I wonder if anyone would like to play a competitive game where we pick a commodity like a pen or anything really, and we challenge each other to see who can get the most online sales in a timed round.
It's a twist on what a bunch of companies are already trying to do. E.g. 37signals rewarding the top affiliate with an iPad.
But I'm curious if anyone would play if it was a bit more generalized and community controlled.
Each round we pick some different product or company and we compete to see who can sell the most online. Not sure how to track it best. Maybe we stick to stuff on Amazon. But how to verify the sales so that it can't be cheated with photoshop?
The process has changed dramatically in the last 10 years (notably, the rise of email negotiating).
Also, here's the 2009 update to the article:
I did end up dealing with a third dealership in person but only after confirming the availability of a model shown with a price in their Internet inventory. The in-person process was still a bit icky but I knew I was getting a good price on the car. I just deflected all attempts to play the monthly payment game. And they ended up giving me a good enough price on my trade-in that it wasn't worth additional fussing with.
Know the facts. Know what you're willing/able to pay. Separate transactions whenever possible. Ideally, don't be in a hurry.
Several reasons. One is they can't close you over the phone or by email. Other is they open themselves up to other dealers quoting a price that they won't hold once you arrive at the dealer. And then that dealer gets a chance to close them (after bullshitting their way out of the lie).
That said I've bought several cars by phone and have received prices by email but get the best deals in person. That way you are dangling a sale in front of them and they tend not to want you to walk out the door and go elsewhere.
In sales the more time somebody invests (either buyer or seller) the less likely they are to walk away from something.
That being said, I'll share two stories incase they help anyone...
 I have 5 friends (from different social circles and age groups) that have used Carmax to both buy and sell their cars (new and used) -- they have ALL come back with praise for the company on the process, even after comparing car prices online diligently before heading in. Similar the Saturn promise of "no haggling" this shopping experience seems to be fairly solid. I have not done it yet, only what I have heard.
 My best experience buying 2 new cars as well as a friend buying 2 new Subaru's that I shared my strategy with went as follows:
Read owner's forums for the car(s) you are considering; Edmunds and standalone owner forums were great for this.
Get a sense for the average price people are paying for the cars around the country. If you see a range of $33,000 to $36,000 then use an average of $35,000 (for example)
Call a local dealership, tell them the car and trimline you want and exactly how much you will spend OUT THE DOOR (always out-the-door) and to call you back if they can do it.
Sit at home and wait for a phone call.
Go in, look at the car, sign the papers and drive home.
I had two trade-ins when I did my cars so my out-the-door price was lower by how much I estimated a fair trade-in value for my used car was (using kbb.com and edmunds.com and some common sense)
Overall the ease of the process was great with no BS and no haggling.
If you like haggling or your goal in buying a new car is to mentally crush the sales agent, then you won't need this strategy... but if you hate wasting your time and want to get a fair price, it works wonderfully.
2. Don't waste time with phone calls. The classic way is dealing via fax, but now it's easier to use email. In my last purchase I knew the model and trim level I wanted, but didn't care about color. I emailed every dealership within a ~1.5 hour trip from my house and told them what I wanted and how much I was offering. I got someone about an hour away to agree. The dealer 15 minutes from my house agreed to the same price after I told them.
They use it to get you to come back into the dealer every few months AND they hope you will buy another new car from them when the warranty runs out.
The dealer makes a huge profit on you taking back a full service history high end car as a trade-in
The only part of the process that sucked was where the F&I guy put a serious hard sell on me to try to get me to buy gap insurance and extended warranty.
Everything else went smoothly and the dealer even gave me a higher price for the trade than I was expecting. Their Internet access was down when they were trying to look up blue book price, and so the guy just made up an opening offer that was $500 more than I was hoping to get.
The F&I guy however reminded me of exactly the classic skeeziness you expect from a car dealership. Scion is just a sub-brand of Toyota and you buy at a Toyota dealership, so once you get to that point in the deal you're working with the same person you would if you bought a Camry instead.
No haggle is only good if you are a below average negotiator. If you are above average or good you will get a better deal negotiating since others will overpay.
Sorry, I still don't see it. Especially since gap costs a grand total of ... $500 sometimes? $30 a month for a while others? Numbers are varied on the internet, but ... it's not much compared to 10k.
But that's taking this $10k figure at face value. Gap insurance is supposed to cover the difference in value between what you still owe on the car and what the market value is if it's totaled. How do you make the numbers come out to a $10k gap? Odds are you're not only buying a new car (which was your first mistake) but you're buying a fairly expensive new car. And you're living paycheck to paycheck.
Sorry, it doesn't add up. The general advice is to keep six months of living expenses saved up. If you have that level of savings, plus the income that allows you to spend that much on a car, you have enough money to take the EV-maximizing route. Otherwise, you're being financially irresponsible spending that much on a car in the first place, much less on -EV addons like gap insurance.
In any case, what I said still holds: if you can afford to bear the variance, you're still better off maximizing your EV.
(Another EV-maximizing tip: whenever you're offered an extended warranty, instead of buying the warranty, take the cost of that warranty and put it in a separate savings account. If something you own breaks, use that savings to repair or replace it. They wouldn't sell the warranty unless it was profitable for them. If you sell yourself the warranty, not only will you have the money set aside for your stuff, but you'll get to keep the profits as well.)
if someone is unlucky the money they set aside from this wouldn't be enough to cover the costs of repair / replacement. Warranties are similar to insurance, in that risk can be spread out over the pool of customers that bought the warranty. As long as its unlikely that a customer will have to use that warranty, a warranty can be offered for a price that's much less than the average cost of repair / replacement.
If you're the only one contributing into a warranty / insurance pool, risk isn't spread out at all. You might end up being fine, but its also possible that a lot of your stuff will break at once, and you won't have the money to replace everything. That might be unlikely, but you're still taking a personal risk.
To some people, the value of peace of mind is huge.
1. Have an agency buy your car for you. You might not save as much as you could if you really knew what you're doing, but you won't get taken advantage of this way.
2. If you want to do it yourself, call dealerships up on the phone and compare prices. You might have a lower chance of convincing them to sell you the car than if you went in person, but you'll make sure you won't get ripped off.
3. If you really want to go to the dealer in person (I have used this option successfully), do your research. That doesn't just mean knowing the MSRP and the dealer's invoice cost (much lower than the MSRP), but also looking on edmunds.com or elsewhere for the current promotions (called "dealer incentives") that the manufacturer is giving the dealer. You might not be able to find all of their incentives, but you can get close. When you're at the dealer, don't let the salesman express prices in terms of monthly financing. They'll use the four square technique and rip you off with 100% certainty. First agree on a price and then you can talk financing with the F&I guys in the back. To get the price you want, start really low. Offer a number around the invoice cost and be willing to go barely more than $500 over (at least for non-luxury cars). When they tell you that they won't make any profit that way, you tell them about the dealer incentives you know about. If you still meet with resistance, you can even hint that you suspect they have other incentives you aren't even aware about and that you really will leave the store before buying a car for much more than the invoice cost. If they still won't budge, try again at a different dealership. If you have trouble with this method, switch to #1 or #2.
surprised no one else has mentioned that tidbit. If the dealership closes out metrics at month-end, they'll be in a deal making frame of mind at that point. ++ if you can snag a salesperson that hasn't been doing well.
Also, has anybody used truecar.com - does it really work with prices or its just to get you in dealership to tell you they are out of that specific "deal".
They have a contract with the dealerships to honor the price, but b/c they cut so close to the bone there are instances where dealerships end up not honoring the price and try to negotiate anyways. I've seen it first hand, it doesn't work (people generally just walk out, as they should...)
1. Call / email for price quotes - The biggest dealers (due to much higher volume/scale) tend to have no problem quoting you a price over the phone. Those that can't compete on price, tend to tell you to come to the dealer for a quote. If a dealer doesn't give you a price over the phone, ask them if they would like a call back once you have a price quote in hand so they have an opportunity to counter.
2. Be flexible - Don't preemptively narrow down the inventory available to you with specific features/colors. Get price quotes for the make/model you're interested in first and then start asking about feature/color/service differences, etc.
3. Set a tight timeline - I'll usually call around in the morning and tell dealers up front I'm going to buy this afternoon. I tend to get the most competitive quotes this way and it gives the dealer an opportunity to quote a price based on the inventory on hand rather than a general quote.
4. Get counter offers - Once you have a set of price quotes, call the dealers again and get counter offers for your best quote. Some big dealers are so confident in their offer they'll encourage you to call around and see if anyone can match it. You WANT dealers to start dropping out and saying they can't meet that price. If everyone counters your lowest quote, that price quote was too high.
I've learned that dealers usually know which competitor in their area offers the best price...you just have to spend a little time wringing that out.
So, I immediately get like 5 calls and take the ad. The first guy to show up says he owns an RV dealership, but he really just works at a used-car dealership. They all sit on CL during their downtime looking for cars to buy. The guy tried for about an hour to talk me down, but I had other people literally lined up to buy for my asking price, so I wasn't going to budge a penny. He finally bought for what I was asking, but wasn't too happy about it. In fact, I'm not sure he even noticed that it didn't have cruise. That could have ended up being tricky to sell..
But, the other end of that is that I then needed a new car. I was going to buy a non-hybrid, but after calling a couple dealerships (at 8 in the morning, the benefits of having a 2-year-old son) one had one new Prius on the lot from a sale that had been backed out of the night before. So, I just went in and paid sticker. I got way too much for my used car, probably paid way to much for the new car, but on balance, I'd say I was even. Plus, I got a new car with cruise control, so I was happy.
Saw the car I wanted at £12,000. Went in to the dealer and test drove the car. Liked the car and said I would buy. (I should add that my wife was with me, and that she was fairly pregnant.)
Sat down to do the deal and as he was beginning to prepare the paperwork I offered the sales man £10,000. I told him I only had £10k available and that I had to buy a car today, and would £10k be acceptable?
Sales man went off to "ask his manager". He came back and offered £11,500.
I got up, smiled nicely and said, "OK, no problem, I realise I'm offering too little but its all I have. A pity, but I'll have look else where as I only have £10k, time is short and I will need to look elsewhere as I need a car today. Thanks for your time". (Im sure I actually said that more concisely than I just typed it!!) I was polite, respectful of his position but was equally quite prepared to walk.
He jumped up and said he would ask his manager again. I sat back down and he came back offering £11,250. I repeated the same lines (ish) as before. In other words, I only have £10k and I had to seal a deal today... Off he went again. This loop went on until he eventually offered £10,500. By this time, I was kind of agitated because time was running out, and I didn't want to waste time on a deal that might not happen. I was honestly keen to move on and try else where. At that point I looked in my wallet and pulled out a £20 note, and offered £10,020. He looked beat and accepted the £10k. He probably look as beat as I looked surprised.
So, I had to go off and pick up £1000 for a deposit, and because my wife was pregnant, she decided to stay in the comfy chair in the show room. Shortly later, I came back with the deposit, and completed the deal.
Once we left, my wife told me what the sales man said while I was away. The sales man turned to my wife and said, "Wow, I have never deal with such a hard negotiator in my career. I've never given any one £2k off a sale, let alone on a £12k car." To which my wife replied, "He wasn't negotiating, everything he said was completely true. We do only have £10k, and we do have to by a car today. He was not negotiating, that was the genuine position". Apparently, he look relieved to know that.
What I learned:
I didn't really car want car I bought. Any car in its class was good enough. I was not in "love" with a particular car.
I had a fixed budged that could not be increased. I do not do credit in any way, ever.
One key bit I thought about much later on was that the car I wanted to buy was not the same make as the dealer's franchise. It was a Peugeot dealer selling a part exchanged Ford. However, the asking price was perfectly fair . As it stood, £12k was a reasonable asking price.
The truth is, I was quite prepared to walk, in fact, I was on a hair trigger to walk because I had only half a day left to do a deal.
You chaps might well have other things to add.
Anyway, my advice would be : Don't be in love with a particular car, have a fixed budged, make the dealer know you are ready to buy, but equally be prepared to walk. Lastly, try to find a car in a dealer which in not the same make as that car you want. Find a VW in a Ford dealer, for example.
This was not a method, is was necessity. But now is is my method, and has worked for me several times since, and not just with car buying. I have also helped friends buy cars and done similar deals for them.
One last thing, sorry, I was after a second hand car, not a new one. Obviously a key difference. Even so, my experience still might help others out buying.
Sorry for the long post!!!!
Edit: Jeez, that was long....
You can do this only if you have a particular car + all configurations in mind and won't budge. Dealers know this "trick" and what they do when you tell them you only have $10k is that they sell you an $8k car for $10k. That's how it works. So be careful. Pick the car first then say how much you only have.
Another problem I found is that if you want a particular car model and you don't live a in a large metropolitan area you might only have 3 or 4 places to choose from. They know it too. You walk away from all 3 or 4 places now you have to drive 100 miles to another city perhaps.
Another nasty thing, car salesmen in an area, know each other. A lot of dealerships are revolving doors and salesmen just rotate from one to another. When you go to one and tell them the other dealership's price, they say "Oh Joe, he is so silly, he used to work here, we can do better, we can give you $100 less".
In the end of the day you also don't know how pressed they are to sell that car. If there is a line at the door waiting to pay $1000 more for it. You'll just have to walk away without a car.
One more thing. Car options. A lot dealerships will put "crap" on your car. Nitrogen filled tires. Fancy decals. Anti-fairy-dust coatings. All that cost maybe $50 dollars or so but tell you all those things cost $1000 more, but they are "giving them away" for $500, and they put them standard on every car. So the price they quoted you through email, doesn't exist because all cars have these extra features. So don't fall into this one.
This is standard sales line. It makes the customer feel like a hero, and costs the salesman nothing. I don't mean to burst your bubble, but your story is that you bought a car for 20% less than the marked price, and a salesman told you that was the best deal he had ever seen.
then just go back and forth with the lowest #...until you are left with one dealer
and it's much easier to negotiate a price, where they just email you back, instead of making you wait while they go and watch TV in the break room(while they "talk" to their manager)
Bought my first car, cash, for 5000 in 2006 (it was a 2000 Mazda Protege); ran it until 2012 so that's 800-900 per year). Then I sold it for 2100, with it having 160,000 miles on it.
I then bought a 1999, cutlass with 32,000 miles but a non-working radio for 2200. (radio got me a discount) Both vehicles retain value extremely well, the cutlass for instance is still valued at 3300. I'm expecting to flip my cutlass in no less than 6 but probably not more than 10 years for around 2000 dollars again. Maybe 2200, maybe 1800.
You just have to know the value of your car, what you want, and how/when to sell. Tip: Sell in Feb/March/April when many high-schools will be sending a fresh batch of road-rage demons on the roads in the coming months. Parents and poor people make the best bait. You can often 'see' where they will haggle too. I posted an ad at 2200, knowing I'd get an offer of 2000, and then negotiated the sale back up to 2100. Predictable.
The dealership would offer a rebate only if you financed it through their service. Anyhow, the rates they gave were horrible but like any loan you have the ability to pay it off in the near future. Sometimes this can be used to get a better price on the vehicle by making the dealership think they are going to make a lot of money on the loan in the long run when in fact you are actually just going to pay it off or refinance it in a few months (some deals state that you can't refinance for like 2 months or something from my understanding).
This process doesn't always work though because it involves more more people dealing with your loan, of which each of them usually cost some small amount of money.
Didn't give me as many hard insights on how to turn the tables on the shark behaviour but definitely showed some places to stand your ground or push back.
The best tip seems to be what I've heard before: Negotiate only by phone.
I saw sales people as clueless and useless until I joined my first startup, whereupon we /needed/ them. Our CEO hired a sales guy, all smarmy and slimy, and that head sales guy hired a team (mostly old buddies he knew), and I saw a real sales force in action. I swear they could have sold enterprise licenses to a 'Notepad' clone, it was amazing. It didn't matter to them /what/ they sold, they just sold.
When a dealership signs up with TrueCar they agree to give full access to their sales database. Now TrueCar has access to every car you buy and sell, new or used. They then aggregate this data to create their pricing information.