After the insurance company officially classified our car as a “total loss,” we were faced with the unpleasant prospect of car shopping. Betsy had a Toyota Matrix for a rental vehicle, and although she really liked it we decided we need something bigger. As much as we hated the thought, we knew that we needed a minivan. After some research, the Honda Odyssey was the obvious choice. Friday evening we went to the local [Honda of Greeley](http://www.hondaofgreeley.com/) dealership to start the painful process. Here is how the ordeal went down sprinkled with tips for buying a used vehicle…
Tip 1: Arrive at the dealership 10 minutes before they close.
If you are lucky, a salesman will stick around after closing and show you around in the hope that you will buy from him the following day. While this may seem rude, this gives you a chance to see what is available without getting forced into negotiating before you are ready. Whatever you do, don’t buy a car that night. Get a feel for what is available, then go home and find out what they are worth.
Our “sales professional” was Kelly Antuna, and like any “good” used car salesman, he was eager to rip us off. He obviously saw my wife and I as easy marks because he immediately pointed us to the two ugliest Odyssey’s on the lot each with over 100,000 miles. That evening we did some research and came to the conclusion that Kelly was indeed greatly exaggerating the value of those vans. The next morning we had a list of cars that we found online that we wanted to check out. Before we started the day we called Kelly Artuna and made a low offer on one of the nicer Honda Odysseys. He invited us to take a test drive, but he thought it would be very hard for him to make the numbers work.
Tip 2: Know exactly what you are willing to pay for a vehicle, but always tell the salesman LESS than that number.
Kelly was ready to start haggling, so we let him start throwing numbers around. Every time he would come back from “talking to his manager” we would say, “That sounds pretty good, but we would really like to shop around.” Here are a few other phrases that worked quite well: “We saw a similar model online that was priced at…” or “We really want to see what is available in Denver because they seem to have so much more selection” or “You have given us alot to think about, we will definitely consider your offer.”
Tip 3: Leave the dealership at least once.
No matter how slick or nonchalant your salesman seems, he is desperate to make a sale. He doesn’t want you to leave the dealership. Once you leave the dealership, his manager will be on his case about why he didn’t close the sale. He will call you, and make you another offer.
When we finally got what we thought was a reasonable offer on the minivan, we agreed to test drive the vehicle over lunch. Since Rian fell asleep, we went home and ate lunch there. While he was sleeping, I looked at Honda of Greeley’s website. To my astonishment, I found the same van with the same VIN number with a lower price than what we had haggled for! I told Betsy to stay home while I returned the vehicle. When I got to the dealership, I told the salesman that he had wasted our morning, and now we were going to Denver to try and salvage our day. Kelly Antuna innocently said, “It was an honest mistake,” and urged me to stay while he went to talk to his manager. The manager came out and apologized for the “mistake.”
Tip 4: Never feel sorry for your salesman. Ever.
Trying to use his fraud to make the sale, the manager said, “If I honor the online price, would you still be interested in the vehicle?” I finally felt like I was in control of the negotiations. I said, “No, at this point I wouldn’t pay any more that $x.xx for it. Plus, you would have to replace the windshield because it has a ding in it.” This is the first time I said a price I was willing to pay. He again went back into the nerdery to crunch some more numbers.
Tip 5: Play good cop/bad cop.
With Betsy at home, I could use her as the bad cop and pass along the salesman’s offers to her over the phone. I said that she was pretty upset about almost being ripped off, and it would take a pretty great deal to get her to warm back up to the idea. It is much easier to be “bad cop” on the phone that it is in person.
Tip 6: Avoid their traps.
Eventually, you will hear this line, “What will it take for me to make this sale?” Unless you have already negotiated a price close to what you are willing to pay, sidestep this question. If you do answer this question, make sure that your answer is lower than what you would actually pay.
Finally, we got a price that we could live with, and I accepted their offer. It was a long and miserable day, but in the end I got a vehicle at a decent price. The dealership still made money, despite their whining. A dealership won’t let a car go out the door without making money. If they say you are ripping them off, they are bluffing.
My Final Tip: If you only remember one thing know exactly what you are willing to pay and don’t move from that number. Nothing the salesman says can be trusted, and you are the one in control of the sale because you have the money.
I had to go back to the dealership because the new windshield that we were promised hadn’t been delivered after several weeks. Betsy got the brush off over the phone so I wanted them to tell me to my face that they weren’t going to honor their agreement. I walked in the door and saw Kelly Antuna. To his credit, he remembered the agreement and filled out the paper work to get the new windshield installed. After the ordeal of buying the van, I think it is funny that I feel good when something that was supposed to happen actually happened.