I bought a car recently. So I feel something akin to a crime victim. Ripped off and beaten.
I can think of nothing else in the American experience where the price you pay depends solely on the strength of your negotiating skills.
Think about it. What other purchase do you make where you’re subjected to the waterboarding effects of high pressure sales tactics? Real estate isn’t sold this way. High-end appliances aren’t heavily negotiated or subject to “clear coat” fees.
There’s nothing as essential as an automobile, and riding around in a new car is a beautiful thing. It’s exciting. You look forward to it. But the process of actually buying the car is quite a buzz kill. It’s an absurd mix of horse trading and bamboozle designed to wear you down and squeeze every last dime out of your wallet. Why? This is no way to do business.
You’ve got to have a darn good poker face when you deal with car salesman. I firmly believe they’ve been trained by ex-FBI agents to exploit your deepest personality defects. Don’t like confrontation? They’ll harangue you until you agree to pay more. Impatient? They’ll stall until you cave in. Indignant? They butter you up. It’s madness. All I want is a used car. I’m not looking for a psychological shake down.
Vehicles are the only high-ticket item you’re going to buy again and again. Even if you’re buying used, you’re probably on the hook for tens of thousands. It’s nerve wracking enough without throwing in the real possibility that you’ve been played for a sucker. Slick talking dealers can cleverly mask the fees of loans and leases with a jumble of flim-flam so you’re never really certain what you paid for the thing.
I have a fixed-budget approach to car dealers. This may not be the wisest tactic, but at least I can maintain some semblance of control. It works like this – I tell the dealer I’ve got 20 magic beans and a trade-in. Immediately they’ll counteroffer with 40 magic beans plus a clear coat fee. The game is to firmly stand your ground. No – I only have 20 beans.
We go round after round of negotiations. I stand firm and they get out the battering ram. Every time they insist “That’s the best we can do,” I pick up my purse and head for the exit. “Wait, wait! I’ll talk to my manager,” they cry. Then we start all over again. The whole slimy process takes hours and I need a hot shower afterwards.
It’s a ridiculous horse trading game, completely unnecessary in today’s modern world. I love my new car, but the next time I need transportation it might be easier to buy a pony. I’ll trade you a pouch full of beans for that old paint over there.