EDITOR’S LETTER: Car shopping leaves me a wreck

car_shopping

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.

Gary-sig2

2 comments

  • Nice response Tom! I respect Tom for going to such lengths to educate you and all of your now misinformed readers to the false accusations of dealers alike. You can’t lump us all into one experience you had at a Chevy store. I take pride in what I do and if you took the time to research the dealer you visited you would have seen right through their intentions. My customers are happy and keep coming back. Think about the people that do this for a living. People need cars man. You are furthering the stereotype of a typical car salesman. This letter is insulting. Good luck on your future in writing.

  • Wow Gary. Let me ask you a question – How should someone buy a car? I happen to sell cars; I’m good at what I do and I love doing it. I never play games with my customers. I’m as honest as possible and my dealership has the most competitive pricing in Central Florida, if not the entire South East. First of all, you give someone a GREAT DEAL and they don’t believe you. Everyone ALWAYS wants more. If I give you my best price, people think “oh, this is too easy, we need negotiate more”. Of course most dealers don’t, it’s a business, we understand. Everyone wants to know they’re getting a fair deal. As you mentioned – you can always look online. Invoices are clearly published and you can find out pretty much everything you need to know. Trade-ins are also a touchy subject. People tend to think their trades are all perfect, “oh that check engine light is only a sensor”… well, if it’s just a sensor why didn’t you replace it? A CEL running through the auction is an instant red flag. No matter what’s wrong with the car. Also, a bad CARFAX is another huge factor. No one cares if you just backed into your neighbors mailbox, or were t-boned by a 16 year old. A bad Carfax is a bad Carfax is a bad Carfax. I am very familiar with the finance office and what happened to you sounds pretty accurate. You come in with less-than-good (horrible) credit , you’re considered a risk. Depending on your history, debt-to-income ratio and other factors the lenders that you were submitted to offered to “get you done” but tacked on a huge fee, ranging from $200-$4000 in some cases. If the dealer offers you the BEST price on a car, guess what?! There’s no room to absorb such a fee! They need to raise the price to pay for that fee just so the lender will finance YOU! Granted, that car also probably had accessories installed on it for a little bit of profit and/or wiggle room; but you looked up pricing on a bone-stock vehicle and were comparing apples to oranges. I suggest you really think about writing such one-way articles when you really don’t know what you’re talking about. There are a million different factors that could’ve affected your buying experience but why did you have to write this? Not all dealers are the same… Are people not supposed to purchase cars? We’re not all bad. By the way – come see me and I’ll lay everything out in front of you and you decide 🙂

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