My father is a very precise negotiator and what we call a “tough customer”. In fact, until he bought a bottle of shampoo from me recently, I was pretty sure he would never be my customer for anything. I would usually either give up or cry before we could strike a deal.
He tried to pass on this negotiating savvy to me, particularly in the arena of buying cars.
“Know the value of the car when you walk into the dealership and what you’re willing to pay,” he sagely told me. “And walk out if they won’t sell you the vehicle at that figure.
I’m a good student and my dad’s advice works. I can buy a car from a dealership without being shocked later that I fell for some cheap salesman tactic.
I Still Don’t Like Dealerships
Now you would think with that kind of training, I would feel confident about my ability to buy a car from a dealership.
Unfortunately, you would be wrong.
I only had to buy a car from a dealership once before I discovered there were other ways. Was I happy with that purchase? Yes, within reason. I bought a new Honda Civic and was delighted to have been able to afford a radio. It had what I had wanted, which is to say good gas mileage and a good record of holding its value.
I drove that car for 12 years and found it a good home with a friend who needed a more reliable vehicle before moving across the country. My late husband’s car was newer and I took that one with me.
Why I Wasn’t Comfortable
I was happy with the car, but I’ve never been happy with the transaction for two reasons…
- I had to walk out of several dealerships until I found a salesman who even spoke slowly enough for me to understand everything he was saying.
- I never understood the details of the transaction and to this day I don’t know if he took advantage of my confusion.
I didn’t buy another car for more than 20 years after that purchase (thanks to the inherited car) and by the time I was ready for another one, I had learned about auto brokers.
Buying from a Broker is Better
I bought my current car from a broker and was very satisfied with the transaction. Was that the cheapest way I could get a car? No, probably not.
Did I get something for the slight increase over a price I may or may not have been able to negotiate?
You bet I did!
Trent, my broker, saved me a huge amount of time. He spoke slowly, let me see all the data he was using and we wrote down options. He did not try to manipulate me into spending more or buying things I didn’t need. I know what I paid for and I didn’t have to waste a lot of time walking out of dealerships.
I got the car I wanted and was 100% satisfied with the transaction.
Ways to Buy a Car
All this got me thinking about how we buy cars. So far, I’ve discovered the following methods:
- Go to a dealership and wonder if you’re being taken advantage of and if another brand of car would have been better,
- Use a no-haggle pricing program at a dealership and wonder if you’ve paid extra fees or gotten a fair value for your trade-in,
- Use a Buyer’s Agent to do the negotiating for you and pay her separately,
- Find a broker and let her do the work for you without a separate payment
I explained this to a young friend the other day and she burst out, “Why do we always buy cars the hard way?? Why didn’t I know this could be so easy?”
Good questions. I didn’t know either, but I know now and so do you.