Back in October of 2001, I was in the market for a new vehicle. I had purchased a 1999 Grand Cherokee Laredo V8 in April of 99, and 3 and a half years later, it had 135,000 miles on it due to my job. It needed 4 tires, brakes, was leaking coolant, had a slipping transmission and the rear end bearings were starting to howl….for the second time. Rather than looking at sinking $3k plus into the car, I decided to buy new, and Japanese.

      For reasons that still escape me, I ended up liking the 2001 Pathfinder. It had recently received the 3.5L VQ Six, replacing the dog-tired 3.3L. It had off-road prowess (which I needed for work) but was reasonably comfortable on the inside. Also key was the availability of factory Navigation, something that was really crucial for my job. This was back before Tom Tom’s were having from everyone’s windshield.

      The issue was that it was the end of the 2001 MY and the 2002’s were out – except that the 2002’s were no longer available with Navigation, even in the LE trim. Because of this, leftover 2001 Pathfinders with Nav were very, very hard to come by. I ended up finding a car with Nav at my local dealer. I negotiated a price and a trade-in price for my ailing Jeep and thanked the dealer and told him I’d call him that weekend. The issue was the color of the car, Bronzed Gray, was not my first choice. I searched around for local Black or Silver Pathfinders with Nav using Nissan’s on-line inventory tool and found one at an even closer dealer.

      My wife (then girlfriend, I am seeing a trend here) and I went to the dealer on a Saturday to check out the car. When I got there, we were greeted by a young salesman (and being in my late 20’s at the time, he must have been around 21 for me to say that) who was eager to show us the car. He went back to check on it and realized that it was being used as a demo by the GM’s wife…and she was in Florida with the car. We said thank you and went to leave at which point he asked us if we wanted to drive a 2002 model which was “all new”. Knowing that the changes to the 2002 model included many substantial changes such as revised roof rack design, a new steering wheel airbag cover and “italicized” font for the gauge numbering, we tried to politely say no. Apparently we were too polite about it as 20 minutes later we were all driving together in a brand new Pathfinder LE.

      After the drive, we told the salesman we weren’t interested as the car didn’t have nav. He wouldn’t take no for an answer and repeatedly asked us “what do I have to do to get you in this car today”. After repeating “we’re not interested” about another 10 times I finally said, “look, I really don’t want a car without Nav. In order for me to overcome that, you’re going to have to make it really financially attractive for me. I’ve already spoken to dealer X and he’s doing to give me a 2001 LE with nav for YY,YYY. He’s going to give me Z,ZZZ for my trade. In order to get my business, you’re going to have to do a lot better than that.” The numbers I gave him were within $500 of the actual deal I had struck. The salesman tells me hang on, and goes to see “his manager”.

      About 5 minutes later, in which time my wife and I had contemplated simply walking out of the dealership, the sales guy finally came back with his Sales Manager, an overweight, balding gentleman who’s face was red and forehead glistening with the sheen of nervousness….or anger. Not a good sign. The salesman pulled out his “black book”, and proceeded to ask us in an extremely short and obnoxious tone, where we got those numbers that we gave his sales guy. I told him that we were dealing with Salesman Z from dealer X and that those were the numbers he gave us. He then proceeded to yell, actually yell, that he couldn’t believe we would try to pull something like that on his sales staff. He was upset that we would try to negotiate using bogus numbers that “couldn’t possibly be real” and told us to “here, look at the black book, your car isn’t worth half of that”. When I protested that the numbers were, in fact, genuine, he got even angrier. Now he was fully bellowing at us, that he had never seen such rude and unprofessional behavior from customers. How dare we insult him by trying to lowball him using false numbers we had clearly “made up”. He then proceeded to ask us, not polietly, to leave.

      My wife and I were so stunned, I really couldn’t say anything. We got up and said to him “I hope you realize that your dealership is closer than dealership X. I fully intend on returning to them on Monday and buying the truck for the deal I just presented to you. I also intend on using them for service, will never set foot in this dealership again and will tell everyone I know to never set foot in this dealership again. Only later did I wish I had told him to go procreate with himself and what he could do with his high pressure sales tactics.

      So on the next Monday, i bought the Pathfinder from the first dealer. It turned out to be a lemon that had lawyers sending notice of intent to file a lawsuit to the president of Nissan North America, but that’s a story for another time.

  • avatar

    Back in ’03 I graduated and started working as an engineer for GM. 4 months later I crashed my Mazda and needed a new car. The only GM thing I was interested in was the Vibe.

    Off to the local Pontiac dealer. His first answer was “I can’t get you a vibe”. His 2nd through 5th answers were “I can’t get you a vibe, and you can’t test drive the ones on the lot.” I finally convinced him to sit with me and run the numbers. After the first cut I asked what the employee discount was, and if he was including some other programs that I knew were in effect.

    “Does your dad work at GM?”

    “No, I do, here’s my card and my ID#”

    All of a sudden, there were 5 vibes on the lot ready to go for a test drive, another truck of them coming next week, and offers to search other dealer inventory for my specific option combos. I was so pissed that I walked out of there and made a deal on a brand new Protege5 two days later. Cut my GM career short, but I’m not complaining about that now.

    • 0 avatar

      The Mazda deal was pretty harmless, no salesmen for 15 minutes, went right in with the manager.

      Here’s what I want, here’s what I want to pay. He hemmed and hawed for 5 minutes, came in a little higher, I said no, and we did the deal.

      In the F&I, they tacked on a bunch of stuff. I had her remove it all, (took her for separate tries). She removed one-too-many things on the last attempt, and the final price cam in $400 less than the agreed price. I didn’t point out her mistake.

  • avatar

    Salesmen are pretty much innocuous being that they don’t have the authority to scratch their asses without the manager’s approval. My biggest gripe with them is their lack of product or technical knowledge.

    Without a doubt the F&I people are the most obnoxious people in every dealer I’ve ever dealt with. (If there are any F&I people reading this: if you don’t operate this way, my apologies; the rest of you, if the shoe fits..)

    I worked at a dealer years ago where they crafted their own W2 forms for people who needed “help” getting financed. That is, when they weren’t busy churning out bogus factory invoices with inflated dealer costs, so that they could show people the great deal they were getting, paying only $50 over “invoice”. The rationale was that people believed anything printed by a computer as accurate.

    When we bought my wife’s Liberty in Nov 08, Mr. F&I added in the $700 shipping at the last minute, even though my sales agreement was supposed to be the drive-out price. I told him that I would be paying off the dealer-arranged loan in a month, as soon as I got the proceeds from my loan against my federal Thrift Savings Plan (you pay ~4% interest to your own account), whereupon he lectured me about how that was a terrible idea that would cost me money (over paying 8% to a bank). Then there was a drag out argument about my not wanting his extended warranty. (“I can’t believe it!! You’re the first person ever who didn’t take this protection!! If I lowered the price of the car $1000 would you take it with no warranty at all?”)

    • 0 avatar

      A similar thing happened to me on the last car that I bought. I’ve been buying cars with the same guy at this PBG dealer here in town now for about 10 years. The salesguy is a pretty straight shooter, takes care of us when problems come up, knows what we like. He finds a car I’m interested in, he and I sit down and make a deal. All good so far.

      They had recently gotten a new F&I guy, and he was a young kid and a bit cocky. We go into the shark tank with him and most of the procedure was fine, until he got to the non-factory warranty. I had gotten burned on a non-factory warranty years ago, and have had good experiences with GMPP warranties, told him so and that I wasn’t interested in the non-factory warranty. He persists. I asked him, why would I want a warranty on a brand new car?

      He tries again. This time I told him, if I wanted a warranty why I buy a non-factory one when I could get the GMPP warranty? (I wouldn’t have bought it there anyway, I would have purchased it online, like I did with the last one. Much better deal.)

      He tries yet again. Finally, my patience has ended, I got up from the desk and said loudly, I’m leaving. At that point my salesguy, the sales manager and the business manager are all approaching to see what the issue is. As I’m walking away from the desk, the sales guy goes over to the F&I kid and tells him to drop it. F&I kid realizes he’s about to sh!t on the salesman’s deal (and his deal too!) and drops the warranty talk.

      We still have the car and I never bothered with any warranty. Last time I was in the showroom, I saw they got a new F&I guy…

      • 0 avatar

        Seems like the F&I guys are taking after sleazy salesmen.

        When I bought my nissan a couple years ago, I dealt with fleet sales because it was quick, clean and easy. The fleet guy spent more time talking about himself than on the paperwork.

        I didn’t take into account the F&I guy, though. Mine talked fast, sold snake oil, tried to convince me to finance anyway. His face turned red with rage after he cut the price of the super-fancy platinum-level extended warranty in half and I turned it down. He practically shoved us out of there after that.

  • avatar

    Today many dealerships make the majority of their car sales profits in the F&I dept. I know of dealerships that operate on the philosophy that “we don’t sell cars, we sell financing”.

    Having spent thirty years selling cars it never ceased to amaze me how many buyers bought on the monthly payment as opposed to the figures used to arrive at that payment.

    I have sold vehicles that had almost zero profit on the vehicle itself but ended up with $4-6k dealer profit after F&I did the paperwork with the buyer.

    It was probably put best by a car salesman on a Sixty Minutes piece about ten years ago. He said “we do this every day for a living, the average car buyer buys every 3-5 years, which one of us do you think is going to win?”.

    Caveat emptor.

    • 0 avatar

      Just yesterday I got a letter from a credit union soliciting me to refinance my 3 year/0.9% loan with the manufacturer’s captive finance arm into a 6 year/4.5% loan through the credit union. In the letter they pitch the idea as a $275/month “savings” based upon the difference in payment amount. Amazing. But people must fall for it, or they presumably wouldn’t send out the letters in the first place.

      • 0 avatar

        My guess is that letter from the credit union was not designed to target someone with .9% 3 year financing but rather a typical non-subsidized 5 or 6 year car loan. (i.e. it was a blanket letter and the figures were based on a presumed average)

      • 0 avatar


        Actually, they did have my payment amount correct and said it was drawn from “public documents” (i.e., they pinged my credit report from one of the 3 bureaus).

  • avatar

    Several years back my wife, then girlfriend, was buying a slightly used Liberty in Denver. Sales guy was typical slimy fare, but he earned the sale without being a total dirtbag. Got the deal done and everything was set. We had just listed her saturn locally and had someone who wanted to see it. I left her there, assuming the deal was done and she would drive home in the Jeep. Huge, total, complete mistake on my part.

    As soon as I leave, they corner her with TWO old scumbags who battered her into buying a lojack system, then they added a full year of pmts to the financing deal. Totally her fault for not walking away and calling me, but they literally scared the shit out of her (she was about 24) until she was in tears.

    It only got worse when the p.o.s. broke down and we got to see their roadside/warranty service in action. Stuck in summit county colorado in a blizzard on a holiday weekend and the dealer up there literally kicked us out of the dealership so they could close. Just said tough shit, call corporate if you don’t like it. Wouldn’t even plug it into the computer to just tell me what the codes were (it was just a crank sensor, which we could have fixed). No tow trucks, no rooms, total nightmare from hell.

    No matter who we dealt with from that company, they were just pure scum, from top to bottom, through and through. Watching Chrysler go bankrupt was truly one of the joys of my life. Then we bailed the losers out, so I guess the joke is still on us.

  • avatar

    Pre days I had some dealers refuse to present an amortization table on financing arrangements. Even though I knew the terms, the interest rate and payment schedule, I walked on each of those deals. I like to see the amort table just to make sure everything is as I understand it. Why would a dealer refuse the table if we’re all supposedly on the same page?

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Which is why it would have to be a screaming deal for me to dealer finance at all. I let my credit union figure everything out for me and then go shopping. I’d rather see an institution that I’m a shareholder in make some money than the dealer or manufacturer’s finance department.

      • 0 avatar

        Generally true, unless, as you imply, dealer financing is one of the sales incentives. Also, see my comment above in mtymsi’s post. Even credit unions can sometimes play fast and loose.

      • 0 avatar

        When we bought our 2007 MX5 last year, we got numbers from our bank for a loan, and the dealer got us a better deal from the same bank! When we signed the papers, the salesman came back and corrected the paperwork – the interest rate was actually lower, which lowered our payments by a few more bucks!

        I’ll recomment this dealer to anyone – pretty straight-shooters if you ask me.

        Needless to say, after reading all these comments today, my smile will grow a bit when I get in that MX5 for the drive home in a little while!

  • avatar

    The general retail experience is why a lot of brands have moved into the rather costly field of proprietary retail. Apple immediately comes to mind as the best example (and executor) of this strategy. Apple’s situation was that its product was not being prominently displayed in various retail outlets and the salespeople were very poorly educated and had little knowledge. Plus, the likes of Dell and HP were giving better spiffs to salespeople than was Apple.

    By moving to their own retail environment they have full control over the customer experience, the display of product and most importantly, far better control over the personnel manning the store. Say what you want about Apple’s retail presence, I have never had a bad experience in their stores and family and friends rave about it. There is an explicit rule that Apple Store employees are *not* to push. They are to demonstrate, answer questions and guide.

    Were the laws a bit more auto-manufacturer friendly in the US I think we’d see a lot of brands gladly run their own retail operations, or at a minimum, brand “showcases” where you could try out the product in a no-pressure environment, then be directed to dealerships for the final sale.

    • 0 avatar

      While I completely agree with you about the buying experience in an Apple retail store lets keep in mind that anyone who buys any Apple product pays a premium price or in the case of Mac an ultra premium price. So that’s not a valid comparison with buying a vehicle.

      As far as the manufacturers running the retail outlets they have proved numerous times they are not capable of it. Manufacturers have never understood how the retail end of the business works.

      • 0 avatar

        Good points. The differentiator here is that Apple knows its customers and it has religion. They are also masters of messaging and style.

        Sony is a good example of how *not* to do retail stores. Theirs are horrid places and also demonstrate how little they understand their customers. Apple built a retail presence that people actively want to go into in order to check out the latest and greatest.

        That’s what some automakers need to do – create a place where people want to hang out, and let’s be honest, car guys can be some of the most gung-ho, enthusiastic patrons out there.

        But I agree – probably plays better to the luxury market than the mass market, but I still insist that if done right, there’s no reason that someone like Chevy couldn’t pull it off.

      • 0 avatar

        On some products they are a bit more expensive but , with resale value considered they’re not. Many of their products are sold at Walmart and Best Buy so I’m not sure they can still be considered esoteric luxury items.The ipad is among the least expensive of pads.

        I heave deep concerns about Apples dominance in media distribution but regarding retail – they’re friendly, helpful, and honest. That’s what this thread is about and I think they deserve unreserved kudos for this odd marketing concept.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t consider my Macbook Pro to be particularly reliable. I bought AppleCare for it and it was worth every one of those 35,000 pennies I paid for it. I’ve had a battery, optical drive and mainboard replacement. They even replaced my apple bluetooth keyboard even though it’s an accessory and I didn’t buy it there. When it comes to warranty and service, they’re very straightforward, don’t ask condescending questions and simply tell you what’s what. They recently replaced my iPad for light bleeding. Took mine into the back room for a minute, came back out and handed me a new one.

      It reminds me a lot of what I’ve heard about BMW dealerships. Exceptionally courteous service, no questions and all-around friendly staff. One friend, whose father was looking for a new car, bought an M3 over a GTR. When they test drove, they were basically tossed the keys and told “come back before we close at 9pm.” A few days later after he decided he wanted the car, the dealership had already prepped it and set it aside. Told them, “We figured you’d be back for it.”

      Too bad more car companies can’t run a tight ship like that for all cars, not just luxury nameplates.

  • avatar

    The episode where Jerry gets the “inside” deal on a new Saab from Putty:

    Seinfeld: Key charge!?!?

    Putty: We don’t even know what that is.


  • avatar

    My worst “runaround” occured in the early 1980s when I bought a new Firebird at a Pontiac dealer in Dallas. I really enjoyed the car (in spite of the weak 302 engine) until about six months later when I started to notice oil leaks on my garage floor. Since the car was under warranty, I took it back to the dealer. They kept it for a day and pronounced the leak was a “loose oil filter”. Sure enough, more oil on my garage floor. I think I took it back three more times before I pitched a major bitch at the service manager and escalated to the owner. The owner told me the car had a defective rear main seal and that GM had told him it was one of many thousands of engines that had been built with defective RMS. I told him all he had to do was pull the engine and replace the seal. He said that would cost him $1,500 out of pocket because GM refused to reimburse dealers for that repair and then dared me to sue him. I tried the zone office for Pontiac and was told the same story the dealer had told me. Yes, it was a problem but no, they were not going to fix it.

    I sold the car shortly after that and have never been back to any GM dealer since.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. K

      30 years, you might try again – we were giving away the store if folks asked as part of GM’s attempt to win back folks – out of warranty, whatever no one didn’t get some consideration…

  • avatar

    I figure over the past 30 years, I – or me & the wife, wife 1 and later, wife #2, have bought 28 new cars. I’ve learned a lot over that time span. It’s a game, you have to know when to walk and or let your “inner redneck” come out. I know I made some bad deals in the past, but I learned pretty darn quick not to fall victim to emotions, pressure, and all the other crap.

  • avatar

    Ha – Junebug, that’s the gospel there. The truth about selling (and buying) is that it is an emotional, not logical experience. Bad salesmen think that most customers buy things logically: I need a car, I have two kids and commute, the Camry is a good choice, the invoice is $19,500 and I will offer $19,600. Done deal.


    Most shoppers are emotional, and in studies they have found that buyers almost *always* buy on emotion and then try to use logic *after the fact* to justify the purchase. If I can locate the link to the study I’ll post it, but it’s a fascinating look into the human psyche.

    If you want to make the experience less painful, try taking as much emotion out of the equation and make it a calculated decision. Works well when you’re in a situation where you do not have to buy, but the key is always to keep your head and remember: you can always walk out the door.

  • avatar

    I recalled this experience some time ago, but as I sold my Chevy I had in the air force, I needed a car when I got home. This was the gas crisis of summer, 1973 and used small cars (Dusters, Novas and the like) were in short supply. I found a 1970 Duster that I should have run from, but being young and dumb, I bought it, as I was laser’ed in on that car and needed one for school. Well, it turned out that the main front crossmember where the torsion rod from the passenger wheel was anchored was cracked! I took the car back to have it fixed, but they never seemed able to find a replacement. Fed up, I took it to our mechanic and it was fixed. Still took two weeks to get a part for some reason.

    Car was out of action for almost a month. I had to almost restrain my dad from physically assaulting the salesman, I had never seen him that angry.

    In any event, when that Chrysler – Plymouth dealer was caught in illegalities, it closed up shop. I heard stories later from mechanics who worked there of how things worked. At the time, though, I jumped for joy when that crooked place closed its doors. Funny thing, I never heard such accounts about dealers for the other two OEMs, at least in my area.

    The day my dad retired, I found a nice 1972 Nova at a Chevy dealer. I bought it immediately. A very nice car I should have kept much longer than I did.

  • avatar

    Just the usual pricing BS / 4 square / I have to check with my manager tactics are what I’ve seen. Also had some pushy sales folks give me the classic “what will take to put you in this car today” to which I say nothing since I don’t like the color/options. Seems they lack listening skills because I always tell them upfront what I want. IE: silver truck with 2WD, then they show me a nice red 4WD. Oh well… onto another lot then.

    I once battled for over 3 hours to get a deal on ’89 Prelude Si because the dealer claimed the sales guy must have made a mistake and given me the wrong price the day before (yeah right). More fun ensued when I told this dealer to put my old Civic’s custom wheels onto my new Prelude – he claimed such a request was “impossible”: the wheels wouldn’t fit, it was unsafe, etc, etc. Well these were Honda OEM upgrades so his excuses were worthless! I walked out on that deal four separate times, at one point I had to resort to screaming bloody murder just to get my old keys back. Worst car purchasing experience of my life… and it was at an Acura dealership no less. Somehow when all the yelling was over they managed the task of switching my rims and selling me the car for a mere $300 more then original “incorrect” price. Since then I’m more prepared and walk out much faster, life is too short to waste getting the runaround at a car dealership.

    And yes they do make most of their money off the F&I and service bays. I worked at a company that did some printing for a major Toyota distributor and their monthly newsletter contained tons of tips on up-selling various services from warranties to window etching.

    So I avoid the F&I guys but arranging my own financing ahead of time. When we purchased our Volvo C30 I told them what percentage rate I got and said “if you match or beat it I’ll sign with you, if not here is my check now give me the keys”. Fastest F&I experience ever… suddenly all the misc charges magically disappeared! We had to sign a disclosure form indicating we refused the F&I guys recommendations (IE: upsell crap). Paperwork took less then 20 minutes. Did the same with my Dakota purchase several years before, having a check in hand tends to stop the runaround BS.

    • 0 avatar

      I wrote about my Camry experience earlier in this thread. This time I had my credit union financing in place and knew what I wanted. The F&I guy was great, asked me to sign forms indicating he’d explained extended warranties, etc., and I had declined, but no real pushing. That whole dealer (hereafter referred to as “Dealer A”) won my business just because they were so NOT pushy.

      I was all ready to sign with them, with my only complaint being the color wasn’t my first pick. But for the deal they offered (which was REALLY good), I could live with that. Then Dealer B calls me and says they’ll match the deal and find any color I want. They’re on my way home from work so why not. I drop in that evening, a couple of hours before closing time.

      So I am sitting with dealer B. They look at the offer and panic – it’s REALLY good. Hum and hah, lots of double-teaming between the salesman and the manager, and finally say “okay, we’ll match” and show me a Fusion that’s the same color and doesn’t have some of the features. I point this out. “Okay, we’ll install these additional features, same price.” But I already have that same deal and you’re all ready changing the story you gave me this afternoon, and you can’t find me any color I want. Why do I want to go with you, again?

      More quiet chats with the manager, and they finally drop another $500. That’s enough to make me pause, even though I don’t like them. I call dealer A around 8:00 PM and they say give us until tomorrow morning to see if we can match.

      Now dealer B gets obnoxious. Why wouldn’t you sign with us? Come on, you know it makes sense. Have a drink of water. Double teaming with the salesman and manager. I’m getting irritated, and politely but firmly tell them I WILL give the first dealer a chance to respond and I will call back by 10:00 next morning with my answer. Lots of sad, hurt looks. Invite me to just hang out for a while. It’s late and I haven’t had dinner, and despite the extra $500 I’m almost ready to tell them to forget it, but instead I walk out the door so I can think about it and not make a bad decision based on emotions.

      Next morning, dealer A matches the extra $500 and I tell them sold. I’m not going to go back and forth any more. I’ve got a great deal, dealer A has been super accommodating, and I like them. I call dealer B and they say “we’ll give you another $200”. Nope, not worth it after the previous evening’s experience.

      I visited dealer A several times, worked with a couple of different people, and every time I walked out of the door and said “not ready to buy yet”, or “I want to compare against the competition” they smiled and said no problem, we’re here when you need us. No double teaming, no hurt looks. I don’t think I even ever met the manager, which I now realize I quite liked. I don’t care who your manager is, I just want to deal one on one and not feel bullied by you and your manager tag teaming. Dealer B – polar opposite. I didn’t even really care by the end of the day if dealer A matched the extra $500, I was almost ready to go with them regardless, just because I liked them.

    • 0 avatar

      ” their monthly newsletter contained tons of tips on up-selling various services from warranties to window etching.”

      Man, this topic is fun! There was a Chrysler/Dodge dealer in Middletown, Oh, where I used to work (it’s now closed) where, on a wall leading from the showroom to the service waiting room(!), was a framed plaque prominently displayed for all to see, lamenting how much the internet has hurt car dealers by listing prices – mainly alluding to – and how much profit they lose by customers doing research!

      So, was that plaque meant to garner sympathy? I just laughed and thought how stupid posting something like that! Five-Star dealer, my foot!

      • 0 avatar

        The newsletter I speak of was intended for dealership management eyes only. Its not something any regular person would get access to as it requires you to part of their “network”. For example articles often mentioned how its best practice to show the customer the service bays before they take delivery of their new car and immediate schedule their first “check up” for them so are comfortable with the process of paying $85 for an oil change. The newsletter had success stories from dealerships that used their recommended “systems”. They spoke of (expensive) software specifically built to guarantee the F&I department would become an easy profit center.

  • avatar

    I think we’ve all experienced the 4 square sales technique, telling me a “payment” without telling me actual price or interest rates, give me a good deal to screw me on the trade, or screw me on the car to give me a good trade to make me feel better, argue that the dealer holdback isn’t really dealer profit, stupid crap like that. I had one dealer tell me I HAD to take the life insurance through FoMoCo or they would not give me the loan. Didn’t expect someone in 1997 to have a cell phone or use it to call FoMoCo right in front of him to confirm that fact. I wanted to walk, my wife at the time wanted the car, a happy wife = happy life so we got it, sans the life insurance. But we never went back to that dealer for anything.

    When I was much younger I had a Ford EXP I owned free and clear, Title in hand. I had been working hard over the summer saving my money and wanted to make the jump to a Mustang LX 5.0. A dealer about 30 miles from where I lived had exactly what I wanted. I had been doing some manual labor and didn’t have AC in the EXP so admittedly I was a dirty sweaty mess when I showed up at the dealer. With title in hand for a good condition two-year old EXP and four digits in my checking account. I was hot to buy.

    The salesman treated me like crap. Wouldn’t even let me take the LX for a test drive. I decided to walk. However, I couldn’t stand it, walked back in, asked for the sales manager, showed him the title to my EXP, and the balance in my ledger. Told him I was ready to buy THAT car pointing to the Mustang but I had been treated so poorly I wouldn’t buy a car from the dealer if they were the last place on earth. Oh wait, please sit down, I’ll get another salesman, etc. etc. etc.

    Nope – you had your chance. I hope the sales drone learned a valuable lesson; don’t judge a book by its cover. He had a gimme’ sale in the palms of his hands. Ironically as I look back, he probably saved my life; I would have likely wrapped that Mustang around a phone pole.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      your happy wife == happy life line is very insightful, and it’s been my experience that when my wife is along and wants a car, my negotiating leverage with the dealer drops to nearly zero. They can tell she wants the car and will work that angle. Luckily my wife loves her 01 Explorer (which she obviously and badly wanted so I had no leverage on that deal) and has no plans for any new cars in the future.

  • avatar

    Like most of the people here my main issue is with the finance guy. When buying my last car they tried to sell me identity theft insurance. I was all set for the gap insurance, etching, extended warranty, etc. that you normally get, but identity theft insurance? That one made me pause. I still turned it down, but damn if they’re not getting creative.

    • 0 avatar

      There was an attempt to regulate this behavior but the Republicans threatened a fillibuster. Talk to your local rep about this and see which side of the divide he/she was on.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      I think the F&I guy uses shock and awe as much as anything to BS you into an unwise purchase. They do whatever they can to try to undermine your confidence and throw you off balance.

      I was buying a Miata back in 1996 and the F&I guy was trying to sell me a maintanence plan that would cover oil changes, etc., and would “help ensure warranty coverage”. I told him I knew it was illegal for a manufacturer to make warranties conditional on who does the maintanence, and I already had a mechanic I trusted anyway. He looked me in the eye and said in the most serious, concerned voice “is he bonded?” My first thought was WTF, my next thought was to get pissed at the attempted Jedi mind trick and tell him in no uncertain terms that I was buying this car as a weekend toy and did not really need it and I would walk out if he tried anything else remotely like that again. The rest of the deal went smooth as silk, no hassles, no surprises, no unexpected charges. btw, I’m still driving that Miata, 15 years later.

  • avatar

    Kind of makes me chuckle now that I’m no longer in the car biz, numerous times in this thread salespeople have been berated but the bottom line is nobody wants to pay enough for the vehicle so the salesperson can make a living.

    What caliber of salesperson do you expect if you don’t want to pay enough for a professional to make a living? That’s exactly why for the most part today’s salespeople are what they are.

    • 0 avatar

      Wrong site for “living wage ” arguments. This is strongly frowned upon and regarded as liberal whining.

      • 0 avatar

        I have no issue at all with the dealer or the salesperson making some money. I’ve worked in varying levels of the industry, I know both sides (sales and customers) are full of it. But don’t take a job that pays commission and then moan and whine about a “living wage”. I’m not at the dealership to pay your salary, I am there to purchase a vehicle at a fair price. Don’t complain to me about your pay, complain to your sales manager about your %. Or go get a “real” job.

        The dealership model provides me with absolutely no benefit to driving to a manufacturing plant and purchasing the car directly from the manufacturer, and I would very much rather do that. I don’t feel that I should have to pay the premium most sales people think I should for whatever illogical reason I they come up with.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s pretty funny, driving to the manufacturing plant to buy the car. So for example if you lived in Texas and the car was built in Minnesota that would be no problem right? In other words there is no convenience to having a dealership in your neighborhood.

      • 0 avatar


        You are already paying a fixed “delivery charge” when you buy the car. They could just as easily deliver the car to your door for that price as to a dealership.

        In my case, I am going to the factory to get my car, in Germany no less. All the dealer had to do was file the paperwork for the order, I oould have just as easily done that with BMW directly and skipped the middlemen. I paid about invoice for the car, so they are making whatever kickback they get on the 1.9% BMWFS financing, the gap insurance I bought from them for $250, and whatever amount of hold-back BMW gives on European Delivery orders, which is likely none.

        Only reason I bought the gap insurance is that at 1.9% I wasn’t putting any money down on the car. I put what I would have put on the car on my mortgage.

      • 0 avatar

        R.Fortier1796 was not referring to European delivery when he said “drive to the factory to pick up my car”. European delivery is an entirely different subject. My point is it’s ridiculous to think even 1 out of 100 buyers has any interest in driving to the factory to pick up their car (don’t know what the Corvette figures are but they’re not typical and you still buy a Corvette thru the dealer).

        The vast majority of car buyers while they may be dissatisfied with the dealership experience still want some place local to buy and service their vehicles.

        I mean really, give me a break, drive to the factory to pick up your car? How does that work if for example you live in California and it’s a BMW built in the Carolinas?

      • 0 avatar

        Like I said, you order it, they deliver it to you. Why is this a difficult concept to grasp? One brand new car with the same options is identical to the every other one just like it. Obviously I have never test driven my new BMW, they just built it Wednesday. I did not drive my last car before buying it either. Did the whole deal on the phone from two states away.

        They are not hand assembled individually by artisans, they are built in highly automated factories 1000s at a time. When you buy a big-screen TV do you go to the warehouse and paw through the stock to find just the right one? No, you look at a website and order it online, or you go to Best Buy, look at the demos and they bring one out for you, or deliver it to your house. Absolutely no reason a car needs to be any different.

        “Dealers” would not go away, they would still be there to provide service and support, give test drives of demo models, and sell used cars. There is no money in new car sales anyway, the dealers admit it!

        BMW is actually very close to this model now. The really push build to order, and there is very little margin in thier MSRP anyway. My local dealer only keeps a handful of cars in stock, 70% are ordered. My new car US MSRP’d for ~$41K, and there was only about $2500 between invoice and MSRP. So even if they somehow got you to pay full retail, they are not making a killing on these things. But hey, I prefer to have that $2500 in my pocket, not thiers, so by God I negotiated for the price. But what a PITA. Buying TVs is so much easier, and if you cut out the dealership margin you are going to pay the same price anyway.

        And it astounds me all the stories of people “needing a car right now”. Seriously? I guess if your car is totaled or stolen, but even then can do a monthly car rental for not much more than a car payment and take your time about the whole thing. Why would you NOT order exactly what you want when spending tens of thousands of dollars when given the opportunity? The Euro-delivery was gravy, I would have ordered it regardless.

    • 0 avatar

      I have on more than one occasion when we’re pretty close on a fair price told a salesman that I recognize they need to feed their kid’s, too. They seem to appreciate that and we usually meet in the middle. However, there is simply nothing about both sides wanting to get a fair deal that gives either party license to lie, cheat, steal, change agree upon terms, or apply undue pressure.

      • 0 avatar

        This kind of arguement (need to feed this and that, blah-blah)… Just ticks me off. Noone forces you to do what you do. Go get yourself a decent job and stop insulting my intelligence.

    • 0 avatar

      Your attitude only affirms why so many people totally dislike the whole car buying experience.

    • 0 avatar

      The salesman I bought my car from sold something like 360 cars in 2006. You don’t need to make $900 on each deal when you’ve got customers making appointments to close deals. I found him via a state wide search, but I’ll bet you that he did that volume because he didn’t play games, waste customers’ time when he knew a sale was unlikely, or negotiate like Obama pretending to cut spendings. I’m shopping for a car for someone in his state at the moment, and he was the first person I called. Repeat business is probably good for volume too, but salesmen won’t get much of it if they make customers miserable.

    • 0 avatar

      You make a good point. When I bought my Mini it was a very pleasant experience, but Mini dealers rarely haggle and it was out of the question during the Cash for Clunkers frenzy. The F&I lady even talked me out of getting an alarm, although they did get me for some other spiffs.

    • 0 avatar

      Your statement is exhibit #659,461,435 in why car dealers suck. Your ilk behaves as crooked as a dog’s hind leg and you whine that your just trying to make a living?

      What in the hell does taking someones keys and not giving them back have to do with making a living? Or hiding BS charges in the fold of paperwork? Or refusing to just tell someone the price of what your selling? Or advertise fake prices, etc etc etc?

      Some people call that lying (you know, normal, decent, non-amoral people).

      The expected caliber of salesperson is laughably low because of the intellectual requirements of the job. It takes no brains, just a lack of decency. I know a few who have done very well and don’t screw people. The vast majority are not looking to make a living, they are looking for an easy victim. The same can be said of purse-snatchers.

      • 0 avatar

        There is plenty of deceit on the customer’s side of the table as well. Yes, there are dealers out there who employ tactics that would be considered immoral, and there are salespeople who are only in it for the quick buck. While some of those dealers end up surviving, the salespeople who screw every customer they can don’t tend to last very long.

        Car sales, or really any type of sales, is about building a client base. Working solely on ups that just drive onto the lot is a recipe for low earnings and an early burn-out. Even the best in the business still only manage a sale with about a quarter of the new people they talk to, and that rejection adds up quickly to demotivate, discourage, and eventually displace the salespeople who don’t earn repeat business.

        Doing the job right most certainly requires intellectual ability, great interpersonal skills, and a solid work ethic to follow up after the sale and provide the service that keeps customers happy and coming back. A great salesperson will know the product and the inventory inside and out, know that listening to the customer is more important than any pitch, and truly care about matching each customer with the vehicle that is right for them while carrying out the sales process in a professional manner that leaves the customer satisfied, and yes, also allows that salesperson to earn a fair profit. I want you to leave smiling so you can tell your friends how great the experience was, and for you to send them in to see me when they are ready for their next car just as I hope to see you again when it comes time for your next car.

        I realize many people have had bad experiences while purchasing a car, and most people are at least a bit defensive when they arrive at the lot, but the process works much smoother for both the customer and the salesperson when everyone is open and honest about their goals. I won’t hide your keys, insurance card, or driver’s license, nor will I try to slip hidden fees into any of your paperwork or change the numbers at the last minute. On your end as a customer, please don’t tell me that your car has never been in a wreck when the Carfax and the paint meter both show it, that your trade is just like brand new when I have to jump start it for the appraisal drive and the A/C takes fifteen minutes to blow cold, or that you were offered KBB retail value for it at the dealership down the road, because really, I’ve heard it all before.

        If you already know what you want, great, I’ll do my best to get it for you either on my lot or by bringing it in. I’ll show you some alternatives if I don’t have it available, because maybe I have something that you hadn’t even thought about that would work just as well or better for you. If you don’t know what you want I’ll be happy to talk to you about your wants and needs and show you the best matches. When we talk price I’m going to start higher than you want, and you are going to start lower than I want, but if I’ve done my job correctly in listening to your explanation of your budget, I’ll have made sure we’ve selected a car that we’ll be able to find a happy medium on that works for both of us.

        To sum it all up, though some salespeople have given us all a bad name, I won’t judge you by my last customer if you won’t judge me by your last salesperson. I’ll be happy to give you my full attention and a fair shake, and I ask that you do the same. There’s no reason that the car buying experience can’t be fun.

      • 0 avatar

        Hey Nullo,

        Don’t take this the wrong way (I like what you post most of the time), but nobody is forcing you to sell to whoever comes on the lot. (Well, maybe someone is, I don’t know). If the customer is a total prick, in my opinion there is no reason why you should not tell him thanks but you are not interested in his business. In my opinion (and that of many others), the real reason some or many customers lie is because they have all been lied to by others in your profession. Most people would be perfectly happy if all manufacturers were able to set up direct showrooms and service centers without the middleman and without a commission basis. The manufacturers would still need the SAME AMOUNT OF BODIES TO MOVE THE SAME AMOUNT OF METAL, so no real net loss of jobs. However (and this is the important part) I believe that the quality of average individual selling the metal would improve significantly. For example look at the average person working at Circuit City before it went under vs. the average person working at the Apple store. Similar products, different sales distribution method, different pay method, significantly better customer satisfaction, significantly better sales.

      • 0 avatar

        Owing to franchise laws having factory distribution & servicing is merely a pipe dream that will never be reality. The few attempts manufacturers have made in taking over a dealer network have failed miserably. The best example I can think of was when Ford bought a number of Denver dealerships about ten years ago. Anyone that thinks the manufacturers could do a better job simply isn’t familiar with the history of them attempting to.

        The real reason most of you educated buyers on this thread are whining is because you don’t want to pay the dealer a fair profit to purchase a vehicle and you take issue with the methods some dealers use to make that profit. Ever consider if you were willing to pay a fair profit those tactics wouldn’t be necessary?

        How about the thread a couple of days ago where the buyer felt he could not get a fair deal on a Mazda 2 because he was quoted MSRP and the difference between MSRP & invoice was $500? Really, $500 profit is too much to pay?

        Yet Saturn buyers were well satisfied with the no haggle pay sticker price model Saturn used. But on the other hand many of you view invoice holdback as dealer profit because you ignore the reality of the overhead costs inherent in operating a dealership.

        This is an argument that will never change because the circumstances that created it won’t ever change.

        And please, stop with the Apple/Circuit City comparisons. In the first place Circuit City was a viable competitor until they restructured their sales model resulting in much lower pay and secondly a vehicle is not a big box store appliance. There is no similarity in the two products.

      • 0 avatar

        Nullo makes a valid point: while there are plenty of shady dealers out there, customers are just as good at fibbing, hence the old addage “buyers are liars”. It’s true in the auto business just as it is true in any business/sales negotiation, and I’ve been through thousands of them.

        In my experience I’ve lost sales because our service offerings were too high, but I can count numerous times when the lost prospect comes back to me several months or years later because the provider they ended up with was incompetent/amateurish/unskilled.

        In the auto world, as I’ve said before, I’ve never had a bad experience because I don’t let a bad experience develop. If I don’t like a dealership, I leave. If I don’t trust who I’m working with, I leave. But importantly, I also place a value on time and if the salesperson knows what they are doing, are respectful of my time (=money) and can make things happen for me, then they not only earn my business, but they deserve to be properly compensated for it.

        Hence my rule of 500: 99% of cars are worth no more than $500 over invoice, barring odd or unique circumstances/needs. Frankly, it’s not worth it to me to haggle over $500 if it means headaches and heartache.

        Now, as to manufacturers setting up their own shops: taking the franchising laws out of the picture for the moment, were a manufacturer to go this route they would need to do it initially in an effort to build brand awareness and improve the customer experience. This was the reason why Apple deployed its retail stores initially. A big thing to keep in mind is that at the time Apple launched its retail initiative (they started researching and planning in December 2000) they were just starting to enter a product renaissance. By 2004 the iPod had really taken off and their mass exposure was great. In fact, what Apple found was that 50% of in-store Mac sales were to people who previous never owned a Mac.

        My point here is that a retail presence won’t make up for a weak product line. If you’ve got strong product, it sells itself (Apple and iPad, VW and New Beetle circa 1999). Automakers are in a different market, for sure, but opening up factory centers where you can experience the product without being hassled would be a great thing for a lot of buyers.

    • 0 avatar

      “What caliber of salesperson do you expect if you don’t want to pay enough for a professional to make a living?”

      Sorry, car salesmen aren’t professionals. Doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers are professionals.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    Lots of good stuff already, I’ll just give a few short ones that I didn’t see elsewhere

    1. Last year, while looking for used trucks, I saw one advertised at a used dealer lot at a good price, and went to check it out. I tell the salesman I’d like to drive the truck, first thing he says is “cash or finance”. I answered “cash” which turned out to be a mistake. Salesman then does a fake forehead slap and says “oh, that’s right, I forgot, the last guy who drove that truck walked off with the keys, so it can’t be driven until we get new ones made. Sorry, bye.” I had to admire the sheer chutzpah of such an obviously transparent brush-off, which cut into my anger at wasting my time (it had been a nontrivial drive to get there). I never stepped foot onto a used car lot again after that and eventually found my truck through a private sale, friend of a friend.

    2. Years ago my wife took her nearly-new Ranger into the Ford dealer for warranty service. It came back with a long line of paint peeling off the hood. It was pretty obvious they had done it, probably by the guy working in the next bay putting something with caustic chemicals on the hood. First the service manager claimed we brought it in that way. His tactful response started with “I’m not calling you a liar, but…” Then when he couldn’t maintain that lie, he said “well, that’s what you have auto insurance for.” Finally they were browbeaten into repainting the hood. This was in the early to mid 1990s, the infancy of the internet, and when I posted about this experience on our local usenet newsgroup (remember those?), horror stories about this dealer’s service department came pouring out. Someone printed it all out and took it to the owner, and that dealer got a new service manager. I’m pretty sure this was his (and my) first exposure to the power of angry consumers on the internet.

    It wasn’t a totally happy ending, because later when it came time to sell the truck everyone wanted $1000+ off because since the hood had been repainted it was “obvious” that it had been in an undisclosed accident.

  • avatar

    I think I’ve seen it all but the one that angers me the most is as follows:

    Dealer confirms over the phone that they have a car with a particular color/trim level/option package is in stock, I drive a great distance in my old jalopy, checkbook in hand, and find that the car does not exist. Salesman plays dumb, swears I said “automatic transmission” or that the car sold mere minutes ago and tries to sell me something completely different. How can anyone think that starting off a business deal with a bald-faced lie is a good idea? Nothing steams me more and nothing will make me walk out the door faster.

    The harder the salesman/manager tries to screw with me the harder I will fight to buy the car at a rock bottom price. A fair price without the gimmicks, stall tactics and BS is worth at least a few hundred dollars to me.

  • avatar

    I believe that Ford’s drop in CSI due to peoples frustration with SYNC, MyFord and MyFordTouch will accomplish 3 things.

    Ford dealer salespeople WILL have to spend more time explaining the operation of these features and pay the salespeople to dur this in more than one session because the throw them the keys and keep in touch deliveries Ford salespeople are doing now are evidently not complete.

    The salespeople who are not willing to take the time and effort to learn these features will get lower CSI scores and dealers will be forced by the lower scores to due something about it, cash works every time and the dealers will need to have better qualified salespeople to accomplish this.

    Ford will have to pay the salesperson directly to compensate them for their time doing the explaining of these features, more cash.

    sell a Ford for invoice and still get paid a cou[ple of hundred and pretty soon you have slaespeople who can earn a living and they will put pressure on the F&I guy to act differnently.

  • avatar

    About 10 years ago I took my mother-in-law car shopping for a new Pontiac Grand Am Coupe (I know, I know, but she wanted one to a now-defunct Pontiac Dealer (Steve: At I-285 and Peachtree Inductrial).

    They had the car in stock.. We were paying cash, no trade.

    Me: So what is your bottom line on the car?
    Sales Weasel (SW): Are you buying the car today?
    Me: We will, if the price is right. What’s your priced?
    SW: That depends on if you’re willing to buy now.
    Me: We may, if the price is what we want to pay.
    SW: Well, I’m not going to quote a price if you aren’t going to buy the car right now.
    Me: I can’t tell you if we will buy the car IF YOU DON’T GIVE ME A PRICE!
    SW: So are you going to buy today?
    Me: (Jabbing dealer’s pencil in my eyes) Well, it’s kind of hard to say if you won’t give me a price?

    This went on, no lie, for nearly 10 minutes, whereupon I simply said, “We can write a check right now, but since you won’t tell me how much to put on the check, we’re leaving. And we walked out.

    He called me that night to ask if we were interested in the car, because “He had a buyer in the showroom, and if we wanted the car, we had to come right down NOW because he wanted us to have first shot.

    I tried not to laugh as I hung up on him.

    • 0 avatar

      I think these are the kinds of experiences that are exasperating. I went car shopping with a friend who tried the whole, “what’s your best price?” schtick and it quickly devolved into this same charade. At the next dealer, the salesperson was a bit saavier. My friend said, “sure I’ll buy, what’s your price?” The salesman replied, “my price is on the window. If you’re looking for a discount you need to ask for one.”

      That changed the whole tone of the conversation and actually calmed my friend down. I then told my buddy to ask for the invoice, which the salesman provided (and it was legit) and they started the back and forth from there.

      Fact is, most salespeople when they get into this kind of situation will throw out a great lowball number if they think you’re just shopping. It’s how the gamesmanship starts.

      Just do your homework before hand, walk in, ask for an invoice and negotiate over the real numbers. I’ve done this with used cars as well. I tell the dealer that I won’t even bid on the car until they show me how much they’ve got into it and I’ve done some homework on the approximate value range of the car.

      To recap:

      1) Do your homework
      2) Be willing to walk out if the dealership isn’t willing to be honest


  • avatar

    To set the scene, the characters in the story are me, a mid-20s lady, her slightly-older boyfriend, and Wayne, a used-car salesman straight out of Central Casting.

    A few months ago, I was in the market for my first new or new-to-me car. This being my first car purchase, there were several on my list, including the Mazda MX-5 and Mazda2, so our first stop was the Mazda dealership. When we get there, Wayne walks up to us, starting the conversation with, “How are you going to pay for this.” When I told him, “we’ll worry about that when I decide I want to pay for a Mazda,” he proceeded to lecture me on the difficulties in getting a car loan and the need for a co-signer. He finally gets us the keys to an MX-5 and tells us, “I’m too busy to go with you, so you guys go ahead and take it for a spin.” Don’t I feel special? After the test-drive, and a fruitless attempt to sell me a Mazda3, I tell him I’m interested in the MX-5, although not the one he has on the lot, and he offers to let me know if one that meets my qualifications comes in. He goes through his shpiel about how he’s the only one with any MX-5s in the area, and I throw away his car as soon as I leave the dealership.

    Fastforward a month: Another dealer has an MX-5 for me and I’m ready to buy, but before I do, I want to stop by Mazda one more time before I pull the trigger. There, we see a car that checks all the boxes and, as we walk over to it, I spot Wayne out of the corner of my eye, and he doesn’t even make a move. One of his coworkers walks up, gets us the keys, and sends us on our way. I decide I kind of like the car, although maybe not the price, and decide to low-ball the dealer, just to see what happens. He outright rejects the offer. No attempt to make a deal. So we go back to the other dealer and buy the other car, hassle-free. Moral of the story is, no dealer monopolizes the market on a model and a determined customer will find what she wants, with you or without you.

    But wait, there’s more. Yesterday, a full three months after our first encounter, Wayne finally calls to tell me he may have found me a car and, if I’ve already gotten my car, not to forget about their service department. I was getting ready to give him a pass, but he ended the voice mail by calling me “young lady.” I actually did call him back and said, “Yes, I did get my car and, by the way, may I speak with your manager.” He hemmed and hawed and said no manager was available, but would call me back. Highly doubtful, but how thoughtful of you to remind me that I meant to tell your managers you’re a misogynist.

  • avatar

    I will now share my version of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly…

    First the good…

    Last month I found myself in need of a good yet cheap car. I had sold the HHR and the car I had to replace it was broke and no mechanic knew what to do with it. So, I went car shopping. I ended up at a large Chevy-Toyota store in Saginaw, MI, where after answering a few questions about what I was looking for I was shown a lovely Buick LeSabre. After the test drive we went inside to talk about the numbers. At first they had a rather high figure I thought, so I whipped out my phone and did a quick NADA check on the value. It turned out that they were way past where they should have been. I told the salesman that. He then looked it up himself, and then called in the sales manager. After some brief negotiating we came to an agreeable price. I had to finance and I decided to see what the dealer could come up with because I work at my Credit Union and I didn’t want everyone there to know my business. I was taken in to the F&I lady, who was very nice. No up-sells. She took my info, and because she had learned that I was suffering from a terrible headache at the moment, told me to go home and she would call me with the terms and let me decide if I wanted to continue with the deal. I thought that was great. I did end up buying the car and so far I am quite happy with how the whole thing went down.

    Now the Bad…

    A few years ago I was looking at cars online and I had found a Ford Fusion listed at a Toyota lot owned by Roger Penske. I had emailed and then spoken by phone to a salesman, explained to him that I was traveling a great distance to see the car. I also explained that I wasn’t going to buy that day, as it was a Saturday, and I had to travel to meet my family for Christmas dinner. He said okay. When I got there the car was sitting out front waiting for me. However, the inside was trashed! It was a Merlot car with beige interior, and there was coffee and pop spilled in different places, dark animal hair all over the seats, and mud splattered up the A-pillar. I couldn’t believe that they would not have cleaned it up! Anyways, after the test drive, they then decided to keep me there for three hours, even though I told them that I had to get to my family for dinner! They offered me prob. $1500 less for my VERY well kept trade then it was booking out for, and the salesman had the nerve to say to me “Well, we’re a member of the Penske Automotive Group. We have over 1000 stores and by the time we recondition your car we’ll have over $1000 in it!” Now what that had to do with anything was beyond me. But between that and the fact that I could hear the sales manager playing with my car keys, I decided once they released me from that prison that I was NOT going to buy a car from Mr. Penske. EVER!

    And now, for the Ugly…

    About a month later I am in the Detroit area with the teens from my Sunday School class that I teach. We went to NAIAS, and while there I went to see a salesman I had been emailing at a Ford dealer Downriver. After telling him that I was in a hurry, and had a car full of teenagers, he managed to still make me stay longer than I planned. Well, actually it was the sales manager, who I heard say to the salesman, “Get his insurance card from him so he can’t leave yet”. I was livid by then! This guy wouldn’t even smile or acknowledge me when he came into the room, and tried to pull that on me! Well, I told the sales guy to get it back right then, and then I left, fuming! A few weeks later I got an email from someone there at the dealership, asking me to comment on my experience there. So I told her everything, and how I felt about them.

    I never heard from them again…

    You know, when I was a kid I used to dream of working at a dealership, maybe even own one, but it was people like this that killed that dream for me.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    Lets look at the other side, where dealers are good.

    NH Seacoast Audi dealer, I walk in, had previous car serviced there under warranty a few times, they know my face. They are busy. I have to talk to the sales manager who handles overflow.

    -Can I try a 2010 A4 with manual? Do you have one?
    -Sure, here are the keys. Have fun. Its a full Stasis package so be careful. Maybe take the Newfields loop but watch out for the cop in the village.
    -I want a non-stasis.
    -OK we have a prestige.
    -Wanna come along?
    -Sure, I can do that.

    Nice ride, like the car a lot. Audiworld people said X over invoice plus the rebate is what to shoot for. Back to showroom. He has deep product knowledge, although his product patter is targeted at average Audi buyer. I feel superior to that but can’t change his patter very much. Oh well.

    -I want this car. But I want the downscale package. Only options, Quattro and winter package. What will it cost. Red with black.
    -Hmm let me look. X over invoice. Plus the rebate. And if the rebate increases you get that.
    -Great lets order one.
    -Cool. Wanna take the Stasis out now?

    This is what its supposed to be like.

    Then the rebate went up $750 before delivery.

    • 0 avatar

      johnny –

      That echos just about every experience I’ve had. Back in ’05 I was looking for an A3. Went to local Audi shop to drive a 6-speed manual. Loved it. Told the salesperson I was also considering a TSX and just keeping my existing car as well. He told me “no problem, let me know when you’re ready.”

      I emailed him a week later asking him the availability of the exact car I wanted. He said “only one, in Minnesota, but we can truck it in for you. That’s going to be an extra $500, though.” Okay, I get that, no problem. I then email him a few days later telling him what I want for my car as a trade. He comes back and says, “that’s perfect, we can do that.” I then tell him, “I’ll go $500 over invoice on the new car” and he replies, “I’ll do that, too. Just need a credit card number to hold the car and schedule the truck for pickup.”

      A week later he had the car ready for delivery, signed paperwork in about 15 minutes and was out the door. Great experience.

      • 0 avatar

        For all the hate they get, I’ve never really had a bad experience at a Euro dealer. My parents have always been succesful with Audi and BMW, though they did have one bad experience at an MB dealer.

        I’ve gotten the run around, hidden charges, sudden “finder’s fee” etc frm Mazda, Toyota, and Nissan. When I bought my E46, I walked into the dealership, sat down with a salesman, and asked for the invoice. Told him I’d do 1k over invoice if they’d do 10k (fair value for the trade, but just about under a quarter of the cost on the 3er) and he said no problem. Even had a great experience with the service drive that got me a free set of Dinan brakes for the car.

        At the end of the day, you can’t really associate one brand with any sort of dealer trickery, it always comes down to the individual dealer.

  • avatar

    I’ve never had any of the runarounds listed above, but a co-worker ran into one. He bought a car from a small lot, making the payments on time. The lot had a nifty plan: When the loan got down to the last payment, they’d hold the check uncashed, and the day after the deadline, they’d repossess the car.

    My co-worker was helpless, merely calling the lot repeatedly, getting the runaround, and bumming rides to work for two weeks. Two of his co-workers persuaded him to gather all the paperwork, and contacted a TV station consumer relations reporter for him. His problem was featured that night, and the next day the California DMV sent an investigator to talk to him.

    Within a week, he had his car back and the lot owner and two associates were in jail. I thought everything was fine until he complained to me, a year later, that he wanted to get rid of the car, but he’d never gotten the title. I typed up a letter to the DMV asking for the title and had him sign it, and he got a letter of apology from the DMV five days later, and the title a few days after that.

    My co-worker was no dummy, but he had no idea what to do in those situations. I imagine the scams like that one, and the administrative loose ends, continue because there are so many people like my co-worker who just don’t know what to do.

  • avatar

    After reading all the comments I kinda feel strange. See, I never pass my car keys over to a stranger. Any vehicle documents even more so. And if something annoys me – I simply turn and leave without any arguments. Saves tons of time and temper.
    Oh, and never ever leave a phone number or an email to them unless you really want to do any business with them.

  • avatar

    I was overly prepared for a bad experience recently shopping for our new van (Odyssey vs. Sienna, the Ody won) and although I had a few salespeople who were either useless (had to show the Toyota salesperson how to fold down the 3rd row), cocky (woman at Honda dealer who said “this vehicle is so superior it sells itself” then proceeded to not attempt to sell it to me), or irritating (Toyota dealer giving me the “here’s my manager” routine and “what would make you leave here with a Sienna?” – although my response “absolutely nothing” shut him up), I had a great experience with the dealer I ended up with.

    Called a few Honda dealers after the one who let us take one home overnight (which is what sold us on the Ody over the Sienna) wouldn’t budge on price – and the salesman was great; nice, knowledgable, helpful too. I told him that I wanted to buy the car from him but not for $2000 more than I could buy the car for (ended up being closer to $1800 but still). He said there was nothing he could do. So I hopped on the phone.

    Found a dealer with 2 on the lot exactly outfitted like we wanted – salesperson gave a price a little high and said “we don’t add on junk like other dealers” so I agreed to come in person. Brought a spreadsheet with his cost, including dealer holdback, and printouts of the accessories I wanted from another dealer who sells online. He took that spreadsheet back to his manager, said he could meet me part way, I said fine, and off I went to sign paperwork. He also said that the sales side couldn’t do anything about prices on accessories but said if I bought directly from parts department I could pay their estore price, which was nearly half of the sales dept price. Still a little higher than the internet sale, but I walked out out of there with all the accessories I wanted (and installation on the ones they needed to do).

    Great experience.

  • avatar

    Back when gas was starting to get expensive and filling up my Riviera GS455 was about $36 a tank.. and it needed the rear main bearing replaced, I needed an economical and reliable Toyota.

    Drove my girlfriends Sentra to Toyota dealer A and had the most worthless salesman ever. Take a car out for a drive.

    Salesman, “Yeah, this is my ex girlfriends car”

    Me, “…r e a l l y…”

    SM, “Yeah, she took really great care of it, but she moved and didn’t want to take the car with her”

    Later we get back and he wants to talk numbers. I had done my research, I knew a fair price and I tell him what I’m willing to pay. He says what I’m offering would get me a Ford Escort. And he also threw in there at some point in the conversation that he sells 25 to 30 cars a month and he is the most profitable salesman at the dealership.

    Anyhow, asks me if a have a trade and what I’m driving now. So I tell him I have a Riviera GS455 that I’m not trading in. Conversation continues for a little while and he finally says, “Well, it doesn’t sound like your car is worth a whole hell of a lot so I’ll offer you $500 sight unseen for a trade”

    Way to go. What a great way to make a sale by insulting the client.

    I already really didn’t like this guy and this pretty much ended any potential business with him. He attempted to get me to come inside and sit down but I told him I was leaving. This sort of pissed him off and the last words I heard from him as he was walking away with his back to me were, “Well, if you’re not ready to buy yet you’re not ready to buy.”

    Drove down the street to Toyota dealer B. Met with a retired Marine who was super laid back and not a dildo like the first salesman. Got a price for a certified used a little bit more than I originally wanted to pay for a non-certified. But there were no games and especially no insults and stupid dumb lies telling me the car was his ex-girlfriend’s.

  • avatar

    I just remembered. Had a pretty good experience a few months back when I test drove the new CRZ. Hated the car, but the salesman experience was awesome.

    South Tacoma Honda. If I wanted to buy a Honda, this is the place I would go. I’ll repeat, South Tacoma Honda.

    The salesman was almost the opposite of pushy, but excited to have me in the showroom and gave me the keys at first to the automatic version. I returned in less than five minutes because the car sucked that bad. He wanted me to take the manual out, but I was a little hesitant. And he said to me, “I would not be doing my job if I didn’t let you take the 6-speed out. It is considerably better than the automatic.”

    Drove it, far better than the auto.

    Got back, and again there was no talk about looking at numbers. He knew I wasn’t interested in the CRZ anymore after driving it and didn’t try to sell me anything else, and even gave me advice to just keep the current car I have.

    I still have his business card somewhere.. now if only Honda was making a car I would want to buy now a days.

  • avatar

    I’ve had a few SW(Sales Weasel, love that term for them)experiences. What I don’t understand is why the owners tolerate them. They piss customers off, and they stay away.

    The first was at Fletcher Jones Chevrolet in Vegas, 1977. I was about to turn 21, and I go in there to buy a truck. I had the money in the bank to pay for it cash. I talk to a seemingly very nice salesman, who takes my car for the trade in appraisal, and then we sit down and negotiate a fair price, $3600, plus my car, tax and title. I had no cash with me, so I call my mother up to come down and give them a check for me and I would go to the bank in the morning and come back and pay them and pick it up. My mom and her boyfriend, who was useless, except he was a bigger SW than the salesmen at the dealer were arrive, and it’s obvious, something is going on. Suddenly, the price is $4800, plus my car, etc! My mom’s boyfriend actually got angry, something I never saw him do before with a SW, and we ended up leaving.

    When I left the Chevy dealership, I went down the street to the Dodge dealer, and about an hour later, drove out the door with a ’77 Power Wagon, and got to experience a totally different type of SW. First, it was the “We forgot to charge you sales tax!”. When that scam didn’t work, they punished me by sending the paperwork back and forth between the Decatur and Sahara lots several times and generally screwing with me. It ended with the salesman tossing the manual and papers at me, with a lot of yelling.

    I generally had no SW experiences until 1992, when we bought a 1993 Grand Cherokee, and the F&I guy, a nephew of the owner, slipped in a variable interest rate, cleverly hiding the “If this box is not checked, it’s a variable interest rate” by putting a bunch of papers on top, under the clip, so we missed it. That stunt caused them to miss out on two future sales, and I let the salesman know it.

    The next one was another F&I weasel stunt. We had made a deal for a ’99 Grand Cherokee, and the F&I weasel, who was really arrogant, not only puts the extended warranty in the papers, he tosses in a bunch of other stuff. I got really angry, and found the sales woman, and told her that that either we talk to another F&I guy, or the deal is off. We eventually got done with it, and I’m sad to say, the F&I weasel is still there, I took a friend to pick up his truck recently, and there he was, out talking with one of the SW. I know from talking to other people that he is complained about all the time, so why they keep him is a mystery.

    The last one was after I wrecked my truck in 2003, and I went back to the place I bought it at to buy a replacement, as it had never been right after the wreck. It was back in the shop for “adjustments” for the 10th time, so I decided I had had enough. The salesman I had dealt with in 2000, who seemed to be a decent guy, was busy with a sale to a handicapped guy, so he gave me to another SW. This is one of the larger dealerships in the area, and they had a lot of trucks, so we take the golf cart out to the back of the lot, where he proceeds to leave me. I had found a duplicate of my truck in the back, red instead of black, but identical in every way, except the price had gone up, of course. I wait for him to come back, and he didn’t. Finally, I walk back to the showroom, and I see the salesman who had sold me the older truck and say, “He ditched me out there, and made me miss the shuttle back home!” I was really angry, and eventually, they did take me home, but I told them they had lost a sale because of what he did. They called and called, but I never went back.

    I have bought my last three vehicles from Charlie’s Dodge in Maumee, and I have zero complaints. Not a thing. They treat me great, don’t lie, and the price negotiations have been pretty painless. On two of the three, I was shown the invoice (yes the real one, as I have a friend who can get me a copy of any Chrysler invoice I need and they were the real deal) and given an out the door price without any games. I like that. On my Challenger, I got the invoice from my friend, and their asking price was already under it by about $1500.

  • avatar

    No runaround story here. Last car I bought was two years old and found it on eBay. I bid, was the only bidder, but didn’t hit the minimum price. Emailed the dealer to see if he’d take an offer. He called me in 20 minutes, said yes, and told me that $xx,xxx was the minimum and what did I have in mind. I offered the difference between my bid and his minimum. Sold. When did I want to pick it up? (He’s in FL, I’m in MI). How about Saturday? OK. Then he tells me to fly Southwest to Orlando, take the shuttle van to Daytona Beach and he’ll pick me up from there. How to pay? I’ll take a personal check he says. I show up on Saturday, car is ready with a fresh oil change and full tank of gas. Two years remaining on the factory bumper-to-bumper warranty. Had a nice drive back to MI. Longest test drive ever. Couldn’t find the same car in MI unless I wanted to pay $2,500 more.

    Now the runaround part. There was a problem with the side view mirror. Went to the local factory dealer and said fix it, it’s under warranty. First thing he does is check the VIN and then proclaims “You didn’t buy it here and haven’t had any service here!” What do you care, is my response, it’s under warranty. Then they tried to tell me it wasn’t a warranty fault. I’d respond yes it is and showed them the flaw in their logic. This went on for 1/2 hour and I finally told them to fix it and I’d pay for it as $34 wasn’t going to kill me. Then I went to GM Fast Lane blog and complained. GM guy then contacts me to investigate. End result is a check for $100 for my trouble. How did the dealer endear me? Not.

  • avatar
    Nate Gaddis

    The one and only bad dealer experience I have was with Carmax, and it was my own fault. The first car my wife and I bought together was a 2 year old Saab 9-3. We bought it from the local Carmax dealer for around $20k. It was my understanding that Carmax did a complete service when they took in a car, brakes, engine, everything. They don’t.

    About 3 months after we bought the car, I noticed a terrible noise coming from the brakes. Not to mention a very obvious wobble when you hit the pedal. Turns out the rotors, calipers and pads were completely and utterly shot. No way that amount of wear happens in three months. The best Carmax would offer was to give me the parts at dealer cost, but even then I was out almost $1300 to have it fixed.

    Had I been more attentive during the test drive I might have noticed the noise or wobble, but I didn’t and it cost me. I’ll never do business with them again. Having said all that, my recent experience with a Chrysler/Jeep dealer was much better. I did my research, told the salesman how much I wanted to drive out for and he came back with a price about $300 higher than my offer. I told him to tint the windows and we had a deal. Done.

  • avatar

    I have to add the bad vs. good experiences I had when replacing my last pickup, a ’94 Nissan Hardbody that had been run into (I didn’t run into them, THEY ran into ME) by a herd of 4 or 5 deer crossing the road. They came out of the median and ran headlong into the driver’s side of the Nissan, which was totaled (but drivable). Not wanting to drive around on a salvage title (and absolute minimum insurance), I started looking for a replacement in earnest.

    I really quite liked the Ford Ranger. Best fuel economy in the compact truck class, even better than the (smaller than a Ranger) Hardbody, if you stayed standard cab, manual trans, and four-cylinder engine…all of which were just what I wanted, anyway. And the prices on CPO Rangers weren’t too far out of reach. It was just a matter of finding a good one.

    Went to the nearest Ford dealer to see what they had in the way of late-model Rangers. They did have one, a 2006 XL fleet special, with low miles. However, they were just out of my price range. My SW (if I may use that term) had the last name Kuhl, which he pronounced “Cool.” He was practically typecast for the role– slicked-back, greasy hair and all. After informing him the 2006 was out of my price range and I was ready to move along, he of course wanted to see what else he could find for me.

    He first put me in a black late-90s Ranger XLT standard cab, manual trans. Not so bad, only it had the stepside bed and was a little beat up. More miles than I wanted at roughly 75,000, but I thought, hey, I got the Hardbody when it had that many miles on it, and it had been good to me for five years and another 75,000 plus miles. The kicker was, I could’ve paid all cash on the black Ranger and walked out with no payments. It had a check engine light because the exhaust had been “upgraded” and the cats removed. Which didn’t bother me too much, only I didn’t know what ELSE the CEL might be on for because of the exhaust. So I was leery of the deal after driving the truck and said no thanks.

    He then said he had another Ranger, only it was a green Mazda B2500 with just shy of 100,000 miles on it. Had a topper and extended cab, if I remember correctly. It was not at all what I wanted, and I let him know as much. He insisted I drive it anyway. We pulled up to the first traffic light out of the dealer, and it stalled. I had to keep the engine revved to keep it running at traffic lights– probably a faulty idle air control valve, but you never know in these kinds of situations. Sorry, no way was I doing that. And especially not for his nearly $10,000 asking price. He must have thought I was stupid. I left that dealer, never to return.

    A couple weeks later, I’m thumbing through the paper and notice an ad for a Ford dealer in the next town over. They have a 15,000 mile 2006 Ranger in fleet livery (white XL trim with vinyl seats and rubber floor, plus the four-cylinder/manual trans combo, all of which I wanted). This is early 2007, so the truck’s barely a full model year old. The advertised price is pretty good ($11,900), so I call to see if they still have it. They do.

    I talk to my bank. I get financing arranged with them at a very favorable rate– I’d be paying for nearly half the truck in cash, leaving me with only a small payment. I didn’t mind so much, as I needed to establish credit for myself. Drove to the dealer. Drove the truck. It was pristine, well-maintained. I want to do the deal.

    Salesman, who is very laid-back (and who let me drive the truck by myself), chats to us a minute and makes the mistake of informing us it was a local trade-in, and that its former owner was a middle-aged guy who just had to have a Mustang. Salesman wants to talk financing. I inform him of my previous arrangement with my bank, so that won’t be necessary. We’re here to talk price.

    “You said the previous owner of this truck was a middle-aged guy who traded it in on a midlife crisis Mustang, right?” I asked him. When he replied in the affirmative, I said, “So you got into this truck real good, then?”

    “You’ve done this before,” he sighed.

    I ask if he’ll take $10,000 cash for the truck. He “talks to his manager” and they decide on $10,000 cash plus my truck, which they had valued at $850 due to its salvage title. They had effectively knocked 10% off their original ad price, which was already a decent price, and I really wasn’t wanting to hold on to the Nissan for any reason, so I took the deal. Lowest-stress car buying experience I could have imagined.

    The latter salesman’s honesty and his dealer’s no-BS approach earned the sale, just like the last salesman’s sliminess and his dealer’s all-BS approach lost it.

  • avatar

    My worst run around was a transmission scam.

    My van was in dock for routine service work. When I went to pick it up the service guy told me my tranny was shot and he showed me the metal filings to “prove” it. I told him I’d never had any trouble with it and it works 100% so I would think about it and get back to him.

    So I went to an AAMCO transmission shop to see what they thought (big mistake!) and, of course, they “confirmed” that I needed a rebuild.

    So I let them go ahead – 2nd big mistake.

    RUN AROUND 1 – the smooth shifting unit has now been replaced by one with an upshift so hard it actually feels like someone hitting the underside of the floor with a mallet. The AAMCO manager absolutely denied there was anything wrong and that he had just built me a BETTER and TOUGHER unit. Yeah, right. After several attempts to get it re-done I finally gave up in disgust.

    RUN AROUND 2 – About two weeks went by when I ground to a halt due to transmission failure. Towed to AAMCO. Turns out the torque converter had failed due to a blocked oil line. Replaced under warranty but still got the rough shifting unit. I told them it was so bad it could blow out my differential.

    Anyway, the real point here is that the first shop probably was HONEST but mis-diagnosed the problem and AAMCO didn’t even try to diagnose it. If either of them had found the blocked oil line I may well have not needed a transmission at all.

    Fast forward about 12 months…another shop tells me there is fluid leaking from 3 separate places in my “new” transmission. So back to AAMCO who admit the problems are failed seals. RUN AROUND 3 – They will replace them but it is out of warranty so it will be about $450, nearly half the price of the initial unit. I was furious and told them there was no way I was going to PAY them to put the same JUNK PARTS in there that they used the 1st time and I got so angry that I just had to get out of there before I did something stupid.

    I got the seals replaced elsewhere for about HALF what AAMCO wanted so, far from helping me out because of guilt or whatever, they were trying to RIP ME OFF EVEN MORE!

    About 6 months of rough shifting driving later I was left stranded again about 20 miles out of town. Turns out the pinion on my diff had sheared, no doubt at least in part because of the constant thumping from the rough shifts (of course that MAY not have been a factor but….).

    Final kicker….3 weeks after the above, stranded again! This time the AAMCO transmission itself had totally failed. So much for BETTER and TOUGHER.

    So, now I have a “factory rebuilt” unit fitted by a local small shop and it is smooth as silk and now up to about 100,000kms with no issues. Finally!

  • avatar
    M 1

    Dealers undoubtedly engage in all sorts of slimy, underhanded tactics, but the automotive-buying public is also the most gullible, under-educated group of consumers in the history of capitalism.

    It’s the frigging Information Age. If people were willing to do even a tiny amount of reading and research on the second most expensive purchase of their lives, most of these issues would simply go away.

    I have always known exactly what I was willing to pay for a car, and that is what I have always paid. Trade-ins are a more difficult game to play, but if you stick to the rule that you don’t discuss or even acknowledge that you have a trade-in until the purchase deal is sewn up, then you really can’t lose.

    And you can always, always walk away.

    Christ, almost everyone walks in there ASSUMING the dealer is a scumbag who is trying to rip them off — and they still quite literally LET IT HAPPEN.

    I have no sympathy for either party.

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