Nov 25, 2012
Americans love to hate car salesmen, particularly used-cars. Very few enjoy the car buying experience. The knowledge on the subject is very asymmetric: the selling side knows about cars and cost structure far more than average buyers. After living without a car for about 5 months,
I re-lived a car buying experience once more; got an used car no less.
Armed with Internet, the information is now much less asymmetric. Edmunds.com is very helpful and Costco.com is a powerful tool. We researched casually and eventually narrowed down to 4 “candidate cars” whose dealerships were on bus routes or within walking distance. On the Thanksgiving Saturday, we walked into “candidate #1” and were prepared to drive a car out. After the test drive, the salesman, whom we knew from the previous “research round”, led us to his office and started to “work the numbers.” I asked the simple question, “If I go to Edmunds.com and look for the “true market price” for this car, what will the number be?” The guy refused to bulge. Two and half hours after we walked in, we walked out.
Sunday came, we took the bus to the “candidate #2” dealership and also found the salesman whom we also met earlier (he also behaved as if he remembered us). Again, we test drove and were about to enter the “working the number” phase. He seemed nice (don’t they all?) so we told him what we were truly looking for — 5 seater, all-wheel drive, good trunk space, etc. — and asked him what would he recommend. He asked if we would consider used-cars. Wife and I looked at each other and shrugged, “why not?” (At this point, the informational asymmetry intensified, since we would have known much less about used cars.) Cut to the chase, we drove out the dealership with a used-car: he successfully sold us something we were came to buy.
Why? Simply because we ended up trusting the second salesman. He seemed genuine and honest. After the fact, our researched showed that the deal was decent, not a killer. That’s really less important since we trusted him to have gotten us a solid car that we will drive for many years without heart-aches, or even with enjoyment.
Yes, getting a car is economically irrational for us. If history is any guidance, we will buy three to four more cars in the future. I hope the industry would have evolved to make it easier and more enjoyable. Clicking on Amazon.com/cars? Hmm…