The last time I wrote a post on the topic of the car buying experience, was four years ago. Probably because that was the last time I was put through this particular gauntlet. Now, that I’ve recently had to have the bamboo jammed under my fingernails again, I was curious to see what had changed, if anything.
The article that sparked that last post told tales of customers falling victim to a multitude of car dealer scams. Reflecting back on that last purchase I made, I wasn’t exposed to deception at that cunning a level. However, there was the fair share of negotiation shenanigans that I had to endure. Such as the sales guy wearing a path in the carpet back and forth to the business manager’s (a.k.a. The Wizard of Oz) office with different prices. At one point, he wrote a number on a scrap piece of paper and told me I had to sign it in order for the business manager to know that was the number I wished to present to the man behind the curtain. Of course, I signed nothing. But, the the process just had a general overtone of friction and contention. I never got the feeling that anyone was looking to make the experience enjoyable or easy. It was like trudging through wet sand with the sharks just off the coast waiting for a wave to come and trip me up and pull me out to where they could strike. I was on my guard. But, I never slipped.
Flash forward to last week. I had what I thought was a simple transaction. I was converting a lease of a car I currently had in my possession into a purchase. Buying out the lease. No inventory to move. No price to negotiate as the buyout price or residual value as it’s called, was already set three years ago when I first leased the car. In most states, this transaction is completed directly with the leasing company, over the phone and via mail. But not in my state. Here, this transaction has to be handled through a dealer. But it was still simple. Write a check. Transfer the title. And, be done with it. Ah, but little did I know, there was still a few flaming spears to be hurled my way.
They weren’t big spears. Maybe darts is a more accurate description. Like running 100 feet past pugli stick-weilding drill sergeants. Not painful. But, I was going to get batted around a bit before I was allowed to emerge. Again, the visit with the business manager. The good thing is, I actually got to go behind the curtain and see the face this time. The pitch for the extended warranty, the clear coat, the window etching, the leather conditioner, all the add-ons that generate profit margins that would pique the interest of the SEC if this were a hedge fund.
So, I share this to find out if I’m still the only one. With all the information that car buyers are able to arm themselves with now, will the white flag every be waved by the industry? Will the experience ever become “one click”? I can buy a television that costs as much as a Bugatti (actually, no I can’t. Because I can afford it.) . Do it on line at 2am. And have it shipped directly to my door. So, what still makes car buying such a battle of wits?
If you’ve had a really good, I mean truly enjoyable, car buying experience, can you share your story? I figure I must be missing something that others know.