How Not To Buy A Car: Internet Tools That Save You Money

February 24, 2011

A good friend of mine recently called for help. She found herself at her local car dealership in Connecticut about to sign the contract for a new car. She had only gone in to browse, but her salesperson convinced her that now was the time to take advantage of manufacturer incentives. He said, “Don’t worry about the price. I’ll make sure you get more than a good deal.” Her mistake was believing him.

After she called me, I quickly looked online to see what kind of a deal she was getting. By checking on I discovered that she was paying almost $2,000 more than others in her area are paying for the exact same car. Next, I checked Kelly Blue Book ( and discovered the dealership was allowing about $1,000 less than they should for her trade. This meant that my friend was paying almost $3,000 more for her car than was reasonable.

A Friend in the Business

My friend in Connecticut didn’t just call me because we have known each other for more than a decade. She called because I used to be an Internet Manager for a major car dealer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lucky for her: she found herself literally pen in hand, about to sign the contract for her new car. Instead, she put down the pen and picked up her cell phone and selected my number.

I immediately asked her for the exact figures on her contract. After checking online and seeing how out of line they were, I asked to talk to her salesperson. Unfortunately, he was not willing to adjust the prices to any significant degree. I warned him that I was about to recommend that my friend stand up and walk out, but he was still seeing that big commission check coming his way and simply didn’t believe me.

Run, Don’t Walk to the Exit

Once I had my friend back on the phone I quickly explained that she was still paying about $2,800 more than what she should when taking into account the selling price and the trade value. She asked what she should do. I said, “Stand up, grab your things, and walk out. Call me when you’re driving away.”

My friend did exactly that. I immediately got on the phone to another nearby dealership and explained this unusual situation. I asked if they would sell the same model sedan for what others are paying for it in that area. I gave the salesperson on the other end of the phone an exact figure. His response was straight to the point. “Of course I can match that price,” he said.

 Next, I gave him the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of my friend’s trade. I told him the miles and condition and asked if he could match the figure that I felt it was worth based on my research—knowing that the dealership would have to inspect the vehicle to confirm what I had described over the telephone. The salesperson said, “If the vehicle matches the miles and condition you’re describing, this price won’t be a problem.”

My friend stopped into this second dealership the next day and a few hours later she was driving home in her new car. The dealership stood behind their quote and she saved $2,800 compared to the deal offered by the first dealership.

Savvy Internet Research

I was able to provide my friend with exact figures for the car she wanted to buy and the value of her trade. Was this because I used to actively sell cars and know something consumers don’t? Not at all.

The Internet has changed how cars are being bought and sold. Savvy buyers now pre-negotiate the selling price, along with most other aspects of the deal, long before they ever walk through the front doors of their dealership. Using websites like and can save you hundreds—and as my friend discovered—thousands of dollars on your next vehicle purchase.

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