Everyone has different experiences while shopping for a car. Some end successfully while others walk away empty handed. I was recently in the market for a new car and decided to do some research of my own. I wanted to focus on the buying/selling experience from the perspectives of both a car salesman and a car buyer. The accounts of my conversations with a former car salesman and a disgruntled customer are as follows.
The Salesman: Larry
Larry began his career just like any other, with training but on how to sell cars. Larry was taught to go after high pressure sales in which you try to catch people off guard. The idea is to score a quick sale while exploiting people who were weak or uninformed. Larry was also trained to go over to the service department and make small talk with the people waiting for their cars. If he overheard that someone just got hit with a $2000 bill for a new transmission, he was supposed to introduce the benefits of a new car plus a trade-in deal. When he had a customer he was taught to stay with them throughout their visit to make sure they didn’t have the opportunity to talk to other customers. This would prevent them from comparing prices or finding loopholes in the deal.
Larry explained to me that car salesmen are not the enemy. It is actually sales managers who teach tactics to haggle the customers. Car salesmen usually work on 100% commission, and have to answer to their sales manager when they don’t make a sale. However, Larry was not in fear of his sales manager because he knew he was moving in a few months and would no longer be working there. Consequently, Larry ignored nearly every technique he was taught. He would take the time to get to know what the customer wanted, figure out their budget without being pushy and would eventually lead them towards a car that fit their wants, needs, and budget. Ironically, Larry was the top salesman at his dealership for three months in a row before moving.
The Car Buyer: Ronny
Ronny took me back a few years, to when he was eighteen. He explained to me how he just had to have this brand new, yellow Pontiac GTO. It was way out of his price range and he had no credit, yet somehow he was able to purchase his dream car. He didn’t question how it happened; he just knew that the car was his. The catch was that Ronny bought the car on a 6 year loan, with an interest rate of 21% and a monthly payment of $502. “Looking back, I wish I would have listened to my mom,” Larry said, “She tried to tell me I was making a mistake, but I was a hard-headed, uninformed kid who had to get what I wanted.” Now, nearly 5 years later, Ronny still owes about $15,000 on the original price of $22,000. In all, he will pay nearly double the value of his car because of the high interest rate.
My Car Buying Test
When it was time for me to begin my search for a new car, I went in with a fresh outlook. Over the weekend, I visited to two car dealerships. One ended up being the typical dealership (which I won’t name) with the salespeople in their white shirts and gold ties waiting like vultures for their next big sale. The effort was fruitless and I left irritated. Hoping for better results, I visited another local dealership, Park Place Texas, and they blew my expectations away. I was greeted by a friendly young man who genuinely seemed interested in learning about me and what I needed in a new car. I kept in mind all the things I had learned about from Larry but didn’t notice any of the shady tactics. I ended up with my dream car, but unlike Ronny, I received a reasonable finance plan without an outrageous interest rate. I bought a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Convertible and I love everything about it!
Every dealership is different. Larry taught me that not all car salesmen are enemies. There are those dealerships who promote the practice of genuinely wanting to know what customers are looking for. Ronny taught me not to rush into things. It is important to shop around and be mindful of what you can and cannot afford.