Shall we grab our ankles now?
August 8, 2009 9:25 PM   Subscribe

New car buying hell. Are we the only ones being told that the Toyota Prius price is MSRP PLUS expensive add-on premiums to cover their gouging?

We have been told that not only do we have to pay MSRP (at one dealership, for example), as well as (they) demanding, no, FORCING us to buy Lo-Jack and Finishing Touch (a paint and fabric/leather conditioning/protectant) for an extra $1800+ bing. Is this happening everywhere? And is it Toyota or the dealers/ dealer co-ops that are controlling the supply, to keep prices artificially inflated? Pardon me, but is this another government boondoggle? Every place we go they seem to say they are out, but then suddenly they have 1 or two that appear a hour or two later or next day. Are there more of us out there, or are we just the mark?

FWIW-looking at a 2010 Prius IV in So. CAL. and do not have a "clunker".
posted by 6:1 to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I never buy a car without getting a slap upside the head first from Consumer Reports. They help me stay grounded and keep me from doing business with scum bags.

I love my Prius, but I got it used and avoided all the new car crap entirely.

Best of luck to you.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:34 PM on August 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Try the Blast-Fax method and be willing to buy the car from a dealer outside of your area. Just be precise in your quote as to what extras you do want. Extra "mandatory" add-ons are a scam.
posted by benzenedream at 9:40 PM on August 8, 2009

Waiting lists for the Prius are nothing new; they've become common for a few periods, on and off, since 2000 or so. Especially now that the refreshed model has been released, demand is simply greater than supply.

Of course the dealers are trying to capitalize on the situation. Not sure how you imagine that the government has anything to do with it.

You may be able to find more details on a Prius-specific forum.
posted by xil at 9:42 PM on August 8, 2009

I recently bought a new car and found pretty accurate and therefore, useful.
posted by Edward L at 10:20 PM on August 8, 2009

Yeah, what you need to do is make the dealers bid against each other. They hate it, but it's the only way to be in control. They have a limited supply, so they are trying to charge what the market will bear. It's simple economics, really.
posted by dhartung at 10:30 PM on August 8, 2009

The 2010 Prius is an all new model and just came out. Demand is high, especially with Cash for Clunkers going on. It's a seller's market for the Prius right now. If you want one, you'll have to fight to just pay MSRP for one.
posted by zsazsa at 10:34 PM on August 8, 2009

You will pay MSRP, but there is no way you have to buy Lojack or the bullshit finish, which are old scams to pad the dealer's margin. I would walk and find a dealer who's not going to pull that. My dealer (two Priuses, one Scion) certainly didn't.

When I bought my (2006) Prius, no dealer had more than one on the lot, for test drives, they were all custom-order and you waited several months, and while I think the waiting list is not so bad anymore, you still won't find a dealer with a lot full of 2010s. Toyota's not going out on a limb flooding the market with Priuses, and the dealerships aren't making money on them like they do on Camrys, etc, the margin is fairly slim. There's not much room to negotiate below the price tag. There is plenty of room to not be forced to buy dealer add-ons, though.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:49 PM on August 8, 2009

You have to buy lojack and the finishing touch if its already been installed / applied on the car. No one will take it off.

If you ORDER a car from a dealer, then you can tell them exactly what you want on it, but it will take months for you to get that car.
posted by Paleoindian at 11:00 PM on August 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

You may need to travel, and the internets make this easy, to a dealer far from your crowded population home. It isn't easy to get one of these for less than MSRP but it is easy enough to get one at that price, if you leave your local market.
posted by caddis at 11:44 PM on August 8, 2009

Response by poster: To xil--Not sure how you imagine that the government has anything to do with it. Sorry for the confusion, part of the post was a rant at the situation. It seems the "cash for clunkers" is, of course, fueling demand. We can't help but feel the dealerships are the ones taking advantage of the situation. (we aren't naive--we know part of this is "the dance" of buying a car)

Another dealership was insisting that we buy protective film over the exterior paint job and something else. We will look into out of area dealerships. We aren't time pressed per se.

Thanks for all the great answers so far!
posted by 6:1 at 12:24 AM on August 9, 2009

Don't travel to all these dealerships. Email 6 of them at a time and specify exactly what you want and what you don't want. Tell them that you're prepared to buy the car exactly as specified if the price is right. Then when you get the replies, email the quote from the lowest bidder to the next 3 lowest bidders (the highest 2 are probably going to blow you off). Repeat once or twice. When you get to the best offer, go to the dealer, ask to speak to the Internet Manager, and flash your email quote. They'll try to upsell you on parts and warranties but refer back to your print out and tell them if they don't give you the car exactly as described at the quoted price, you're going to walk off the lot. I did this for myself and a few friends and now buying a car is a breeze.
posted by junesix at 12:33 AM on August 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

You can play dealerships off one another. You can also play sales people at dealerships off eachother. Make sure you have all your financing lined up, then go to a couple of dealerships, pick a sales person at each, let them know what you want, and that if a car that fits comes in, they should call you and you'll come and buy it right then. For an easy sale like that, an aggressive sales person would step over their own sainted mother. I know people who got a prius that way at or below MSRP at a time when dealers were selling most of them with stout markups.
posted by Good Brain at 1:48 AM on August 9, 2009

I just bought a new car (taking advantage of cash for clunkers) and as always was amazed at some of the bullshit dealers try to pull. One dealer lowballed the others on price, but when the time came to sit down and put the deal in writing, they added on nearly $2000.00, including a made-up $900.00 tax on the cash for clunkers rebate. I had gone to,, and Consumer Reports and so had a good idea what I should pay, and so walked out of that dealer immediately. The other local dealer was being recalcitrant, so I went online and got quotes from every Honda dealer within a 2 hour radius, the best of which I followed up with a phone call to see how legit they were. I then called up the pricey, but more honest, local dealer and said I could drive to Greenville and get the car I wanted for $X.00 out the door (taxes and everything) and if they could match that I would do business with them. In a few minutes we had a deal for a couple of hundred more than the other dealer, but worth it to stay in town.

This is the third car I have bought in 5 years (getting married and having a child meant the Miata just wouldn't cut it) and I followed the routine above pretty much every time. Always negotiate up from the lowest price you can find (or a few hundred lower to give room for negotiation), and when push comes to shove, figure out how much you want to pay out the door and tell them "I don't care how you do it, I just want to give you a check for $X.00 and get that car". That takes all the bullshit add ons out of the picture. Avoid financing through the dealer unless they have some great deal (0%, for example), as that is another opportunity for them to gouge you. Read this.

Having said all that, if you are not in a hurry (and you never should be when buying a car) and not taking advantage of cash for clunkers, you might want to wait a few months (and save more money if you are not ready to pay cash). Once the cash for clunkers program ends new car sales are likely to slow down and those Priuses (Priusi?) that are flying off the showroom floor now will be gathering dust; it is a seller's market right now (to some extent) but will be more of a buyer's market then.
posted by TedW at 5:23 AM on August 9, 2009

If you have an account with a credit union, and can set up the financing there, you have a very useful tool -- the credit union itself. Many will have people who will help buy the car -- you tell them what you want, they hit every dealer in X who might have it, they all send back bids, you approve one, and the deal is done. You may never actually set foot on the lot -- you can get the car at the credit union.

Since you know exactly what you want, you don't need to lot shop.
posted by eriko at 5:57 AM on August 9, 2009

I figure out what the "invoice price" is for the car, and then what the dealer cashback is, it's usually about 3%, from Edmunds or something. Once i've done all my math and know what the "dealer price" is, I make an offer. "I'm willing to pay X", which is usually a little above their invoice so they can make some profit. If they say no I walk out and find another dealer.

Also nth the credit union. Sometimes CUs have deals with the fleet reps at the dealership. The fleet rep will not play these kind of games as they get paid more on volume. They will give you a good price especially if they work with the CU often.
posted by arimathea at 6:20 AM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Someone needs to link this 326-favorite answer from a previous question, and this now well-known "How to Buy a New Car Without Getting Screwed" presentation.
posted by mediareport at 7:48 AM on August 9, 2009 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, again, for all the great advice. We are pre-approved with my credit union, so that's not an issue. Interestingly, and maybe for a reason, my credit union doesn't work with *any* Toyota dealerships (maybe this should have been my red flag). It's a credit union from a large college, so it's not like they are small.

I think Ted W has it. After the husband and I came home last night we were so mentally exhausted that we may just wait until after "cash for clunkers" is done.

I'm looking over mediareports links now.
posted by 6:1 at 9:09 AM on August 9, 2009

None of the ploys for playing dealers off against one another on this specific car is going to work. Never has with cars in heavy demand. Practically every Toyota dealer is going to be selling every Prius they get as fast as they get them in. They know if you don't buy the car at MSRP somebody will come along tomorrow and pay list. That's a lot of profit for a very minor wait. So if you try a 3% over invoice take it or leave it offer they'll be warning you about the door hittin' ya on the way out.
posted by Mitheral at 8:55 PM on August 9, 2009

I'm on the Toyota-Prius list on yahoo groups and they seem to like and respect the Prius person at Manhattan Beach Toyota. I don't know her name off hand, but if you were to subscribe to that list you could probably easily find her with a search. She says she does not foist extras on people.
posted by jvilter at 9:01 AM on August 11, 2009 credit union doesn't work with *any* Toyota dealerships...

I am curious as to what you mean by that. My CU has a car buying service but it is cumbersome enough that I have never used it. Otherwise I have financed cars, motorcycles, and houses through them and it is just a matter of getting pre-approved, closing the deal, and getting a cashier's check to take to the dealer. The CU doesn't deal with the dealer at all, other than to give them money. Otherwise, you seem to be getting good advice and be on the right track.
posted by TedW at 4:44 PM on August 11, 2009

Response by poster: We've decided to wait awhile to make our purchase. We will go with a Prius, but we'll wait until the new model year "demand" has died down a bit.

posted by 6:1 at 3:46 PM on October 14, 2009

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