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.

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