You Can Bring Car Salespeople to the Internet But You Can’t Make Them Use It Wisely

I’m in the market for a new car to replace my truck. Now that we have two kids, a truck with a short cab and a manual transmission that’s too finicky for Misty to use is a luxury. That’s doubly true when you consider that I’m mostly using it for a commuter car, and its gas mileage is not so good.

We’ve done our test driving and have settled on a Honda Fit Sport. Its Consumer Reports score is excellent. It’s small but roomy enough to put everyone it, and has configurable seats for hauling stuff. It gets great gas mileage. With a manual transmission, it’s surprisingly fun to drive. Would you believe even Car and Driver liked it? Crazy!

Now we’ve moved on to the next step: dealing with car salespeople. The local one we’ve been dealing with has been great, but I’m not going to him without quotes from others. So I did what other members of my family did and emailed a bunch of dealerships to see what they’d be willing to sell one for. It’s unfortunate, then, that many of the dealerships haven’t figured out that people use the Internet to avoid their traditional strong-arm tactics.

Sold all but one fit today. Price of Gas. Will be pre selling them very soon. I would hurry if I were you. Make an offer  I will  try my best  untill their are pre ordered. It will be MSRP then.

Sorry, Economy Honda Superstore of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Your interesting spelling and whimsical spacing aside, other dealers are able to get them without saying URGENT! BUY TODAY!

We have the vehicle you are looking for in inventory. While the internet is a valuable tool for research we’ve found more mutual benefit to all parties involved not to quote prices over the phone or online. That  starts a process that ends up de-valuing the vehicle and also the residual value in the end. The ’07 allocations will be ending shortly. I do have what you are looking for now, I may not this afternoon. If you are serious about buying the car of your choice, I would suggest visiting the dealer of your choice to make your purchase.

Gee, Serra Honda of Hueytown, AL, you mean you telling me a price in email or over the phone might lower the cost I have to pay? I bet you’ve found mutual benefit to having people come in and negotiate with you directly. I think the dealer of my choice won’t lie to me about how giving me a quote will make my car worth less later.

Then there was Brannon Honda of Birmingham, AL. When the car salesman there followed up my email with a phone call, he mentioned that they normally put security systems on every car they sold. I told him I didn’t want one, and he agreed to quote me a price without one. In his second phone call, he said, “Oh, I forgot that security systems are standard on the Fit Sports.” This is a new definition of “standard,” one that means, “after-market addition the dealer puts on”. I’ll note that no other dealer has Fit Sports with security systems on them. Perhaps I shall deal with someone who doesn’t make such easily-uncovered lies.

More later, when I have vanquished the evils of etching fees and the like.

12 thoughts on “You Can Bring Car Salespeople to the Internet But You Can’t Make Them Use It Wisely

  1. At the first dealership we went to, our guy didn’t have what we were looking for, but he had a special deal on an even better model! We said we’d think about it, and as we were leaving he checked the computer one last time and found out that the special deal was only good until the end of the day, just an hour away!! He was really sorry about seeming to jerk us around, but that’s how it was!

    We left.

  2. We have a fit sport! It’s great. The mileage on the highway ends up about 39mpg and in town about 31. We love it. Lots of space in the back, no problem getting things in and out of it. It’s the same length as the vw beetle we had and parks like a dream. I absolutely recommend this car.

    good luck finding one, though. We had the same set of problems.

  3. Dealers are such snakes. They jerk you around, but try being a woman and walking onto a car dealer lot. It’s so much better now that you can research ahead of time and be prepared, so “the little lady” doesn’t have to assume she’s being cheated. Anyway, good luck on the car!

  4. Yeah. Look out for the other stuff that’s “standard” on every car they sell. It used to be undercoating and clear coats (AKA wax) years ago. The local VW dealership at one point charged something like $500 for pinstripes and scotchguard.

    Other “standard features” to be aware of and feel free to ignore when negotiating your price: pretty much any fee (“doc”, “prep”, etc.) that Edmunds doesn’t know about. Don’t necessarily expect the fee to disappear, but just mentally add it to whatever price he gives you and make sure you like it. I’ve had a salesman all but admit it’s crap, but he still had to show it on the sales sheet. To get to our price, he lowered the sale price of the car by exactly the doc fee so that it nulled out when he added it back in.

    I also ran into one of the blatant lying snake types back when I was calling around about the uberwagon. I wanted a VERY specific and fairly rare option package on my car (to give you an idea, my Passat was on the boat on its way to North Carolina when the local salesman rerouted it). A salesman at one of the Atlanta dealerships (wish I could remember for sure which one) told me he had more than one set to arrive within a couple of weeks. When I double-checked with the local salesman, he called bullshit on it. When I told the Atlanta guy, he got all mad and offended that I would question his honesty… but he never called me back about having a car for me.

  5. The best car-buying experience I ever had was through the RFCU buying service (don’t know if they still have it or not). I told them what model I wanted and what options (including color, interior, etc.) and they found one and told me the price. It was a bit below invoice and right at the “what you should pay for this car” price that I had previously found via research. The best part was I never had to deal with a salesman.

  6. dfan neglected the second half of the story, which is where I remembered, “Hey, aren’t I a regular at a club where the DJ is a Suburu salesman?” So I emailed him and told him what we wanted and he said, “Here’s a list of cars, give me a VIN you like and I’ll quote you a price.” He gave us a price just a little under the list, and when we showed up someone said, “Oh yeah Nate said you were coming, here are the keys so let us know if you want it,” so we drove it and then I went back and bought it.

    What was so ridiculous about the process was how _not special_ we were treated. Like Mike G. described, it was exactly the process you would expect if car buying were rational. It’s enraging that it’s not the norm.

  7. Me being the car freak that I am I would have to say good choice. Good ratings for everything and should hold it’s value very very well. I was going to make mention on one other vehicle that is in the same class- Scion xA. Not sure if you went and looked at those, but since the Fit is going to be scarce, well if might be something.

    Also, when going to the dealership, ask if you can talk with the fleet manager. That is how I purchased my legacy. He said, 250 over invoice, that is what I can do. So we agreed on that. I ended up getting a bit more off with rebates and the difficulty they had in getting the car, but it was a fair deal to start with.

    Please tell me you are also just selling the truck and not trading it, craigslist is your friend, especially with a truck in the south.

  8. Do you have a membership to Sam’s Club or Costco? They have a new & used car buying program that is great. You get a price for a car that is a fixed percentage over invoice, and the dealer has to honor it after they e-mail or fax it to you. I used that service to buy my 2001 PT Cruiser (no negotiation … I got the price, drove the car & wrote a check).

  9. Yeah, thankfully I had a non-crappy dealer experience when I bought my WRX. And I’m with Sean [although I’ve told you this already] that I think the Fit is an excellent choice.

    And Sean, no worries, I’m helping Stephen find buyers for the truck. Having just sold mine, I had three or four folks interested in it, so the folks who didn’t buy my old truck are going to find out about Stephen’s. Might not happen, but it’s worth spreading the word. 🙂

  10. Mike, I remembered you getting your grad student car through Redstone, so the first thing I did was see if they still had the program. Sadly, it’s long gone.

    Sean, I looked at the xA and xB both, but the Toyota/Scion salesguy I dealt with was terrible, and I liked the Fit too much. And I will be selling the truck myself. Let them pay me peanuts for it because I’m too lazy to put an ad in Craigslist? Pshaw. Geoff already has the specs and is talking to some people he knows, too.

    I haven’t related my favorite car buying story, which is from when Misty & I were getting a car prior to me entering grad school. We’d been dealing with, oh, let’s call it Jim Smith Toyota in Hot Springs, AR. We’d settled on a car and decided that we didn’t want Toyota’s rip-off add-on of the day, the “road noise dampeners.”

    To check prices, we stopped by the Toyota dealership in North Little Rock. We got out of our car and were immediately met by a salesman who had been trolling the parking lot. “What can I help you with?”

    I told him, and added, “We’ll need one without the road noise dampeners.”

    “Shoot, there’s nothing I can do about that. They come standard.”

    I stared at him. “Really?” He nodded. “Because Jim Smith Toyota down in Hot Springs has cars without that option.”

    The salesman said, “Well, I guess Jim Smith knows something I don’t.”

    “I reckon so,” I told him. “You have a great night.” And we turned around and left. Total elapsed time: two minutes.

  11. Cool, glad you looked at the options at least, oh, and craigslist.org is free, that’s how I sold the focus….

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