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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
This is quite a rant so enter at your own risk.

In the last year I‘ve purchased five used cars, some through choice, others through necessity. Rarely do I buy new and, in my humble opinion, used car shopping is far more strenuous and challenging than buying new. Two of the purchases were replacements for cars that had been totaled in accidents. (Yes, it’s been a bad year.) Never before have I ever purchased this many vehicles in such a short time span and it has only added to the stress that 2020 has delivered.

I’m quite meticulous in my car shopping and will research, make phone calls and do many test drives before deciding and buying. Depending on the amount of time I have to work with, I may shop for weeks or months until I find the right car at the right price and with right seller or dealer. In all this work- and it is work- I’ve come to the conclusion that, after dealing with umpteen dealerships and salespeople over the last four decades of car buying, that the vast majority of them, both dealer and salesperson, could not care less about their business, employer or customer- it’s only and all about the profit, either for the business or the sales person. That’s sad and leads to the self-fulfilling stereotype that many of us believe about dealers and sales staff.

I’ve found that customer service often blows; the sales staff have no sales skills, product knowledge or enthusiasm for their job, product or customer, and don’t want to be there (I mean, who grew up dreaming to be a car salesperson?) They frequently don’t return phone calls, emails or texts and even if you do make contact, unless they think you’re coming in to buy right now, will ignore your future inquiries or take hours or days to respond, if ever. I just can’t believe the boorish, bored or arrogant attitudes or amateurish attempts at sales that I’ve encountered over and over again. It’s just so rare to find a sales person who counters this model.

To make matters worse, we all know the dealers NEVER lose money, especially with add-on fees like ADM, dealer prep, paperwork fees and the latest- vehicle refurbishment, a new one that several dealers threw at us during the most recent search, at an additional cost of $1000-2000 on top of their other fees, no kidding! Prices on some of the cars we looked at were $3-4000 OVER the listed asking price because of the extra fees. We’re talking 20-25% of the total cost- talk about false advertising! I’ve also now officially decided that having a certified pre-owned label on a car means little, except for another $1000 tacked onto your bill. Never again.

Well, about ten years back I decided that none of those nonsense fees mattered to me as I would only negotiate bottom line, “out-the-door” prices. I didn’t and don’t care how they configure their profit and final price; I’m only interested in how much it’s gonna cost me, especially since I rarely finance my car purchases. I understand their job is to maximize profit and my job is to minimize my cost, period. It’s an often painful, unnecessary game. I’m ok with dealers making a “reasonable” profit but I’m not going to be scammed by them during the process.

Last comments in regards to the dealers, a term that has become de rigueur in America over the last two decades- corporatization. Much in the way that mom and pop businesses are being driven to near-extinction by major corporations, I predict that we’ll end up with 10-25 massive, all-powerful, multi-national corporations who will eventually own/run every business, from restaurants to car sales, in a chain or big box style fashion. Think McDonalds, Home Depot, Walmart, etc.

You’re going to see the same thing with car dealerships. They won’t compete because they won’t have to, especially in smaller markets where they’ll be the only business in town and can demand whatever they want in base prices and additional fees.

In my current hometown, for example, there’s a local chain that owns practically every automotive brand shop in the county, excepting the few, smaller mom and pop high mileage, used car lots, which are of no interest or threat to their larger scale economy businesses. They are THE show in my county and to find a better deal will require you traveling to neighboring counties or further because they are their own and only competition. Worse yet, over the last decade, I’ve witnessed this occur all throughout South Florida where the likes of CarMax, Hgreg, Autonation, Penske, Carvana, Gunther, Morse, etc. have already or will swallow up the few remaining independently owned shops, resulting in them owning the new and used car markets in totality. Then we’ll all be truly screwed in regards to purchasing.

To my recent car purchase story- my son’s car, which he only had for about five months, was totaled in a recent accident. Thankfully, he walked away with only some soiled underwear but the car was toast. The insurance company reimbursed a sizable, but not complete, portion of the original purchase price. As a med school student who’s already up to his neck in debt, we tried to stay as close as possible to the reimbursement amount. He wanted the exact same car, which one might think would simplify things, so the search process started. We just about stole his last car, getting what I would describe as one of those mythical deals, and I figured we’d never be able to match that deal again, especially in the current seller’s market for used cars.

Well, I was right so it took me about a month, maybe 80+ hours of internet, phone and shop visitation work, but I found “the car” several days ago… except it wasn’t the color of his choosing. Outside of that, the car appeared to be perfect, well as perfect as a used car can be. The car was located some 2.5 hrs. away; no biggie considering I’ve gone as far as Dallas, TX to pick up a car.

Simultaneously, my son was also shopping, as I’m trying to teach him the tricks of the trade so he doesn’t get ripped off and gets a good quality, safe, dependable ride for the money. Two days ago we started test driving some of the cars he selected, both at CarMax dealers an hour and a half away. If you’re unaware, CarMax is one of those “no haggle” dealers but they have an ok reputation, at least locally. I have friends who’ve been very satisfied with their CarMax purchases and they supposedly do a rigorous 125-point inspection. Yeah, sure they do…

At the first CarMax shop we were met by a young lady who clearly had no business or interest in cars sales. She was polite enough, took our info, got us the keys and told us to come back when finished. Yeah, that was it- no real inquiry, no questions or chit chat, no nothing else. I did my usual pre-ride inspection routine and the car appeared ok but dirty- that’s strike #1. Before we exited the parking lot, I could hear and feel something was up with the tires and suspension. There was also a warning light lit up on the dash, indicating a burned out light- strike #2. So much for their vaunted 125-point inspection and CarMax certification. The test drive bore out the parking lot noises- this car was in need of further love and attention... but not by us. We returned the car to the bored salesperson, explained our findings and she just shrugged, said nothing further, took the keys and walked off- strike #3.

At the second CarMax shop, we had a 100% different experience. The salesman was a great guy, even if he didn’t fully understand the specific car we shopped. He was helpful, transparent and enthusiastic, not to mention grateful he had this job as extra income. The car- a near identical unit to the one we had just driven earlier- was in immaculate condition with no issues whatsoever. Had it not been for the OTD price and their inability to negotiate at all, we would’ve gone home with a “new” car, search ended but regrettably, that didn’t happen. Truly though, the disparity between two dealer locations/salespeople from the same corporation on the same day with practically the same car was amazing.

The following day we were back on the hunt except that, surprisingly, some shops were closed for December 31. I thought that dealerships would be killing it, trying to sell vehicles on the last day of the year but, uh nope, so my son finally decided we should look at the car I had focused on. I called the salesguy, lined up an appointment and headed to their shop, some 2.5 hours north. The salesman had done right by me so far and I was impressed with him and his work ethic.

Now let me add some additional facts to that story. Our salesman was a conscientious, very hardworking man, also the only minority I saw in the business while we there. The dealership was a very high-end, multi-brand Italian-make store. The car we were shopping was less than $14g’s so you knew they wanted this car gone from their lot. My impression was that the other sales staff, as polite as they were, would’ve turned up their respective noses at this car, but not this guy. He personally hand-washed it before delivering it to us- the car was as clean as a used car could be inside, outside and in the engine bay. The car was almost exactly as depicted (a miracle as that rarely happens,) in fantastic condition and performed beautifully. Although we didn’t get the price we wanted, it was pretty close and we decided to buy it. This salesman did everything he could to make the deal as right as he could for both us and the dealer. I can respect that and am glad I helped him achieve his “end of the year” sales mark.

So to all you suck-ass car dealers and sales staff who simply don’t care about the customer and only look towards profit, I bid you a “fond adieu” once again. You’ll never earn my business and clearly, after the year I’ve had, it’s been a good year to have done so. I hope I’m done car buying for now and the foreseeable future because it’s just too much time and energy taken out of my life. The dealers choose to make it this harder than it needs to be, what with their various schemes, obfuscations and shenanigans, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to play along.

Ok, rant over. Best to all for 2021.
Lee
 

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Excellent rant! My exact sentiments. Have dealt with older (well my age early70s) salesmen for years. Young guys have no car knowledge or care to have! Just a job. Make a sale. Put their time in and get their paycheck. All my salesmen contacts around Bowling Green Ky have passed on and I dread all my future car shopping experiences.
Happy New Year and May 2021 be a very much better life experience for us all!!:cool:

Don
 

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I hear you...we have the same "solo" mega dealer in Omaha as well who pretty much swallowed up any/all makes & models. Driving around, you rarely see any other dealership logo/placard on a vehicle. You'd think they would/could side for the customer, but normally - not. Luckily we've worked with the same salesman since 2005 & he's close to being family. Also, since our kids grew out of their "messy" phases, we lease my wife's vehicles so it's pretty much a constant roll-over every 3-4 years. I know most say leasing isn't the way to go, but we like it because (1) you're always under OEM warranty, (2) have a new ride every few years & (3) drive pretty sweet rides for a fraction of monthly loan cost. If our sales guy ever retires, then I'll be in your shoes...pawn of the sales game. Although I'm down to the final 4-years before retirement #2 so...the odds are we'll be somewhere where it's warmer year-round.

Glad you got a sweet ride for your son & hoping 2021 is much better for your vehicle fleet. :D
 
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You make some great points Lee. Even in northern Canada we are starting to see dealer groups buying up a bunch of stores. In Ontario you can't sell more than one brand from a dealership, but what often happens is family groups will buy say 3 Ford stores, a couple of Nissan stores and a Kia shop. Each owned by a different family member. Then they can populate their used car lots from the other stores.
My Dodge dealer is a single family owned store and they have a huge inventory of trucks, usually over a hundred on site. The sales people are all low key. I bought my last truck over the phone, emailed my order, they didn't want a down payment, and three months later my Ram 1500 Classic arrived. The sales guy told me that they don't order trucks the way I specd mine, but can sell them easily. Best part was that I got a great deal, as the guy applied the best program going from the time I ordered.
I have friends who bought Fords locally and had lots of issues, Several had bought Escapes with the 1.5 L engine and the things blew up at around 35,000 KM. Ford replaced the engines with the same thing and when your 5 year PT warranty is up you are screwed. They also eat wheel bearings and rear brakes and control arms. The F-150 seems to be robust and a lot of people use them hard here,. The Turbo V6's don't stand up as well, especially if you follow the regular use service protocol.
I like my 2019 Dodge, but the new ones are partially hybrid and have added all the new "safety" nannies. I don't know what I'll buy next, maybe back to a Toyota Tundra? They are bullet proof, but pricey.
As far as deals go, do your research and stick to you price. We're lucky in Ontario, since all dealers must itemize deals and show all in pricing. I decline the glass etching, seat sealer, paint treatment, ridiculous rustproofing charge, and other junk like wheel insurance. There are lots of dealers, find one that shoots you straight or take a walk. Good luck.
 

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I hear you. Most dealerships are not your friend! Every year it gets more and more difficult to buy a car, SUV, or truck. Rebates, specials, hidden money...........a great con game. As you say, the old sales guys are gone. MEGA dealers have sales people who came from another profession and have no knowledge about their products. The TV is flooded with ads about buying your vehicle with your smart phone............trust them, you get a great deal with no hassle.....right!
When I bought my 2020 BULLITT, I knew the dealership was a loser as soon as I walked in the store. The sales people were unprofessional. After negotiations, I got a decent price. Since I drove away on August 8, 2020. I haven't heard from the dealership............not even junk mail!!
The dealership is about 40 miles from my home...........I don't think I'll be going back there for service!
Honestly, I've considered writing FORD about such poor salesmanship and attention given on a new vehicle purchase!
It's AMERICA guys...........
ARMY TC
 

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guess, of late, I have been lucky, the Ford dealer I go to for sales only...not service, has always done a great job. the sales manager I have gotten to ,know and after the sales guys try their tricks (which I call them out on every time) and am not satisfied with the deal, I go to him. He always has done me right.

of course, these all have been purchases either for my now Ex or my kids. I haven't had a new car for me since 1972. I always buy used for me. kind of have to...paying for too many other new ones.
 

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Excellent rant full of good advice. One thing I could possibly add is to consider getting a PPI (Pre Purchase Inspection) by a qualified mechanic not connected to the dealer. Somebody you pay for an honest professional opinion. One test is compression/leakdown...might add to the cost of a PPI, but can save you thousands. A good look underneath with the car on a lift with professional eyes doing the looking is also worth the money paid...
 

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Agreed Paul! I once did a PPI on a 944 Turbo and on the lift the rear clip of the car was a different colour. The car had been totalled and a new clip "grafted" on. The rear track was off by over an inch and the car went down the road like a dog with an itchy bum. Caveat Emptor, buyer beware.
 

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I guess being in NJ I have a lot more population density, and with that density comes variety. I have every type of dealer around - mom and pops, dealers of every make and marque, as well as the carmax type locations and such.

Sadly, despite that, I have dealt with a lot of the same crap in months of hunting for my '19 Bullitt, both new AND used. I would say the biggest struggle I had, was nothing but a lack of negotiation. From my reading its due to all the online shopping, everyone is competing in a 100+ Mile radius, so they have to be very "aggressive" with pricing. Good deals vanish instantly, and you're left with people who act like you're insane for even attempting to ask for 500-1000$ off the price.

I knew my '19 bullitt was a pretty good deal as it was priced. It was a Cadillac dealer and they wanted to blow it out/did not want it sitting. I asked them if they could shave a little off the price, and they did work with me, nothing major, but gave me another 100$ off on top of what I asked for. First time I called the dealership I got an extremely rude gentleman on the line (who I believe was the New Car "general" sales manager, young guy who I overheard SCREAMING at someone from his office while I walked by to use the restroom... a real jerk). The used car sales manager was a cool customer in his late 40's early 50's and very friendly. They were happy to do the deal and unload the Bullitt as was I to buy it at the price with only 60 miles on it as a "used car." This was in Long Island, and sadly their general sales manager fit the bill of the jerky long islander.

So all in all, its a total crapshoot, it depends on the car, the sales person, the dealership, and hell, the day of the week. I do know I would probably never buy from Carvana or one of the "no haggle" sites, as the prices are often higher than similar cars in the area, due to the "convenience" of having the car delivered.
 

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In 1999, I was looking for a new car. Wanted: light color, stick shift, four door sedan. So with my detailed specs firmly in mind, I went around to all the dealers in town to see what was available.

The best encounter was the VW salesman who drove me to the bowling alley and let me test drive the car in the parking lot there. He drove my son and me back to the dealership then called me at work the next day and demanded I come buy the car that evening. Oh, and bring your husband so he can sign the papers. Bought the Honda Accord a couple days later.

Bottom line is, there will never be a VW or Toyota in my driveway.
 
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