The first thing you need to know about buying a new car is that if you're not prepared to turn into a total asshole, you're going to get fucked so hard that virgins within two zip codes of you will have bloody sheets the next morning. There is probably not one other sales industry in America that is so infested with hairy-armed roach-like humanoids who can literally fly from the showroom to the lot when they use their specialized and leatherized olfactory sensors to ascertain that someone with even the slightest desire to trade vehicles pulls into the vicinity of their domain. They have a pecking order which normally negates what you'd expect to happen with such animals -- mass murder to get to the new mark. The new hires and the Gil-like losers are tossed out the door to stand around the front of the dealership when it's cold and/or raining. (You can tell how low the salesperson is on the pecking order by the number of old umbrellas standing in the corner of his cubicle.) The established slicksters shuffle the newbies and losers inside during nice weather and use that time to strut around the open air in front of the dealership like peacocks of prevarication, glomming onto anyone who enters their space. I had to drive through a Chevy dealership once, just to turn around, and looked in the rear-view mirror to see a young man running after me, waving his desperate hands as I sped up. The look of horror on his face stays with me even now.

My advice, after buying several new cars over the last several years, is to ignore the waving arms and ear-wide smiles and tell all the hucksters who approach you upon entering their carnival of corruption one thing. Firmly say, "I'm already dealing with someone else, thanks." And then look around and pick out the one you find with the most honest face. You may wind up being mistaken, but some of these creatures have features so obviously obnoxious that you can bet your last dollar that dealing with them will be so slimy that you will literally have to go back to the body shop and have them strip you naked, cover you in Gunk, and hose you down before you can even pretend to be fit for human company again. If you don't have a natural instinct for finding folks with honest faces, do yourself a favor and get someone who does to buy your new car for you. Pay them handsomely and thank whatever god you support that most folks have learned this skill somewhere along the way. Sign up for a self-help class in your neighborhood which teaches this simple technique after your new purchase has been handled by someone else.

So you (or your envoy) find(s) the guy or gal with the most honest face you can find. In order to gain their good will, tell them that you want to deal with them and no one else. They will escort you to their cubicle and begin the Car Sales Routine. This routine is well-known to all sellers and buyers of cars and is quite annoying to both parties. It involves probing car-related questions such as, "This weather is sure something, isn't it?" Or, "So, do you live in this area?" This intense fact-finding can go on for quite a long time, and there is a very easy way around it. As with many things in this day and age, the internet has a lot to do with problem-solving.

Get the image of your new car in your mind long before you drive to this carnival of corruption. Get it in your mind, firmly. Imagine the make, model, color and all the accessories that you will want which don't come on the standard issue. Do not, and I repeat DO NOT, go into the dealership with any hesitation about exactly what you want. If you for one instant fall prey to a come-on such as, "Have you ever investigated the financial advantages of a lease plan?" or, "Have you ever actually experienced heated leather seats in an automobile?" you are so far past doomed that even the 300 could not mount an assault to save your sorry ass. There will come a day when the internet will put these carnies out of business. But that day is not today, so gird yourself for battle and put on a steely mask of determination.

There are several websites which will tell you exactly what the car you want costs both the dealership and what it will wind up costing you, unless you're one of the few total fucking retards who walk into a dealership and pay full sticker price for a new car.

Normally, once you've found your honest-faced salesperson and explained to him/her what the car you want is worth, you will find agreement. If the cost to the dealership is, say, $20,000 and the MSRP is $22,000, you can expect to pay around $23,000 when it's all said and done. And that's not a bad profit margin for a car dealership. After all, they've got to get the car there from Japan or their American maquiladora and they've got to pay for the upkeep of the dealership and they've got to pay the salesfolks something for their time and expertise. (I just pissed myself laughing at typing "expertise" there; wait a second while I get a paper towel.)

Now, if you're like most folks, you'll be trading in your old car on this new one. And, guess what? Yep. Here is Step Two of Where You Get Reamed Like a Concubine in a Colorful Chinese Film. Again, the internet is your best friend. Just go to a site that will gladly, for free, tell you exactly what your old car is worth. The make and model is obvious. The mileage on the old beast is obvious. What is not so obvious and where you will have to turn into that total asshole mentioned in paragraph one is in the "condition" column. If you're old car is worth around $10,000, the difference between "excellent" and "good" and "fair" and "poor" will be about $1000 per choice. You, of course, will think your old car is in "excellent" condition. You're probably wrong about this because there was that time (remember) when you had mixed some large number of beers with some brown wine and decided to fix your non-cranking goddamned lawnmower by using your car to ram it into the large oak tree in your back yard. Granted, that did do wonders for convincing you to buy a better lawnmower, but it didn't help your front bumper. Nope. Not at all. So count on downgrading your old car to "good," but don't back off of this figure unless you've treated your old car like you do your wife.

No matter how good-natured and honest the salesperson you've picked, they will put you into the car you want to buy and suggest you "take it for a spin." The trick here is obvious. They are hoping that you're so enchanted with this vehicle that you'll beg them to let you pay whatever they ask. And, if this is your first "new car," you might well do just that. However, after you've bought a few cars, you should just use this test drive to make sure that there are no used condoms in the glove compartment and that the brakes work.

After the obligatory test drive, the rest can be summarized to a basic plan that looks something like this:

  1. You are once again escorted into the salesperson's cubicle.
  2. You tell them that you don't want to spend a lot of time "hanging out" at this establishment, but that you do want to buy that particular car you just drove around in.
  3. You tell them that you know what the car costs sensible buyers, and that is X-$500 (-X- being what you're actually willing to pay).
  4. You tell them that you know what your old car is worth and that you'll expect to get Y+$500 (-Y- being what you'll actually take for your car) on a trade-in. That puts them $1000 in the hole from what you've learned on the internet.

The salesperson will then take these figures to his/her Sales Manager. They'll be gone for about ten or fifteen minutes. When they come back, they will tell you that the best they can do is have you pay X+$1000 for their car and the absolute best they can do on your trade-in is Y-$1000. They will employ some phrase along the lines of, "We couldn't keep the lights on in this place if we lost money on a trade." This puts you $2000 in the hole (in this example; adjust these figures for more or less expensive cars). And here is where you get the revenge that is due every car purchaser since Henry Ford first snarled that magnificent phrase with a filthy cigar hanging from his Whiplashish mustachioed lip: "I'm going to make a fucking mint with this shit!" You get up out of your comfortable cubicle chair, shake the salesperson's hand and say, "Well, maybe the folks over at (insert name of rival dealership) will feel differently."

I could go on at length about the dismay and consternation that will ensue when you say these fateful words, but I'm sure you have the point by now. Just don't back off your threat to leave and you will eventually wind up splitting the difference and they will sell you the car for your X+$500 and they will give you your Y-$500 for your lawnmower-killer. It might take just a few minutes, if they are sure you are serious. It might take an hour or more if they think you're bluffing. It might take you actually driving away. If you have to go this far, they will probably call you on your cell phone within ten minutes to tell you that they've "taken it to the owner" and he's agreed to your terms. It might actually take going to another dealership and going through all of this again. But you can rest assured that it will eventually work. And when you're talking about saving $1000 (in this example), it's really worth a day or two of work, eh?

The funny thing is this: No matter how much you piss them off, they'll forget all about it and shake your hand as they're finishing up the paperwork. Then you can smile and know that you've been one of the small percentage of folks who don't get sucked dry by these parasites. Then you can go find some friend of yours with a car just like the one you bought and ask them what they paid for it. Rub your finger over the front bumper and casually, with a downcast glaze at the shiny black tires, tell them what it cost you. That is, if you're still in the asshole mode.

It's probably better for your mental health if you're not.

The young woman who sold cars

Most adults over the age of 24 have probably purchased a vehicle, possibly a brand new one even. Maybe you've been enjoying your car 6 months and can't wait for your 12 month lease to end. Maybe you are the sort of person who only buys a car every 15 years or so. Regardless of how often you change cars, I'll bet you've heard every stereotype ever plastered onto the people who sell cars.

I sold cars. I did it for 2 and a half years, from age 25 until I was almost 28. I am a woman. You may have seen me on the lot. You may have thrown out some of those stereotypes, thinking they are funny. They aren't. Most of them are not even true anymore. Yes, yes, yes, I get it. All stereotypes originate somewhere, and were once possibly connected with reality. The key word here is "once."

Like nearly every other major sector of business, auto sales has changed tremendously over the years. 25 years ago, you would never have found me on the sales floor, unless I was the bikini-clad woman draped over the Porsche in the showroom. 25 years ago, consumers in nearly every major sector were generally uneducated. It is the nature of the educated to take advantage of the uneducated. It is the nature of the unregulated to take advantage of chaos, and bend it to their will. But get over it, all that stereotypical bullshit ceased years ago. Yes, yes, I get this too -- there are still shoddy dealerships out there. Fantastic. There are poor examples of any type of business in existence. The cockroaches everyone commonly refers to as inhabiting dealerships have retired to Florida's golf courses now and were replaced with actual intelligent, capable human beings.

I was one of them. I am the young woman whose boobs you stared at while I told you, eloquently, about the relevant details of the paperwork you signed. I am the young woman whose knowledge you challenged with stupid questions about the car, and you were thrown because I answered them all correctly. I am the young woman who, patiently, did not laugh when you couldn't drive the manual transmission. I am the young woman whom you accused of making up a fake invoice. (By the way, that's inane nonsense, I actually do have scruples -- and better things to do with my time.) I am the young woman with whom you argued with over the value of your high-miles, beat-up car...or maybe it was your low-miles, pristine car -- and I still don't care what Kelley Blue Book said, you car isn't worth that much. (If you can get Kelley Blue Book to buy your car for the amount they say it's worth, please tell me, I'd like to sell them my car too. Otherwise, shut up and get real.) I am the young woman whom you didn't take seriously, because I am young and a woman. I am the young woman who was pleasant to you, while you were an asshole. I am the young woman who listened to you complain about the unprofessional service, and provided you with a high level of professional service and knowledge. Most of all, I am the woman who made $100 from selling you your brand new car (yep, that's really it, there's no reason to lie).

And that's why I don't sell cars anymore. If I were the whore-scum-of-the-earth you pretend me to be, I'd make more money selling cars. However, I'm an honest, intelligent woman who won't take bullshit from people. I won't degrade myself for the sale. I won't degrade myself for you. So, the next time you go to buy a car, remember that intelligent people do work in the dealership, but not for long -- they're driven out by consumers who continue to insist that old stereotypes still rule dealerships. If you, as a consumer, want that to change, then begin by changing yourself.

Husband: Feel that! There's something wrong with the... it's got a jerk! I told you, Estelle, they give you the rotten ones first. This car don't drive right. I swear, this car's got a jerk in it!

Wife: Maybe you ought to let the nice man drive it first, like he said.

Salesman and Wife (in unarticulated thought; simultaneously): The only jerk in this car is the driver.


Of all the things I've done, I look back fondly on my four years in the car business. Now, I wasn't a salesman; I was hired by Ford as a "district fleet leasing coordinator." I was the guy nearly at the bottom of the lucrative corporate leasing food chain. I was lucky because Ford placed me in a dealership which was family owned and the family actually had genuine concern about their customers.

The "Company Car," Then and Now

During the years 1989 to 1993, when I worked for Ford, many corporations still provided a car to employees who did a lot of traveling. Nowadays, fewer and fewer companies, however, are doing that, due in part to the liability which attaches if your employee finishes a three martini lunch and runs over a four year old child. Attorneys with questionable motives, with the aid of the American System of Jurisprudence, would take a multi-million dollar bite out of the employer's coffers after finding that the employee hadn't sufficient assets to cover a potential seven-figure jury award.

So back to "the good old days." Basically, Ford would sign a contract with a company to lease them hundreds (maybe thousands) of new cars and/or trucks. The vehicles have to get from Detroit to the assigned drivers, and the drivers' old vehicles must be disposed of in a manner that is both efficient and financially sound. So for my district, I was the guy who basically called up, let's say, Bob Brown, salesman for Gigantic Humongous Pharmaceuticals, told him that his new company car was on the way, and arranged to take possession of his old car, and hand him the keys to the new one (and also give him a courtesy walk-around so he knows how to operate all of the features of the car).

In the case of a municipality or state agency, I had to take delivery of the vehicle (let's say, a Public Works truck) and when it comes off the big rig, inspect it, sign for it, and then take it to a truck body builder (not to be confused with the Arnold Schwarzenegger-type body builders). The truck, which was, upon delivery, nothing more than what is called a "cab-chassis" — the cab, a lot of steel, and the rear wheels. The body builder puts on either a box, making it a box truck (kinda like a moving van), or a utility body. A utility body could be anything from one of those big affairs with myriad doors for tools and parts, to a small cherry picker (a hydraulic crane with a bucket in it to lift workmen to power lines, trees, etc.).

The biggest thrill was getting a truckload of State Police cars. A Ford Crown Victoria "Police Interceptor" handles like a dream and is equipped with an engine that, if asked to, delivers enough torque and acceleration to mush one's face up, not unlike that of an astronaut's, when going from zero to sixty miles per hour. Well, okay, not that much, but a lot. The vehicle, now emblazoned with the correct lettering, accessories, light rack (the lights you see when you're about to get a ticket) and sometimes, in the case of a truck, a snow plow, would then be delivered by myself and a handful of drivers from the dealership to wherever it was the customer wanted it delivered. Usually, the fellows at the garage, knowing that there was an extended warranty on everything, would just sign for them and let us go on our way. Every once in a while, however, we'd get some moron in horn-rimmed glasses who'd inspect each vehicle as assiduously as one that his own mother were going to drive, leaving us helplessly sitting there for an hour or more.

In the case of a company car, the employee of the client would come to the dealership with his/her old car, take all of their things out of it (if they hadn't already done so), and tap their feet waiting for the keys to their new vehicle. The cars turned in ran the gamut: some were as polished as the driver's shoes, the glove compartment filled with receipts for timely (and lease-required) routine and preventive maintenance. Others, sadly, had probably never been touched by a mechanic, and looked as if they'd been used as New York City taxi cabs.

A particularly disturbing experience was encountering an insurance salesman the size of a small house, who would have none of this "damages" business. He wouldn't sign and I wouldn't give him the keys to his new car. He called his boss, at home, and whined like a geek whose slide-rule's been stolen. He signed, but little did he know what was going to get back to the company. We put about a 24-pack worth of empty Budweiser cans in the trunk (where the spare tire, now missing, by the way) should have been, and took Polaroid photos of that and all around the wrinkled vehicle. The engine's head gasket was toast. The vehicle was destroyed for all intents and purposes.

Once the paperwork was done and I got the customer to sign for the damage to the old car (a difficult task) and sign the receipt for the new one, they drove away happy.

Moving Metal

Thanks for your patience. This is where I get down to the topic at hand, buying a new car. The salesmen in the retail side of the dealership were wonderful men. The Sales Manager knew everyone's name and had probably sold some families a dozen cars. The oldest salesman there had been there for a long time, and he, too, had walked the walk long enough that he enjoyed a steady stream of repeat customers. So much so, that he would actually give up his turn to handle browsing customers if he didn't like the way they looked. And believe me, he could tell. They had a third sales position, which was constantly being filled and re-filled with very young men in cheap suits, hoping to make their fortune in the world of motorcars. They'd arrive at the dealership thinking that their "demo," or company car, would be a brand-new Mustang GT. To their disappointment, if their driving record qualified them for a demo at all, it'd be a used Taurus, or worse. The thing they all had in common was their initial gratitude to the two older salespeople for giving them endless streams of would-be customers. It'd take them months before they realized that these were not customers but just window-shoppers.

There's a big secret in the auto business. In a new car dealership, your salesman is almost always going to make a lot more money if he sells you a used car. That is because, for example, when I worked there, Ford paid a salesman $50 for selling an Escort, slightly more for a compact, and only $150 for a dealer-financed, loaded-with-options Crown Victoria. If a salesman sells a used car, he takes a nice percentage of the difference between what it cost the dealership and what it's sold for, minus any work that had to be done on the car to make it salable.

On slow days, the intercom in my office would come alive with the voice of Dick, the older salesman. He'd say, "I've got a twenty per cent." Those were customers who were looking at compact or mid-sized cars loaded with options, who looked like they were gonna buy. (The "fifty per cents" were more of a challenge.) These percentages were the portion of his commission I'd receive for selling the car and handing the customer to him to do the paperwork.

A twenty per cent usually went this way: the customer would be looking at a mid-sized car with a special paint color or leather seats or steel wheels. I knew they wanted better, but just couldn't afford it. Now, in my side of the lot, I'd have two or three very good looking cars equipped with leather seats, a faux convertible roof, perhaps, or chromed wire wheels. And a big engine. Now, why would someone buy a brand new car they don't want for $18,000, when I could get them into a 2 year old car that looks like new and is loaded with goodies for $10,000. We'd sell them an extended warranty, so they had the same coverage as if they'd bought a new car, and finance it right there at the dealer if they qualified for credit. Everyone makes out well.

The customer would undoubtedly be happy with their car, plus, the dealership would buy the car from the leasing company for whatever the going "Kelly Blue Book" (the official arbiter of car values) rate was, minus a percentage, minus the cost of shipping the car to a wholesaler (who sells cars that good dealerships don't want to sell to unscrupulous dealerships). On top of that, the salesman would get a commission on the financing plus a fat bonus for selling the extended warranty. Many times My good buddy Dick would make between $3,000 and $5,000 on the deal. And depending upon the percent he and I would undoubtedly haggle over, I could make up to a thousand dollars or more. In a day. On Saturdays, when I didn't have to work, I'd come by the dealership and hang around, and bring in even more money.

The Car Shopper

There are people who visit gourmet food shops and don't give a whiff about the cost of Brie. They clothes shop at top-name department stores. They dine at a fine restaurant every Saturday night. But come time to buy a new car and these people freeze up and immediately become the most frugal individuals on the face of the earth.

The old adage rings true for everything: You Get What You Pay For. The Brie you buy at the gourmet shop is going to be creamier than the poop you buy at the Sav-A-Lot supermarket. The clothes they buy at the better department store are going to last longer. And, should they not be satisfied, they can return them without hassle. They have a much better time eating at a white tablecloth restaurant with romantic atmosphere and delectable food than they would having burgers and an ice cream cone at the local Shake Shack.

So why, then, do these people come into the dealership expecting to get a Rolls-Royce on a Volkswagen budget. I'll tell you. Someone's told them through the grapevine that a dealership makes thousands on every new car they sell. Not so. Especially not now, but it was not so when I was in the thick of things. There's a lot of overhead involved in running an auto dealership, not the least of it incredibly large insurance policies. Their friends have lied to them about the "great price" they got on a car (because their friends are ashamed they paid as much for their new car as they did for their first house!) Some "auto maven" on the talk radio station has implored them to shop around, find the best deal, and then offer $2,000 less. That's easy for the auto maven, because he's never had to run a car dealership.

How many times did we get the customer's information (name, address, telephone number) and show them a couple of cars, only to find out a week later when we called them that they'd bought an inferior or smaller car at another dealership. It was only after 1986 (concurrent with the introduction of the Ford Taurus, one of America's best-selling cars) that Ford really made a commitment to building quality automobiles. They discontinued the tiny, cheaply-made "LTD II" model and focused on a much more well-engineered line of cars, not just at the top end, but throughout the line. All of this had a cost, however. So we were peddling cars that were typically priced a bit higher than the same class of vehicle made by GM and Chrysler but beat them in customer satisfaction.

If the customer had purchased another model of car, we'd typically call them back in a year or so and fully half of them would express dismay at their choice. About a third of those who were dismayed with their choice came back to us, got a good dollar for their Buick or whatever, and drove off in the new Crown Victoria of their dreams.

The ones who eventually did buy a Ford from a competing dealer would complain that they could never get the car serviced quickly and had to wait for an appointment. The dealership I worked out of had plenty of business from the fleet operations; they made it a habit of only servicing our own customers' cars in a timely fashion. We had a file on all of them. If the vehicle they brought in bore the nameplate of another dealer, their appointment would be made weeks away. It sounds cruel but the truth is, if they haggled over a hundred dollars or so when they bought the car, when you service their car they're going to be nothing but trouble. I had the privilege of working with some of the nicest, most well-informed service and parts personnel in the region, my regional manager once told me. And I knew it. If I had 2 truckloads of new Tauruses waiting for customer deliveries, the competitive dealers would be nasty and shoddy about the dealer preparation work I farmed out to them (yes, all cars must be checked over even after they leave Quality Control at the factory).

What to Look For

The first thing to look for when shopping for a new car is to allow yourself a little flexibility. I understand that some people have their hearts set on a certain make and model (even, perhaps, in a certain color). These things may end up costing you money. If you're willing to compromise, purchase a model-year leftover (a car that's new but that's been sitting on the dealer's lot for a year) and save big bucks (they really, really wanna get rid of these; it costs them financing money just to keep them around, essentially they depreciate rapidly).

If you're willing to wait up to six months, you can order the exact model, color and combination of options you want from a dealer. The upside to this that people don't know is that, contrary to what unscrupulous dealers would have you believe, it does not cost more to order a car. In fact, every car dealer has what's called in the business a "floor plan," which is their credit relationship with the manufacturer. A car that's been hanging around in stock has cost them a lot in interest, because they never purchase inventory outright. If you order the car, it gets paid for upon delivery, and won't take up space on the lot or interest out of the dealer's pocket. However, most incentives to buyers only apply to existing dealer stock, so plan on not having advertised specials available to you if you order a car.

Never dismiss the purchase of a quality used car with a warranty and service records. If a dealer tells you he/she doesn't have the service records, don't buy the car. However, if the car was turned in by a repeat customer, they'll have a file on the car that you'll be able to inspect. And you'll have room to bargain. Finance your car with a bank or a home equity line of credit unless the dealer will give you a better rate (which they will, because they buy the money from the finance company at a much lower rate than you'll pay someone else). So you're taking away a little of their profit, but if you've got good credit, this is the way to go.

Now that Japanese and Korean manufacturers are decimating U.S. manufacturers' sales, auto service has become a profitable way for dealers to enjoy growth. The pleasure and satisfaction of dealer service has never been a better value. They're beating the service-only organizations at their own game. And if you bought the car from them, expect to receive monthly mailings with coupons that make keeping your car well-maintained even less costly.

One of the best innovations in used car buying is the CARFAX website at It's well worth paying about $25 to find out if your car's been in a collision or not. Dealers do indeed repair and sell cars that have been in a collision. They may come with service records but the body shop work will not be disclosed to you.

If you're the kind of person who likes to buy a new vehicle every 2 years, wait for the end-of-model year sales and you'll make out alright. Once you've bought 2 vehicles from a dealer, and assuming you're happy, they'll bend over backwards price-wise to get your business.

If, however, you plan on holding on to your vehicle longer, there are a couple of things that you can do (especially if buying a larger car, minivan or truck) that will extend the lifetime of your vehicle by years. Buy what's normally known as a "trailer tow" package. If the dealer you like says he doesn't have any, ask him to do what's called a "dealer swap." This is where he trades a desirable car on his lot for the one you want, in the possession of another dealer, in order to make the sale to you. Trailer tow package typically involves a heavy duty suspension or rear end, a transmission or transaxle with a slightly different gear ratio, and often what's called an "oil cooler" or "transmission fluid cooler." This is built into the radiator and circulates the transmission fluid, cooling it well below temperatures that could prove harmful or cause the fluid to fail. It also has the effect of making your air conditioner run much more efficiently in the summer because, basically, the entire vehicle is running well within the conditions it was manufactured for; not at their limit. Leather upholstery, unless you're morally opposed to sitting on a once-living bovine, holds up over the long run much better than does cloth, and you'd be surprised how clean it comes whether you use the new cleaners or you have someone else clean the car for you.

About extended warranties: they're less costly if you buy them up front. There are two important things about an extended warranty which make it valuable. If you're going to keep your car for a long time, a long-term, high-mileage extended warranty will essentially take the gamble out of your cost-per-mile of driving. The more miles you put on your car, the lower the cost-per-mile. But should a major part break down (and they do on even the vehicles most highly rated for quality), then your cost-per-mile goes back up. An extended warranty means "no gamble," and gives you a fixed cost-per-mile. Additionally, if you have an extended warranty and you get your car serviced at the dealer where you bought it, should something strange go wrong that's not covered by your extended warranty, your dealer's service department may be able to fudge mileage numbers and get you high-priced work done for free: as "warranty work." You see, their service department gets paid for warranty work by the manufacturer if it's covered by warranty. The dealer wants to make a profit and it will increase the chances that you'll buy another car from the dealer if the dealer doesn't make you pay for repairs that they can insinuate into the warranty system.

Finally, something that people occasionally miss when they're buying a new car. Look at the odometer. If there're more than 10 miles on it, move on to a different vehicle. Especially in the case of performance or exotic cars, a few miles on the odometer might mean that the Sales Manager or the dealer allowed a friend or relative to drive the car. And, given that it's a performance car, you can assume that it's been driven hard during the crucial break-in period. Don't believe someone who tells you that there's "no such thing" as a break-in period any more. A car should be driven with care and at varying speeds on the highway for at the very least a thousand miles. Then the oil and filter should be changed. If there're miles on the odometer, it's more likely than not that damage resulting in lower compression and lower mileage may have been done to the car. The exception to this case is a dealer swap. If that indeed is going to take place, you have every right to ask the dealership if you can go to the swapping dealer and pick it up yourself.

The Guys Who Give The Car Business A Bad Name

This article will not go into the myriad scams and advertising tactics used by dealers who, for one reason or another, don't care about repeat buyers. They just care about making the sale. Below is a list of sources that include fine websites that'll give you valuable information and guidance about buying a new or used vehicle. Some of it is fear-mongering, but a lot is real.

You'd be surprised, sometimes these mega-huge lots promising the best price will actually fleece you. A small dealer who's been around for a long time will not only be able to compete with them (they probably own their own property so their overhead's lower). A small dealer who is committed to customer satisfaction will be able to give you references immediately.

Buying something as significant as a car is something that takes a long time and lots of checking. But after you've done the checking, make sure you feel comfortable with the salesperson you're dealing with, and his sales manager if the sales manager comes into play during the deal. The websites below offer advice about how to keep kindly-looking yet unscrupulous dealers from making illegal credit checks on you while you're out test-driving a car (the more credit checks that're done in a short period of time lowers your credit score, and therefore any leverage you have to get a lower interest loan).

Do You Want To Become A Car Salesperson?

This is the heyday of competition in the automotive industry. Quality cars from overseas are flying out the showroom doors (and Honda and Toyota, I know, compensate their sales reps more than do U.S. manufacturers). If you think you can handle the rejection, the reputation that precedes you, and a lot of boring daytime hours spent reading the newspaper, then by all means, give it a try. But you have to commit to it; be in it for the long run. Not only do you want to sell to your customers, you want to wait until their neighbors, friends, and relatives need a car, and relate the wonderfully different and comfortable experience they had with you by word of mouth. Hang around long enough and you'll sell to their kids, and then again to them.

Don't spend the slow hours reading the paper like some of the guys. Read the automotive section of the classified ads, or the "auto sales" give-away booklet you find in supermarket lobbies. Look at what people are selling, on their own. Get the Blue Book value on the car. Find a great car on your lot to put them in, and do it as close to the payment they were making on their old car and you'll have a sale on your hands. Then call them and you'll have the answer to their needs. You'll be taking the old car off their hands at a price close to what they were asking for it, and you'll put them into a car they perhaps had never thought of owning.

If you're a social animal, car sales is a great occupation for you. The best in the business all make one key point about making a sale: it takes time. If you get to know a prospect before they need a car; then by all means (unless you're a boor) they're going to go to someone they know rather than someone they don't when making their next purchase. The best sales tool in the world is conversation. Listen to what people have to say and, without resorting to flattery, agree. Soon it'll be your turn to talk. Sooner than you think they'll be sitting at your desk talking about cars. And then they'll buy one.

If you hear over beer at the corner pub that someone's been ripped off by their repair shop or dealership, bring them in to your own service department, no matter what make or model. If they become a repeat customer and the service end's making money, you have every right to be there with your hand outstretched at month's end when the bonuses are handed out. If you add to the service manager's bottom line, he'll throw you $50 or so, especially if he's had a bad month and you've made it better.


Car Buying Tips by Jeff Ostroff (Accessed 9/1/07)

Edmunds Car Buying Tips (Accessed 9/1/07)

Smart Car Guide (Accessed 9/1/07)

Ford Credit Red Carpet Leasing: (Accessed 9/1/07)

CARFAX: (Accessed 9/1/07)

Alright folks, everyone seems to hate buying a car. And having sold cars let me tell you, it sucks on both sides. Here is a mixed bag of advice I learned on the job and from customers who walked away with killer deals.

The Pre-Pre-Game

- Use the Internet. Not only can it help you narrow down which car it is you want, but it can also help you nail down what the general asking price is and if any Car dealers or Manufacturers have specials going on. (Yes, sometimes those specials are real.) And you'll have good odds of a Dealership bending over backwards to price/rate match even if the numbers you're quoting are fake.
---- Special note for the Ad cars. They are real life clickbait, treat them as such. Every once in awhile you get lucky, but never count on it unless you are prepared to visit dealership after dealership for at least a few weeks.

- Do the math. You know your budget best. Figure out the maximum you are willing to pay per month over what period of time with what interest rate. Be sure to tell yourself that this is the solid limit to prevent overbuying.

- Understand the financing. If you go in and know nothing about how car loans work, or how they change based on negotiations, then the only information you have is what they give you.
---- The interest rate is basically the odds of you following through on your payments based on your credit score. Obviously the amount of the loan factors in. It also determines the overall net amount you will pay for the car.
---- Down payment, your first time payment on the loan, which affects the amount, see above.

- Know your credit score. There are a few places that will run your credit for free and it will give you an idea for what kind of interest rate you can expect to be offered. I was always told that anything above 700 should be okay. Be warned, there are a few different types of credit scores, which can vary by 10 points or more.

- Get Pre-Approved for an auto loan through your bank or credit union. From what I have seen, banks/credit unions will give you better interest rates than a dealership will. It also works as a litmus test for when the salesman gives you the initial interest rate. It's also a good ace to keep in your back pocket as many dealers will try to match or beat that interest rate when you reveal it. (True anecdote - My buddy showed a salesman "proof" of a pre-approved loan through the Marine Corp Bank and nailed down 2.35% interest.)

The real Pre-Game

- Practice negotiating. I know this sounds dumb but you are up against people who have done this for a living for years. They can and will dominate the negotiations and take you down the path they choose unless you actively resist.

- Do not go alone. Whoever roleplayed with you in the above step, bring them along. It's always better to outnumber the enemy and yes, they are the enemy They are also schmucks just doing a job but a job that's paid based on sales. And make sure your car buddy knows why they are there. Just having them there can help but having them just about ignore the salespeople and interject with their own opinions helps a lot more. In addition, they are your failsafe. If it threatens to go over budget, pre-arrange for them to drag you out kicking and screaming.

- Schedule time. At the minimum I was with a customer for 2 hours hammering out the final numbers, if they came at 8 in the morning, on a Tuesday. Not only do you have to be willing to put the time in, but so does your friend. And that of course is assuming you only look at one car at one dealership that isn't busy. Personally I would schedule out an entire weekend, and accept the possibility of over-time during the week after. If you're still shopping different models of cars, expect a month long marathon.

Entering the Battlefield

- Start strong. Dominate the situation right away. Keep them answering questions instead of asking them, use their name a lot when talking to them and just generally take charge. Assuming you Pre-pre-gamed at this point the only things you have to do is test drive the car in real life and work on the numbers. Think of the salesperson like a set of car keys and a calculator.

- Keep strong. They will bullshit you. The idea is to sell the car to you, enough so that whatever number they give you seems reasonable. If you took control they will try to take it back. If they took control they will try and keep it. At this point, you can probably ignore anything beyond basic facts coming out of their mouths.

- MSRP. By law every car needs to have the pricing sticker. And by law, nearly everything on the sticker is industry standard. But make sure to note a few things. First is the MSRP. Subtract about $2000-ish from it and that is probably a good a guess as any as to what the invoice for the car was. Secondly, if you want some of the options, look at how much they charge for them. They'll tell you no but some of those options can be swapped out like legos if you ask long enough.
---- Dealer add ons. Everyone has them. Be it lojack, scratch protectors, additional safety features etc., they add them and mark them up to hell. Again, you can get them removed and the price subtracted. If you really want them, sneak into the service department and ask how much it would be to get them added afterwards. It sounds stupid but it's probably cheaper.

- Drive. Your dream car could drive like shit. Or maybe the angles are wrong for your body. Or maybe it touches you in places you aren't comfortable with. This is your chance to find all that out. And also a good place for your buddy to pitch in. Front seat, back seat, doesn't matter where they sit, just make sure that you and your friend talk about the car, and talk over the salesperson if need be.
---- Don't fall head over heels in love at this point and if you do, make sure your friend is there to slap you.

- Skirmish. Now the hard part, numbers and the inevitable back and forth. Understand ahead of time that at this point, the salesperson, or whoever else will handle you, already has a tried and true strategy, possibly more than one. More so than ever the buddy system is your best friend. Let them make the first move and judge from there. You should have a trump card, the pre-approved loan, in the back pocket for the end game. Until then it'll just be a sloppy back and forth. Remember the foundations, MSRP minus $2000.00 as the invoice and know --they will go below the invoice if pushed. A dealership has more important ways of making money then the price they sell the car for. As for down payments, for every $1000.00 down the monthly payment goes down about $20.00. More importantly it can affect the interest rate.
---- Unless the dealership finances in-house, they have to negotiate with various banks. If it's after business hours, they make a best guess.

- The End Game. Trump card time. If the interest rate is above the pre-approved rate, use it and challenge them to beat it. They should at least match.
---- By now it'll have been a few hours but even still, if the deal isn't where you want it, don't be afraid to walk away. If they're desperate, they'll chase you down in the parking lot with a better offer.

Congratulations, you probably did not get ripped off.

---- Special notes.

- Trading in a car. A dealership will never give you the best offer. On the other hand, selling it on your own might be more trouble than it's worth. Word on the street is that CarMax consistently gives the best average offers. If you can, always give your trade-in a little spit shine.
---- The Kelly Blue Book. This is kind of the like MSRP, it works as a reference but not much else.

- Timing. Dealerships have sales quotas and it's more important to meet that quota than to make money on every deal. Ex - The dealer I worked for had a monthly quota and when it swung around, almost every car sold close to or below invoice. In addition, car makers have set schedules for when they revamp a model and a dealership is not going to want old body styles on it's lot. You can probably google it.

- Zero down/interest rate, etc. Ads like these aren't exactly gimmicks, but they aren't exactly real either. You know what they say... Again, the lucky who qualify and jump through the hoops can get it but at the same time, it may not mean you're getting the best deal.

- HammerSpace. The dealership is not limited to what they have on the lot. If you would prefer to deal through them, they can arrange to have the car you want but they may not have delivered. Possibly they may trade cars with another dealership.



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