I have been and continue to be very busy with critical work activities. I did take time out this week to get my wife a new car though, and we are both very excited about it. She was driving a 2001 Mazda Tribute
which had great reviews when it came out, but we found it to be lacking in many key areas. With a tadpole in the ondeck circle, we needed to get something a bit more roomy, practical, and comfortable. We spent four hours walking around our local auto mall test driving every kind of SUV, minivan, and crossover vehicle we could find. Many of them had some of the features we wanted, but none seemed to have them all, especially at a reasonable price. Then we walked past the Ford Freestyle
. I know that it doesn’t look like much, but this vehicle is simply amazing.
My wife is not ready to succumb to the minivan, and she doesn’t like climbing in and out of a big SUV. I don’t know how Ford made a smallish SUVish vehicle big enough inside to comfortably seat six. But it’s like a minivan on the inside, SUV on the outside, only you don’t need to climb into it. The one we bought has leather, rear air conditioning, side curtain airbags going the length of the vehicle, reverse sensor, and is at least $8000 cheaper than any comparable minivan and $5000 less than the nearest similar SUV. Oh yeah, and it gets fantastic gas mileage, too. If you’re in the market for family transportation, you could do a lot worse.
Now for the lesson. Most people hate buying cars because there are few members of our society that are more useless and dishonest than car salespeople. I despise them as a race of human beings with very few exceptions. Are there some decent people in the business? Yes, but not many. I enjoy beating these fools at their own game, and you can too. This strategy can work with just about any type of vehicle.
It all starts with research. Narrow your search down to a couple finalist vehicles and head down to your local auto mall. First, you need to look around at what are the most common packages of options that your vehicle comes with. Just because you can “build” a car on the Kelley Blue Book
site doesn’t mean the factory is shipping that exact match to your area. Ordering a car from a dealer WILL cost you, make no mistake. Settle on a package that is commonly available and test drive it. During these early visits to the dealership, do not give out any personal information, it’s all business. It goes without saying that Consumer Reports
is the place to go for safety and reliability information. If your choice is not recommended by CR, you might want to rethink it.
Now that you know what you want and what you can get on it, you need to find out how much it costs THE DEALER. The Kelley site and Edmunds
are your two best resources for getting the invoice price of your car and its options. Edmunds will also tell you what kind of incentives (rebates, factory cash) are available which is your icing on the cake. Take those figures and plug them into this excel spreadsheet
. The spreadsheet is from Carbuyintips.com
which is the best place on the internet to learn how to annihilate a car dealer. The spreadsheet will allow you to figure out how much the dealer paid for your car and how much you should pay for it.
Now that you know about how much you are going to spend, it’s time to get your financing squared away (if necessary). If you have a trade in, Kelley Blue Book will tell you what its worth. Get a letter of credit from your bank or credit union for the balance. You do not want to finance through the dealership under any circumstances. Just as you have assembled a research package for the new car, do one for the trade in. The package includes the Kelley print out and comps from your local Auto Trader
to establish the resale value of your trade.
Now your assault begins. The internet sales manager is the person you are about to abuse. First you should search dealer inventories in your area for vehicles fitting your requirements. The best place to do this is via the manufacturer’s website. Going through the manufacturer’s site avoids individual dealers that don’t want you to know the details of a vehicle without obtaining your personal info. This way, you avoid contact with dealers that don’t have your car in stock. Request a price quote on that vehicle from the dealer’s websites. Fill in the online forms and watch your email inbox light up like a Christmas tree.
The dealerships that are willing to work with you will quote you a price somewhere below MSRP. If you get quoted MSRP, add that address to your spam filter and move on. Reply to the ballpark emails with the following:
First thank them for getting back to you with a price quote. Copy and Paste your spreadsheet with the vehicle’s options, prices, holdback, and your desired price onto the reply and send it. If he replies that your figures are off, ask him to fax you the invoice. Dealers that won’t fax an invoice should be avoided. You should be communicating by phone at this point. Use his invoice to complete your spreadsheet and resend it asking for a counter offer. At this point one of two things will happen. He will either give you the best price his dealership can on the car, or he will ask you what you want to pay. Your goal is to pay 5% over wholesale dealer cost (invoice price- dealer holdback 2-3%). Pay no more than 8% over wholesale under any circumstances. 8% over wholesale is going to be thousands less than MSRP unless your vehicle costs less than $15,000 or so.
Once you have agreed to the price, you should get down to the dealership within 24 hours to ink the deal. When you get there, be sure to check the salesman’s figures carefully to ensure they match your terms. Bring your trade in package and make sure the salesman sees it so that he knows you will not be lowballed on it. A lowball trade in quote can be as bad as paying MSRP and it is a deal breaker. Go in knowing the minimum that you will accept and stick to it. Obviously, you should test drive and inspect your car, and then it’s time for the finance manager. This is a dangerous moment. Lienance managers are the dealership’s last line of defense, and they will make a run at you. Check every number (bring a calculator), and make sure to check the contract and sign that before you sign ANY DMV PAPERWORK.
If you are going to purchase an extended warranty, get a quote here
first and print it out. You want the bumper to bumper coverage and no deductible. When you are signing the paperwork with the finance manager he will bring this up. Don’t pay a penny more than your online quote. Be sure to tell him that you have a quote, but not what it is. Let them offer you the manufacturer policy at their lowest cost. If they beat your online quote, buy it.
Congratulations, you are a car dealership’s worst nightmare. You never set foot in the office before knowing exactly what you were going pay for your car. You can drive home with pride knowing that you got the best possible deal on your car, and secure in the knowledge that you have pummeled a car salesman about the head and neck, which is nice.