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August 31, 2012

A question for the ages

"Car Dealers: Why Are So Many of Them So Slimy?"


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Sure-fire strategy for buying a new car (works only if you’re able to pay cash):

1. Look up the dealer’s cost online, add enough to make a reasonable profit, and set that as the amount you’ll spend for that particular car. Say $XXX.

2. Choose two dealers, A and B, in your vicinity. Make out a check to each for $XXX, but don’t sign them, of course.

3. Go to Dealer A. Do the preliminary dance and ask him for his price. He’ll give you a figure well above $XXX. Show him the check made out to him for $XXX. Tell him that’s your offer. He will either say no right then, or he’ll go to talk with his boss first. Either way, he’ll come back with a new offer but still above $XXX. Ask him, “Is this the best you can do?” Get him to say “Yes” to that question.

4. Here’s where you must be clear and firm. Write down his best offer, then say to him: “I also have a check made out to Dealer B. (Show him the check.) I’m going over now and make the same offer to him and get his best counter-offer. If his best is higher than yours, I’ll come back and buy from you at the price you just gave me. If his offer is lower than yours, I’ll buy from him, then and there, and you won’t see me again.”

Make it clear that you won’t see-saw between dealers. You’ll make *one* trip to Dealer B and either buy from B or return and buy from A. That’s it. Also, make it clear that $XXX is your *bottom line* offer. It includes everything -- tax, title fee, dealer prep, etc. -- all the little extras dealers add on to pad the cost. It must be the last number on the invoice.

I’ve done this, and believe me, I got the car for $XXX from Dealer A. If you do your homework right and go in with a price that gives the dealer any profit at all, he will not let you leave. He’ll cave.

It’s also good advice to go near closing time on the last day of the month.

Joe R.

What works for me doesn't appeal to everyone, but here goes.

I never buy; I lease. Why buy something that decreases in value? Better to rent it. It only pays to buy a car if you keep it for quite a few years, and then are willing to deal with the inevitable cost and hassle of repairs.

I use an auto broker, recommended to me and whom I now trust. After I determine exactly the car I want, she does all the searching, negotiating, etc. When I assent to the deal, a dealer brings the new car to my house and takes away the old one.

I change the oil and rotate the tires at a local garage until the lease is up and then go through the same process again.

No muss, no fuss. I have not the time nor inclination to go from dealer to dealer. It's only transportation to me anyway, not a symbol of masculinity or whatever other nonsense the car industry uses to sell cars.

My shadow has not darkened the door of a car dealer in a dozen years.


I bought my last pickup truck by doing all that research then going online to 3 local [more or less] dealerships and offering $XXX for a specific make and model with specific 'options' [not many, I don't usually get them]. Said the first one to accept the offer as presented got the deal.

Within 30 minutes I had the "Online sales manager" call me on the phone [I put my number in the offer, of course] who said he had a truck located, but would I be okay with a bedliner that cost $150. I said, no, I wouldn't. There was silence on the other end for a bit. Then he said, "Well, taking it out wouldn't be easy and would actually cost the dealership [maybe, I don't know]." Another long pause. I waited. After a bit he said, "Well if I can't take it out, and it fits all your other specs, what would you pay to cover my costs?" I said $50, take it or leave it [I had the option list in front of me and was pretty sure that was basic cost].

Silence. Then a sigh and, "I'll take it." It was the next-to-last sales day of the month, and they delivered the truck to me three days later. Since then I have purchased a car from the same salesman, and he says I'm the easiest customer he's ever had. I know what I want, I know what I'll pay, and I don't really dicker or get upset. Works for me.

Oh, and I actually like the bedliner. Who knew? ;->=

dave smith

I've never been able to make the math of leasing work out for me.

I always do one round of dealing. I give a price I am willing to pay (I always go first, which most don't advise) which I think is reasonable but too low. They counter and I either buy or leave.

The last car I bought had a 22K sticker. I offered 18.5K, they countered with 19K which was less than I thought I'd have to pay.


I think the reason there are so many scumbag salesmen is because there are so many scumbag people. Most people are decent people, but there is a rather sizable scumbag sub population. Scumbag salesmen are so noticeable primarily because they are the ones seen.

If you ever want to people it the raw become a waiter. You are seen the same way a plate or fork is, or at best a servant (in the vein of a serf), rather than a person providing a service. I have about two years of waiting experience, which I thankfully have not done for over ten years. The games customers play to get free stuff, the many times you get stiffed on tips, the pettiness of complaints, the way they try to play you against a manager, etc. is enough to start seeing all people as things to be manipulated to maximize tips. They seem to see you as a thing to be manipulated to minimize their bill.

John Hempton wants to know why so many car dealers are slimy. It's easy: there are many, many slimy car buyers.



I use an auto broker, recommended to me and whom I now trust. After I determine exactly the car I want, she does all the searching, negotiating, etc. When I assent to the deal, a dealer brings the new car to my house and takes away the old one.

Does she want a client in North Carolina?


Joe R.

Craig, if you're truly interested, it's Karla at


I agree with Ken, there are a lot of slimy people. It is not just in the realm of car salesman. My former roommate was a car salesman, and told me about all the stupid things car buyers tried to pull on him so it goes both ways. (Note: I never bought a car from him, nor did he try to sell me one, so I consider his advice to be legitimate.) Essentially, he said the price of a car is about the same no matter where you go thanks to the internet. You may save a little here or a little there, but for the most part, it's the same everywhere.

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