Yep, someone actually used that line on us. If I hadn’t been so tired, I would probably have burst out laughing. The guy was high pressure, no finesse.
The basic fact is that car salesmen seem to have a special kind of math that I don’t understand. Which is to say, I see through it.
C’mon, you can only juggle the numbers around so much. And eventually, if you stare at that paper for more than five seconds, you’ll begin to see the cracks in their logic. How does this really fool anyone?
Maybe it’s just the instant gratification culture or maybe Americans really are that bad at math. All I know is that these dealerships seemed to be doing pretty well, so it’s a tad terrifying that their arguments were so flimsy.
We went to look at a 2010 Jetta with 30,000 miles on it. I saw an Internet price of $11,995 — or thought I did. When I actually brought it up, they had no idea what I was talking about. When I tried to pull up the price on the website, I couldn’t find it. Even after I went home and used my own computer because, yes, I am that distrusting.
I swear I triple-checked the price and the dealership. I even went back and checked some of the other dealerships and I couldn’t find the graphics I had seen. So my only guess is that it was a President’s Day special, since, by the time I checked it, the official dealership hours were over and any specials might have been removed. But the salesmen swore up and down that they hadn’t had any such thing on the site.
Point being, they ended up trying to talk us into buying before we left. I expected it, but I just wasn’t prepared for it. It was surreal.
Rather than really bargaining much on the price, they just kept bending the numbers. When we weren’t comfortable with the total, they didn’t bring the price down so much as offer us 0% down financing. Um, if I’m not comfortable paying a lot, why on earth would I be comfortable paying it over a longer period of time?
The guy even suggested that this way we could keep our down payment in the bank and let it earn interest. A much better way to spend than, say, putting it against a 6.15% car loan. Yeesh.
To his credit, Tim kept his cool. We both really liked the car, and Tim’s ADD can make him a little blind to financial realities. But with something this big, he was even more jaded than I was. Part of it, I think, is that he was confident he could talk them down. Having been in sales, he had a good read on them. But I like to think that part of it is just his sense of freedom that came with getting out of debt. He doesn’t particularly want to go back in.
I’ll admit, though, I was tempted. It was a nice car, it drove well. I think maybe one day we’ll consider getting one. But not at the prices they wanted. And certainly not with a $2,000 “care package” that was just a lot of hot air.
I think one of the most frustrating things about car shopping is that these guys genuinely seem to believe that you’re buying their spiel. It becomes almost condescending, when they’re talking about these great values.
In one case, a salesman tried to convince me to get a nicer version of the car that had things like alloy wheels. Because, when you’re the kind of person who was perfectly happy with an ’01 Cavalier, you totally care about alloy wheels. When I said we didn’t need it, he indicated that, while I might not, Tim probably would. Actually, Tim cares more about the color than any add-ons like that.
Another form of condescension: They don’t take you seriously when you are clearly not ready to buy. Yes, it’s their job. But they’ll be a lot more likely to see me again if they can recognize when someone is really determined to think about it and come back. There are a couple places that we won’t be going to again, because they thought they could talk me into a rash decision when we had repeatedly explained that we were waiting on a couple of important pieces of information — like what our car will be valued at.
On the other hand, maybe I should play along. The more sure they are that they’ve got a sucker, the less on-guard they’ll be for when we start playing hardball. In which case, to paraphrase a long-ago but still awesome commercial, I’ll ask about a lipstick mirror.