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Thanks for all the comments about my story. The way we were shopping, we were e-mailing dealers (or using their website contact forms) and asking them for their best out-the-door price offer on the car we wanted. We ended up with 3 prices within $300 of each other, so rather than waste time trying to nickel and dime the finalists down, we just went with the best price. We didn't do a second round of getting dealers to bid against each other. In the end, after taking a step back and a deep breath, we decided we don't really need this luxury right now, so we're not pursuing anything with the dealer in the story. But they won't be in the running when we repeat this process next time.

I think part of my point in posting (other than venting) is that the economy has changed, and the internet is helping consumers get a more complete pricing picture than they could have had a few years ago. Every dealer has a website with a contact form and an "internet sales manager" position now. E-mailing 25 dealers is faster and cheaper than faxing 10 dealers (the method of choice when I bought my last car in 2001), and significantly better than going in person to 3 dealers and hoping for the best (which I did for my first car in 1993). We also used the Edmund's CarSpace forums ( where people post the final prices and deals they are getting from dealers around the country to get an idea of what price we should hold out for.

The business climate is changing... the economy is slowing, people are spending less on non-essentials like new cars, and well-informed customers can be more in control of the buying process than before. Dealers who recognize and adapt will probably do ok, those who try to play the same old clearcoat and pin-striping games hopefully will not survive.
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