Saturday, February 14, 2009

Six Dos and Don'ts of Car Buying in 2009 (and more)


There's no shortage of new car buying advice out there, so here's some more. Your Unhumble Car Czar's Six Dos and Don'ts of New Car Buying, which by the power vested in me by me supersede all previous, out-of-date new car buying advice:

1. Do ... Dealer Prep
Walking into a car dealership to get advice on which car to buy? Be prepared to be taken for a ride. Instead, spend some time on the internets, decide what you want, read the reviews, pore over the specs until three in the morning, and crunch the numbers over a good, hot, cup of black coffee the next morning. Take some test drives if you don't believe everything you read on the internet.

If you've decided on a Hemi Dodge Ram pickup with chrome wheels, a short, useless bed, and every other Stylin' ... not Workin' showboat option, congratulations: you can probably whack at least 15 grand off the sticker in 2009, the Chinese Year of the WTF? A Pickup Truck with 50-series Tires?

If you've decided on a new 72 mpg Honda Insight, congratulations: you're going to pay sticker plus ADM* Welcome back to the 80s.

Everything between clown trucks and trendy hybrids is still more negotiable than ever today. Use dealer invoice as your guide to fair new car prices, knowing that there's still all sorts of hidden dealer money like "holdback" and a few billion dollars previously ripped off from consumers in "advertising charges," "PremiumSeal Undercoating," and "DiamondCoat Paint Protectant" ... not to mention ADM*

2. Don't ... be one of those weenies who comes into the dealership waving-around "Hey Look! I Found the True Price on the Internet!" papers
You didn't find the true price on the internet. The dealer is always going to know more about the true price of a car than you will. Use web-sourced invoice prices as a guide, and be certain that the dealership will ultimately let you know whether you've made them an offer they can't refuse. Whatever you do, don't take the salesman's word for it. A good offer is one that gets you a car. A bad offer is one that doesn't.

3. Do: forget all the "car-buying expert" advice about refusing to say you have a trade-in until the last minute or refusing to negotiate payments instead of total price
These lame tactics are for people who can't do math and/or can't negotiate. They at best tell the salesfolk that you can't do math and/or can't negotiate.

Figure out what you want for your trade before you talk with a dealer. Figure out what you're offering on the new car, including the cost of financing, if needed ... do the 36-to-72-month conventional loan payment math on it, and discuss the numbers any way the salesman wants to shell-game them. Unless you like sitting around at a car dealership for hours on end playing games, all you care about is the total cost of the deal, period.

4. Don't ... take anyone with you, unless he/she is half of a great tag team
Leave your thinks-out-loud and/or gives-you-quizzical-looks friend or significant other in the paint color swatch aisle at Home Depot. How can you play poker with a third wheel? If you need a co-signer, call when the loan papers are on the desk.

5. Don't ... pick-up shiny things until the deal is done
Some salesmen may put your shiny new key fobs on the desk in front of you along with branded coffee mugs or umbrellas when they sense ye and thee reaching climax. Touch these baubles or so much as look lustfully upon them before the papers are signed and the price of your car goes up three percent. They've got cameras watching you for any sign of submission. Really.

6. Do ... be ready to buy
Car salesmen are trained to get you to "buy today," and they've mastered the pressure tactics to get you to close the deal quickly.

Why shouldn't you enjoy the ride?

You've done your research and have the numbers in your head. Get these guys excited, tell them you want the car, and make your more-than-fair lowball offer. The pressure is on them now. If they don't come close to your offer, thank them for their time and go get yourself a McDonald's Cappuccino ('Cause, remember: Better than *$ and Cheaper than *$. It's 2009 in America: Don't walk around with a *$ in your hand, looking like a tool).

One of two things will now happen: You will get a call from the salesman just as you're trying to order your McCap at the drive-through window (you really shouldn't have given him your cell) with news of a breakthrough reconsideration from his "sales manager" ... or your well-researched, more-than-fair lowball offer was so low that you'll get no call, and the salesman will stand around with other guys who aren't selling cars that day and laugh about it for the rest of the day, since you were the only sales prospect who walked in all day. (It's 2009 in America. Who's laughing now?).

Glad to be of help. --TCC

*ADM = Additional Dealer Markup. At least that's what it stood for back in the 80s, when only Honda and Toyota were making decent cars. When selling a popular car back in 1984 ... let's say, a Honda CRX ... the Honda dealer took the $5,800 sticker price, added $1,500 in dealer-installed PremiumSeal/DiamondCoat products (two $7 spray cans of who-knows-what), then ran out of time and imagination and just tacked-on another $1,200 of Additional Dealer Markup. Presto: the $5,800 car of your dreams really cost $8,500. It's 2009 in America. Don't forget to add ADM (Additional Dealer Markdown) into your new car price negotiations.

This Week's PTB WTF File ...
First, Rudy Guiliani complains that the dearth of bonuses for inept Wall Street managers will ruin New York's high-end restaurants and poodle spas. Now the mayor of Las Vegas demands a retraction from President O. for suggesting that corporate execs of failed banks not fly into Vegas on the taxpayers' dime.

Here's a thought from on-high: You aye-double-ess-holes still don't get it. It's 2009 in America.


This week's Car Czar blog brought to you by Earl's Hauling ... Now in Space!
Let me haul your old refrigerator, building materials, and asbestos. If you have fragged a satellite into thousands of tiny space commerce-threatening pieces, let me help haul it away in my new state-of-the-art super-orbital pickup truck. Now LARPing on Twitter.

I'm not done yet. Next week: Wiping the Smirk off that Kid in the Lexus RX Ads

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