The Way Things Were

Sometimes all it takes is one experience to change your views forever.

I will never again go into a car dealership, sit across from somebody who has the upper hand, and try to negotiate.

Let me back up. We’ve been operating with one car for a few months, which was totally fine, but with my wife set to go back to school in September, it was time for me to go shopping.

The lede from this article  perfectly summed up my experience:

“Anyone looking to buy a car right now is likely to find fewer choices and higher prices — with very little room to negotiate.”

I wanted a Jeep Wrangler. I wasn’t looking for anything above and beyond an SUV that could take its top off. I didn’t care about color, or features. My only goal was to spend as little money as possible.

When I arrived at the dealership, I opened the doors and immediately felt a burst of anxiety. You’re not sure who to speak to and you can just feel the eyeballs on you, sizing you up. A salesperson came up to me and said, “How can I help you boss?”

Oh boy, here we go. “Hi, I’m here to lease a car. I’m looking for a Wrangler.”

“What type of Wrangler were you looking for?” he asked. He told me about the different models and then said that this was all academic anyway because they didn’t have any in stock. But, if I could wait a few weeks, they were expecting a shipment. Now for the fun part. “Great, how much is it a month? I don’t want to put any money down.”

He looked at the screen, pressed a few buttons on his keyboard, and said “$485.”

I told him that was more than I was looking to spend and then asked, “Well what about the Grand Cherokee?” He gave me a number, I said thank you, and walked out. I didn’t get great vibes from this guy and I had no intentions of negotiating with him. There are a dozen or more Jeep dealerships on Long Island, so I left and went to the next one, which was only 15 minutes away.

This one had a much better feel to it. From the clientele to the receptionist to the salespeople, it just felt more relaxed. I spent about an hour with this young gentleman who was very helpful. He told me the same thing as the last guy about what was going on with inventory.

Auto manufacturing shut down for the first time since WWII and buyers returned much quicker than anticipated. As a result, the dealerships could basically name their price.

The salesperson told me that they only had the higher end models which were way more than I was looking to spend. So he showed me a Grand Cherokee. He told me he could get me into one of these cars for around $400 a month. Then he did the thing where he goes to his manager and comes back, says a number, and stares directly into your soul.

“I could do $375 today.”

I told him that sounded very good, and asked if I could pick it up in ten days. He told me no, it was a one time offer. Riiight. I told him to give me a few minutes while I called my wife. We agreed that there was no reason to rush. This was my first day on the search, and this wasn’t the only dealership nearby. I told him thanks, but I’m going to keep looking. Then he said, “If I could find you a Wrangler for $460, would you take it?” I said yes, and walked out.

Alright, so now I’m three hours into this with nothing to show for it. Over the next few days, I emailed the guy I was negotiating with, no response. I spoke to three other dealerships on the phone, but none of them would really give me anything. They all insisted I come in and they would take good care of me. Ugh, this is annoying.

And then I had an idea. I remember a family member had a great experience the last time he got a car. He didn’t go to the dealership, he used a broker. I thought that car brokers only worked with people that were getting high-end cars, but I figured why not give it a shot?

I texted the broker on Sunday morning. My phone rang two minutes later and after just a few minutes on the phone with him he said “let me get to work on this tomorrow and I’ll let you know what’s up.”

On Monday he confirmed that demand for Wranglers swallowed supply. “I can get you one, but it’s going to be $125 more than what I could have delivered it to you for in January. Alright, Grand Cherokee it is.”

On Tuesday he called and told me he found one at the right price. “What would this cost me in the dealership?” I asked.

“I don’t want to bullshit you. Go in and tell them what you want and try and negotiate.” I wasn’t going to do that, I already wasted enough time and energy.

I know based on the experiences I had that the price he gave me was better than I would have gotten on my own. That $375 offer I was given was for the Laredo, which is the lower end model, was without leather, Apple play, a sun roof, and most importantly, 4-wheel drive. I was fine with all that, but the broker found me the higher end model, fully loaded, for just a few hundred dollars more for the year.

On Wednesday he called and said “Alright Michael, when can you take delivery?” I told him I was leaving tomorrow morning to go upstate for a few days. He said, “Okay, I’ll call you back in two minutes…Michael, the car will be delivered to your house at 6, that work?”

“Yes, that works.”

What used to be an anxiety-inducing, time consuming experience was transformed into absolute pleasure. I spent a total of 20 minutes on the phone with this gentleman. He found me the car I wanted at the price I wanted, and delivered it to my driveway.

This cost me nothing, his fee is baked into the price. It saved me time, money, and a lot of frustration.

When you need a car, you go to a dealership because that’s just what it is. Or what it was.

There are things we do everyday only because that’s how we’ve always done them. But once you see the light, you can’t go back to the darkness.

I am never going into a car dealership ever again.

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