Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Worst Way to Buy a Car - A Brief Bad Experience

If it's too good to be true...

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I've mentioned that line before and it never needs to be finished. Just heard of another "technique" that absolutely appalled me.

A friend goes to a dealer in a major east coast metro, drawn in by an ad that says "Drive home in a new (brand withheld so I don't get a lawsuit) today for $13,400!" The cars mentioned normally retail around $20,000.

Upon arriving at the dealership, he finds a friendly salesperson who confirms that it's not a scam and that the deal is real. "I'll own this car for under $14K," my friend asked.

The salesperson, perfectly trained to word it just right, says, "Yep, if you write me a check for $13,699 ($299 doc fee) it'll be in your driveway this afternoon."

You probably see where this is heading.

After a couple of test drives, the negotiations started. He opted for one with more than the basic options, which the salesperson said would be sold comparably but just a it higher than the one in the ad. No problems yet.

Finally, the negotiations. The first pencil comes back at $23K. My friend started to object, but the salesperson cut him off nicely and said that it was just a starting point and that they had to list MSRP for paperwork purposes. He crossed out the number, turned the worksheet over, and typed the following statement for my friend to sign:

"I will be the driver of this ________ for $15,384 cash or check."

My friend was relieved. He signed, called his wife, and waited for the finance department to call him back for the paperwork.

This is where it got ugly.

Versus going into the details of the 2 hour exchange that followed, let me give you the details of the scam and you can use your imagination to fill in the blanks. It's a single pay lease option. A consumer can "lease" a car for three years, paying only the price of the lease itself. At the end of the 3 years, they can either turn it back in, trade it in, pay off the balance, or finance the balance.

The single pay lease in itself is not a scam. For many, it's a great way to "hedge your bet" that the car will depreciate quickly. Most trade or replace a vehicle every 2-4 years anyway, so it's an easy way to pay for a car and not have to worry about trade values or anything like that later.

The scam is, of course, in the way the mesage was delivered hours after the exchange began. The ad is misleading. The salesperson was misleading. The negotiations were misleading. It wasn't until the final stage when the "trap was set" that the truth finally came out.

This is a bad practice, indicative of the techniques used in the 80s and 90s that gave the car business such a bad reputation. When investigating deals and specials on vehicle, remember, if it's too good to be true...

This article is sponsored by honest dealers and automotive companies such as New Hampshire Volvo Dealers, Toledo Dodge Chrysler Jeep, and Beaumont Chevrolet. People have choices when buying new and used cars. It's up to you to get the information necessary to make a good one.

Car Buying Tips

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Car Buying Tip: The Best Time to LIE is Now

Almost all of the manufacturers and their dealers say the same thing during many of their commercials.

"Now is the best time to buy."
"Don't wait. This offer will pass you by!"
"Hurry, before the best deals are gone."

As buyers, it's in our best interests to wait for the absolute best deals. That's a no brainer. The tough part is sifting through the good deals to get to the great deals. If every deal is the best according to the advertising, how can we recognize the real gems?

First, a bit of history about how it works. The car business is impatient. All of them, from the CEO down to the salesperson, wants action immediately. They are compelled to "whip the horse" at all times. It's a constant sprint despite the fact that they are in it for the long haul. Thus, all advertising, all inquiries, and all contacts are treated in a way that will generate revenue in the shortest time possible.

The way that consumers can get the very best deal is to lie. No, I don't mean the lies propogated by other car buying advice websites, such as hiding the trade until the last minute, getting financing ahead of time and not telling the dealer, or making up numbers that you were "quoted." I'm referring to lying about the urgency of your purchase.

Set up an email account specifically for your inquiries. Once you've identified the make and/or model that you want, start contacting everyone and their dog from the dealers to the manufacturers to the third party websites such as Edmunds and Automotive. When prompted about time-frame on making a purchase, check the box for "Now."

Why? The simple fact is that people who are in the market today are the ones that get the most attention. They are the ones that can put money in everyone's pocket. They are forces to be reckoned with and demand attention.

After this is established, it's time to switch gears and wait. You should receive a ton of responses. Stress the fact that you are looking for the absolute best deal. Be polite in your responses, keep in contact regularly, and let them know that you can pull the trigger at any moment.

The deals will roll in. Compare them with each other. Research them on the Internet. Then, you wait again. What are you waiting for? You want the best deal, right? When the best deal arrives, EVERYONE you've contacted will let you know in unison.

In 2006, Ford was really pushing their low interest rates. It wasn't making a dent because almost everyone had low interest rates available at the time. So, they announced very abruptly that they were offering 0% for 72 months on most makes and models. This sent a ripple effect through the industry. In a week, I received contacts from everyone I'd been in contact with: several dealers, Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury, three 3rd party websites, and even a classified website. This resounding proclamation told me what I needed to know: this was the real deal.

In conclusion, don't lie to car dealers just because you think they are lying to you. BUT, it's acceptable to feign your interest to get on the lists that will let you know that the real "best time to buy is now!"

Car Buying Tips

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New Campaign Uses Penguins to Save Environment

Okay, so this has nothing to do with car buying tips, advice, or even dealing with car dealers. Please indulge me, as this is hilarious.

The American Bus Association has launched a new campaign with brochures featuring penguins as the reason we should take the bus. By taking the bus, we will reduce carbon dioxide emissions and help stop the destruction of the penguin habitat. Now, while I am definitely in favor of saving the environment, this newest promotion to "go green" strikes me as hilarious.

Clever, yes, but ultimately, our motivation as humans is to save ourselves. The penguins will get hit first if we don't improve, but let's look at the big picture. We want to live. We want our children and their children to live. It's a cute ploy, but is it really the best approach to get more people out of their cars and onto buses?

read more | digg story

Monday, November 12, 2007

Before the Dealer, Try the Automotive Classifieds

In this competitive market, car dealers are starting to rely more and more on third party websites to generate leads. They need to be in front of the customers in any way they can, so having their inventories available on automotive websites is important.

The consumer can take advantage of this. There is, of course, the obvious benefit of being able to search through multiple inventories simultaneously, but there is one thing that people don't often know. Because internet departments are often fighting to justify their budgets, leads that come to them from automotive classified websites are often "worked harder" so they can have stronger statistics.

In other words, you may be able to work a slightly better deal going through these automotive portals than you would have had you gone straight to the dealer. Sound crazy? It absolutely isn't.

Try it. You'll probably be surprised.

Car Buying Guide

Thursday, September 13, 2007

From the Web: Mike Hamel Car Buying Tips

This blog was initially created as an insider's perspective on the car business to help consumers get the best deals from the dealers. As a former member of the industry, I felt I could offer everything that people would possibly need regarding advice.

From time to time, I come across articles that are insightful that I didn't write myself. Since this blog is about the consumer and not about me, I will occasionally post links to other author's work that I feel is pertinent and informative for people buying cars.

Instead of reposting their articles, I prefer to link to them. Most articles written and posted on the internet are done so to give links and credit to other websites. Since I do not endorse websites with which I am not familiar, I have decided to link directly to the articles themselves. That way, I am simply promoting the content and not necessarily the websites associated.

Read this article -- good stuff! Tips on Buying your Next Car

Cay Buyers Guide

Friday, August 17, 2007

Throw out the BlueBooks

The article itself doesn't say a whole lot, but sometimes, simple is best. It points to the idea that Kelley Blue Book pricing is not always the best way to go when trying to buy a car. The reason is that the prices are often inflated. If you are trading, it should still be useful to compare the value of yours with the value of theirs since it is being done using the same scale. Still, Black Book Online is recommended. I will post a full article about Black Book soon. Until then, remember. It doesn't matter which provider you use to look up used car values. As long as you are looking at consistent numbers on the same platform, the difference is all that really matters.

read more | digg story

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Automotive Classified Profile:

In 1998, was born.

With over 8 million monthly visitors, 13,000 car dealers, and the addition of private party sales, is a resource that every shopper should browse when looking for a car.

The interface is strong, offering a quick portal to the inventory. Unlike some of its competitors, you can get to the inventory by selecting make, model, and zip code, then one click takes you to the vehicles. Direct links to the dealers are present, so visiting dealers coast to coast from Portland Honda to Boston Toyota is just a switch of cities or zip codes from reality.

The advanced search options are very crisp, allowing you to search multiple makes, models, and years simultaneously. You can search by zip or city and you can narrow your search by how long the vehicle has been listed.

The listings themselves are okay. They offer several calls to action, but someone who isn't familiar with it may not be able to quickly find the right buttons.

Overall, I recommend as a place to search for cars, especially if you don't mind working with dealers and you are willing to buy in a major metropolitan area.

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Vehicle Buying Tips

Monday, August 6, 2007

Salvaged Cars and How to Identify Dealers that Sell Them

Salvaged or repaired vehicles are NOT always a bad thing for consumers. They are normally considerably cheaper than their unwrecked counterparts and with today's mechanical technology, it is possible for a severely damaged vehicle to be repaired nearly to its original condition. Newer engine, newer parts, newer transmission -- if it wasn't a terrible wreck and the repairs were done right, salvaged cars may be the way for some people to go. For those of us who want to wreck our cars ourselves without someone else doing it for us, read this article.

read more | digg story

Work Trade Difference, Not Payments

The favorite kind of customer for dealers is the payment customer. You know, the ones who don't care how much, they just want the car that they want for payments that they can afford. Unfortunately, even those who are not strictly payment buyers can be swayed into becoming one inadvertently through very structured techniques that some car dealers use. The 4-square is one of those techniques. This article from Gather is an excellent example of how the 4-square works. It may seem like a very dumb customer who falls for it, but trust me, even a very astute car buyer can fall into the trap under the right circumstances and with the right salesperson.

read more | digg story

Sunday, August 5, 2007

How Car Dealers Get You to Buy

What a great story that I found on Digg. It falls into the category of, "man, I wish I wrote that!" Has insights that are both true and useful for car buyers of all types: new, used, program, certified preowned, demos... whatever you buy, read this article.It is strictly for those working with car dealers, so if you're in the market for a car from an individual, this isn't the article for you. If you are heading to the dealership anytime soon, please read this (and other articles on this page, of course).

read more | digg story

Monday, July 23, 2007

Car Dealer Credit Apps: A Look from the Inside

An insider's look into some of the different types of credit applications that car dealers use. The reason I'm posting it here is because it mentions some of the bad things that many credit applications use to secure people's interest in their particular car dealership -- the dreaded pre-approval email!

read more | digg story

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Buying Cars the Old Fashioned Way... with a twist

Sometimes, the best way to buy a car is to just go to the dealership, drive a few cars, and make a purchase based upon price negotiations and overall experience at the dealership.

Thanks to the Internet, we can still do it, but we can go in prepared.

Visit as many dealer sites as you can before ever leaving your house. Make notes. Find out which dealerships have the kind of vehicle that you are looking for.

Once you have a healthy list, start sending in requests for quotes. Being honest at this stage will save lots of time. Tell them exactly what you are doing so they know not to waste time trying to shoot a higher price at you, just in case you aren't comparing. Let them know that you are looking at this vehicle and you have asked for quotes from several dealers, and that your decision will be based upon your experience over the internet as well as the price.

This is an important step. Many dealers will balk at the idea of being in a price war, especially if they are in a competitive market where the closest dealer to the customer is the one who gets their business. When they know that you are considering the experience as well, it opens up the door for them to earn your business.

You should start getting emails and calls within the hour. Anyone who doesn't reply quickly or sends an auto-responder without following up with a personal email or phone call probably isn't the best place for you to do business. The hungrier the dealership and internet department, the more willing they will be to give you a great deal and a great experience.

Once you have a short list, get the specs of the vehicle they have that you want. Make sure to find out if the vehicle is currently available in their inventory or if it is one that must be ordered or traded for. Sometimes dealers will quote hypothetical vehicles if they do not have an exact match in their inventory. This isn't a bad thing, as long as they can get the right vehicle. Who cares where it came from, as long as they can get it and sell it to you within your timeframe?

Now, the visits start. Whoever treated you the best, give them a visit. Let them have first shot. As long as you are armed with quotes on apples-to-apples vehicles, you should be able to get the vehicle that you want from the dealership you want at the price you want. If not, move on.

Many car dealers, such as Woburn Toyota Dealers and Johnson City Honda, are willing to bring in or order the vehicle that you are wanting if they don't have it in stock. Make sure you have this information understood before leaving for the dealership.

Test driving can be a challenge if they don't have the exact vehicle, but as long as they have some that are very similar, it shouldn't make a difference. New cars, in general, drive the same as long as the mechanical issues are identical, such as engine, transmission, tires, etc.

From there, it should be easy. You have the quotes. They have to meet them. Drive home knowing you made a great deal.

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Car Buying Tips

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Automotive Links Page Added

Here are some automotive links to websites that we have partnered with. While we do not necessarily advocate any practices on these pages, we feel that they are an authority in their niche in the business of cars and other automobiles and we offer our link to them.

For the best in Automotive News and Articles - is the best in the business. It doesn't focus on news that involves the industry as much as it focuses on news that involves how the industry effects you.

There are many social networks, but Auto Dealers Network is one that focuses on car buyers, car sellers, and everyone in between. Whether you work at a dealership, buy from a dealership, or drive by a dealership, this is the place to talk about it.

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Car Buying Tips

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Car Buyers Beware — Website may be boring

Websites don't have to be boring, but looking at some the way some car dealers have their websites created, you would think that they should start advertising on C-Span.

read more | digg story

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Car Buying Tips

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Auto Buyers Websites

This is less of an article and more of a post about some particular websites that either I have made or that have caught my eye. The automotive industry is a competitive one, but there are ways that many companies are using to promote their clients' or their own websites.

One such way is to post links throughout their blogs and automotive niche sites that help increase their link popularity and drive traffic. This is such a post.

If you are looking for car buying tips, please scroll up or down.

Car Buying Tips

Several websites on the Internet offer articles that help people by offering them vehicle purchasing advice. Like this blog, other car buying blogs post some form of help for the car buyers.

Dealerships are known to use tactics that are often shady. Thanks to the Internet, many of these tactics are obsolete. There are vehicle pricing sites, car buying guides, and vehicle reviews to help people make their decisions before they even go to the auto dealership.

Vehicle Inventory Searches

Many websites, like Autotrader,, and UsedCarsOnly, have listings of dealership used car inventories. These are great automotive tools for shoppers to use because it saves driving time. There is no longer a need to visit lines and lines of dealers. Shopping online is one of the best things to happen through technology in years.

An excellent free resource is Craigslist. Both shoppers and sellers can get or post information here for free. Used car searching is not fun, but it has at least been simplified.

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

Automotive Website Resources

Not a lot of new information, but a general collection of basic car buying information. Also discusses issues with automotive websites and how they should be. Pulls from lots of different resources, from commonly known ones to more obscure ones. A nice read overall.

read more | digg story

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

GM Hopes Transformers will Transform their Sales

They were number 1 in auto sales for years until Toyota bumped them from the top spot earlier in 2007. Who do they call for help? Optimus Prime and his stalwart band of Autobots to blast through the import Decepticon invasion and bring peace and tranquility to the automotive market once again.

read more | digg story

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Audi A8 Prototype to Feel Like a Lotus, a Mercedes, a VW, and a Hyundai

A new system by Audi will allow the new A8 to emulate the feel of an E-Class Mercedes-Benz, a VW GTI, the Lotus Elise, and to go with these quality vehicles, a Hyundai Getz. Nothing flatters better than imitation.

read more | digg story

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Monday, June 11, 2007

J.D. Power's 2007 IQS: tightest spread yet

In J.D. Power's latest quality study, two-thirds of brands fall within one-sixth of a problem of the average. And the spread from best to worst is now only about 0.8 problems per car. So the differences between brands in most cases are not meaningful.

read more | digg story

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Only Three Things Worth Buying in Finance

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When the negotiations are done, most consumers relax when buying a car. The hard work is done. The hard sell is over. It’s time to celebrate a victorious purchase of a new or used vehicle.

Most consumers don’t realize that the true hard sell is just about to start.

In a perfect world, a finance manager, business manager, or whatever title is given to the person in the back that prepares paperwork will be just that: the person that prepares paperwork.

In the real world, the finance manager is probably one of the best and most persistent salespersons the consumer will ever meet.

They aren’t necessarily bad people. Most are exceedingly friendly and professional, dressed to impress and possessing an easy way that puts people at ease. To a car dealership, the finance manager is the last and best chance the dealer has to make money on a vehicle sale.

There are dozens of methods that the finance manager can make money from you. The good part is that not all of the ways are bad and not all of the products that they will offer are rip offs. In most cases, though, some of the offerings are just not worth the money the consumer will pay.

Instead of going over the details of the different products and suites that aren’t really worth it, here is a short list of items that a consumer should really question and investigate before purchasing:

Undercoating, paint sealant, oil change plans, VIN etching, scotch guard, preowned vehicle leasing, personal vehicle insurance, and tires for life.

There are others that are somewhat legitimate like the ones listed above, and there are some that are downright scams, but we’re here to focus on the potentially good ones.

Dealerships such as Used Cars Oklahoma City and other honest dealers around the country offer a basic, short list of products that consumers should consider:


Some call it a scam, but most who have totaled a vehicle with a lien on it can attest to the wonders of Gap Insurance. In essence, it covers the “gap” between what a vehicle is worth and how much is owed when a car is totaled. For example, if someone totals their vehicle and the insurance company agrees to pay $7,000 while the driver still owes $11,000, gap insurance is designed to cover it. Without gap, the insurance company will be forced to leave the remaining $4,000 to be paid out of the customer’s pocket.

Usually ranging from $300-$700, it is a good investment for consumers who (1) finance vehicles without securing equity by putting a lot of money or trade equity down on the car, (2) drive more than 10k miles per year, and/or (3) purchase new vehicles, especially high dollar ones.


Not all warranties are created equal. A consumer who plans on keeping a vehicle beyond the factory warranty should strongly consider an extended one.

Research beforehand into some extended warranties available online for the vehicle you are considering. Know the cost, deductible, what is and isn’t covered, and whether a prorated balance is refundable if the vehicle is traded, sold, or totaled.

Armed with this knowledge, it should be easier to get a good deal on a good warranty, whether it’s the one that the finance manager offers or a separate one.


Most life insurance policies are designed to help with cost of living. Debt should not be paid through standard insurance.

In case of tragedy, having a credit life and disability plan will help to pay off the balance of a vehicle loan. There are few things worse after dealing with a tragedy than to find that the loved one also left major bills and debts behind.

Final Thoughts

Not all “bad” items are that bad. Some may fit into a consumer’s needs. Not all “good” finance items are good, either. The key is to do the research before getting caught off guard by a finance manager ready to spray a $20 can of Scotch Guard in your new or used car for an additional $179.


J.D. strives to promote quality, honest automotive websites and point out the scams out there being put on by “the other guys”. Visit his current projects, San Diego Used Cars, " target="_blank" >Auto Dealers in Oklahoma, and " target="_blank" >Oklahoma Lincoln Dealers.

I hope it helps.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Car Dealers: eCommerce Doesn’t have to be Their Enemy

There is one word that car sales managers try to embed into their salespeople.


Control the deal, the customer, the situation, the tempo – everything.

During the glory days of car sales before the Internet destroyed everything, dealers were able to take advantage of an uninformed public. It was good to sell cars.

This reason, above all, is why the auto industry hasn’t bought in on “Buy it Online”. The car dealer has no control over deals that happen from home or office. They know they need to have an internet presence, but they want that presence to bring people onto the lot, nothing more.

The handful who allow people to buy vehicles online and on the phone will eventually pave the way. Vehicle quality, warranty length, and available knowledge are all helping customers get an edge. Customers can decide which car, truck, or SUV most likely meets their needs before they step foot at a dealership.


It doesn’t take a webmaster to find dozens of informative sites to help consumers buy a new car. Reviews, virtual test drives, comparisons and pricing are all available a few clicks down most Google searches.

Pre-owned cars offer different challenges, but it’s very easy to get enough information to make good choices. Car listing search websites like Las Vegas Used Cars offer consumers a way to find something good.

The challenge happens at the crossing between the customer and the car dealership. In many cases, both parties lie. Not all, but enough on both sides to reduce the trust factor considerably.

Facing the Challenges

Internet Coordinator Nick Umbs from Ted Britt Ford in Virginia uses eBay and other methods to bring his dealership in contact with the internet shopper.

“We start out by posting 35-50 detailed photos along with a highly detailed description of the vehicle,” said Umbs. “We want the customer to feel like they are actually at the dealership with the vehicle. We don’t want them to have any unexpected surprises upon delivery.

“The whole process is very painless with great results.”

Another challenge is the trade-in. Most consumers want their trade value site-unseen from telling the dealer make, model, miles, and that it is in excellent condition.

Oklahoma City Lincoln Dealers in El Reno, OK, handles distant trades with their online buying process. They use Black Book online to help customers determine their trade value.

“We have been able to sell dozens of vehicles to out-of-state customers because of 100% disclosure on both ends,” said Dandy O’Connor, Customer Resource Manager. “We don’t expect them to buy ours if it isn’t what we described, just as we wouldn’t take theirs if we were misled. Since we started the program, we haven’t had any of these deals go south.”

eCommerce and the Auto Dealer

Whether consumers are trying to buy from local dealers or from across the country, it is possible to buy a car online. It’s difficult, but definitely not impossible.

First, consumers must locate a dealer that will do business in this manner. There aren’t many yet, but a dozen email inquiries should yield 1 or 2.

Once an e-friendly dealer is found, consumers should get right to the point. Find a vehicle that fits and make an offer. Tell them everything about your trade, finance situation, timeframe – the works.

Pick up the phone and make the call. Search online, but discuss the details over the phone after the ideal vehicle is located.

There are millions of sites that offer financing options, but it is best to let the dealer try first. Almost all have a secure online application. Use it.

Finally, arrange ask them to arrange transportation. Then, look for some of your own, just to make sure you’re getting a fair price. Talk to the finance director to discuss any extras, then have the paperwork mailed or sent via courier.

It sounds easy. It isn’t. Still, it is probably less trouble than doing everything face-to-face where the dealership has more control.

The Future

Being able to perform a vehicle transaction online is on its way to becoming reality. Those dealerships who have the forward thought enough to start implementing now are the ones who will most likely survive these rough times in the car business.

Until they all come around, be diligent. There are a few “good guys” out there.