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This isn't the path to car buying Nirvana for every deal, but I encourage you to try something outrageous. Just be honest! Don't come in with a chip on your shoulder, but after you have done your Edmonds homework, feel free to let your salesperson know it, and ask their opinion of people who are "aware". If you sense defensiveness, move on with the deal and select your car. Eventually you will get to someone who understands--hopefully soon. That will most likely be a manager type and you can cut to the chase. Feel free to say, "I understand your invoice is $18,334, if that is correct, is this a car you will accept 3% or 4% profit on?" Then listen to see if the answer makes sense. Hard to find cars will not sell for much less than MSRP---why should they when the dealer can sell all they can get their hands on anyway? Look around the lot and if the car you want is in plentiful supply, you probably will make a good deal. If you are asking for a discount on the one of two cars on the lot...good luck! Most salespersons would rather you level with them and buy a car, rather than play a game, take up all their time doing your research and then go buy a car from some other dealer. That's not fair, and it's not right for Motley Fool to suggest that method. If buyers don't want to perpetuate the poor relationship between buyer and dealer, don't automatically assume we are all out to get you. Reward the ones who are forthcoming with information with a purchase.
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CalCarGuy wrote:
...Most salespersons would rather you level with them and buy a car, rather than play a game, take up all their time doing your research and then go buy a car from some other dealer. That's not fair, and it's not right for Motley Fool to suggest that method. If buyers don't want to perpetuate the poor relationship between buyer and dealer, don't automatically assume we are all out to get you. ...

The many bear the burden of the few.

The MF car buying guide requires that the consumer do a lot of research on their own.

Furthermore, you seem to believe that the method requires the dealers to do extra research, not true. In fact, all the dealer has to do is send back a quote - should be simple!

I think you should read the whole guide again and re-evaluate your position.

Your point that some vehicles are only available at MSRP is valid - and noted in the Motley Fool.

Personally, I do not begrudge the dealer a fair profit. In some cases, 3% is a fair profit; in others, it may be 5%, 12%, 14%, 20% or even MSRP. The frustration of the customer is in trying to understand what constitutes a fair profit amidst a myriad of options and conditions. Supply and demand may even dictate a price over MSRP!

I would also suggest to you that dealers and salespersons could become consumer advocates instead of adversaries if they were only willing to offer consumers the education and research necessary to determine a fair value. If instead of complaining about the research and carefully guarding dealer costs and hiding profit, sales people would "level" with customers; there would be no need for the Fool car buying guide.
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Let's not mix apples and oranges.... Information IS available on the net, in your local library, right here on this message board and dozens like it. Buyers want to be treated with respect, and the better armed they are, the more respect they get. But if you are going to take a salesperson's time doing your "research", prevent him or her from making a sale with another customer, and then buy the car from another dealer...that's not fair.

Of course, if a dealer is rigid on price that's his fault and presumably has his reasons. But at least give the salesperson who is treating you right the best shot at the business. And that means being honest with him.

We all decry the "game" and how long it takes to buy a car. But then accept as gospel instructions to hide pertinent information from the dealer. You allow yourselves to be worn down, and then accept whatever deal is in front of you at the time because you are tired of it all.

There is an expression that you want to be the second wife, because she gets the biggest diamond...and the third car salesperson, because by then the customer will be tired of playing and sign on the line.

My advice stands...do your research before setting foot on a lot; find a reputable dealer; share your assumptions with them and make a logical decision based upon the information exchanged. You don't have to make a deal with that dealer if you don't like the answer, but at least give him an opportunity to earn your business.
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I do not dispute your advice, only your understanding of the what I read in the Motley Fool, "How to Buy a Car". As you objected to the publication, I remain confused as to your complaint, as your advice is consistent with what I have read.

BTW: The problem is in the perception that the dealer is not honest; not, that the consumer isn't being honest. I believe in honesty, always. Nonetheless, many consumers do not trust the dealer because of the few, not the many.

We do not expect a home builder to divulge his/her cost and profit, nor any other retailer. If a car salesperson is looking for somebody to blame for the current state of distrust that exists - he/she better be looking at the manufacturer and the dealerships.

Even the word "dealer" connotates distrust.

Saturn has figured out a model that eliminates the adversarial relationship.

Lexus has figured out how to control supply, so as to significantly reduce the haggle factor; and, I am sure many others have done the same.

Whether these tactics benefit the consumer, or not is debatable; but, it is a simple truth that they have succeeded in reducing customer stress factors.

Another point, since the foolish way to buy a car entails either faxing, or emailing and sharing all of your information upfront with the dealer, I do not see how this is in any way preventing the sales staff from making a sale with another customer. They may respond at their leisure via email or fax.

What is the "research" you refer to? I don't get it.

We have one dealership in town, that plays all the games - you know the type. They have a hundred glass cubicles, continuosly pass the consumer around, can't sit still, always I'll have to check on that, or let me ask the floor manager. I was there once, ready to be honest, no games, I walked out on them. Let them sell to somebody else.

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I am inclined to agree with CalCar on this to some extent. Buyers should respect salespeoople until it becomes clear they shouldn't. I was a car salesman for a summer in college. I took the job as a sort of whim and ended up learning alot. I had the luxury of not HAVING to sell a car to eat, but still, I ended up making alot of money that summer. People liked the honesty and relaxed when I convinced them I would help them if possible. If not, I wasn't going to hassle them about going somewhere else. People loved it. Some even called and apologized to me if they bought elsewhere (I'm not lying about this). Again, I had a luxury in not having bills to pay so I didn't really care if someone left, but the bottom line is I made money. Both sides need to be open. Otherwise, we'll all be buying new cars online, which may not be such a bad thing.
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I think what CalCar is saying is don't automatically assume the worst when you walk into a dealership. Don't think to yourself, "these guys are going to try and screw me so I'll just use every trick in the book to screw them." Be open and honest with them and if they don't return the favor then find someone else. Do your research so that you know when you're being jerked around, but give the dealer a chance to work with you above board before you assume that he's crooked.

There shouldn't be any stress involved in buying a car. Don't let the jerks out there get to you, just identify them and move on. There are plenty of good car salesmen out there, you just have to find them.
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CalCarGuy wrote:
"...Most salespersons would rather you level with them and buy a car, rather than play a game, take up all their time doing your research and then go buy a car from some other dealer. That's not fair, and it's not right for Motley Fool to suggest that method. If buyers don't want to perpetuate the poor relationship between buyer and dealer, don't automatically assume we are all out to get you. ...

KevinRedman wrote:
"I think what CalCar is saying is don't automatically assume the worst when you walk into a dealership. Don't think to yourself, "these guys are going to try and screw me so I'll just use every trick in the book to screw them." Be open and honest with them and if they don't return the favor then find someone else. Do your research so that you know when you're being jerked around, but give the dealer a chance to work with you above board before you assume that he's crooked. ..."

Huh?

Has anyone read TMF Buying a Car 13 steps? It's not at all about playing a game, screwing anyone, or being anything other than honest and upfront.

Just what do you think is "not fair", anyway? Which step is a problem?

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"People liked the honesty and relaxed when I convinced them I would help them if possible."

As a former sales person and sales manager, these are words I tried to live by. I am currently moving from the research phase to the bidding phase of purchasing a minivan. Quotes received so far range from $500 to $364 to $300 over invoice (must add the $441 for dealer holdback to get a better idea of price over "cost"). Because of the refreshing service we received from one dealer during a test drive, we will give them the final chance to match our best offer received (we might even pay a little more, as they are conveniently located, and in an effort to reward the kind of salesmanship we appreciate).

Referring to CalCar's comments, I certainly do not want to waste the salesperson's time, because that implies I am wasting my own as well. I am somewhat frustrated when I know more about the vehicle I am trying to purchase than the salesperson does. Just the other day I informed a salesperson where they could get interior measurement data and other specs on a brand new model (they were having a seminar on it the next week). The salesperson I dealt with was honest and above board with me, so I was happy to turn him on to the info, so that he could help other customers make a better buying decision. I only wish that salespeople would avail themselves of the internet to get this kind of info for themselves during down times at the dealership rather than (as many do) standing outside the showroom door waiting for prospective customers to enter the lot.

Other than doing comparative test drives with the three finalists (after much research), my only dealings with the dealerships is via email, fax or phone, until such time as we decide on the location for the purchase. The way I go about it, the dealership is not there to SELL me on their product (I can make that decision by myself), but to COMPETE for my business (on price, service and convenience).

CalCar, you didn't have any info in your profile, so I don't know where you are located, or what makes you sell, but if you want to compete for my business (in Southern California), you can hit the "email reply to the author" block with the particulars.

Kaigun Chusa
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As an individual currently in the market for a new vehicle, I have experienced just about all the scenerios mentioned on this board. That's why I'm still shopping.

I have no idea what type of research you are talking about, except for a test drive. I further don't understand why you don't expect people to comparison shop. If you make the best offer - people will return. Additionally, if you made a good impression most people I know will give you a chance to match a competitor's offer.

I am the first to admit that I don't trust car salespeople. I have experienced mistreatment first-hand & I hate the thought of dealing w/ car sales people. That's why using the fax method or calling the sales manager appeals to me.

My parents taught me when I was very young - Life's not fair.


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<<I have no idea what type of research you are talking about, except for a test drive.>>

In my case the research was knowing what vehicle I wanted to test drive before setting foot in a dealership. I had the big fit before doing any research. I then used Consumer Reports to get the reliability rateings of the vehicles I was interested in. I used Edmunds to find the features I was looking for. I used Edmunds town hall/bulletin boards to see what people were saying on why I didn't want to buy the the model I was considering. The principle of I never learned anything from someone I agreed with. It was on the bullitin boards I discovered that one of the engine options had problems until the 99 model year. I used the credit union NADA book so I had price information on my trade and the vehicle I was considering. The trip to the credit union is also a good time to get a preapproval if you are going to have to finace the vehicle. Now I was prepared to goto the dealership. I found a vehicle I liked and test drove it. I did not negotiate price at this time I brought home a printout of the window sticker so that I had equipment, VIN, mileage, and starting price. I ran a Lemon Check the next morning and called the salesman to negotiate price. I laid out the deal I wanted he took it to the sales manager who agreed.

What the sales man told me on this purchase is he prefers to deal with an informed buyer partially because they know a good deal when they see it. The car I bought without doing my homework I was taken for a ride, and it was sterotkypical my worst buying experience. By doing the homework the car buying was painless and if it wasn't so expensive I would consider buying cars more often.

~~paul
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I've been following this thread and commend CalCarGuy for presenting his views. It can't be easy stepping into the lion's den!

But to me, the method presented by the Motley Fool just puts car buying in the same category as major purchases made by businesses every day--Competitive Bidding.

I worked for many years in an organization which made all major purchase via specifications and competitive bidding. Bidders were happy to be allowed to be on the approved bidder's list.

The key to getting business is to meet the specifications and offer a competitive price.

It has been my experience with car dealers that the vast majority of the time wasted is due to their trying to use their "System" rather than providing information to the customer.

CalCarGuy- Please don't be offended by my comments or others on the Board. I think we can learn from you, and hopefully can provide you with good input.

Bob Mc
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Dear Paul: I totally agree with your logical steps in car buying. BTW, how do I do the Lemon check? Also most of the car salepersons I encountered refuse to give me a copy of the window sticker of the pacticular I was interested in. I had to stand in the hot sun,scribbing down the pertinent information. And many time I had to "educate" the sale persons because they did not know about the car features. Sad!!!
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<<BTW, how do I do the Lemon check? Also most of the car salepersons I encountered refuse to give me a copy of the window sticker of the pacticular I was interested in. I had to stand in the hot sun,scribbing down the pertinent information. And many time I had to "educate" the sale persons because they did not know about the car features. Sad!!! >>

Lemon check http://www.carfax.com

The dealership kept their inventory on computer so that they printed a page that had the specifications of the car I was looking at and the asking price. The page had a couple of errors which I corrected on my copy. Sheet said 6 cylinder, and it had an 8 cylinder. I also knew more about the car than the salesman. I guess it's understandable that I should know more about the car than they salesman, I'm going to live with my decision for 10-20 years he just has to find someone who wants to buy it, and I'm not sure how many buyers are Fools.

~~paul
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When I first started in this crazy business, I was at a Dealership that had a so called selling "system". It is a complete waste of time for the salesperson and the customer. Everytime I went into the selling (system)rant, the customer would just roll his/her eyes. These systems do not work. Now that I am the owner of my own small dealership I have only one selling system. Its called, back off and let the custoomer look. Give them breathing room. Let them speak amongst themselves,(if its a couple). After a few minutes go out and ask them if you can help them and go from there. I refuse to play any games. If they make any kind of reasonable offer, I simply ask them if they will stick to it and leave a deposit today on the car. Beware people....if you make an offer and the dealer accepts it, Don't try to back out. Then he knows you are jerkin his chain, and other dealers as well and his/her entire attitude shifts.
But basically it comes down to just cutting out the systems, and getting on with real conversation. I realize that everyone out there is looking for a great deal. And everyone deserves some kind of discount on a car. Its a big purchase and you have to happy with your deal. SO if you ask the dealer "will you accept 3-4% profit on this car?" Don't be surprised if he says yes. you may end up signing a buyers order the next minute. Good luck to all.
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