I know I can’t outsmart a car dealer, but every four years or so I give in to temptation and browse dealerships online.
When my insanity is full-blown, I visit car lots.
I know I’ll be jacked around, and yet I yield to the madness, still believing I can drive off with a car for $50 above dealer cost.
I know their games and for whatever reason I continue to play.
Bait and switch. Payment packing. Fake invoices. The foursquare. Good cop/gooder cop. Destination and delivery fees. The closer. And the “we usually don’t do this, but …”
I’ve purchased nearly 60 cars … and all but three car salesmen channeled Jerry Lundegaard.
To my credit, I’ve never purchased TruCoat.
I do my homework. I read industry and consumer reviews. I research the value of my trade-in. I comparison shop. I get up and walk out when the first red flag appears.
Well, I almost always do.
I deviated from the game plan when I recently visited a local dealership that promises “sweet deals.” Because the kid salesman seemed sincere, I had a Mulder moment. I wanted to believe.
And then the kid tried to sell me a car I’d never seen, hadn’t researched and didn’t even know existed.
I never walked the lot. Matt asked me what I wanted in a vehicle, and the next thing I knew I was test-driving a white Chevy Sonic hatchback.
Interesting choice, considering my wife had stated she would consider any color but white.
To my surprise, I was impressed by the Sonic. So we began the ritual mating dance.
I knew we were mating because Matt’s boss, who I’ll call Charlie (because that’s his name), appeared.
His role: to convince me my trade-in was worth less than I was willing to accept. I refused to be swayed, but Charlie wasn’t about to let me slip away. He kept me on the hook by texting “a friend” who might pay me more than the dealership was offering.
While we waited to hear back from the imaginary friend, Charlie drew up paperwork and handed us back to Matt.
Matt immediately pointed out that the incredibly low price of $15,999 was marked down from $18,999. (The MSRP is $15,595. I know. I looked it up.)
I also conducted a quick search on Cargurus.com (aren’t smartphones wonderful?). Sure enough, I found the exact car Matt wanted to sell me. Not a similar car; the very same vehicle.
The price was $13,999.
I asked Matt if he was sure $15,999 was the absolute lowest price. I asked him three times. Three times he assured me he could not go lower.
He seemed surprised when I told him about the $13,999 online price, but he didn’t offer to honor it. He gave me some mumbo jumbo about the extra $2,000 being a fee the bank would charge to finance a bad credit risk like me.
Later, I researched loan origination fees and found 2 percent was normal for borrowers with bruised credit, not the 12 percent Matt tried to stick me with.
So I’m swearing off car dealerships — again.
I’m more convinced than ever that dealing with a private party is the only true “hassle-free” way to buy a car. Find a great deal, pay your mechanic $50 to inspect it and take it to BP Car Wash if you want that new car smell.
Or go see Matt. He has a white Sonic hatchback with your name on it.