So the family is considering a new car. We’re looking at a window 4-6 months in the future when the conditions may be right for us to make such a purchase, but we’ve started our research now. Being the good geek family, we discussed our needs and desires as a group, and settled upon the (potentially sad) fact that we’re probably going to get some sort of mini-van kind of transport. We did a bunch of research on the internet, and came up with some strong possibilities, and as a fun Saturday activity today, we decided to go and check a few of them out.
Now, we’ve been through the joy of car-purchasing before, and came away with the knowledge that it’s rather like trying to skinny-dip in a pool of sharks and chum. We wanted to see the cars, really be able to evaluate them, without feeling the high-pressure sales tactics that are so common. Fat chance. But what we did decide to do was to turn it into a little bit of a game. So, as a way to evaluate the sales staff as well the cars, we decided to time them – see how fast we would be beset by a sales person at each dealership. So, with the timer on my iPhone at hand, we set out.
The Dodge/Chrysler dealership wasn’t bad – 2.5 minutes to our first contact, and the salesman was amenable and still helpful even after we explained it was only a recon mission. It didn’t stop him from mentioning the available incentives every three minutes, but he was polite about it.
The Toyota salesman was on us in 30 seconds, but the shock and awe quickly gave way to a poorly planned and executed campaign with little sign of an exit strategy (for him). We told him what model and features we were looking for. He took us over to one in a row of vehicles, and then declared that he needed to go get the key. He ran off for about three minutes, came back, unlocked one door, and then declared that the battery was dead so the autolocks wouldn’t work. He went off in search of a charger, while we took a closer look at a vehicle that had none of the features we were looking for. He came back and jumped the car. When we told him it didn’t have the features we wanted, but the next one over did, he said he’d run right off and get the key for that one. We said "don’t bother."
We drove by the Honda dealer. We pulled in the drive, and up towards the front of the showroom, when we saw – as my son described – a "pack of salesmen in a v-formation ready to attack." We feared for our lives, and kept on driving.
We finished at the Ford dealership, where we ended up actually having to find someone to help us get a look at the vehicle we were interested in after about 5 minutes of wandering around. He was more helpful than the Toyota guy, but still not completely up on the model we liked, and the first one he opened had, like at the Toyota dealership, a dead battery. When we finally left, there were no brochures available either.
All-in-all, not the most successful day, at least from the salespeople’s POV. We saw a couple cars to keep on our list, and wrote a few dealers off as places to avoid at all costs. But I’d love to hear stories from you the readers. What have been your car-buying experiences, good and bad? Has anyone tried the internet purchasing systems available? Or Costco? Or AAA? Let us know in the comments, thanks!