Sunday, July 26, 2009

Car Safari III - You Can Always Get What You Want

Most people hate buying cars, and I would have to agree. If you treat it like going to Wal*Mart, you're not going to like it. But if you treat it like miniature golf-- like one with animals and stuff, it can be kinda fun. This is my third one in two months thanks to the tax hike in Massachusetts and the federal incentive to get a more fuel efficient car.

Let me digress. You may remember the Yaris that I helped my daughter buy. When I went for a second one they offered me a $50 discount, I walked out. Some Cowboy he turned out to be-- didn't even bring a horse to the rodeo.

I tried another dealer, this time a Yaris for Mary Anne. Her Chrysler mini-van went out of warranty and ran up three months car payments a day later, and two more months worth the next week; failing the state safety and emissions inspection. Since neither the heat or A/C was working, we decided it was time to put her down. We went on Craigslist to buy all the stuff that would never fit in two Yaris-es (or is that Yari?). On the way to the dealer we delivered a Queen Ann couch for the living room.

We had a pretty good sale. When you don't need a car, it's easier to buy one. I got the dealer to agree to a much better price the the daughter got-- she was in a hurry. Never be in a hurry to buy a car. And they gave us a lot more than the van was worth.

We dropped the van off with a dead battery -- I had M-A back it in so they could jump it if need be. That also made it harder to see the dent in the passengers side that we never fixed. You just feel better when you can't see those ugly scars.

She got in her new car and went away with the promise that a company with hundreds of employees could manage to do one simple registration transfer. We should have hired the Three Stooges as consultants. Our insurance agent called three days into this endeavor to let us know that they hadn't received the paperwork. I got an email from my banker about the same. No problem, we have seven days-- and God knows, we needed them. They failed, and we had to drive the car to our own inspection center on the eighth day.

Yours truly sent them a nice email letting them know that we were unhappy and contemplating sending their address to North Korea. It would have been funny, but they didn't know what North Korea was. They gave us a couple of free oil changes and a check for the inspection.


This weekends safari brought me to all the muscle-car dealers including Ford, Dodge and Chevy. I drove the fastest American metal in production today. From the legendary Corvette to the new Camaro (both Government Motors offerings), to the Mustang and Challenger. I even drove a Roush 427-R. It was a fun time scaring the daylights out of the salesman as I yanked 2nd and 3rd gear!

When you don't need a car, you don't feel pressured to buy one. I got in and out of them most of the afternoon on Saturday and again today. I think they know. One guy is like, can I just get your phone number? Sure, 866-668-6463 (not-mine). It's toll free. ;)

Today I was embolden by my previous victories. I finally decide that I would work the trade-in angle. The rule is that you set a price before you tell them that you have a trade in. But everyone knows that now-- probably from reading Fire and Grace. I dunno.

I looked up my pay off on the Mustang and sent it to my cell phone. I checked the interest rates, knowing that they make money on the leases and loans. So the match begins. I always ask a lot of questions to see if they can answer them. How much horse power does it have? All the guy stuff. How much is the document fee? All the stuff my wife is going to ask. We move in to position, take a test ride and I tell him my budget-- $4K under the sticker. He checks the inventory and he comes back with a used car right at my price. Amazing slight of hand.

We sparred at the desk, and they took my Mustang for a ride. (I always go with 2 sets of keys in case they loose them or decide not to give them back until they have a deal. They did that to Mary Anne once!) I am waiting for the magic number. They think I care about the price of the new car, but I really care about the trade-in allowance. I already gave them a price- $4k under sticker.

"You're a guitar player?" he said, looking at my t-shirt.

"Yes, I am. I play at church, you're always welcome." I replied.

The salesman writes a price quote out on the worksheet while we chat and turns it around expecting me to be thrilled. I sat up in my chair and then slumped. "Did you make a mistake?" I asked.

"Nope," he said.

"OK, well thanks for taking time to work with me," I said standing up and reaching across the desk to shake his hand.

"Wait a minute, isn't that a good price?" he said.

"It might be for some unsuspecting customer, but not for me." I smiled.

"What do we need to do to sweeten the deal? He inquired.

I took his worksheet and changed the price of the car and upped the trade in on my Mustang to the Kelley Blue Book "Private Sale" price. He left to check with the sales manager.

He came back and said, "this is less than invoice." I stood up and reached across his desk. "Are you sure we can't come up with $1200 more in this deal?" motioning me to sit back down.

I studied the worksheet for a moment (not really) and I took a pen and wrote "NO!" next to the price.

He went back to check with the sales manager. When he returned, he said, "they want me to see if how we can get some more money out of this deal. Have you done anything to the Mustang in terms or repairs?" he said.

"Just services. Its only got highway miles on it-- 40,000 of them." I replied.

"OK, well I am just going to sit here so they think that I tried to negotiate a better deal with you." He looked a little defeated.

He took the offer back to the sales manager and returned. It's going to take time to approve that one if we even can.

"It's OK, I'm not in rush. I can take a run down to [competition's name] while I wait." I quipped.

"Let's go see what colors we have in stock"-- and we took a ride around the lot.

Finally, after some time, the deal was approved! "Hey, maybe I'll see you at church." he said shaking my hand.

I know the finance manager is going to try to tack on a bunch of stuff when I do the paper work tomorrow, so I have written the numbers on a card-- you know they won't give out a copy of that worksheet. But I have a plan for him (or her)-- I just need to finish coaching Mary Anne. ;)

As much as I love the new American metal, and have been driving one for a few years, I know what's around the corner when the warranty is up. I am getting out now. After being unemployed and thinking over the cost of owning one of these beasts, I decided to get something cheaper and more dependable. In the end, they are twice the price of my latest trophy. And my last Honda went 275,000 miles-- and it's still on the road today with over 300,000!

1 comment:

photogr said...

Typical me, I had thought about calling the 1-866 number to see what it was. Government Motors. That was funny.

Wheeling and dealing at the car dealership is a lot like going to the dentist. No matter what, it is going to hurt. However, you make a
potential painful situation into an exciting journey. Enjoyed your adventure.

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