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How To Not Buy A Car Informative - Try this instead

Review by Aerocave on 2008-03-13
So many times prospects come into the dealership with the "Consumer Reports" mentality on how to buy a car and get "a good deal." When I was on the floor as a salesperson (I am now the General Sales Manager), I could usually figure this out within the first couple minutes. Upon initial greeting, these people are direct, in some cases almost rude, refuse to divulge any information as to their needs, budget, trade, etc, and want to "get to the price" right away. Now I am not ignorant to the fact that years ago, many dealerships would take advantage of the customer who gave us "all the details" right away...but this was before the internet and before full-disclosure laws were even a thought. The reason in most cases salespeople ask some of the "qualifying" questions (as we call them) is to simply assist the customer in finding a vehicle that will fit their needs AND their budget. I cannot tell you how many times it happens where the "Consumer Reports Customer" wastes more of their own time by evading questions--only to wind up on a vehicle that they simply cannot afford--2 hours later. Or, they buy a vehicle that 2 months later they hate! On the contrary, if they simply had left the salesperson do their job, the entire process could have been so much more efficient and so much more enjoyable!

In other words, evading questions, being "tight lipped" about everything, and acting like a jerk basically delays the entire sales process--and ultimately makes buying a car so much more of a hassle. Most salespeople at dealerships today are professionals...yes, many make a very good living...but they work hard to achieve this. And...they have to deal with some real jerks and long hours! I always tell a new salesperson who I am training that, in this business, you will meet some of the nicest people and some of the biggest jerks--and also some nice people who simply become jerks when they step foot in the dealership--again, because they think this will get them the deal they want or they will not be taken advantage of.

I realize their are still "scum" that work at certain dealerships across the US and I truly despise these people just like you do...but the scum is dwindling--consumers simply demand so much more in todays marketplace--and in my opinion, they deserve more. But we too, deserve your respect. Contrary to what some consumers still think, dealerships, though profitable (including the one I work for), are not "raking in" the profits that some people mistakenly think...in fact nationwide, the average dealership's net profit has continued to dwindle over the past couple of years. Yet, I am working as much now (if not more) than I was 5 years ago and my salespeople are certainly no exception as well.

Most salespeople work 50+ hours per week...more during sales events. At the average dealership the expense structure continues to rise as well--some of the biggest increases is personnel, advertising (our rates go up every year), floorplan/inventory interest (you can't sell from an empty shelf!), facility improvement and insurance...yet the manufacturers have continued to squeeze our profit margin. However, even better for the consumer, most of the MSRP's (list prices) of many new vehicles stay the same or even GO DOWN year after year...So when a prospect tells me "You can sell this car for invoice, because you are still making money on the holdback" I bite my tongue and explain that we cannot survive on holdback and offer the good service after the sale--even though deep down I would like to say "listen here you idiot, how would you like me to come to your job and tell you how to perform it or, tell you how to run your business--and also how much money you are supposedly making." Obviously, I would not have obtained the success I have achieved if that was my response or attitude...but I'm telling you some days it's tough to hold back!

So here it is, my advice on how to get a good deal: When you begin to deal with a salesperson you like, give him/her the information they are asking for (within reason). If you are approached by the "scum" I mentioned--leave--a reputable dealership will not hire the "I've been in the car business at 15 dealerships the past 20 years" salesperson. (Heck, I won't even interview salespeople who have worked for more than 2 or 3 dealers--and even then, they had better have a good reason why they are interviewing!)

Keep an open mind. Treat them with respect and this will be reciprocated. Allow the salesperson and dealer to make a reasonable profit and understand that the "We always have the lowest Price" or "Well beat any deal by $XXX" dealer is usually the ones that have lousy service after the sale. (I would suspect many of the ones we read about on MY3Cents) It is ok to negotiate the price/trade--we expect it--but be REALISTIC! Most dealerships are not going to have, after the first deal is presented, THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS to additionally take off the price--and if they do, you probably didn't want to deal with them in the first place. And most of all, HAVE FUN...it was always so much better for me as a salesperson when I had customers who ENJOYED buying a car--instead of those who made it such a burden.

Try this approach next time--and throw out your copy of Consumer Reports with their stupid and outdated "How to buy a car" crap printed on the back cover of every issue. The people that write those ridiculous articles are probably the jerks I am talking about.
Comments:30 Replies - Latest reply on 2009-01-29
Posted by Anonymous on 2008-03-13:
Bravo!!!
Posted by Anonymous on 2008-03-14:
Thanks for the info. What irks me if after settling on the final price they try to sell extras like security systems, undercoating, extended warranty and more junk they didn't bother to mention during the negotiations.
Posted by MRM on 2008-03-14:
Aerocave, very informative article! I shall keep this in mind when I'm buying my Jeep Commander this coming December.
Posted by FoggyOne on 2008-03-14:
I am looking for a new car. When I go to a dealer I already know what I want to look at. This seems to be fine with most salesman. Did have a problem with a salesman at a dealer, I test drove the 6-cylinder version of a vehicle, then I wanted to drive the 4-cylinder version, his comment was it was about the same and wouldn't take me out. Huh?

Anyway (sorry to digress) I am still looking and have actually run into very low-pressure selling which is what I like.

One complaint, when a salesman/woman goes with me none of these questions are any of their business:
- where do I work
- where did I work
- where do I live
- where am I from
- how many kids do I have
etc.

You might say the salesperson is just trying to see if I can afford the vehicle but that is my decision to make. I may be retired, I may have an inheritance, I may have just sold my house - whether I work or not is irrelevant. And the other questions are just being pure nosey. I always answer them with a non-answer. The old Dale Carnegie pitch to get the customer to talk about themselves is not for me, I am a private person and any invasion of that is pure irritation to me.

Overall, my new car buying experience has been much more pleasant than I ever thought it would be.
Posted by sarahnkrystal on 2008-03-14:
Informative letter. Thank you for the info.
Posted by Aerocave on 2008-03-14:
Passingby: Extended Service plans are a good option if you plan to keep the vehicle. So many new products have powertrain coverage up to 100,000 miles--which has resulted in a very inexpensive "wrap" coverage (as we call it) which extends the comprehensive (bumper to bumper) portion of the warranty as well. Also Simonize (exterior/interior protection) is a great product (and relatively inexpensive)...Stay away from the "stuff" you see on "Sucker Stickers" (These are the stickers that "look" like the factory attached them--but the dealer actually did--they are usually right next to the manufacturers-applied window sticker. There you will see crap like window etching, a pinstripe for $159 (trust me, our cost is typically $35 or so with labor--we charge $59), undercoating (absolutely positively worthless), Dealer Prep, etc...Don't pay for them. We still now and then get a vehicle in on a dealer trade and that dealer is still applying them--this is so 1980's. I always keep them to show customers what not to pay for (if they are going to shop) and, I'll be honest, it helps to build the integrity of our store.

We are required to present the products such as warranties and insurance--if fact many states make the customer sign a waiver. I do understood what you are saying, however, we usually wait only because these products are optional--usually there is enough going on during negotiations and bringing more prices of items to the table may only confuse everything.

Foggy: I used to fight the internet 10 years or so ago...but it has really made our job (in terms of selling the car) easier. The consumers come in and are well-informed already--we welcome that! It really comes down a lot of the time of selling yourself and the dealership.
I appreciate your opinion regarding the privacy and why ask those questions are asked. Learning a little about the customer does help in "qualifying" in terms of price range, payments, and even credit...for example, in my area 8 miles down the road is a town that is dominated by 2 industries: A national Manufacturing Company and a well know Medical Center...Many of the people working for these 2 companies earn above-average wages and had very good credit--I realize you cannot assume this--but this is typical. Now I know what you are thinking, "Oh yeah, so you can put them in more car than they can afford" --that is so not the case...it has more to do with knowing you have someone that can possibly afford certain vehicles--no, not pre-judging--its just sometimes people come in and tell us "The price and payment doesn't matter" and want to look at a $55,000 Denali...then you find out 1 hour into it that they make $25,000 year and have $10,000 in credit card debt--A good salesperson will attempt to qualify these individuals and a great way to do this is find some of these questions out.
And secondly, its a way of building repore...when you meet someone for the first time, I think most people attempt to find some "common ground" to get through the "uneasiness" of being with a total stranger. For example, I went to college in Michigan--If someone told me, "Yes I live here now, but grew up in Michigan", I would then ask, "where in Michigan?" and the conversation would go from there...again, finding common ground.
I am convinced that even some of the "toughest, give me your best price and I am out the door" customers do want to deal with someone that they like...despite what they claim. This (finding common ground) is a way to "break" these people down...Not to brag, but I have always been extremely good at this, because I truly do like people and have a genuine interest in getting know the customer. In turn, I could win over some of the biggest jerks--ones that I was close to throwing out--and make them like me. Some of these same people that I was ready to say "go someone else--I'm done with you" have become some of our absolutely most loyal customers. We have this one ex-Army guy, that, the first day I met him I was ready to toss him...he was arrogant, argumentative, rude, foul-mouthed...but I made up my mind I was going to "break him." Somehow I found out that he liked boating and at that time I too owned a boat...the common ground was established...Guess what, since 1997 we have sold Jim and his wife 9 new vehicles, he is an excellent service customer, and even though I have turned him over to other salespeople, him and I have remained tight. And for the record, he is not even close to being a jerk--he's the "teddy-bear" type.

I am happy to hear of the good experiences people have buying a car...and I am hearing more compliments now more than ever. I just wish publications like Consumer Reports, Edmunds, etc would stop with their stupid, inaccurate articles on how to buy cars. Despite their claims, they are "out of the loop" of todays automotive dealerships--trust me, I have read most of the articles.
Posted by MRM on 2008-03-14:
Aerocave, you just gave another informative article! I printed both of those articles for my next JEEP purchase! Aerocave, if you ever write a book on how you should purchase a car IN AEROCAVE'S WAY, I would buy your book without hesitation because you are a honest, no-bullsht, genuine person.
Posted by Anonymous on 2008-03-14:
A very good read Aerocave. The last time I bought a new vehicle (2006) I did it over the internet and EMAIL. I got an excellent price and I spent all of 10 minutes in the dealership. Basically I wrote the check and they filled out the papers. They didn't try to sell me a thing. Best car buying experience ever.
Posted by Anonymous on 2008-03-14:
Aero, excellent post and info as always. Last new car we bought we used the fleet discount from our credit union. The price was much lower than what we could have gotten on our own.
Posted by Aerocave on 2008-03-14:
Thanks mrm, glad I can help...a book deal...hmmm...how interesting...I actually do like to write...I think I'll stick to selling cars.
Posted by MRM on 2008-03-14:
Hey, different strokes, for different folks.
Posted by old fart on 2008-03-14:
Aerocave... all decent salesmen need to ask "qualifying questions".. it's too bad that today's consumer doesn't understand that..They are doing themselves a great disservice
Posted by Aerocave on 2008-03-14:
you are exactly right old fart...
Posted by MSCANTBEWRONG on 2008-03-14:
Very informative...I'll be buying a jeep within the next few months...I'll make sure to keep a copy of this.
Posted by MRM on 2008-03-14:
MS, what Jeep model are you planning to purchase? At first, I like the 2008 Liberty, but then, I decided that I liked the Commander. Jeep vehicles are fun to drive!
Posted by MSCANTBEWRONG on 2008-03-14:
We're looking to buy a Wrangler. My husband wants the Jeep and I'm looking at a Lexus. He gets his first then I can buy mine at a later date...I like the Commanders too.
Posted by sandlizzard on 2008-03-14:
Aerocave: Where were you when my wife purchased her last car??? :>)........You know my thought on dealerships is lopsided at this time. But I very much like your article. I will think back on it when I purchase another vehicle...which is not far away. Glad I found this!!
Posted by sandlizzard on 2008-03-17:
The reason salesman ask qualifying questions is to determine if it is worth 2-6 hours of their time with you. If you seem to qualify for credit and can afford monthly payments then he will attempt to hold you hostage for a minimum of two hours. The average time a dealership wants you to spend on their lot is 4 hours after the qualifying period. This is to lower your resistance to their sales pitches. A professional salesman is trained to take 5 "NO's" before giving up. After all his income depends on how successful he is in closing the deal. Remember the last time you purchased a car? How long were you on the sales lot? Also there is nothing wrong with doing your homework. Study Consumer Reports. Compare dealers on the internet. Do not "fall in love" with a certain automobile. Check Edmunds for invoice on autos. Do your DD!! Most important: Never sign anything until you have read the entire contract.
Posted by Aerocave on 2008-03-17:
Sandlizzard: There is no "time limit" that we are attempting to reach. It simply comes down to finding the right vehicle for every customer...Sometimes it takes 3 hours...other times it takes 1/2 hour...it depends on the customer...A professional salesperson is trained to overcome "objections" not the amount of "no's." Objections generally are the customers way of "not buying today" when, in reality, they actually like the vehicle and the "deal"--yet think the right thing to do is to "think about it."
Posted by redding530 on 2008-03-30:
I currently had my oil changed at Jeffy Lube
Posted by big kid on 2008-04-02:
Thank you. I was involved in the purchase of three autos in the past year and two out of three salesmen were very nice. The other one we got up and left and never went back!
Posted by FredC on 2008-04-02:
As a Realtor, I find everything in this article applies to buying or renting a home!
Posted by Principissa on 2008-04-02:
Aerocave I am the complete opposite when buying a car. I research what I want, if I need a loan, I go through my own personal credit union and get approved for what I can afford, and only what I can afford. That way I know how much I have to spend. When I go into the dealership, I talk to the sales person, tell them what I want and usually they will try to upsell me or sell me things that aren't necessary, and I tell them, I already have the loan, you are already guaranteed this sale, now convince me why I want to do business with you. 9 times out of 10, they will bend over backwards to get me what I want. And if they don't, well we take our business elsewhere and don't even look back to say goodbye.
Posted by MRM on 2008-04-02:
Principissa, thats an excellent advice as I am buying my 2008 Jeep Commander this coming December!
Posted by Aerocave on 2008-04-02:
Princi...I enjoy working with people like you who know what they want--and really, to earn their business its a matter of selling yourself and the value of the dealership. At my store, we have been in business 88 years family owned and operated which gives us a huge competitive advantage.
The only variation to this type of customer and one of the few times I become slightly annoyed is when you get the "To Earn my business" customer via the fax machine...which is basically a form letter that some "know it all" put together, faxed to 10 dealers by the prospective customer listing our profit margin, holdback, finance reserve, etc, etc...in a nutshell telling "us" that this customer "Knows how to buy a car." These form letters really come across as arrogant and almost insulting to our intelligence and, honestly, I always laugh at them and throw them in the trash. If someone is that unpersonable or that busy or just plain rude that they can't even call, email or stop in and have to resort to a form letter fax made up by some disgruntled ex-dealership employee who probably couldn't make it the business--I am too busy to respond.
Posted by dimplepie on 2008-04-02:
This was a well written article. Very informative, and I got a good insight/perspective on the salesman's view.
Posted by alexhenryj on 2008-04-11:
I am a car salesman in upstate new york. I want to say thank you for this article. As a salesman, if I don't take care of you, you wont be back. In a small town, that is very important. Taking pride in taking care of customers is why I work at the car dealership I currently work at. Thank you Aerocave.
Posted by slackerofamerica on 2008-08-25:
I know this post is 4 months old but TY. I found a scum bag when I drove my 98 Cabrio to the VW dealership to check on a price for my motor to get looked at to make sure it was in tip top shape just like it sounded and ran.

The moment I stuck my head out the door this cheezy salesman walked up with his southern accent and said these make nice trade ins, how about a 2009 model, do you have a job? Let's do it son pull the trigger. LMFAO talk about a fool, does he really get people to buy from him? SCUM
Posted by Talulah525 on 2008-12-17:
Thank you for the information. I have never heard of the salesperson point of view and please don't take what I'm about to say as a personal attack. But, I also work very hard and i'm a single parent. But let's forget the single parent thing. When a woman walks into a dealership most salespeople assume that an idiot just walked in. That I don't know how to crunch some numbers or I don't know what makes a car run besides the key in the ignition. The reason the car sales industry has changed so much is because the consumer is INFORMED now. If the ball was still in they're court you might have not posted the comment/complaint. I have never heard of a highly paid salesperson complaining about their job, especially a car salesman. It's not like it used to be. The reports are out there because the consumer got fed up with 85% of the car sales man/woman robbing them. Yes, there are great dealerships out there that really do hire professional people that make your purchasing experience a good one. But as you said, you do get paid well. To bad that you do get idiots. I meet one everyday on the R train from Brooklyn to downtown Manhattan and I don't get paid for the aggravation, I actually paid to be harassed on my way to work, not once but twice a day, going and coming home. It comes with the territory. You yourself said you changed your job 15 times in 20 years, why? I bet you weren't treated nicely working for dealerships. So imagine every time you make a payment your stomach turns because when you signed on the dotted line. Again, thank you. I will keep that in mind. I will make sure the next time when I'm in the market that you need to know everything including my mother's maiden name to actually give me what I want. Remember cash backs, incentives, cash allowances, etc., where not created by the owner of the dealerships but by the automobile makers. It should work like this - car makers sells a car, I leave happy and you get your huge commission. That's all, everyones' happy, end of story. If I want a Toyota please don't try to sell me a hummer! Maybe salespeople should listen to what the consumer really wants and needs instead of thinking of the profit they're making from the sale of a more expensive car.
Posted by Aerocave on 2009-01-29:
Huh? I think you missed the point I was trying to make Talulah...And I think you should read my post again...I never said I worked for 15 dealerships in 20 years.

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