Never Lock Yourself into Working With One Car Dealer

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Have you ever decided to buy something—furniture, an appliance, even clothing—but walked out of the store thinking “I can get that same item in another store for less”?

Why is it then that so often we don’t shop around when buying a car? I can think of a few valid sounding reasons:

  • We don’t feel qualified to make the purchase so we throw ourselves on the mercy of the dealer
  • We think, “it’s the same car; all dealers charge mostly the same price”—then hope we’re right!
  • We’re overwhelmed and thankful for anyone who will step in and make it easy for us
  • Your friend Fred bought his car at this dealership and they took care of him, so they’ll take care of you
  • You need a car now and don’t have time to shop
  • You just want to get it over with so you can get on with your life

Never Lock Yourself into Working With One Car Dealer
Never Lock Yourself into Working With One Car Dealer
Now at a given time and place each of these may satisfy us that we’re making the right choice by working with one car dealer to get us a fair deal, but each also has the potential to put us right where the dealer wants us. And that can cost us thousands of dollars more than we need to pay.

Job One in working with car dealers: make it clear that you have options!

Work with several dealers and play one off against the others

One of the very best ways to convince a dealer that you have options is to work with the competition. Work with two, three or even four dealers at the same time and force them to outdo each other. Make it clear to each of them that you’re looking to get the best deal possible and the one who will get your business will have to work for it.

There are more than 20,000 car dealerships in the United States—which means there are a fair number of dealerships just about anywhere you live.

Once you decide on a car that you want, determine how many dealerships there are in the area with the same vehicle, then talk to as many as you can. You’ll be spending many thousands of dollars on the purchase, so don’t be afraid to open up a wide geographic area. Be willing to travel as many miles as you’re paying in thousands of dollars. For example, if you’re buying a car in the $30,000 range, consider any dealer within a 30 mile radius of where you live.

Keep the transaction simple

Ever heard of the term “KSS” (Keep it Simple Stupid)? Simplicity is exactly what dealers will avoid! The more complex a transaction, the less you’ll understand and the more you’ll be prepared to pay.

Everything added to a car purchase will add complication and raise the cost—credit life insurance, undercoating, extended warranties, options you don’t need or want. Dealers usually add and push these extra’s at the tail end of the negotiations when all you want to do is wrap up the purchase and go home. This is how people come in for a $25,000 car and drive out paying $30,000.

The same is true of options and upgrades—keep them to a minimum. Avoid adding on the not-entirely-necessary-but-nice-to-have options that can inflate the cost of a car in a matter of minutes.

Decide exactly what you want to be included with the car, and be prepared to say no to the rest of it.

Also, avoid car leases! They tend to have fuzzy provisions and back end complications, and are a mine field of hidden charges.

Don’t fall in love with one car!

Like or not, buying a car is a business transaction. Never forget this! Fall in love with a car or a specific deal on a car and your bargaining position weakens substantially.

Never put yourself in a position where you want a car more than the dealer wants to sell it to you!

Never be afraid to get up and leave

As part of their canned dog-and-pony show, dealers like to pretend that they don’t need your business as much as you need their car. This is patented nonsense. A fully qualified buyer is money in the bank to a dealer and nothing breaks his heart so much as when you pick up and leave to make a purchase elsewhere. (At which point he’ll have the added problem of having to explain to his manager why he let you get away.)

No matter what else you have or don’t have in your bag of negotiating tricks, this is your most powerful tool. If you’re not fully satisfied with what the dealers offering, or if he’s loaded the original deal with a bunch of costly add-ons, get up and leave. Never roll over and take what he’s offering. Make him work to earn your business!

Walking out of the store will send the clearest possible message on this.

Have you ever found yourself sitting in a car dealership feeling like a victim? What did you do about it?

( Photo courtesy of vagawi )

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6 Responses to Never Lock Yourself into Working With One Car Dealer

  1. With as many options as we have these days as well as far as the internet, there’s no excuse not to get quotes from multiple dealers, and to play them against one another – especially on new vehicles. Take advantage of the tools available to you!

  2. Agreed on the web sources, but didn’t mention because that’s a whole other post! Might be easier for most people to haggle over the web as well. Most of us can be tougher behind an email than face to face…

  3. Very good advice! I love your points about why we don’t shop around. I think we should look at each on of those things and make sure that they are not framing our thinking – especially on these “big-ticket” items.

  4. Thanks Khaleef! There are times we need to do some shopping, and buying a car is one of them. There’s too much money at stake to do otherwise. Anybody who doesn’t want to do it for themselves should consider paying someone else to do it–just kidding (but only a little).

  5. I agree with your advice, but think it might be hard for many people who don’t live in/near a large metropolitan area.

  6. Good point Kay. But given the cost of new cars and the potential for price padding, it might be worth a weekend trip to the closest metro area to do some shopping.

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