New lease... how can I avoid getting screwed?
September 2, 2010 8:03 AM   Subscribe

With any luck, today I'll be leasing a new car. The price has been negotiated, the car's here, and I have an appointment at the dealership to handle all the paperwork. What do I need to know? What should I be on the lookout for? How are they going to try to screw me?

A good friend and I spent most of last Saturday in the VW dealership. We're both looking to buy the exact same car (I know... it's weird. It's ok, really. They're at least different colors.) He did all the negotiating for the two of us, because, well, I suck at it. He got a decent price for my trade in. Lease term, interest rates, km allowance, residual have all been discussed - and are even in writing. They have my $500 downpayment on my credit card. We got the exact same price for the car; the only difference between our deals is the difference in trade in (they're giving me $1000 more for mine.) Both new cars were supposed to come in today. Mine has - his is stuck "in transit", and they're telling him it could be an extra couple weeks. He's disappointed, as I am. And now, since we're no longer going in together to sign our paperwork, I'm on my own to make sure I don't get screwed on this lease. (The skeptical part of me almost thinks the dealership is doing this on purpose, realizing i'm the 'weakest link', so to speak. But I'm probably just paranoid...)

Please, help me not get screwed! I suck at negotiating, which is why I was so happy to have him handle it for me. I get intimidated so easily. These guys spend their entire days doing this sort of thing - I've never done it before. (I bought my last car 9 years ago, and financed it.)

What do I need to know? What should I be watching for? I have every intention of reading every damn thing they make me sign, but what are the 'gotchas'? How are they going to try and take advantage of me and my bank account

I'm kinda freaking out here... I don't want to be paying for my mistakes here for the next 3 years! How can I keep my composure, not get screwed, and hopefully not have to walk away? (I really want my car...)
posted by cgg to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Even though your friend isn't signing his paperwork today, is there a reason he can't go with you to act as an advocate?
posted by DMan at 8:14 AM on September 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

Make it clear that the price you negotiated is the TOTAL PRICE. Many dealers will add on a "facility" fee, tax and licensing or what-have-you, and you have to be clear that they need to take that out of the total price you are willing to pay, not add on to it.
posted by misha at 8:14 AM on September 2, 2010

Yeah... he's a bit cheesed at the turn of events, and is kinda annoyed that I got my car first after all his hard work. Assume I'm on my own here.
posted by cgg at 8:15 AM on September 2, 2010

Well, the hard part is over with - the price is set, etc. Don't let them talk you into any of the bullshit "protection" policies. I'm leasing a VW right now and did it by myself - they tried to talk me into windshield protection, tire protection, etc. I just politely took all the cheapie brochures and said I'd think about it and let them know later.

So all you're doing today is signing your contract and zipping off in your new car. If ANYTHING looks new, unfamiliar or additional, just make sure you ask. When I picked my car up they had me sign the paperwork and it said that I had 0 miles on the car (in the part where it says how much they charge per mile you go over on your allotted amount). Well, my car had 50 miles on it when I got it. So I asked the guy about it and he said "Oh, it's fine." So I made sure that he made a note of the actual mileage so I'm not paying for it at the end of my lease.

Good luck, just try to look/feel confident, and ask questions about ANYTHING that doesn't seem right.
posted by slyboots421 at 8:17 AM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Leasing only makes sense if you can deduct the whole payment as a business expense. I think personal automobile leases are the devil's work... you're already fucked. To keep from getting fucked less, say "no" to every upgrade, and say "that's the price I agreed to pay, that's the price I'm going to pay" over and over again when you notice all the bullshit fees.

Remember, you're the guy with the money. They've invested hours and hours of time in you, so they're really motivated to keep you there and wear you down. Every time they give you backtalk bullshit, just say, "I don't think you're being honest and fair with me." Also, you have two nuclear strike options, in order: "I'm trying to buy a car today, why won't you let me close this deal?" and the ultimate: "Unless you have a better offer, I'm going to leave now" which you say after you've collected your things and stood up, ready to go.

Always be prepared to leave, but don't drop your bombs until you absolutely have to, because the more time they spend with you, the more likely it is they will cave to your demands. (Time talking to you time wasted.)

Never sweat, never laugh at their stupid jokes, and never sign anything without reading it first.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:33 AM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

Congratulations! This is very exciting for you!

They can't change much beyond the contract you already signed. That said, be sure to read everything carefully.

In my experience, the dealership is less likely to try and screw you than to make a simple mistake that really makes a mess of things. So, be sure to proofread everything carefully. Ask questions if you don't understand something or if it seems wrong.

Your friends car being stuck in transit isn't unusual - my truck took weeks to arrive, too, because it had a feature on it (manual transmission) that is apparently hard to find. It happens.

Good luck!
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:36 AM on September 2, 2010

Thanks... I realize that, over the long term, leasing is more expensive than buying. Thats why I bought my last car. However, it's important to me right now to (a) have a car under warranty, (b) not have to deal with with selling a car privately and (c) have a lower payment right now. (The payments on the lease are comparable as to what my current car will cost to fix/maintain). This question isn't about lease vs buy (that decision is made) - it's about how not to get screwed this afternoon.

Oh, and because I forgot to mention it - this is in Vancouver, Canada.
posted by cgg at 8:37 AM on September 2, 2010

Check out this thread on SlickDeals even though its for an Infiniti. Its full of information on leasing and the SlickDealers provide lots of tips and things to avoid.
posted by aGee at 8:39 AM on September 2, 2010

[A few comments removed. The question is not "should I lease a car", please try to focus on helping the asker with constructive advice for what they're currently actually doing.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:04 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I get intimidated so easily. These guys spend their entire days doing this sort of thing - I've never done it before.

One general piece of advice when dealing with salesmen of any type is that after you agree to the basic deal (in your case a standard lease for $X), they will start trying to pressure you to tack on extras of some sort. Extended warranties, rust-proofing, that sort of thing. They will most likely tell you that you have to decide on these things immediately and if you refuse they will offer you better and better prices, until it gets to the point that they try to convince you that they are actually offering you such a good deal that you would have to be an idiot to pass it up.

Never agree to these extras, and do not try to argue with them about it logically, just say "No thanks" over and over again until they quit. Be prepared for this to be difficult to do and for them to use every trick in the book to try to convince you to agree to it. The general rule is that if you go in to buy something specific, make sure that when you leave you have bought exactly that and nothing else.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:11 AM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't assume you are being paranoid about their sneakiness. Your gut is probably right. It's entirely likely that they pulled this to get a better deal out of you. Maybe not, but your skepticism is very healthy here. Was your experience at this dealership the first dealership you've talked terms with?

Don't assume that they can't change things after you sign a contract. There are loopholes, depending on what state you live in, but I had an experience where in California, I signed a deal, drove off the lot, and then they couldn't find financing at the rate we agreed to, and we started "negotiating" again. I talked to a lawyer. It was actually legal. At the end of the day, I gave the car back. There are tons of crazy loopholes they can getcha with.

In order to get a good deal, there are two things you need:

1.) Be prepared to walk. Remember that there are lots of other dealerships you can get a similar car at. This is not the only VW in the world.

2.) Have other options in mind.

I would suggest that you call some other VW dealerships in the area. Say "this is the deal I'm prepared to make with this dealership. A lease. This car, this year, this downpayment, this trade in, and this monthly payment." Ask them if they can one-up it. They will probably go insane trying to match or improve on it. You can even schedule an appointment to go in and see those cars. You don't have to go, if you make this deal with the dealership you're currently talking to.

You should do this because you'll be armed with more real information to combat the pressure you may face alone.

Also, if you can avoid going alone, please do. If your friend was willing to help negotiate with you, he should take it all of the way. That's what friends are for!!
posted by pazazygeek at 9:43 AM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Everything's negotiated? Good. Don't give them any more money for anything. Including:

(1) Extended service plan. Your car already came with a service plan that will last the lease, I assume.
(2) Insurance coverage. If they say you have to pay extra for "interim" insurance until your own insurance begins to cover the car, that's BS. Let them know that you'll sort it out on your end, and come back to finalize the deal later.
(3) Anything that adds to your already-negotiated monthly payment. It sounds low ("only increases your monthly by $25/mo"), but it adds up real fast. Bring a calculator and add it up to get better perspective (that's $1,200 bucks over a 3 year lease. Do you have 1,200 bucks to spare?).
(3) Anything that sounds low, but will be compounded by interest. For instance, "adding a ___ will only add $200 to your $16,000 lease." But once you calculate the interest they pile on top of $200, it adds up to something like $400. So, they want you to buy something worth $200 for $400. Don't do it.

It's hard, but the biggest tool you have in any auto transaction is the ability to actually walk away. Being able to say it is powerful - "I'm not sure this is working out. I need to go home and think about it" - and actually meaning it triples its effectiveness.

If they pull anything unexpected out of left field and tell you that you need it to finalize the deal, be wary. "We can't legally let you take the car off the lot without X." This is when you indicate your willingness to walk away.

A good mantra to have in a car dealership is "No thanks, all I need is ___."

"No thanks, all I need is to finish up the deal we already made." "No thanks, all I need is the car and everything that's already on it." "No thanks, all I need is another day or two to think this over." "No thanks, what we already have is fine, I don't need anything else."

Good luck!
posted by jabberjaw at 10:23 AM on September 2, 2010

I suck at negotiating, which is why I was so happy to have him handle it for me. I get intimidated so easily

I know this isn't the question you asked, but if you're looking to get more information on how to improve your negotiating skills, my wife got a lot out of this book: Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever.

As for the car, I agree with what people have been saying: don't let them tack on charges and don't be afraid to walk out.
posted by Jugwine at 10:47 AM on September 2, 2010

A slight variation on the common theme above: If anything looks or sounds at all questionable, they trot out any last-minute stuff, etc., let them know you need to look into that, will be back when the matter has been clarified to your satisfaction.

Not unprecedented that dealers will prey upon zeal to get behind the wheel.

Life will be hunky dory if you have to wait a little while or get a car elsewhere.
posted by ambient2 at 10:53 AM on September 2, 2010

Be prepared to walk if things go sour. If they start pushing you to pay for extra things, or playing hijinks, or whatever. Set aside the sunk cost - the time and effort you have already spent. If they give you any trouble at all, be prepared to bail.

Your willingness to leave the offer on the table is your best negotiating tool. There are a lot of offers, a lot of cars, and a lot of dealerships in the world. This will not be your last chance to get X car at Y terms. Plenty of automotive fish in the sea!
posted by ErikaB at 11:25 AM on September 2, 2010

Maybe slightly off-topic, but doesn't the $500 credit card down payment make it much harder to walk? For future reference, would it be better to negotiate all this stuff prior to making the down payment?
posted by Estragon at 12:01 PM on September 2, 2010

Thanks all. Just to follow up - the whole thing went so smoothly I was amazed. I managed to convince my friend to come with me anyway, since it was his deal. (Plus, he wanted to figure out where the hell his car was... turns out its on the train on its way.) They were totally upfront, didn't pressure me into anything, and in the end I paid exactly what we agreed on earlier. I'm actually pretty happy so far, but we'll see how I feel in 3 months when the lease is up!
posted by cgg at 10:02 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

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