Piston Slap: Get the Lead Out With Third-party Lead Sources?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap get the lead out with third party lead sources

TTAC Commentator ect writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I don’t know if this is strictly within your purview or not, but here goes. I am a dual citizen (U.S. and Canada) currently living in Canada. I will be retiring and moving back to the U.S. within the next (hopefully) few months. My current car (Mercedes B250) is 5 years old, is a model that isn’t/wasn’t sold in the U.S., and has exclusively metric instrumentation, so I plan to sell it in Canada and buy new in the U.S.

The last time I bought a new car in the U.S. was in 1995, and I gather that the world has changed since then. In particular, I understand there are internet-based resources that available to vehicle buyers that help arm them for the “dealer engagement” process. From reading TTAC, I also understand that one pioneer in this area (TrueCar) has gone over to the Dark Side. So, I’m left to wonder what sources I should be consulting for information on how to avoid getting totally shafted.

I also see that companies and groups like Costco and AARP have vehicle buying programs for their members, and wonder how useful these programs actually are.

I’d appreciate your thoughts on the subject, and of course any that the B&B have to offer.

Sajeev answers:

I’ll give it a shot, but consume a big grain of salt since my full time job is in that “Dark Side” of the car business: read the following knowing it’s only my personal opinion and not those of any of my taskmasters.

TrueCar and other Third Party Lead Sources (TPLS) make life easier, just don’t expect the best price with their help. Overall new car margins aren’t what they used to be in 1995, so “getting totally shafted” is somewhat tough if you understand personal finance basics with modest market research from almost any resource on the Internet. More on the second part later.

After hundreds of conversations (and countless online nuggets of customer feedback), I understand everyone’s application of time value of money is different: some are thrilled to push a few buttons and get a lower-than-MSRP price from a friendly voice/email, while others must get in the weeds for the biggest discounts.

But hey, don’t take my word for it.

That said, dealers must be all things to all online shoppers: TPLS’ are great, and they are one reason why larger dealer groups are getting into the online buying game ( here, here, and here for reference). A TPLS vs. Native Dealer Website dichotomy could percolate to most automotive retailers nationwide: a future Piston Slap where yours truly pontificates the merits of TPLS vs. A Future Foretold by Carvana isn’t as stupid as it sounds. (Probably.)

Here’s the deal: less effort equals more cost for a new car. (Used cars are a far tougher nut to crack.) And let’s not forget Google is a TPLS worth your consideration, as I just used it for the following:

  1. How to negotiate with dealerships.
  2. The latest customer incentives, either at the manufacturer or on 3PL sites.
  3. Find your credit score and loan rates from popular banks.
  4. Searching on Google Maps for all applicable dealers in your area. (or within a 3-5 city area, depending on how serious you wanna get!)
  5. Contacting Internet sales departments within each store in #4.

Not all Internet sales departments are created equal, not all dealer inventories are the same, so the prices [s]can[/s] will vary. But I reckon a few hours doing your homework on Google and crafting a templated letter to each Internet Sales Department might be worth your while. Or maybe a bit more time reading each dealer’s reviews and finding a salesperson you’d want to work with, then email them directly!

But if that’s a waste of your time, I know plenty of people who love TPLS and nobody’s gonna argue with their happiness.

Bring it home for us, Best and Brightest!

[Image: TrueCar]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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4 of 25 comments
  • Baggins Baggins on Nov 23, 2019

    This is the first time I've ever seen an article where writer misuses the concept of time value of money AND provides a link wherein the reader can see that the writer doesn't understand. Time value of money refers to the notion that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow. The value of your time what one considers when pondering how much effort to put into chasing the last bit of discount available.

    • See 1 previous
    • Sajeev Mehta Sajeev Mehta on Nov 25, 2019

      Well this is seriously embarrassing...I meant that time value of money is relevant because you could be doing something else that earns money, therefore giving you a potential earning capacity not otherwise available if you are trying to get the best deal on a car. But still, wrong concept.

  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Nov 23, 2019

    I've never been to a dealer that haggles and have no experience with the negotiation process. My primary tactic is always walking because I don't need the car I looked at. Must be a state thing. We have several large chains that don't haggle and they're all within a pretty easy drive.

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