Those of you that follow the stuff I write here, on Twitter, or a Facebook know about my car being rear-ended by a drunk driver, and that I’ve been asking the readers for advice as I prepare to purchase a slightly used vehicle. I’ve weighed my options and I’ve decided to finance through a local credit union. The good news is my new loan is smaller than what I owed on my previous vehicle, so I am still on track to start my modified version of Dave Ramsey’s Drive Free – Retire Rich plan.
I decided to take the advice of some commenters and Mr. A and check out sales from rental companies. The word is Enterprise takes really good care of their vehicles. So we dropped in, and the conversation went something like this:
Me: Hello, I’d like to speak with someone in your sales department
We are then escorted down a corridor and sat in an office. A few moments later a clean cut gentleman walks in with a smile and firmly shakes our hands. He pulls out a blank sheet to gather our requirements for a vehicle. We’ll call the guy “Mr Sales” – he introduces himself and asks
Mr. Sales: What type of vehicle are you looking for?
Me: A small or mid-sized SUV to replace my 2004 Outlander. I’m looking for a 2007 or later.
Mr. Sales begins to drill down to the specifics (must haves & would be nice) for my next vehicle: power locks, foreign or domestic, moon roof etc. Then he asks THE BIG QUESTION:
Mr. Sales: What is your price range?
Mr. A and I give each other a look. I’ve already set my price, but I didn’t know if I wanted to disclose it. Should I go high and then try to get him show me cars and negotiate down? Should I go low so he can “think” he’s talking me up? Wait a minute! These are the exact games I loathe! I give him an honest answer:
Me: $10,000 or less
At this point Mr. Sales face sinks in just a little. He turns to his computer to search is inventory. I watch his eyes scan the screen. There was a long silence, but someone once told me during negotiation that silence is powerful. I looked around his office and noticed an old copy of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War on his desk. I chuckled to myself and thought – know your enemy!
(Side note: Not only has The Art of War been heavily influential in developing military strategies, but also leadership, business, and management)
Mr. Sales: Hmm…I’m not finding anything…with that price point your options are going to be limited, which is kind of what I thought before I even started looking.
Me: OK… (as in…OK….see ya later!)
Mr. Sales: Hold on a minute….
He gets up and goes to talk to another gentleman. I can see them through the glass but can’t hear what they are saying. A few moments later they both return. Mr. Sales introduces me to Mr. Sales Manager.
Mr. Sales: This is Mr. Sales Manager, sometimes they can see things in the inventory that we can’t see, so I wanted to see if there was anything out there for you.
Mr. Sales Manager: We only keep cars under 85,000 miles, so with that price point its going to be very difficult to find something for you. We have some inventory in the $12,000-$15,000 bracket
I’m already shaking my head no…
Mr. Sales: May I ask what’s your personal budget
Me: It’s actually irrelevant, I’ve budgeted $10,000 for a vehicle and that is the max I’m going to spend.
Mr. Sales: How much monthly payment can you afford?
Warning – this question is the car sales death trap! I’m generally a fan of paying cash for cars, but I’m not really in the position to do that right now and the car salesman knew it. If they can get you to focus on what you can afford per month as opposed to the final cost they’ll reel you in with promises of payments within that range. What they don’t emphasize is you’ll be paying for 5 to 7 years and mega interest. I responded:
Me: Well, if I’m only spending $10,000 and don’t plan on financing for more than 3 years, that should work out to about $300/month right?
Mr. Sales: right
I could tell by the look on his face he wasn’t getting the answers he was hoping for.
Mr. Sales Manager: Does it have to be an SUV? We have some full size cars and sedans in that price range.
Me: If I’m going to buy something today, it is going to be an SUV. I still have several options yet to explore and I’m convinced I’ll find what I want. However, if that does not pan out, then I will consider cars…but it won’t be today.
Mr. Sales Manager: (obviously surprised by my candid response, chuckles): Thank you for your honesty
I smile, and Mr. Sales Manager excuses himself.
Mr. Sales: (grasping at his last sliver of hope) Would you be interested in a crossover vehicle? We have a Dodge Caliber that would meet your requirements
Me: I’m not familiar with the Caliber, can you pull it up
I’m mildly disappointed that I allowed him to catch me off guard. But hey, I’m no motor head, I don’t know the specs and reviews on every car out there. Mr. Sales jumps at the opportunity. His enthusiasm returns as he searches for the car and talks it up.
Mr. Sales: This is one of our best sellers (blah, blah)….
Me: Do you have one on the lot we can physically look at?
We go outside and look at the vehicle. It’s roomy, and has some nice features. Mr. A asks if we can test drive it. Soon as I get in..I don’t like it. I let Mr. A drive first. While he’s driving, I’m on Edmunds and Kelly Blue Book to get some intel on this car. Personally I don’t like the way it “feels” from the inside. Mr. A pulls over for me to drive. I told him not to bother…if I don’t like to sit in the car, I’m not going to like driving the car!
We return to the dealer within 5 minutes. Mr. Sales sees us walking back through the glass. I think he knows by our quick return that it’s a “no”. A common sales tactic is positive affirmation questions and statements that lead you to agree. As we enter Mr. Sales greets us again and says:
Mr. Sales: Isn’t it a great car? Don’t you like the way it handles?
Mr. A says no at the same time I say it’s not for me. We go on to describe what we don’t like about the car. Mr. Sales gets back on the computer searching through the inventory. He knows defeat is imminent. After several moments of silence I cued that we were leaving:
Me: You have my information and if something comes in that you think I may be interested in you can contact me.
We stand, shake hands and depart.
OPERATION VEHICLE PURCHASE is ongoing! I’ll keep you posted!
Share your experience with buying vehicles in the comments!