The Painful Experience of Shopping for a Car

Imagine the image of a used car salesman. Picture the comb-over and plaid sports coat. The sound of the salesman going over the product without any concern for your needs.

For the past two weeks, I have been searching for my first car. The experience was not what I was expecting, but I learned several important lessons about car shopping from it.

I did my research and decided that I wanted to test drive a Ford Focus. We went to a local dealership and drove the car. It wasn’t the right model, but I wanted to see how comfortable the car was and how it felt to be at the wheel. After the test drive, I decided the Focus was the car for me.

Searching for the right car wasn’t too much trouble. I scrolled through the local available models and created a list of the cars that I was interested in.

One particular Focus stuck out to me. It was the right color, trim, and mileage. The dealership was nearby and the price seemed unreasonably low.

I emailed the dealer and started my negotiation. The problem was, he wouldn’t budge. I tried a number of negotiating techniques, but none of them worked. It seemed like he didn’t want to sell the car at all.

Our correspondence stopped, and I started to look for other cars. Over the rest of my search, I realized that the price offered by the first dealer was lower than other similar cars I had come across, and I decided to give the negotiations another shot.

Once again, the salesman didn’t budge. I offered to buy the car for the price he offered. He asked if I was trading anything in, which I wasn’t. After I told him this, he notified me that the car had sold.

I went back through the dealer’s inventory and picked an almost identical car. I offered the same price we discussed before.

“​No sir, that was an internet special from black friday.” He replied.

“Are there any differences between this car and the one we were discussing before?” I emailed back.

“​I do not see any differences.”

He would not sell an almost identical car for the price we previously discussed.

This was crushing, not only because I lost the car, but because my negotiation tactics didn’t work at all. The salesman didn’t even seem interested in trying to sell the car.

We realized that this was the dealer’s play. The prices online were only valid if you would trade another vehicle in. It seemed dishonest to me.

The thought started to creep into our minds that he maybe didn’t even sell the first car. We theorized that instead he broke off the conversation when he realized I wasn’t trading in.

When the pieces started to come together, the image of a used car salesman burned in my mind. I realized why this stereotype exists.

Thankfully, I found another car at a great price from a dealer that was willing to negotiate. We are going to pick it up on Monday.

I gained three major lessons from this experience.

  1. Do research on the dealer before you buy the car. After the fact, we researched the dealer and found they had less than two stars on Yelp.
  2. Always be able to walk away. I’m glad I was able to abandon that car, even though I really wanted to buy it.
  3. Negotiation is a part of the process. The salesperson always has wiggle room, but it might take some time to find it.

Although this wasn’t the most positive experience, I learned a lot that will equip me for the next time I have to buy a car.

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