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How To Sell Me A Car

As I mentioned last week, I was looking to find a local car dealer so I could get myself a new rig. I would've preferred to have dealt locally, but the local dealers just didn't have much at a price I could afford. And the ones that did have something of interest knew they had a monopoly on the area and could charge more money.

So I started looking elsewhere around the state, following some advice from the commenters in that previous entry, as well as some folks who privately e-mailed me. The problem was that I didn't have time to sit on the phones with these folks, and had to rely on what was online and had to communicate via e-mail. So here's some advice to car dealers who want to deal with folks like me...

  • Respond to my e-mail. I e-mailed dozens of dealers all over the state, and some of them didn't even respond.
  • Actually read my e-mail. When I e-mail asking for minivans under a certain price point, and you respond back with a pile of minivans more than double my price budget, that doesn't help. Read my specific questions, and answer my specific questions.
  • Actually provide info via e-mail. Many dealers I deal with said (despite me telling them that I couldn't talk on the phone) "Call me and I'm sure I can help you." Did you not read my message? I can't/won't call you. Even if you just provide me some URLs, that'll get me started.
  • Don't call me when I said to contact me via e-mail. I made the mistake of putting my phone number into a contact form, and they guy from the dealership called me, despite my checking the box that said "Contact via e-mail."
  • Provide easier searches on your web sites. In my browsing, I noticed that many of the dealers had the same types of search interfaces. Not too often did I see a completely custom job, just the same search form and buttons used all over the place. The way I figured it (and I didn't research this), there are about three or four companies that provide the search/database functions for most of the car dealer Web sites I came across. The problem is with some of them, they're very limited. I'm looking for minivans, I want a button/search option that shows minivans. I don't want to put in my budget and then browser through a ton of other crap to find minivans.
  • Keep your web site up to date: We originally had our heart set on a car in Eugene, but the car had sold, but was still listed on their Web site. If it sells, remove it.
  • List prices and mileage on your Web site. I found so many web sites (many locally) that wouldn't list mileage or even a remote price on the site. I usually didn't bother looking further at that point.
I called or visited or exchanged e-mails with most of Bend's larger dealerships. The folks who helped me out the most via e-mail were Robberson, Kendall, and Hertz with the nice lady at Robberson answering a ton of questions truthfully, explained some ins and outs of some things, even though they had nothing for us. The ones that helped me the least and had the most obnoxious sites were Jim Smolich and Bob Thomas. Bob Thomas had some nice folks when I went to the lot, but the stuff was a bit expensive. Both of them had obnoxious Web sites -- Smolich didn't list prices on a ton of cars, and Bob Thomas makes you browse by brand/model, not by class of car (at least for used cars). It's a very nice looking site, but its used car functionality was a bit lacking. Murray and Holt didn't even respond to e-mails.

Since we couldn't find anything locally, and really needed to get a new car because of the issues with our previous one, I started hunting in the Valley, starting in Eugene and working my way up the I-5 corridor. After it was all said and done, we ended up getting a minivan from Dick's MacKenzie Ford in Hillsboro. We couldn't afford an import car that wasn't a Kia, so we decided to get another Grand Caravan (because we do like the way they're laid out, and we already have snow tires on rims for it), but this time make sure it includes a warranty. They also responded to every e-mail I sent them, answered all my questions, etc... . I still got the same bulls**t sales pitch when it came to that time, a bunch of unnecessary fees that they were trying to sneak in there, and they were low-balling me on my trade (this would've been par for the course anywhere, I'm sure). After we figured out a good trade in value and I dealt with the financing folks (I'd already pre-approved myself before going over there), I walked out with a 2001 Grand Caravan Sport edition for a pretty good price.

The other advantage of buying in the valley is that you can basically just tell sales people that you'll drive 30 miles and run into a dozen or more other large dealers that can beat the price (which you could) so you can negotiate a bit harder which you can't do around here. So while I would've liked to have shopped local (and would have if I was buying and could afford a new car), if you're buying used, go to the valley.

So I did get a decent deal -- however, driving out of Warm Springs I passed a semi that shot a few small pebbles into my window. So now I have a chip in my window which I know was there before. Dumb luck, that is...

The only major gripe I have with the car is that it came with just the original factory cassette deck, and the nicer Pioneer DEH-P47DH CD player I had in my old Caravan (which I pulled and replaced with the original factory stereo before turning in) won't fit into the new car, which has some funky-shaped stereo cavity. There are a bunch of other factory stereos they make that will fit seamlessly, but I just haven't really found a decent price on eBay for one yet. (Anybody have one sitting in their garage they want to trade for my Pioneer?) But other than that, the car's working out fine, and we have a power train warranty for a couple years (bumper-to-bumper for a couple months) if something major goes bonkers.

Posted by Jake on 07/08/07 @ 02:16 PM
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