Cyber Haggling

Car salespeople are entitled to make a fair commission on a sale. And I'm entitled to avoid the usually grueling process of buying a car. Internet technology makes both possible.

Buying a car can be like stepping into a dealer's well oiled machine. Inside the machine is an incredibly effective process designed to break down buyer and leverage seller. Oh, it's fair, I suppose -"caveat emptor" and all of that. It's simply not always fun.

Some people dig the typical car buying process. They thrive on price negotiation, tactic dodging, catching that betraying twitch in a poker face and the bluffs that can expose the best deal. I'm not good at it. I don't like it. I don't like a sales person to smother me with a rapport that I don't feel yet. I don't want to sit in an office for fifteen minutes (multiple times) while my sales person runs to the manager with my latest offer and comes back with nothing close. And if you are slowly nodding, then you're probably like me.

That method of buying a car is over for me. Just as patients are now presenting their doctors with printouts of Internet-researched symptoms, car buyers are entering dealerships armed with information that can throw a wrench into "the machine" and leverage the buyer -a bit more.

Edmunds.com is a resource that will not only show the published dealer invoice of any car, but will reveal, on average, what other buyers are paying for it. If that isn't enough info, it has a forum in which car buyers share exactly what they paid for which car, which options and at which dealership. It's a non-negotiator's dream! Consumers are going to dealerships with printouts and asking for deals already worked out by people who went through the machine!

I looked at a new car last week. With the test drive finished, I was ready to buy -so I went home. On Edmunds.com I requested pricing from four local dealers stating that I wanted an Internet sale. Replies came from three Internet Sales Managers insisting that I call or visit them in person so they could hook me up to the machine. "But what's your title mean?" I replied via email.

Only one salesperson worked with me completely online. (Ben Girmay, Toyota of Hollywood) The negotiation was a painless, four-email process over a day with no inconvenience to either of us. With my final price and all my questions answered in writing, I arrived at the dealership to sign papers and get my car. I was still skeptical and expected a fragment from the car buying machine to fly off and hit me once I was in the dealership. But Ben respected our Internet negotiation and even bought me lunch while I signed paperwork and waited for my new car to be gassed up and washed. I drove off the lot in a great mood. By using the Internet, I knew I got a good deal and the experience was pleasant, thanks to a sales person willing to use the technology with me.

It's been a week now and I've received emails from Ben, making sure I'm still happy.

Ironically, next time I need a car, I'll probably go visit Ben in person from the get go.

1 Response

  1. Dad Neil
    Good "blog" Geoff. I am sure the dealership and salesperson appreciated it. Hopefully as they share it with others it will help break down the typical attitudes that you are trying to avoid.

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