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Car Salesman Confidential: Non-Confrontational Buying

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 10/10/2014 Mark McDonald

When you have nothing else to do one day, go down to your local library or bookstore and browse through the section where they keep the books on how to buy cars. You'll be amazed at how many there are.

Research

Here are some of the titles you may find:

  • "How to Buy a Car Without Getting Cheated"
  • "Car Buying Revealed: How to Buy a Car and Not Get Taken for a Ride"
  • "How to Buy a Used Car Without Getting Ripped Off"
  • "Inside the Minds of Car Dealers: How to Buy Your Next Car Without Fear."
  • "How to Buy a Car: Your Step-by-Step Guide in Buying a Car Without Getting Ripped Off."

Or, go online and do a search for articles and websites on car buying. Believe me, there's no shortage of experts offering advice out there. "How To Turn the Tables on the Car Dealers." "Don't Get Taken Every Time." "Car Shopping on the Offensive: 8 Aggressive Buying Tactics." "10 Things Your Car Salesman Won't Tell You." And so on.

Notice a common theme here?

The theme is … they (we) are out to get you.

Practically every book and magazine article I've read on buying cars in the past 30 years is based on the assumption that the car dealer is trying to rip off buyers. This underlying assumption leads to unnecessary stress, conflict, wasted time and energy, and disappointment on the part of the customer and salesperson. Often, the result is total failure. Total failure is defined here as the customer walking out of a dealership without the car he or she wants and the dealership missing out on a sale.

By now you may be saying to yourself, "But Mark, surely you're not suggesting that car dealerships aren't out to rip us off, are you?"

Yes, that's exactly what I'm suggesting. While there are some real crooks out there—and, in future posts, I'll show you how to spot them—the vast majority of dealerships in America aren't out to rip you off. (I'll give you a few moments to pick yourself up off the floor and crawl back to the keyboard before we continue.)

The goal of every car dealership is not to rip people off, but to make a profit. There is a difference.

The purpose of every business is to make a profit. That's the whole point of being in business. If you're not making a profit, there's no point in doing it. Back in the day, they used to call this the American Way. It's the foundation of our entire economic system.

Car Salesman Confidential 1024 680© Provided by MotorTrend Car Salesman Confidential 1024 680 And yet, the very first thing some of the books teach you is it's wrong for a dealership to make a profit. It's every consumer's duty to go in there and deprive the dealership of its last penny by getting them to sell you a car at cost or, better yet, below cost.

"Turn the tables on the dealer!" the experts command. Go in there and "beat the salesman at his own game!" Out-lie and out-trick and outsmart them!

No wonder people hate buying cars! Who wants to spend a whole afternoon, or an entire day, wrestling with a salesman over money? I know I don't, because a lot of 'em sweat pretty badly and wear cheap cologne.

This kind of "beat 'em at their own game" approach is a prescription for conflict. It also breeds frustration and might not even lead to a better price.

Consider this: The average consumer buys five to 10 cars in a lifetime. The average salesman sells 10 to 12 cars per month. In one year, I've sold well over a hundred cars. Over the past 10 years, I've sold close to 2,000. The idea that you're going to "beat" the pro at his own game is naive. It's sort of like thinking that reading a couple of articles on boxing qualifies you to step into the ring with Mike Tyson. This kind of well-intentioned but bad advice is unfair to the consumer. And it just makes everybody's life harder.

There is another way. Car buying need not be an adversarial process, in which a "well-armed" consumer dukes it out with a lying, conniving car salesman. You don't have to go in there and fight to the death for a good deal. All you have to do is know what's possible … and ask for it. Don't ask for the impossible; that will only lead to disappointment and frustration. Learn what's possible and ask for it, and you'll find that it's ridiculously easy to buy a car.

Now, I'm not saying that people in the car business are angels. No, no. There are some real snakes in the car business, folks who would step over their own mothers to sell a car (after first knocking her down). The old advice of caveat emptor, or buyer beware, still applies. But, things are changing for the better in our industry, and people like me in dealerships near you are doing everything they can to help the car business become more transparent and more honest. I know, because I hear from them all the time.

Here's the bottom line …

Every car I've ever sold involved some sort of compromise. The customer gave up a little of what they wanted, but got a good car at a price they could afford. The dealership didn't make all the money they wanted, but in the end they made a sale and gained a new customer. Everybody won.

Doesn't this approach make more sense than trying to become an overnight ninja and slay the evil car lord in his lair?

In Car Salesman Confidential, I'll try to help you understand the world of car sales, explain why salespeople do what they do, and show you what's realistic and attainable—without a black belt in Kar Fu. My goal is to take the stress out of buying a car and put back some of the joy, because getting a new car should be a joyful occasion.

My philosophy is, if you go in with the right attitude, accept the basic premise that the dealer has to make a profit on you — but not a killing — and you're willing to compromise a little, in the end you'll have the car you want at the price you want without all the headaches.

Good luck and happy shopping!

More Car Salesman Confidential:

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