Weekend Silliness: The Ridiculous Adventures of Buying a Car

There must be plenty of car salesmen out there who don’t play ridiculous games, but our recent experience buying a car unfortunately reinforced the stories we’d read and heard. Nonetheless, buying a car was quite an adventure, and we ended up getting a good deal in the end. How we got to that point, though, is something my family and I won’t forget.’s Confessions of a Car Salesman provided a wealth of insight and I was far better prepared for potential car dealer games as a direct result of that article. After all our research of cars, prices, MSRP, TMV, tips and advice, we were ready for the possible games the salesmen might try to play with us.

Prepared with prices and documentation, we knew the car I had in mind was available at several dealers, and we were prepared to either negotiate a deal or walk out the door. We were off for our adventure.

The day before, an out-of-town car salesman told us they had the exterior color I wanted with the light interior and features, in addition to more cars with a variety of colors and features. The two dealers in town told us they didn’t have the car I wanted in stock but they could get it for me within a few days, although they’d also charge a $250 transfer fee. We went ahead and drove out of town to the dealer that claimed to have what I wanted in stock.

Although we made an appointment for a few days later, we knew it was better to just show up unannounced. When we arrived at the car dealer, just as the article above wrote, the car salesman was right there greeting us with his white shirt and silk tie. After a few minutes of talking we asked about the car colors and features and explained we’d been told they had it in stock. Amazingly, they just happened to have sold that one the night before. 1 

After we test drove one of the cars, it was about lunch time, so we told the salesman we’d discuss everything at lunch and that we’d come back later. With that, the car salesman told us that although they seldom offer this, it would be OK if we’d like to go ahead and drive the car to lunch. Although it was obviously a ploy to make sure we’d come back, this also gave us an opportunity to check out the car without the car salesman there. So we went ahead and drove the car to lunch. The car salesman promised to check on colors for us while we were at lunch and have some information for us when we returned.

During lunch we further discussed our plan for either negotiating a deal or walking out without a car. Neither of us were emotionally tied to buying a car that day, and we knew we could get the same car at other dealerships nearby. We were confident of beating them at their games.

Following lunch we returned to the car dealer. He asked what we’d like to do at that point, so we told him that we’d consider discussing a deal with them depending on car availability and price. So, just like the above article, we went on in to one of the desks and sat down while the salesman went to check on the colors available, something he’d previously promised to check while we were at lunch.

Ten minutes later he came back with a few questions and said he’d be right back. After ten more minutes there was no sign of him. We’d agreed privately that if the salesman wasn’t back within ten minutes we were walking out. We knew this stall tactic to wear us down and we weren’t going for it.

Just as we were walking out the door to leave, the salesman magically(?!) appeared. I firmly told him that we weren’t going to sit around and wait any longer, that we’d be going elsewhere, and that they’d just blown a possible car deal.

Needless to say, that’s when they stepped up and started talking. He asked what price we were interested in offering, and he asked us to have a seat at a desk right near the door while he checked with the sales manager. I wouldn’t sit down, however, continuing to stand with my car keys in hand ready to leave. Guess what?! The car dealer’s stall tactics stopped.

They started negotiations well over the MSRP with the asking price on the side window. However, the car had a sale price sign on the front window showing a lower price by several thousand dollars, which they’d also quoted me on the phone, and I made them stick to that. They didn’t argue on that point. They tried to complain about how much money they were losing with giving away the premium package for free, though. I countered their complaining, showing them the documentation that proved the manufacturer to dealer incentive of $1,973, which means the dealer wouldn’t losing a penny by offering the free premium package.

When they weren’t budging on the price during the negotiations, I told them they’d have to make it worth my while by throwing in nicer rims. They wanted to instead charge me $2,000—for their sport package. When I told them it was outrageous to charge me $2,000 for a $750 sport package (I’d done my homework!), they decided to offer me the rims for $269 each instead. With that we were literally out the door leaving, disgusted and fed up with their games.

The salesman followed us out the door, telling me he’d hate to lose the deal over a few hundred dollars, and I responded, “Well, that’s exactly what you’re doing. So what are you going to do about it?” His response, “Well, the other day, someone else left over $50.” I looked at him and said, “So you’re telling me you’re willing to lose a sale over a measly $50.”

We took a couple of minutes to clear our heads and consider a few important points:

  • All the other car salesmen we’d spoken to were playing games, too.
  • Did we really want to start over at another dealer?
  • Did we feel the price we’d negotiated was a fair deal despite their ridiculous games?
  • Did we feel we could get a better price if we went to another dealer?

Prior to getting to this point I researched cars on and off for about two years. My son, a car aficionado and incredibly knowledgeable about cars, wisely advised me after I told him what I needed to have: safety, dependability, great acceleration, leather seats, power seats, moon roof, CD player, and all within a price range I was willing to pay. My daughter hunted online and by phone for cars available within my price range. She looked across the country at both new cars and used cars with less than 20,000 miles.

As we stood outside considering the above questions, we were disgusted with the ridiculous game playing. We’d also done our homework and knew we were getting a good price on the car if I chose to go ahead and buy it. We’d reduced the price over $4,000 after all. The dealer wouldn’t budge any further, especially since I wasn’t financing the car or trading in my old one. So, I agreed to buy the car. 2 

Lessons learned:

  • Doing our homework paid off.
  • Don’t put up with car dealer games.
  • Next time I’ll buy a car through the broker that my best friend had recommended, eliminating all the above car dealer nonsense.

1It finally came out later from a different salesman that they never had that particular car at all. They also didn’t have all the cars in stock that the first salesman on the phone had told us they had available. If anyone is interested in buying a car in the San Francisco bay area, I’ll be happy to share who to avoid.

2Here’s a photo online of what my new car looks like—mine looks exactly like this one, with silver metallic exterior, charcoal leather interior. I haven’t taken photos of mine yet, but I will be doing that soon.

10:35 pm, pdt25 July, 2004 Comments, Trackbacks (3) ·';}?>

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Comments, Trackbacks: 3 so far. Add yours!

  1. Looks like a lovely car! I’m assuming that a moon roof is the same as what we call a sun roof in the UK?

    04:25 pm, pdt27 July, 2004Comment by Sian

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  2. Hi, Sian!

    A moonroof adds something to a sunroof—a clear, tinted window to see through. It’s like having a window in the ceiling to look through. AFAIK, moonroofs usually include sunroofs, but I suspect there’s an exception to that somewhere. So, I have a sunroof for fresh air and open sky, I can just use the clear moonroof to see the sky, or close them both if the sun is hitting me in the eye or something. ;-)

    Moonroofs aren’t at all unique to the U.S. My new car is Swedish, after all. :-) Moonroofs are available on lots of cars these days. I suspect you’d find moonroofs on some British cars, too—check out this list of British cars, for example.

    09:51 pm, pdt27 July, 2004Comment by Shirley Kaiser

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  3. Sales manipulation is notoriously bad in the automobile business. There are ways to minimize it and win in the end....

    27 Jul, 2004Trackback from Rodent Regatta

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This discussion has been closed. Thanks to all who participated.

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