Buying a used car today was a different experience from last time, which was unfortunately just a mere seven or so months ago
. I was armed with my information and, well, not ready to fight but prepared for the lengthy negotiating that is part and parcel of this miserable experience. I was dreading the process but steeled against it. The funny thing is that no one wanted to do much deal-making.
I had identified the kind of car I wanted and found a few that fit (or were close to) the price range, mileage, and manufacturing year I was aiming for. There weren't many available, but I had a plan of attack and plotted a course to hit three dealerships all within a reasonable drive of one another.
My dad and I went to the first place to see the car that I deeply wished was the one I wanted. It was the most expensive, but it was three model years newer than what I previously owned and looked practically the same. (It was the exact same color.) There were things I wasn't thrilled with--primarily the tinted glass--but these aspects weren't deal breakers.
Having been through the ringer of used car negotiations last July, I held certain expectations as to how much the listed price would drop. Boy was I wrong this time. The first offer was sticker price plus tax, title, and the other BS fees that car sellers tack on. This was significantly more than I was willing to pay. I had done my research and threw out a couple numbers on the low yet still (in my opinion) thoroughly reasonable side. The saleswoman went to check with the sales manager and came back with a second offer that was not even $200 less than the first. That was the end of that negotiation.
The same car with more miles and a different color was just a mile up the road at another dealership, so we checked it out. It was listed at a thousand dollars less than the previous one, so I held out hope that it might be a winner. Nope. It featured more nicks, dings, and general wear and tear than I found acceptable. It seemed kind of loud too. The tires were worn, and one had a cut in it. Here are the keys back. I'm not interested.
Next up was a car with a different make and model on my list. Since it was relatively nearby, I figured we might as well check it out. The price was right, more or less, and the mileage was close to what I bought my previous car at. It wasn't flawless in appearance but looked pretty good overall, especially the exterior. I felt comfortable driving it, so hey, let's make a deal.
As was the case at the other dealerships, this salesman wanted to know where I had seen the car
. He said that I must have seen x price. In truth, I had seen y price, which was $400 more, but apparently they had reduced it that morning. Bonus!
At this point I assumed I might get a really good deal. The dealership had purchased the car at auction. Looking at the Carfax told me that it had been on their lot for about fifty days and that it hadn't had many test drives. (My guess: one other person took it for a spin in all that time as the odometer reading was shockingly close to when they took ownership of it.)
The first offer was made with tax, title, and fees added to the price I saw online. I said that I was looking for an out the door price closer to slightly less than or equal to the online price. He went to see the sales manager, who came back with him. I was told that they didn't have much room to maneuver because they already had it priced to move. They agreed to knock $200 off--hello, document fees--but insisted they couldn't go lower.
The offer was more than I thought I would have to pay, but it was at the low end of what I realistically expected to buy a car for. Still, it seemed slightly high for this make, model, and year, and I wasn't buying their line that they were losing money at this price. We parted ways, although I said I would keep it in mind.
On the way to get lunch, I talked about it with my dad and sort of convinced myself that this might be the best I could do. Yes, I might want to "win" the negotiation, of which there had been very little, but if winning equaled not buying the car, I would still be without a vehicle and a rapidly depleting supply of viable options. (It does have a transferable warranty, which upped the attractiveness of this particular car.)
After lunch I did some research and found that their final offer might not be as out of line as I suspected, although Consumer Reports
would beg to differ. (Edmunds
and Kelley Blue Book
revealed that I was probably getting a deal...or at least that I wasn't being fed a line of bull.) More online searches produced a used car void.
I returned my rental car and dropped by four dealerships on the way home just to see what they had. Obviously they had nothing that wasn't, in my opinion, grossly overpriced. So car #3, from negotiation #2, looked better and better. A little more research reinforced that I may have stumbled upon a rarity, so I made the call to close the deal.
After getting some final questions answered, I made one last failed pitch to get a couple hundred more knocked off. The sales manager explained that the car was a price leader--in other words, it was listed low to get people on the lot--told me what they had done to the car, and said he could show me that they were losing money on it. True or not, it didn't matter. I said I wanted to buy it, gave the financial institution information for securing the pre-approved loan, and made a deposit.
I don't know if these negotiations were so brief because I didn't have a trade-in, which made beating around the bush a dangerous way of doing things. (I could get up and leave whenever I wished rather than waiting to get keys back.) Maybe it's because of the market, which clearly values used cars with low or respectable mileage from the past few years. These cars are hard for dealers to get and easy to sell. Whatever the case, I feel like I paid the going rate and should be happy with the car.
Please, please, please, let me not have to do this again for years, though.
Labels: cars, shopping