I read an awesome article last week about interpreting car sales lingo. It explained in great detail some of those things that are said at dealerships, but you might not fully understand. Including, MSRP, market adjustment, holdback, VIN etching etc. That article can be read here. It made me think about the car sales process and how the buyer really has no power in the scenario, usually due to lack of knowledge. In most cases, a buyer goes in with a particular budget and list of preset expectations for a car they’re looking for. Most always the dealership will tell you, “let me see what we can find… while I’m copying your photo Id… have you driven the newer model? You’d love it.” This causes you to leave the lot with what started as a $15k budget, now turned into a $22k vehicle. From that very beginning moment, you lose your power and they are in control of your car buying experience. In an effort to empower buyers such as yourself, here are three things a dealership might tell you, what it really means, and how to beat them at their own game.
1. Take a seat. Can I get you a diet coke? (or other beverage of your choice)
When a dealership tells you to “take a seat” and offers you a drink, you might think they are just being nice and trying to make you comfortable. The salesperson usually thinks you just became best friends and you will fully support and trust their opinion moving forward. What it really means is, “settle in. I’ve got a mini fridge full of diet cokes and you’re going to be here for at least the next 4 hours, then leave with a car over budget.” The way to beat that scenario is go in with your own diet coke and very clear expectations. “No I’ve got a diet coke, thanks though. I’ve got $15k, and I want (insert wish list or a specific car). Take 5 minutes and let me know if you can make it work and I’ll roll this over the curb today.” Their head will explode when you say “roll this over the curb today” because that’s their goal – getting that car over the curb, off their lot, and as much money as possible in their pocket. Sometimes you need to be the one to ask them, “what’s it gonna take to get me in that car today?”
2. Let me crunch these numbers and run them by my sales manager
From firsthand experience, this does not mean exactly what it sounds like. They are not going to vouch for you in the sales manager’s ivory tower. It means they are going to take a break. They are going to talk with their co-workers about who they’re partying with this weekend, or scroll their status feed on Facebook for a little while. When they’re ready, they’ll come back and tell you they have no wriggle room – even though they do. You do need to be realistic as well, but here is how to beat this scenario – let them know that if they can’t make it work, that you’re going to walk out. Then actually do get up and walk out. Dealerships pay MILLIONS of dollars a year on their real estate. From state-of-the-art facilities, to the hundreds of cars consistently filling the lot, the sodas, pop corn machines, huge flat screen TVs, inflatable gorillas, etc. You are the one paying for all of it – so you should be in control. The markup on their vehicles is astronomical so they can afford the bill. If you threaten to walk out, and start to do so, they’ll either find the wriggle room they “don’t have,” or you can go elsewhere to really get what you want, for the price you want *cough* Five Star Auto Direct *cough*.
3. What can we do to get you in that car today?
This is a false implication of who is really in charge. What I mean by that is, you might think a salesperson is putting you in control when asking you what it’s gonna take, but what they’re really saying is “what else can I offer to seal this terrible deal.” You might be enticed by some Utah Jazz tickets, or free entry to the bowling tournament that weekend, but really, are those $79 tickets in the nosebleeds worth the $5,000 you’re about to overpay for your car? I mean.. c’mon, the Utah Jazz aren’t even good this year, and who wants to watch grown men (who should be hitting a strike every throw at their level of professionalism) score less than perfect games? How to beat this is: do your research. Know exactly what you want and how much you can afford. It could also help to go into the dealership at the end of the month. In some cases, you’ll get a deal in your favor simply because the month is closing and if your salesperson doesn’t hit their quota, they risk punishment or losing their job. At the end of a month, many salespeople will incredibly find wriggle room simply to put your name up on the white board tally of their sales that month than get no sale at all.
I don’t believe that all salespeople are bad. There are many great, honest auto sales teams out there, but I do believe your best interest is not their best interest. The traditional car buying process is fundamentally flawed. Buyers continue to fall for the same gimmicks that have been used, and unchanged for over 100 years! So why haven’t we figured it out yet? When you know what to expect going into a dealership, you have more control. Be sure you do your research, have clear expectations, and if you have to walk out on a bad deal, walk out. It’s not worth the headache you’ll have to deal with for at least the next few years. Take control of the experience and enjoy the excitement you should feel when buying a car.