Sunday, May 22, 2005

What's grey and mine and Green All Over?

My new car!  Observe its cuteness.  I got the grey one.  An' it's a hybrid, so it's all environmentally righteous.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, sit down and hear the tale of how it came to be owned by me...

Once upon a time ... ok, about a month ago, it dawns on me that maybe now is a good time to trade in my car.

So, I do a whole bunch of research and hunt down the car I want (the Escape Hybrid SUV) and the price I should be paying for it (which is the sticker price, as demand for these suckers is so high, lots of dealerships get away with charging $5000 more than the sticker price). recommends a Ford dealership which isn't really close to me, but promises to sell the car to me for what Edmunds thinks a fair price is (aka, the msrp).  And I went down there three weeks ago, and sure enough, they agreed to sell me the car for the msrp.  As soon as they got one in.  And my salesguy asked me what I wanted for my trade-in, and I (having researched that, too) said "around $4800" and he researched it on the internet, and came up with the same $4800, so we're pretty much agreed that that's what the trade-in will be, and that's that.

So, he calls me every week to update me on the car situation.  He doesn't have a car for me until Friday, when he calls and tells me he has one that exactly meets my specs.  Can I come in on Saturday to buy it?

Abso-freakin-lutely.  I clean out my car, and show up at the dealership with my pink slip, proof of insurance, registration, and checkbook.

I go on a nice, long test drive.  I like the car.  A lot.  We go back to his office to talk turkey.  He says the car comes with a Lojack.  (For $595!)  I say I don't want a Lojack, and cross that off the info. sheet.  He doesn't seem to complain.

We go over to his "appraisal" guy to get the car appraised.  Appraisal guy comes back with a piece of paper which gets shown to manager guy, who gives it back to salesguy who says...


Now, remember.  We've BOTH seen on the internet where the "trade-in blue book" value of my car is $4800.  (Actually, we ran it again and it said $4900, so I went with that.)  I mean, we pull up the Kelly blue book website on his computer, put in all the specs of my car, say it is in "fair" (not good, but fair) condition, and it comes up with "A dealer should give you $4900 for this car."  I point this out to the salesguy.  But the manager had written on the little form that the market value of my car is $4350, and it's going to cost him $1350 to recondition it, put on new tires, and get it in saleable condition.  Leaving a total payment to me of $3000.  Riiiiight.

I make the salesguy take the print-out that says $4900 back to his manager.

Salesguy walks away.  (I believe he is leaving me in his office to stew.  I purposely take out my cell phone and wirelessly connect to CNN, reading news stories.  By the time he comes back in, it isn't like I was eagerly awaiting his return, it's that he is interrupting me.  Take THAT, mind-game boy.)  Salesguy comes back. 

"The manager agrees that $4900 is the market value of the car [really?  that's progress] but you have to undertand that we have to pay for the new tires, and to condition the car."

I pick up the piece of paper again.  I underline the bit on the piece of paper where we said the car is in "Fair" condition and that "Fair" condition means that it needs new tires and might have some cosmetic damage.  I say that all these things were taken into account when the computer came up with $4900. 

I further point out that we all know what's going on here.  Other car dealers are charging an extra $5000 for hybrids, but they're not -- they're selling for MSRP.  But now they're just trying to take extra profit by low-balling me on the trade-in since the car price itself isn't open to negotation, and I'm not standing for this.  I tell him if he comes back again with a number lower than $4900, I'm walking.

He goes away.  (I surf the web some more.)  He comes back with the manager, who claims to have been making phone calls to find someone willing to give him more than $3000 for my car.  (Right.  Who on EARTH would he be calling?)  He now raises my trade-in offer to $4200.

He picks up the form to show me the total price of the car.  He credits me $4200 for the trade in.  He charges me over $3000 for "taxes and fees" which, when we break it down, includes a "document preparation fee" which isn't a tax at all, but a hidden "fee" that the dealership gets.  (It's small and I'll pay it, but I wanted to point out to him that I knew he was taking profit there.)  He adds in $595 for the Lojack.

Is the Lojack already on the car? 


Then I don't want the Lojack.  Take it off.

He refuses.  "Some dealers charge an extra $5000," he says.  "We don't; but we make you buy a Lojack."

I thank them for their time and stand up to leave.  Salesguy asks me if I'm really leaving over "700."  "And $600 for a Lojack I don't want?  You bet."  I walk out. 

My dramatic exit was somewhat undermined by my discovery, some fifteen minutes later, that I'd forgotten to get my deposit back.

We're going to skip over the next part of the story, because it involves a transaction that hasn't been finalized yet (so can still be screwed up, and I don't want to jinx it).  But let's just say that, within about 15 minutes, I made a tentative deal to sell my car to someone else for a fair price.  (Let's also say that we researched prices that my car is going for on the open market, and that it is going for about $8000.  Hmmm.  And this Ford dealer wanted to give me $3000 for it.  There's that magic $5000 profit figure again.)

I called the salesguy back and left a message on his machine.  Forget the trade-in, I said.  I'll just buy the car for the msrp, take it or leave it.  And if you leave it, give me my deposit back.

He called back.  "Including the Lojack?"  He said.

Sigh.  Yes, fine, including the damn Lojack.  (At least there I'm getting something for my money, rather than just lining their pockets.)

I go back to the dealer today.  He gives me a huge pile of paperwork to sign, a lot of which doesn't apply.  I complain about having to sign stuff that doesn't apply.  My salesguy doesn't understand my complaint, so takes me to the finance manager.

The Finance Manager sits me down with the forms and walks me through them like I'm a little child.  I find this extremely annoying and patronizing, and do what I can to cut this short.  Although, I can't help but notice the first thing he says when he's going through the contract...

"The first thing I have to tell you is:  This price includes $595 for an optional Lojack.  Do you agree to pay for that?"

Hello.  "I'd rather not," I tell Finance Manager.  "Salesguy said I had to get it."  Salesguy is sitting right there.  Finance Manager asks him if it is already installed.  Salesguy admits it is not.  Finance Manager says I don't have to buy it if I don't want to.

I don't want to.  We print up a new contract.  No Lojack.  No getting screwed on the trade-in.

YAY!  New car!  New car!


helmswondermom said...

Wow!  You're good.  I am in awe!!!


dklars said...

Next time I need a new car I'm taking you with me!!

gabreaelinfo said...

A great example of how to cut through all the BS.


rwdykt said...

You're my new hero.  Very awesome.

andreakingme said...

Three things.

1.  What the frell's a Lojack?

2.  You GO, girl. (What IS it with those damn car salesmen who think they can jerk a girl around? You showed THEM, though. Yeah!)


P.S. I'll be in the market for a new-ish car here shortly ... so consider yourself warned.

nzforme said...

Lojack is a security device, hidden somewhere on your car.  If you car gets stolen, the police activate the lojack, and it tells them where you car is.  They have a VERY high recovery rate (something like 90% within the first 24 hours) because bad guys don't KNOW the car has a lojack on it.  It's a good device -- I just didn't want to get bullied into buying one.

jevanslink said...

Thanks for reminding me why I buy used cars and pay cash.  Mrs. L