Every few years, we replace one of our three vehicles (we own 2, lease 1).

Every few years, I am reminded as to what a miserable experience car shopping is.

It shouldn’t be this way.

Car prices seem to be completely random. The experience is fraught with sharks, liars, and weasels. Too many sales people fall between boiler room stock jockeys and high pressure insurance salesman.

There are, of course, notable exceptions.

We leased an Infiniti G35x (from Christine in Connecticut). Got a very fair quote via email, and she configured the car as we liked. We got the color combo we asked for. The price was exactly as we discussed. (she even threw in the technology package, as it was on the lot in the right car color combo).  When that lease comes up next year, I will very likely consider another car from her, perhaps an FX35 to replace the wagon that is going out east to my M-in-L’s home. That 10 years old Chrysler will become the beach car, and I don’t care if it gets filthy or becomes a rust bucket. Its not worth anything to sell, so I am going to run it into the ground (or sand, as the case may be).

The last time we looked at cars, Mrs. BP’s tastes ran to conservative, reasonable vehicles. I was the one who wanted something more fun (i.e., M3 or the 335i). Mrs. BP is the “practical” person in the marriage. So I was quite surprised when she said she does not want another car that was — in her words — another “boring pod.”  She said “Let’s get something fun this time.”

OK, I am never one to waste a good mid-life crisis. I show the missus a number of fun cars — -3, Z, and 5 series  BMWs (she doesn’t like the looks or dashboard); The Audi’s bore her; the MBs have no manual stick option in the US (but the E coupe in Germany does). The VW CC was also eliminated for the same auto-only reason.

On a lark, I showed her the 370 Z Roadster, and her response was “Order it with a 6 speed.” So I go NissanUSA, configure the car, and “Request a quote.”

In response, I get a bombarded with email from 4 local dealers, none of whom seem willing to give me a quote by email. (The car comes out next month). Pitches for all sorts of crap — but no quote. Notye that the “Request a quote” is on their website.

Car sales have plummeted, and none of these guys seems to want to do simple things to sell me a car.

Can anyone out there explain to me: Why must this be such an ordeal?

>

Retail Sales — including autos — are out Wednesday morning at 8:30am.

Category: Consumer Spending, Retail

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

98 Responses to “Why Is Buying a Car Such a Bad Experience?”

  1. If any dealer out there wants to make a fast sale, then send me your best quote on

    2010 Z Roadster 370Z Touring with Sport Package
    Black Cherry/White or Gray Interior
    Leather
    6-speed Manual
    DVD Navigation System
    Floor Mats
    Carpeted Trunk Mat
    Illuminated Kick Plates

    Any other options you might suggest?

  2. John from Concord says:

    Long story short, and yes this is somewhat oversimplified: There are too many dealers. This is especially true of domestic brands, but it’s true to some extent of all of them (save the exotics) given current market conditions. To survive, they have to squeeze and slime every dollar they can out of every transaction. The OEMs know this, but auto dealers have incredible levels of protection at state and local levels and shutting down underperformers is far, far easier said than done.

  3. If there are too many dealers, then they should be tripping over each other to sell me a car!

    Just get me a damned quote!

  4. Bruce in Tn says:

    They know an easy mark when they see one….I wonder who will become impatient first…the potential buyer or the potential seller…

    cvienne, odds?

  5. dsdonaghy says:

    When I last bought, I dropped $35 at http://www.fightingchance.com/ and at least felt like I had some leverage. While the site looks a little bush league, the info packet they sent gave me a pretty good sense of what pricing I should expect and when it was best to go buy the car. I know this clearly reads like a pitch of some kind, and by extension would indicate that I have something to gain by recommending it, but truth be told I was just really pleased with the deal I got after reviewing their material, and I feel that way just about every time I get in the car (despite the fact its a manliness- compromising mini-van). Maybe it can prove useful to your readers too…

  6. JC in Va says:

    There are three reasons:

    1) Unique customers want to be treated uniquely and they aren’t.
    2) Un-necessary complexity littered in the process.
    3) Too much effort on behalf of the consumer to get through the veil or secrecy that has been part of the industry paradigm.

    What has worked best for me is to dictate tempo. Go to ConsumerReports.org and get a subscription and then order the car buying option ($12/car). It will save you 000′s in $$$ and hours of time.

    When I got my last car, I modeled my car on consumerreport.org, went to a dealer for a test drive and then followed their directions perfectly. I even told them “look I know the price, I went to consumer reports and this is what I will pay or go elsewhere”.

    Got the price I wanted and they didn’t even try to sell me any extended warranties. Best experience for me yet.

    I am writing a book about this that should be out next summer. My blog is everyexperiencecounts.blogspot.com

  7. GB says:

    I assume that the luxury brands can afford to hire better sales people that understand treating constumers well is vital to selling expensive vehicles.

    I was interested in a used GM truck a few years ago. I was with a salesperson looking at one and he asked me if we can talk numbers. I wasn’t interested in that truck but I asked if he had another he said no and walked back into the dealership and never came back out. Just left me out in the lot. lol. Let’s just say I didn’t buy from that dealership. Why would you break off a relationship with a potential customer? I guess it’s because you want/need to sell something imediately so you don’t care about one person.

  8. Rightline says:

    Unfortunatel, this won’t help with Barry’s vehicle search as it is a new model that has few if any sales. The Edmunds forums offer alot of useful information that can arm buyers before they enter the showroom. Of course, much like a stock blog comment board you will need to filter out all the (mis)information. Search the vehicle of choice and find the prices paid/buying experience area. The info is highly regionalized but I found it very useful to navigate the traps such as etching, documentation fee, important to know dealer cash back incentives, etc….

    http://www.carspace.com/csGroups

  9. tawm says:

    I had a great experience with Prestige Lexus over in Jersey (I live in CT) by e-mail. Once the salesman saw I was serious (i.e. offering to give him my CC for a down payment). he met my offer (like Barry posted above) with a firm quote — just turned down my request for an outrageous trade-in value. I would check on Edmunds.com for satisfied buyers of your vehicle / similar deals, and approach a regional dealer directly by e-mail.

  10. beaufou says:

    Get a quote online from carsdirect and let them know how much you can get the car for.
    They’ll get a quote for you.

  11. JamesR says:

    I agree. Fightingchance.com is worth $35. If you want someone to contact the dealers for you, here’s non-profit service –

    http://www.checkbook.org/auto/carbarg.cfm

  12. ModAuto says:

    There are several reasons why you and most people find car shopping a terrible experience:

    1. Car dealers may be the most legally protected business in the history of man. Auto dealers have tremendous amounts of pull in state legislatures, and over the years have built up a fortress of laws that protect them from the forces other retailers face. Most auto dealers are family-owned businesses, for better and worse, because the franchise can be passed from generation to generation. Automakers can’t compete with them directly — hence no factory competition — and if they want to cut them, they have to pay for the value of the dealership, which the dealer gets to set in many cases.

    2. Most new-car dealers make very little to no profit on the actual sale of a vehicle. There are several web sites that will let you know exactly what a dealer paid to get that 370Z off the hauler; incentives can scramble the prices further, and some dealers will discount vehicles just to move them.

    The real money comes from other parts of the transaction: arranging financing, add-ons (spolier packages, etc.) and extended service plans. Used vehicles also tend to be better moneymakers, and the service departments help balance out economic swings; when people aren’t buying, they’re fixing what they have.

    All this means your dealers are trying to maximize their profits on your sale from several angles. In the mind of many dealers, any piece of information they give you — like a quote — only hurts them at this point. The fact you’re also chosen a brand-new and fairly low-production model that will be in high demand for the next several months also gives them an advantage. You’re not the only guy asking after the 370Z, and some of those people will be glad to walk into the dealership, pay the sticker and leave.

  13. danm says:

    Obviously they are not suffering yet.

    Their business plan is totally diconnected from the car maker’s business woes until the latter goes belly up… and even then they are dumbfounded!

  14. Bruce in Tn says:

    The problem, Barry, is that you want this particular car too much. Salesmen see this. Look at your 370 Z Roadster link..your last question in that link shows you are already hooked. It doesn’t have to be this high end car, the Miata when it was first introduced with it’s innovative styling sold for a premium for a few months…and it now is just considered another lower end sports car.

    My guess would be that the deal will be consumated within a week or two on the dealer’s terms. I believe one of my favorite groups had a song about what you are going through now….”Simply Irresistable”…

    Good Luck.

    ~~~

    BR: All I did was request a quote — and if I have to, I will get a different car (I am not married to this one).

  15. crosey says:

    If you’re a USAA member, you’re in luck. EXCELLENT car buying service offered by them. You do your research ahead and determine what you want, let them know, they negotiate and save you a ton of money, and you just show up and take delivery.

  16. Marcus Aurelius says:

    If you want to know the cost up front, you’ll have to buy a Saturn.

  17. Rikky says:

    what i don’t understand is why anyone in their right mind would buy or lease a new vehicle. you get whacked hard as soon as the car rolls off the lot. best price point is a 2-3 year old car treated well with low miles. i’d rather use my money more wisely like investing in the stock market lol

  18. b_thunder says:

    Other options? Infinity G37 – essentially the same car with a luxury badge. maybe you’ll get satisfactory treatment by hte “luxury brand” dealers…. or get a GT-R!

  19. ArtE says:

    I own a Scion that I built and received quote online for it.

    It was a hassle free experience when I dealt with the dealer. They viewed what I did online, located the vehicle in the regional network, transferred it in, added a few extras, and did prep.

    They called, I came in, signed papers, wrote a cheque, and drove away without any of the normal anger/trauma that car buying usually entails.

    Very satisfied to not experience the old “normal.”

  20. dead hobo says:

    BR lamented:

    Why Is Buying a Car Such a Bad Experience?

    reply:
    ——–
    It’s probably you. You are probably a poor negotiator, but probably think you are an excellent one because you are otherwise so successful in so many other areas.

    Like anything else, if you are willing to educate yourself and make the effort, you can buy a car at a good price, or at least a better price than if a salesman sees you salivating and knows your wife insists on this particular model. (Even with the latter deficiency, your problem is not particularly insurmountable if you know how to buy things.)

    First you need a little knowledge. Then a plan. Then you need to work the plan and make a few personal connections along the way. I won’t tell you the rest because this is something you should learn on your on.

    Yoiur current approach makes an invisible “rube of the year’ mark on your forehead. Best wishes.

  21. Dead Hobo,

    I asked for an online quote — What does that have to do with negotiating skills?

  22. beaufou says:

    If you have some spare time, you can also read this:
    http://www.edmunds.com/advice/buying/articles/42962/page001.html

    A good look into the car salesmen world and good advice.

  23. rileyx67 says:

    Consumers Reports another excellent service to determine what you should pay. My most hilarious experience was in early 70′s when MY Missus wanted something sportier and we tried to order a new Camaro but with standard transmission. Salesman says car not available that way, need pay for either optionals five speed manual or automatic! Feigned incredulity that a vehicle would be built without a transmission till he left to talk with his manager and “learned” that I was right!

  24. dead hobo says:

    Barry Ritholtz Says:
    October 13th, 2009 at 9:08 am

    I asked for an online quote — What does that have. To do with negotiating skills?

    reply:
    ———
    You are using a computer, but dealing with a person. If you treat a person like a computer, you won’t get anything back that’s worth much unless you are dealing with someone who is hyper conscientious to an almost pathological degree.

    Remember there’s a person on the other end and start from that point. Do you have a telephone? You might want to use it along with the computer. Show some initiative. Don’t be so passive in your efforts and expect the other side to give up whatever you ask just because you showed up.

  25. phb says:

    Dead Hobo you are so wrong in so many way that all I can do is laugh at you. The car buying experience is painful for a simple reason – time value of money. Barry, your time is valuable and playing the cat and mouse game is rigged against you. The salesperson does not value your time at the same level as you and therefore frustration is the only possible result.

    The reason you will not receive a quote for the nice ride described above is that the dealership has ZERO benefit from quoting you a price. Enough meat-eaters will write a check for the sticker plus “market-adjustment” price that being fair and honest with you is an unreasonable response.

    Good luck – set your eyes on a few other cars that may itch that scratch (Porsche perhaps?) and be prepared to pay too much in order shorten your shopping experience. Time value of money….

  26. dead hobo says:

    phb,

    you sound like a man who pays list price and brags about it. Sucker.

  27. Thoughtlessness be damned says:

    I listened to a really interesting podcast a while ago about this very subject.

    It was an interview with a car dealer about why car buying is the way it is.

    My conclusion after listening to the interview is that essentially the purchase is a big enough emotional purchase for most car buyers that the sales folks look for every possible angle to milk the customer for all they can. The sales folks have the opportunity to make enough additional cash on the sale by working over the customer that it is worth the risk of pissing the customer off and loosing the sale.

    Here is a link to the web page for this podcast.

    http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2008/06/cole_on_the_mar.html

    Hope this is helpful, good luck with your car purchase.

  28. Bruce in Tn says:

    Barry,

    I agree with dead hobo…online quotes, in my experience, are a dealer’s game…I have been less than impressed with these also. Things that work are walking away if you are not satisfied. (They will call you the next day….), doing homework prior to a showroom visit, getting several quotes…it all amounts to time if you want to save $$…

    Besides, you know you have to have it. Kelly’s Blue Book says MSRP is 41, invoice is 38, and people right now should expect to pay MSRP.

    Let us know what you finally pay for it, will you?

  29. randomletters says:

    Barry, the answer to your question (why the bad service) is in the incentives.

    Dealerships pay salesmen primarily at the close, and they assign commissions on a rotating basis, based upon contacts. What I found (when I last purchased a new car) was that if you write to the dealership for email, the returned reply does not get assigned to a particular salesman. So, for them, answering the email was all the work, or no commission.

    One or two dealerships were different – they assigned ALL the email deals to one salesman, but given the volume paid a low commission. Not much incentive to do a lot of work. (One of them flatly told me that he used this as a tool to get people to come in – answering nothing via email. He got a higher commission if you walk in and ask for him.)

    Even if you go into a dealership, these folks tend to “qualify” you on sight, and decide if you are serious. If you are, they put in great effort. If you are, in their eyes, just looking – you won’t get much help. In their eyes, giving a competitive quotation over the email or phone gives you better tools to shop around and compete on price. They want to “develop a relationship” and have you invest time and effort in developing one, too. The more you psychologically commit, the harder for you to walk on a deal.

    They don’t get it. The dealerships don’t provide the proper incentives to have a salesman make the sale over email.

    You might want to consider calling dealerships and asking for their fleet sales manager, and emailing him. Those guys are used to dealing on price over “relationships” and will probably proceed in a more business-like fashion.

  30. belocki says:

    i have no affiliation with this site, but try http://www.truecar.com.

    very interesting site which shares the real selling price of the car. also a very good blog on when to buy a car, down to the specific day of the month.

  31. highside says:

    I have to agree with phb, its a time value equation.
    Suffering great angst over not paying the lowest price seems a very American pastime.
    If you want a low price you have to invest time and effort into finding a range of cars that approximately meet your needs, research dealers etc etc.
    If that sort of thing turns you on or you are buying a car that is a stretch for your finances (should you really be buying it?)good for you but if you find it a pain in the arse identify the car you want and a reputable dealer and pay the price.

    You wont have bragging rights at the negotiator convention but you will have time to reread War and Peace in the time you save and do you really enjoy those negotiator conventions anyway!

  32. I agree that the car buying experience is one of the least efficient and most frustrating experiences that you can have. However, I’ve bought two new cars in the last 8 mths and thankfully, I don’t plan on having to go through this process again for ten+ years.

    I emailed every Lexus dealer in the Northeast looking for a price on a specific vehicle. About 20% responded with a firm quote. Negotiating a trade-in was a little trickier, but I told them that I was coming in with a check, my clear title to my trade and my trade in on March 31. I’d have the car off their lot by closing time so it would count toward their monthly quota.

    Eventually, Prestige Lexus (300 miles from me in Upstate NY) agreed via email and I completed the transaction the next day. On a separate note, if you want to see a good example of the excesses of the bubble years you should visit their showroom. Their landscaping bill must be higher than the average gross profit of most dealers. It’s silly.

    I had an old f-150 for towing my boat that I scraped during cash for clunkers. I followed the same process and emailed each dealer directly (this is a key point – websites like carsdirect tend to produce automatic responses – if you email them directly you usually get a response from a salesperson). Since I was buying a mass produced vehicle – Honda Civic – the prices were all pretty similar. I took the best quote to my local dealer and asked them to match that price. They matched it and I signed the papers in 10 minutes. Really, really easy.

    Having said that, BR is looking for a highly specialized new vehicle that will have decent demand. It’s a difficult to get a deal on a car like this.

  33. dead hobo says:

    BR,

    I’ll just cut to the chase.

    Find out who sells what you want. Look regionally. Find out how committed Mrs BR is to that particular ride. Be a salesman and offer a few nice substitutes to Mrs BR if you can’t get any movement from the top choice sellers. If she is stubborn, then pay up and get it over with. If not, then you have something to work with and you no longer have an emotional weakness to cripple you.

    Go online and check inventory at these dealers. Find out who handles online sales and make a connection. Use email first. Phone and email other dealers and make sure the people you are talking to know you are shopping by phone first. Develop relationships. Hammer out a deal over the phone before you even set foot on the lot. Be assertive. No is the word you hear before you hear Yes, but don’t waste your time on losers.

    Plan to spend a couple of half days on it. I should charge you for this.

    ~~~

    BR: Good advice!

    You should charge me for this — I should charge you for the blog — let’s call it even!

  34. perogy says:

    I bought a Jetta TDI in July and traded in a 1989 Crown Victoria in San Antonio TX.

    I dreaded going in but the salesman was a professional. I got the car I wanted with no BS.

    It was the best experience I ever had.

    I feel lucky because buying a car is usually a horror show.

    I wish you luck.

  35. Ny Stock Guy says:

    I wish buying a car was like buying shoes at Sears. The final price is displayed for all to see. No sales people involved. Just pick what you want from the pile of choices.

    I hate buying cars so much, I just let my girlfriend do it. She seems to enjoy shopping around, negotiating and talking to sales people. I would rather slit my throat than talk to a car salesman.

  36. franklin411 says:

    I agree with Hobo about the online thing. The person who is likely to request an online quote is either:

    A. Too busy to shop around and willing to pay top dollar for the convenience

    or

    B. Too chicken to deal with a salesman and willing to pay top dollar to avoid the experience.

    My solution? Don’t buy unpatriotic foreign cars; get yourself a Ford Fusion! =)

  37. BostonObserver says:

    I used FightingChance as well – twice in fact – and found it to be very helpful. Best advice was to wait until year end, decide what you want (down to the last detail), request quotes via fax (yeah, old school), then visit the dealer that can deliver with checkbook in hand, ready to negotiate final price. Bought two cars this way and got great deals both times. I should note that on both occasions I went to the dealer at 6PM on December 31st to start negotiating. Amazing how year-end bonuses and a ticking clock can motivate the salesforce.

  38. beaufou says:

    franklin411
    I disagree, I went online, requested quotes from cars direct, printed them out, checked the dealers lot online then visited the one who had the car I wanted(Ford Edge) and asked him what he could do for me.

    I got 7k off.

  39. Chief Tomahawk says:

    “Can anyone out there explain to me: Why is this such an ordeal? ”

    =================================================================

    BR, my last car purchase ended up in me suing the dealer for fraud. Took 1.5 years to resolve, but I received the maximum judgement. I still remember the sales guy taking a call from his ex-wife right in front of me: she was sending him the five kids for the weekend without and warning; he slams the phone down and locks up in anger. Takes a minute for him to “come back.” I should’ve left right then and there… but I did get the equivalent of a free car by the time it was all said and done. Fyi: the dealership went out of business two years later…

    In your case (and I haven’t had time to read every reply in this thread), why not send the same e-mail to all four dealers with their names visible in the “To:” line? Tell them you want to only deal with whoever will supply a quote. See what happens.

  40. Mannwich says:

    I agree, Barry. I’m thankful we won’t be buying a new car any time soon (within the next 3-5 years). The whole experience leaves one feeling like they’ve been had. It’s nearly as bad as buying a house. ;-)

  41. Bruce in Tn says:

    @Boston Observer:

    that is very good advice.

  42. JamesR says:

    Edmunds has several 370Z forums:
    http://townhall-talk.edmunds.com/direct/view/ed_displayMakeModelRelatedDiscussions!make=Nissan&model=370Z

    This one (Buying costs) says:
    http://townhall-talk.edmunds.com/direct/view/.f1c1222!make=Nissan&model=370Z&ed_makeindex=.f1c1222

    “Go to some of the other 370Z forums. Many people are now buying at invoice. Some have bought below invoice. The initial buzz/early buying of the 370Z is actually dropping faster than the collective Nissan franchises had anticipated…….Altima and the new Maxima sales are stalling. Pockets of 370Z inventory are appearing. Nissan’s cash flow is becoming a bigger problem than earlier thought according to some insiders (don’t ask). If you pay more than invoice, you are paying too much. Be patient and good luck.”

  43. phb says:

    Dead hobo – you sound like a car salesman… Seriously dude, get over yourself. Personally, my car buying habits are to either lease new or buy used. Never paid sticker. However, I have wasted too much time in the past at a dealership “negotiating” over a few hundred or even a $1000 bucks only to realize that in the same amount of time I could have done something more productive. To waste time developing a relationship with an asshat like hobo is not something I am interested in, so I happily pay a few extra bucks to get out of the dealership asap. The last car I leased was through the local BMW shop – completed entirely by email in less than an hour. I drove my trade, wrote a check, and drove away in my new ride, happy that I didn’t waste time on the Dead hobo’s of the world.

  44. Jim Greeen says:

    Hey Barry, I’m surprised by you…why so passive.???

    Do a little research, find out the cost to the dealer, plus it by 10% and see what happens.

    Don’t wait for the dealer to be proactive. You be the proactive one. You take command of the deal after all it’s your money.

  45. DuchessGateau says:

    Try shopping in person first and test driving, then:
    1. Using Computer Reports’ service, compute the cost of the car, detailing the cost of each feature you want.
    2. Add a fair profit to the total.
    3. Fax this, along with your offer, to the dealer. When they see you are willing to pay the standard price for each feature plus a reasonable profit, they will realize they have little room to haggle, and they can decide quickly whether to take your offer.
    Highly desirable sports cars can be more complicated to negotiate, because a good salesman can get much more than the sticker price for these cars.

  46. Lawrence M says:

    I just bought a car recently and I figured out the game theory behind it. If I ask one dealer for a quote, he won’t give it to me written b/c then I can take that to another dealer who will beat it. Furthermore, even when they agree a price, they will do their best to make car-buying such a hassle b/c they really don’t want to sell you the car for that low a price, but it will keep you in the dealership long enough so that you don’t have time to go to another dealer but you get pissed off with this dealer so you go to another dealer and he does the same thing with you. That’s when you get disheartened that every dealer is an a-hole and you might as well settle on what they are offering. And that second dealer has no incentive to break the collusion b/c he’s working for a commission too.

    However, the trick is to go early in the month and haggle. And when you get pissed and walk away, they’ll continue calling you and they’ll still yank you around for the next couple wks but after that, you’ll find out if they’re really desperate to meet their quotas and sell you the car for how much you asked.

  47. Transor Z says:

    Barry, you made my day with this post. I thought it was just me.

    Back in the spring I did 90% email shopping, knew the two models and required features. It was freaking like pulling teeth!

    A few weasely dealerships dangled teaser quotes out there that “mysteriously” sold after I bit.

    I think the dealerships HATE that this is a buyers market right now and haven’t adjusted their attitudes.

    Ended up getting what I wanted for 40% off of MSRP. Friends/family have gotten even better deals. But the whole ordeal took about 30 days more than I think it should have.

  48. joemath says:

    Barry,

    This excellent site shows actual dealer cost and actual sales prices in your area:

    http://truecar.com/

    Enter the make, model, and zip code, and everything is displayed graphically.

    The model you’re looking at is new, so sales info is limited. But for most other vehicles, there’s a lot of valuable, easy-to-understand information on this site.

    –Joe

  49. steve glista says:

    Heh, why do I only comment on your car posts?

    1. man oh man, why not the 2008 M coupe? Sure, you’d have to get a used one now, but wow, what a hot car. I guess that with your aversion to the paddle shifters, maybe it’s off your list :-D

    2. I love the GTR but it’s a pretty masculine-looking car… not sure they made it with the Mrs. in mind. [BR: She likes the GTR, but insists on a stick (what a woman!)]

    3. what randomletters says: you’ve got the one nerd (or even worse, the secretary) in the office who knows how to type actually answering all the email email, but he (she) doesn’t have the authority to actually close a deal, and worse, no compensation incentive to put any work into it. So you get a form letter and a “please come talk to the asshole who can’t type but will actually make a commission off your purchase.”

  50. flipspiceland says:

    If you’re truly unwilling to sacrifice a mid-life crisis, then forget the car.

    Buy a Harley, BMW or Triumph motorcycle. With two helmets.

  51. fatpunx says:

    You have the book of the year according to the most recent post….buy the car, impress the wife and get back to work!!!!!!

    bruce bennett in wilton/redding is the place to go (i dont work there but have made several purchases)

    you have to at least drive the GT-R (and then buy it)

    good luck and get back to figuring out how much that two seater will be worth when CPI hits double digits

    ~~~

    BR: GTR has no manual option — thats a deal killer (and the missus likes the GTR, too!)

  52. dsawy says:

    When we last bought a vehicle, we found that we received the same response from dealers when dealing with them via the web and email.

    When I faxed a letter to each of seven dealers’ fleet manager, I got our vehicle for invoice. The dealers were still making about 3% from the holdback.

    Here’s what a lot of people don’t know about auto dealers: if you order a car with a configuration that they MUST order from the factory, they will take a deposit, they’ll draw up the paperwork and you will get your auto for a very minimal mark-up. The dealer knows a priori that the car won’t be sitting on his lot in a month after it arrives, he won’t have to pay interest on the loan from the auto company for financing his inventory sitting on the lot, etc. There’s no salesman overhead, no mechanics’ involvement, etc. The holdback for the dealer will allow for profit for the dealer even if he gives you the vehicle at invoice – and if he had to order the vehicle from the factory, he has almost no expenses in the deal other than the time to put in the order on his computer.

    In our case, we wanted a F-350 diesel Powerstroke with a manual transmission, without carpet and with a suspension package that is rarely ordered. Bottom line price was about $37K in 2000. The dealers kept wanting to sell us cars out of their inventory that were “close” in configuration, all of which were in the mid to high $40K range, loaded up with gee-gaws we didn’t need and didn’t want.

    We stood our ground: we had specific reasons for our configuration (especially the ‘no carpet’ issue) and by sticking to our guns, the dealers caved – in several cases, only minutes after receiving a fax in response to their first phone call back to us trying to sell us trucks on the lot.

    The response via email and web inquiries? Nothing but trucks off their lot and brush-offs.

  53. Space_Cowboy_NW says:

    Word: Craigslist….

    Out here, on the left coast, the (new and ‘pre owned’) dealers are bypassing the print media and discounting on Craigslist.

    exp: Bought (in June, before the cash/clunker hysteria) an ’08 328i sedan w/4600 miles on the clock (factory program car, never titled), 6 spd and various options stickered @ 41k. Bought for 28.5

    Rule #1 before entering ANY dealership: KNOW someone (gen/sales mgr or similar than can connect you) before entering.
    The shorter time you spend there, the less leverage they (the store) has!

    Rule #2 do not become attatched (emotionally or physically) to the game. There are a lot of owners trying (some desperately) to hold on to their corp aircraft, but cannot.

    variation on the theme: buy the model that is sitting (wait, this sounds like RE and equities) not the ‘hottie of the day’.

    Congrats on your choice:)

  54. dss says:

    This is a strategy that works for a friend of mine:

    There is a guy I know who gets the best prices on cars as he treats the process as if it were a joke, and not a negotiation. He knows his facts cold about the car he wants, he leaves his ego at the door. He tells them what car he wants, he tells them to don’t waste his time on the dealer add-ons, and that he is willing to buy today. “Give me your best price on XXX”. He is a reserved taciturn person by nature, so he never bothers with small talk regardless.

    i.e., if their first offer is 30k, the price he is willing to pay is 28k, he will say, 27k, not a penny more. He found out that he might get the car for 27.5, below what his well researched price was, as there are hold backs, price incentives, bonuses, etc. that his research did not discover. He says he has no shame when he does this as it is a game to him, he will walk if he cannot get the price we wants, but he says over the years he has made many incredible buys using this strategy. He also goes to buy a car at the EOD, EOM, EOY, as he knows that is when they NEED to sell a car, even if they make no profit, to meet quotas.

    Of course, this will not work with a car that is high demand, or one that is not out yet, but it is a good strategy for the average car purchase.

  55. dwkunkel says:

    Find the car you want on the lot, write down the dealer’s inventory number, walk past all the salesmen, and go to the fleet managers office. This person will give you the dealer’s lowest price on the car with no haggling.

    If you want to have some fun, make a really low ball offer on a car and then every time the salesman comes back with a counter offer, reply with an even lower offer. It drives them nuts!

  56. ZackAttack says:

    Everything is solved by price.

    I absolutely do not get why auto dealers and realtors have not simply been pre-empted by the internet.

    These guys need to get their asses disintermediated and have their margins killed like everyone else. Welcome to 2009!

  57. beagle says:

    Truecar.com looks slick. The one I used last time was http://www.opencarprice.com/ …kind of rough, but more data points, instead of averages.

  58. Andrew Krone says:

    Wow, I didn’t realize this topic would be so heated. Why are the buyers arguing?

    IT’S NOT US IT’S THEM!

    Back when I cared about a nice car I visited the dealer 3 times knowing what I wanted each time (Volvo Turbo S70 with with a few extras). It really helps the dealer if you just ignore them and just repeat what you want and how much you’re going to pay. Visiting 3 times over about 10 days also gets them tired of the game.

    I remember how little the sales people actually know on the cars their selling. They’re just carsales people and unless they demonstrate they know what they’re talking about AND they care what I came in for it’s really easy to just walk out. Of course, you need the time and the ability to be “rude”.

  59. Brian B says:

    In my experience the only way to buy a new car is by ordering it.

    Go to Edmunds, configure what you want the way you want and get the invoice price.
    Then call up the fleet manager of two or three dealers and see what they’ll charge you.
    Put in your order with the lowest dealer, wait a month or two and you have EXACTLY what you want at the price you want with zero haggling and zero hassle.
    We bought our last four cars that way from two different dealers and each time it was painless and satisfying.
    Why do it any other way?

  60. kcowan says:

    The 370Z Touring Roadster 6MT is priced at $40,520 USD and
    the $370Z Touring Roadster 7AT is $41,820 USD.

    http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2009/07/13/469601.html

  61. gstream says:

    franklin and hobo:

    What you guys are saying doesn’t make sense. If the email customer with no time (Barry) is a rube willing to pay any price, then the salespeople should be clamoring to answer his email with a quote. You make it sound like salespeople would rather spend all month negotiating with customers that have done their homework and are looking for the lowest price.

    If I was a salesperson I would be looking for the easy kill.

    This looks like a good opportunity for a fledgling automaker to bypass the dealers. Course people have been saying that for 100 years probably….

  62. newulm55 says:

    Carmax sales new nissans (they are not just for used cars), use the site find the car you link and get there no haggle price, then use that price to find out what you should pay for your z370. Even print the page out and hand it to your dealer, if they don’t meet / bet the price than walk!

    Its looking like the average discount is in the $3k range (so much for the hot new model).Here is the link to the 10 cars they have in stock:

    http://www.carmax.com/enUS/search-results/default.html?ANa=4294962436&N=4294966976+68&D=90&zip=60137&No=0&Ep=homepage:homepage%20Make&Rp=R&PP=20&sV=List&CD=662+14+240+190+398+9&Q=cc176d73-4a0f-45e5-9ce1-ef21ebc571b9

  63. Transor Z says:

    Email is the way to go IMO. It expands your effective range (out to 50 miles radius around Boston in my case), saves time, and helps you set your ceiling price. We have small kids at home so it’s the only way to go if you don’t have the time to physically shop around.

    FYI, the dealership salespeople on email/Internet are usually not floor sales staff. Sometimes you get a direct line to the GM/AGM, however, which also can save time. It also allows you to weed out the db’s and avoid wasting your time.

    We bought a 2008 model this past spring. Sales were so bad last year that there was a lot still in inventory. Not sure whether the dealerships have better control over inventory this season; I’m guessing they do.

  64. red_pill says:

    Barry,
    Anyone who buys a new car is begging to be ripped off anyway. If you know anything about cars, buy used. I don’t know about online quotes but the best used car deals are:
    1- auctions
    2- Auto Trader or a similar publication (look in your )
    3- Craig’s List

  65. fatelephant says:

    Lack of competition? Ultimately you are going to buy from the 4 or 5 dealers around your house?
    Also isn’t there some law preventing non-brick-and-mortar-dealers (manufacturers etc) from selling cars online?

  66. njtking says:

    Barry,

    Are you serious when you say that your wife does not like Audis…wut? Have you looked at an S5 or and A5 with the sport package.

    http://a332.g.akamai.net/f/332/936/12h/www.edmunds.com/pictures/VEHICLE/2010/Audi/2010.audi.s5.20304263-E.jpg

    http://a332.g.akamai.net/f/332/936/12h/www.edmunds.com/pictures/VEHICLE/2010/Audi/2010.audi.s5.20302802-E.jpg

    You really need to look at the S5. You should be able to swing it…I did at a third car.

    Cheers!

    ~~~

    BR: I like the S5 — she didn’t — and I drove the hell out of an RS4 on the track in Limerock

  67. socaljoe says:

    You’ll be much happier with a Porsche.

  68. as an aside, do people, still, believe that this doesn’t exist? http://automobiles.honda.com/civic-gx/faq.aspx
    ~~
    to the post, “These guys need to get their asses disintermediated and have their margins killed like everyone else. Welcome to 2009!” –ZackAttack, above

    the archaic State Laws that protect these peep are an Economic Cost, to put it mildly, that puts their Citizens at a significant disadvantage..
    ~~
    past that, this http://clusty.com/search?input-form=clusty-simple&v%3Asources=webplus&query=CNG+retrofit to me, should be a major initiative, if We’re, ever, going to get serious about Economic resource usage..
    ~~
    “If CARB would simply allow CNG conversion to be treated the same as the retrofit kits, we could convert thousands..”
    LSS: the Avenue has been, professionally, Bottlenecked by bodies, such as EPA, DOT, and CARB, for decades..
    http://clusty.com/search?input-form=clusty-simple&v%3Asources=webplus&query=CNG+retrofit+Roush

  69. David Merkel says:

    I grab data from the web on my target (used) car, and then run a multiple regression analysis to decide which offers to look at.

    http://alephblog.com/2008/03/14/personal-finance-part-15-how-i-buy-cars/

  70. Dave G says:

    I had a similar situation over the summer.

    I find it such a humiliating, frustrating, annoying experience. It’s designed to make a person – a normally confident intelligent well-rounded person – feel like an inadequate piece of crud.

    I did cash for clunkers. Had a crap VW Passat (white, natch), and it qualified (hurrah). Got quotes from all over the area (mostly Honda dealers, and one Subaru dealer in Jersey, can’t remember where, but a nice enough person, just FYI). Best one was in Paramus. We get there and guess what? Not honoring clunkers. So they tell me I can get $2100 back for my pile of crap (the “check engine” light was on, which is unfortunate, but they also wanted to gauge me on the damned scuffed bumpers). So the guy leaves me and my father alone to “talk” for a few minutes, in which time we surreptitiously call Nanuet NY, which is accepting clunkers. We got the hell outta there and ended up in Nanuet, which worked out very well. Got a great Honda CRV, sky blue, and it’s just wonderful. I love it. And finally feel a little better about buying cars (and my dad did a nice job being “bad cop” to my good cop).

    But in general, I hate it. I had one jerk from White Plains call me and tell me they’re going to set me up with some kind of VIP appointment (like at a strip club?), and I said, “but I’ve got other guys on the internet already beating you by $800. If you can come down to that, we can talk,” and they’re assuring me that they never get beaten on price blah blah blah, and it’s like, but if i can get a better price JUST BY SENDING AN EMAIL, then no, I’m not coming to your stupid-assed dealership.

    Idiots.

  71. Transor Z says:

    David Merkel, I’m going to take a wild guess that you don’t give girls’ names to your cars. :)

    Millennium Falcon or Deep Space 9 maybe…

  72. jwagner says:

    Three suggestions:
    - If you really want a Z, wait a bit until they’re a little more mundane. The dealers will try for a premium and probably get it until they’re stockpiled on the lots. Until that happens, internet sales aren’t interesting since they tend to be low margin deals.
    - Call the dealers you’re most interested in and get the name and e-mail of the internet sales manager. You might even talk to him. I’ve bought six new cars via the internet, sight unseen, with credit card deposits. All have been totally smooth, and with the exception of the Honda S2000 which was a “hard to get” car when I bought it back in 2002, paid $200 or less over invoice, including rebates. You can get invoice pricing from edmunds.com.
    - Look seriously at the Mazda MX-5 retractable hardtop. Great fun car (#3 on Motor Trend’s best driver’s cars list), reliable as hell, readily available and so less expensive, and the top goes down.
    Jim W.

  73. Christopher says:

    NissanSchmeesan…..Show the Mrs. one of these….
    http://www.porsche.com/usa/models/cayman/cayman-s/

    Much better value imho and I guarantee the sales staff won’t be a bunch of pikers.

  74. [...] Thanks for all the great comments on car [...]

  75. Drewbie says:

    I scratched BMW’s off my list when the “Microsoft inside” sticker appeared.

  76. Darmah says:

    Most reliable, most nimble, most fun sports car I’ve ever owned — Mazda MX-5. A blast to drive for not a lot of $$. A sweet overhead, twin cam four, six-speed manual. Does not have to be driven at reckless speeds to be fun. Like the Lotus Europa, MG or 1750 GTV I used to drive, only the Mazda’s on the road 99% of the time instead of in the shop 99% of the time. Spend thousands more on the badge if you must, but I can’t imagine more fun on the roads in upstate NY / New England than the Mazda. I currently own two.

    ~~~

    BR: We had a Mazda RX8 — great car!

  77. Mark Down says:

    Experience shows, people who are too excited about buying …don’t have any money!!!!!

  78. Not to be a dingus, but the depreciation hit as soon as you drive off the lot has put me off buying new :/

    I’d say go with a late-model off-lease/CPO car that has some warranty on it (or can have warranty added to it), or if it really isn’t going to be a transportation appliance, look into something that’s servicable by nearby independent wrenchers (cartalk.com had a pretty good DB of reliable mechanics) and interesting (such as a pre-iDrive M5 sleeper with Dinan tunechip and turbo ;) )…

    Or if you want a really exciting BMW:
    http://www.mustbeart.com/kb5mu/k1200lt/k1200lt-big.jpg ;)

    ps: built-in vehicle nav is a pain, they charge way too much for it and for map updates (if you can even find them after 2-3 years!!) and on a lot of these cars it isn’t touchscreen but manipulated via some hated hockey puck such as iDrive, though it’s much less likely to be stolen than a portable unit you forget to put in the glovebox..

  79. WaveCatcher says:

    I’m surprised Mr. Big Picture doesn’t like the beautiful new Z4. Although I can see why she does like the 370Z, that is a sweet car too.

    I happen to be a VP of Sales (Enterprise Software). I teach my team to be respectful and honor the client’s time. But on the other hand, don’t let yourself be used. Sales professionals aren’t lapdogs. I know it’s a stretch to call most car salespeople professionals, but even they know that their chances of making the sale are near zero if they can’t engage the customer on a personal level.

    The exception is the manager of fleet sales. They are more oriented to B2B sales, where time is valuable for both parties. B2B is a totally different game than B2C sales.

    The key is to take control of the process. Sending an email requesting a quote is not taking control.

    1. Use a buying service (USAA and AAA are excellent, they may charge a fee ($300-500) but what is your time worth? This is even better than getting your hands on the dealer’s invoice IMO.

    The buying agents have already done all the hard work, have established relationships with the fleet sales managers, etc. They can give you an honest idea of what you will end up paying for the vehicle because they see so many transactions. They’ll even deliver the car to you so you don’t have to deal with the dealer’s finance department. BTW, the finance department is where the Big Profits are made for the dealer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught the finance guy/gal attempting to rip me off. Most people can’t work an HP 12C, and have no idea how to calculate the cost of a jacked up interest rate. Stay out of the finance department as much as you can.

    2. For used cars, figure out what you want and check eBay Motors (no residual auctions) for the market price. This takes time, but it’s kinda fun if you enjoy the thrill of pursuit. I’ve bought two LX 470s on eBay, saved several thousand by going outside my market (Denver) to warm weather markets where AWD is not as highly valued (TX, CA). Even if you buy locally, you can use the market price (eBay) to help you negotiate with a seller that is being unrealistic.

    My 2c.

  80. danm says:

    And you guys were complaining about MSFT ;)

  81. Pat G. says:

    Buying a car is easy. Researching it is the difficult part. Have you done your homework? Probably not. Do you know what models, the make you’re interested in comes in? What options? What engines? What transmissions? What’s the warranty? What the MSRP is? Dealer invoice? Current rebate offer? Know all there is about the model of the make your interested in and you don’t need a salesman/quote. Go out to a dealers lot, take it for a spin and make them an offer. Not the other way around. Do not let success in other endeavors in your life make you complacent. That will always cost you in the end. Here are just two of the sites that I used for a year in order to track more than 50 crossovers, cars, pickups and SUVs before I bought a Sonata at a price which was less than an Elantra.

    http://www.kbb.com/

    http://www.edmunds.com/

  82. alaskanriley says:

    Costco car buyer. No fuss, I would think.

  83. Wes Schott says:

    BR-

    i doubt that too many car salespersons, or even car dealership owners are reading your blog

    i could be wrong, but, i think that the personality profile is different

  84. Wes Schott says:

    ok, it helps to read the post before reading the first comment by the poster and then commenting…huh?

    could it simply be that the price has not been set yet by Nissan?

    the uncertainty in the economy is reflected in uncertainty in pricing in the market place…and there is surely discretion in the pricing…profit or not

  85. cfish says:

    Barry, you feel the pain because you don’t enjoy the blood sport of negotiation. Just pay up. It’s not worth your time. I agree with Dead Hobo.

    I also believe that almost no luxury ‘fun’ car can beat the fun on an average motorcycle.

  86. toddie.g says:

    BR, before you commit to the 370 Z Roadster I suggest that you check out the Lexus SC 430. A month ago I bought a 2006 model in essentially new condition with just 21,400 miles for slightly less than $38,000 which is something I consider amazing since brand new the SC 430 sells for $67,000. You have to be
    a) crazy b) have a huge ego, or c) just be completely oblivious to the bargains that can be had for very recent luxury cars to buy brand new.

    While the 370 Z Roadster is indeed a hot looking car, it’s by no means any hotter than the SC 430 and you can’t compare the interior of the 370 Z to the SC 430. Lexus has done a masterful job making this car so damn luxurious inside, and the seats are beyond comfortable. Get a 3 year old Lexus with very low miles for the same money as a brand new 370 Z Roadster and you can’t go wrong. I can even buy an extended warranty on it for 5 years and 38,000 more miles (which will cover my annual driving) for just about $1300 and it will be serviced at a Lexus dealership for just $100 for any repair. Not to mention that Lexus’ reliability is incomparable.

    Finally, I should give a shameless plug to Chariots of Palm Beach for being a first class operation all the way and very forthright in negotiating a fair deal as soon as I indicated I was a cash buyer. Pleasure to deal with.

  87. Stick! Stick! Stick!

  88. buddy0329 says:

    Since these type of threads always seem to invite our car shopping experiences, here’s mine:

    Those quote engines are just sales leads for the dealerships. Many places wont bother responding with anything other than invitation to call someone or to schedule an appointment. I don’t think Barry will get far pursuing this.

    As a “car guy”, my new found take on the process is that if you really want a great deal you literally have to demonstrate to the seller that you don’t emotionally care about the car you are negotiating for, have no attachment to it whatsoever and be capable of walking away if things don’t go your way.

    About 3 years ago I had my mind set on a new Mercedes. Alas the variant I was looking for was not going to be available for several months. Instead of waiting, I ordered a less appealing model. It was a nice car, but it didn’t get the juices flowing like the one I was really lusting after.

    In the next month my conscious told me that I was settling for an okay but not great car (relatively speaking) that still cost quite a bit of money. Since I felt as if I wasn’t getting what I really wanted, nor could I really find anything in the marketplace that “did it” for me, I decided to lower my sights and save about $20k in the process and buy something cheaper. If I was going to settle, I was going to save some money doing so.

    After I decided to cancel delivery of the MB, I restarted my car search. I was amazed at the type of deals that I was able to negotiate at this point. I really didn’t “want” any other car out there, but I needed a new car. I was open to a range of possibilities as long as I felt as if I was getting something on my terms.

    I was amazed. It’s as if every dealer I encountered during my round 2 search could tell that I didn’t really care about their product. If they wanted to sell me, they would have to do it on price. I always thought I was an “okay” negotiator, but what this process taught me is that one of the few ways you can exert power in these negotiations is to be able to demonstrate to your sales counterpart that their wares are not special, but simple commodities. If for some reason they think their product exploits some kind of need that no other car can meet, as salesmen they will exploit that.

    Unfortunately for Barry, his post is about a very emotional type of purchase, a sports car. A yet to be released sports car. Supply and demand at introduction will largely determine his fate as well as how good a poker face he can put on. Good luck.

  89. investorinpa says:

    Barry, was the gist of your question ever answered? Did you ever get someone to quote you a price?

    Also, did you figure out why the car shopping experience is so bad? I know the intent of the posting, but don’t know if you found the answer you agree upon.

  90. bitmap says:

    I know this is late but no one ever addressed why car dealers act the way they do. The reason Barry got a blizzard of spam instead of a quote, is because it’s more profitable to fish for suckers, rather than sell cars as a straight retailer. They hope you’ll show up at the dealership and if they size you up as rube they can turn a quick 10k from you. On the average, it must be more rewarding to do business that way. But then again, at GM and Chrysler, not so much. By the way, being frugal is a laudable trait , but not when it comes to crash performance (trust me, I work in an ER) dump the Chrysler.

  91. V says:

    Also, why aren’t more cars sold direct to customer in the same way computers are? I don’t see any benefit of having these middlemen.

    Could always try this approach:
    A mate of mine used to date woman who’s fathers were car dealers. That way you’d get the car at wholesale price and could forget about the dealer entirely.

    Time for an extramarital affair perhaps? :-)

  92. O2 says:

    BMW = wankermobile

  93. susa says:

    Barry,

    Do this (had *precisely* same experience on another top end make last month)

    1. Respond to each of the otherwise squrvy emails with offers, pitches, etc.
    2. Reply back to the From: and any other signature line email addresses (the address may be different from the automatic robot emailer)
    3. Ask for the price and state you are ready to buy today.
    4. If you know of one-two local dealers within 50 mile range, go to their website and send same email to their Contact_Us address

    I had my desired car at the price I wanted in 24 hours. All negotiation was handled via email.

  94. decius says:

    You can get a C Class MB with a standard in the states.

  95. JT says:

    Barry,

    Have your wife drive the 2010 S5 as well as the 370Z. The fit, finish and refinement of a Nissan is a laughing stock when compared to an Audi and the 2010 S5 is a thing of beauty. The only problem is the S5 stands out everywhere and the 370Z is virtually invisible in comparison.

    Best

  96. techperson says:

    BR – Don’t buy a car. Have your business buy the car, in your name, if you want. Fax the same RFQ to three or four dealers describing exactly what you want. The fax comes from your CFO. It will be obvious there are no emotions involved. Two or three will respond. Hit the low offer and be done.

  97. Good idea!

    I was planning making the purchase via the company too

  98. rsoderberg says:

    Mazda made it stunningly easy for us to purchase a rare, hard to find car last year.

    My girlfriend bought an automatic hardtop Miata, which is virtually impossible to find the traditional way. The Mazda website told her precisely where she could find it in her color, with the specified list of packages. There were two, total, in the nearest four states to our home, so we ended up flying to Los Angeles where the other one was listed. The dealer refused to negotiate at all, as they knew (from the same system we used to find them) that they had the last car of her type; Mazda does not maintain any excess inventory in the hardtops. She drove it off the lot 24 hours after she decided she wanted it, looked it up on the Mazda website, and hopped on a Southwest flight to buy it. Best experience ever.