I recently helped a friend buy a used car. We worked with two major dealers and our experience at each one could not have been more different. The first one was a reflection of every bad experience anyone has ever had while buying a used car. We were lied to, manipulated, our expectations were not met, and we drove away feeling horrible about the dealer and the experience. Needless to say, we didn’t buy a car there.
We had exactly the opposite experience at the second dealership. They were honest, transparent, easy to work with, kept their word, and were actual nice people. We drove away feeling great about the dealer, the experience we had just had, and the deal my friend received on the pre-owned car she just bought there--the one we were driving home in.
By the way, I didn’t tell either dealership that I used to be Internet Manager for a car dealer, or that I just published a book on marketing used cars online. (See below.) What I did do was use every inside secret I knew to get my friend a good deal on the used car she wanted to buy. Then I used that same knowledge to set up the deal to eliminate that much-dreaded “car dealer stress” for her. However, even with my insider knowledge and experience, I failed miserably at the first dealership.
Setting Up the Deal
If you’re familiar with the advice I give on this website, you know that I’ve written extensively about how to buy new or used cars from dealers. The gist of my advice is, never begin your car buying process by walking in the front door of your neighborhood dealer and announcing, “Help, I need to buy a car now!” Do that, and you’re handing control of the deal, and any power you have, over to the dealership. Begin this way and you can also expect to pay hundreds, if not thousands of dollars more than necessary.
My advice: Always negotiate everything possible in advance via email. Of course you’ll negotiate the purchase price, but don’t stop there. Find out and haggle over the interest rate on your car loan, your trade’s value, and the cost to you of any extras you want, like an extended warranty. Dealers don’t like working a deal this way, but they will -- if you’re firm and set strong boundaries by saying it’s not worth your while to come in unless you get the specific information you need.
When I helped my friend buy her car I did all of the above with the first dealer where we had such a bad experience. I had already shopped around online and found the best deal on the exact car my friend wanted. Then I contacted that dealership by email asking about the price and the condition of the car. This included questions on the tread life remaining on the tires, the life remaining on the front and rear brakes, and the fact that I wanted to see their mechanic’s inspection report upon arrival.
I had already found out the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) so I could read the vehicle history report online. (Details on how to do this are in my book.) I was able to confirm that the vehicle had never been in an accident or natural disaster and did not have odometer issues. I was also able to determine from the vehicle history report how many owners the vehicle had had, the states where it was previously registered, and if it had been a rental vehicle.
The Wild Card
As I was setting up the deal via email, I knew we were vulnerable to dealer manipulation in one area: it had to do with the trade value. More on the dos and don’ts of trading your car tomorrow as we continue with our interesting adventure in this tale of two car dealers.
The author recently published his new book, HELP! I Gotta Sell My Car NOW! New Rules for Selling Your Vehicle Online! It’s available at Amazon.com.