No Internet marketing lesson today. Instead here is some real world advice that could save you a ton of cash.
First off, let me just say that I am pro-business, and I am pro-profit. I think every business deserves to make a profit. But what I am against are “bait and switch” and misdirection tactics. I like an honest business that sells a quality product. On the other side, I also believe a consumer has every right to do what he has to do to get the best price on a product or service. So let’s continue.
I just bought my first new car in quite a while. That’s me standing in front of it in the picture above. Don’t I look happy? In general, I am a financially conservative person, so most of my vehicle buying history has involved buying pre-owned and squeezing all the life I can get out of it. It’s a Dave Ramsey-approved technique. With my last vehicle reaching the end of its life unless I started paying up for major repairs, it was time to go through the process again.
I started by researching pre-owned vehicles within the price range I had determined I was comfortable with. This was my first time making extensive use of sites like cargurus.com and cars.com. Those sites are incredibly useful for pre-owned vehicle shopping. I saw a few I liked pretty good. Nothing blew me away. Eventually I started visiting automobile dealerships, first to browse pre-owned, but then I started looking at new vehicles.
Man, once you start test-driving brand new vehicles, it’s all over with. I got sucked in. As my vehicle search dragged on, I became weary of looking through hundreds of pre-owned vehicles to try and find the right one. My attention began to turn more and more to new vehicles. Funny thing about doing a car search – you start to feel like an expert on the different versions of the make and models you are interested in. As this internal fine-tuning process continued, I finally settled on EXACTLY the vehicle I wanted: a Jeep Compass, Trailhawk edition with a two-tone finish.
I live in the country, so I wanted something that would get me through mud or up a steep hill, but that would also do just fine driving around a city. This little Jeep did it for me.
I found one for sale within the geographic area where I was looking. So now it was negotiation time.
Although I had been researching and visiting dealerships for days, I decided to wait until New Year’s Eve to make the purchase – the last day of the year for a dealership to close a sale for 2018. The dealership that had my Jeep was about an hour away from my house. But they had it listed on their website at a price that was a pretty significant discount from MSRP.
They call it the “Internet price.”
I did wonder why they call it the Internet price. I just figured, well, it’s a price on the Internet…so I guess that’s why it’s the Internet price. But here is what I learned about the Internet price – it is the best possible price you can get on the vehicle if you qualify for every possible discount and incentive. In other words, a price almost no human being will qualify for. What I would like to have seen is an asterisk next to the price with a note explaining what they mean by “Internet price.” There was no asterisk.
Not knowing the meaning of Internet price, I called the dealership to make sure that the vehicle was still available and that I could come buy it at that price. Of course the salesman on the phone started in about how I probably wouldn’t be able to get it at that price. He asked me if I’m in the military. I’m not. He even asked me if I had a Sam’s Club membership. I said no, but if that’s what I have to do to get the good price I’ll go join today.
By the end of the call I just had to tell the guy that if I couldn’t get it at the Internet price, I wasn’t going to drive an hour to look at it. I also told him I was looking at another vehicle at a dealership an hour away in the opposite direction, which was true, and that I wouldn’t have time to go both ways.
I think this is where the New Year’s Eve thing worked in my favor. Desperate to get those last few sales in, he called me back and said his manager said they would let me have it at the Internet price, even though that would mean they were losing money on it. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I don’t really feel bad about that if it is the case. My only concern as the consumer is to get the best deal. I don’t really care if I hurt the dealer’s feelings.
So that is the first sneaky technique I wanted to discuss: the really good price on their website that you are not going to qualify for that they use to get you to come into the dealership. If you see a price like that, call first to find out what the price is really going to be.
Now, sneaky technique number two: the extended warranty.
I do think I probably cut into their profit quite a bit on the vehicle. And I think the way they tried to get it back was with a hard sale on an extended warranty. The finance manager who provided the details of my financing made it sound as if it is a no brainer to get the extended warranty. He called it “gold.” He made it sound like EVERYBODY gets the extended warranty and I would be an idiot not to. It only added a little bit to my monthly payment.
He almost got me. But I was somehow able to push aside the cloud of numbers and nonsense to think in terms of what the thing would actually cost me. After all the payments had been made, it would be nearly $2 thousand! I am buying a brand new vehicle: should it really need $2 thousand worth of repairs? Even keeping my old pre-owned vehicles running, I never had any repairs for anywhere near that much. If I were to sign up for that, I would be giving them back a huge chunk of my savings from my hard negotiating.
I’m pretty sure it’s a deal that works much more in the dealerships favor than mine, so I declined. His next pitch, given with a big smile (the guy sure was friendly), was to call him on his cell phone any time in the first three months to add on the extended warranty. I think I’ll pass. I’m sure there have been new car buyers who ended up using their extended warranty and being very happy about it. But playing the odds, I think I’m better off saving my $2 thousand and just paying for whatever repairs my vehicle may need in the future.
In the end, I got the vehicle I wanted at the best possible price, which was very satisfying. I mean, by the time you tack on taxes, fees, and interest, I’m still paying a big price, but at least I got the best possible base price. Counting NOT signing up for the extended warranty, I saved in the neighborhood of $8 thousand (not even counting interest saved from the lower loan amount). Not too bad.
So if you are new car shopping, my advice is to play hard ball on the price, don’t be afraid to walk away, and don’t sign up for the extended warranty. You could save a ton of money.
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