HOW TO: Buy A Car Without Putting A Shotgun In Your Mouth

Browsing Metafilter, we found this excellent post detailing the smart way to make a purchase from those plaid-skinned abominations who lurk in the primal shadows of every consumerist’s nightmares, grinning their straight razor smiles and beckoning us to sign contracts in bilesome blood: the car salesman.

It’s long and there’s too much good stuff to quote, but here’s the bottom line: When you walk into a dealership, just remember that every single person you talk to is going to do everything they can to take every last penny they can get out of you. They might pay lip service to ‘customer loyalty,’ but EVERYTHING is motivated by profit.

Here’s another great bit:

After you’ve set a target price and written your message, find the “quick quote” tab on the edmunds site. Send out a request for info to any dealership within about an hour or so from where you live. When I did it, I provided them with a temporary e-mail address and a fake phone number.

Boy, am I glad I did.

What occurred next was nothing short of an communications onslaught. Every dealer (I sent messages to 11) sent me at least 1 email, and the average was two or three. In one round of messages, I accidentally used my real phone number; every single one called me. Be prepared… when these sharks smell the blood of a car buyer (especially one in a hurry), they get scary.

If you’re looking to throw your flesh amongst the hucksters, you might make this your Bible.

How To Buy A Used Car [Metafilter]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Hawkins says:

    All very good advice. But the author missed one really important tip: if you’re buying a car that you can only afford by signing a five-year note, then you’re a retard.

  2. drsmith says:

    Best thing I ever did when buying a new car:

    They sent me as much information about the financial aspects of car dealers as anyone possibly could know. Once I knew about the standard industry practices and incentives, I was ready to go to the dealers and work the system. If you walk into a dealer unprepared, you will get taken.

    Disclaimer: I’m not a shill – I bought a late model Ford Mustang at MSRP thanks to the information I uncovered in my research.

  3. Paul D says:

    Generally, you should try not to finance a car for longer than the warranty lasts.

    I can’t really agree with Hawkins. Used car, maybe. But 60 months is a standard length for a new vehicle loan. What kills me is the dealers offering 72 and 84 month financing. Now THAT’s ridiculous. Doubly so for a used vehicle. (See my earlier point.)

  4. misskaz says:

    I bought my first new car in 2004. As a young, single woman I was terrified of being taken advantage of, so I armed myself. I researched to find dealer invoice price on the car I wanted, got info from and Consumer Reports, and finally (I think this ended up being really important) I lined up financing before stepping foot in the dealership. I used, but you could also just shop around at your local banks.

    Then, I started making phone calls and asking for price quotes over the phone. This simple process weeded out the jerks – like one dealership that quoted me a few thousand more than another one for the same exact car, and when I asked for a better price, just said that was the best they could do and hung up.

    The dealership I ended up buying from made me feel comfortable, and like they really wanted my business. When they didn’t have the car with the options and color I wanted in stock, they offered me one with a moon roof and 6-cd changer for the same price. With the price agreed to over the phone, all I had to do was walk in, test drive the car, and buy it. No “I have to check with my manager” BS. No haggling over monthly payments or any of that crap because I had a check in hand.

    It really turned out to be a good and even empowering experience. And, I love my not-really-new-anymore car (a Mazda3 hatchback).

  5. You know, after 3 days of the dealing with the jerks my wife and I gave up and bought two Scions. No negotiation, made to order. I wish more car companies would do this.

  6. TedSez says:

    The last time I bought a car, I came armed with plenty of information (invoice prices, differences between models, etc). As I went from the parking lot into the dealership, a very large “greeter” reached toward the stack of computer printouts I was carrying and said, “Why don’t you let me hold those for you?”

    Yes, he wanted to take the information I needed to make a good deal off my hands — for my own convenience, of course. I wonder how many people have been surprised or intimidated enough to fall for this ruse.

  7. any such name says:

    much like misskaz, i bought my first car at the age of 23 after much research. however, the dealership i bought from (motorcars in cleveland heights, oh) made it very easy – offering a fair price in an email quote (on par with the TMV on edmunds) but not barraging me with emails. however i did not do pre-financing because i knew i had good enough credit to qualify for the 2.9%APR toyota was offering at that time. i worked with a female salesperson, and the test driving and paperwork all took only a couple of hours. to this day the salesperson sends me birthday cards.

    more importantly, car buyers need to not be afraid to WALK AWAY if they feel bad about the deal in any way… frequently if you start to walk they will either throw things in to get you to stay, or you probably didn’t want their business anyway!

  8. madderhatter says:

    Yeah, Hawkins, good idea – buy a $20k dollar car with a 1 year note and only have to make a dozen $1,667 payments … brilliant ! Retard.

  9. Alexis2 says:

    The last car I bought I got an EXCELLENT deal on. As others here have said I did my research before buying. I knew what I wanted, and what I was prepared to spend.

    I went to the car lot and was greeted by all the oh-so-friendly-people. smh Found one that looked the least slimy and went to work. I told him what I was willing to give him for the car. He attempted to try to hangle and I got my bag and was ready to leave. He agreed on my price after “talking with the manager”. *jerking* Then I mentioned I would be applying my employee discount to that. Oh did I neglect to mention I work for this manufacturer.*whistling* That took off 4k. He was frustrated. Then I said what kind of discount can I expect if I pay cash for the car.*flatline* Didn’t see that coming. Another 2k taken off the price. I got an incredibly nice car for something close to nothing.

    The downside to this deal was them making several calls to my credit union to verify I did in fact have the money in my account. smh Each time they called, my credit union called me on my cell phone to inform me of what was going on. smh


  10. Peekaso says:

    Valuable tips….well on second thought, in your own words you spent 3 hours there and probably another 4 hours doing research, an hour at the bank and more time involved in writing up the article. To save maybe $250. At the average US Salary of $23 an hour, you are up $66. Plus I am positive they were non to pleasant after you ordered them around, which adds more stress (-$50) So you saved approximately the equivalent to a Filet at______ (insert cookie cutter chain restaurant that uses reheated frozen food)

    PS…3 yr note is the limit on any car under 40k, if you can’t swing that. Buy used. Thanks!

    PSS…Mazda, really?

  11. viceatfruit says:

    How much is your time worth really??? If you spend three days working back and fourth between auto dealers trying to save an extra $300-$500 is it worth it. How much are you worth per hour??? I myself am worth at least 40$ per hour. Here I am spending ten dollars to give you advice. So go to a web sight like and punch in what you want. Print out the quote, go into the local dealer and see if he can match it. You are saving a lot of time and possible money, if your time is worth money. Remember that there will be a $300 brokerage cost added, on to whatever price you find, on If the dealership can match the price printed then they are actually beating it by $300. Stop wasting everybody’s time, cut out the back and fourth.

  12. bourgeoisie says:

    and we wonder why the Big 3 are struggling so much.