Want to buy a mini-van sans-car-dealer.
June 7, 2004 5:12 PM   Subscribe

Buying a mini-van, and with the help of Ask Mefi, Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book, I know I want a Toyota Sienna LE. Got all the cash. Want to minimize the notorious hassle of running the car dealer gantlet. (More inside.)

Specifically, what's your best strategy of getting to the bottom line "best price" quickly? My ability to cut a check at the drop of a hat helps me. But the Sienna is a popular model, so it's not hard for dealers to move them.

I can walk away; it's not like I need this van next week. But I don't think I can make it until the 2005s show up and they want to move the old models.
posted by sacre_bleu to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
Disclaimer: I've never tried this myself, but am thinking of using it for my next car purchase (which might very well be the Sienna as well).

Draw up a fax document, outlining the vehicle you are looking for, including all the options, colours etc.. that you want. Make it explicit in the fax that you are seeking bids for a vehicle matching that description and that you are soliciting bids from other dealers as well. Provide a fax number for them to send the bids to and set a deadline for receiving the bids. Try to address the fax to the sales manager if at all possible. The bids should have full documentation including the final price, VIN number etc.. (Something you can then take to the dealer and sign a contract for).

When you have your bids in, select the winner and go in with their offer. You might want to let the other dealers know that you have rejected your bid as a courtesy (just so they know it wasn't a crank). Try to avoid playing the dealers off each other, and stick with the winning bid.

This method has a name, but I can't remember what it is. I'm sure I saw it on a website somewhere though.

Hope that helps.
posted by smcniven at 5:46 PM on June 7, 2004

A friend did this for his new Camry purchase, and swears by it:

Find all the local dealers' email addresses/websites.

Email them all, say what you're looking for, the color, accessories, model type, etc., and that you're emailing all local dealers. You want the best price, you're ready to buy today. You have no interest in financing. Tell them you've already looked at the car and you know exactly what you want, and you want to know each dealer's best price. You have no interest, nor the time in coming to the dealer to see the car.

Wait a couple of days for a response, collect your best prices, and email them one more time, seeing if any dealer can beat the best price you've been given.

Voila. Car.

on preview: what smcniven said, just email instead of fax.
posted by gramcracker at 5:48 PM on June 7, 2004

To my knowledge the above advice was first put forward formally by The Motley Fool.
posted by dobbs at 6:02 PM on June 7, 2004

is that the method that's called the Fax Attack? sounds similar to a method that's supposed to be profiled in the Car Buyer's and Leaser's Negotiating Bible, which another MeFi member recently recommended to me when I asked about this very subject. I was thinking I'd use that method too.
posted by lnicole at 6:11 PM on June 7, 2004

I suggest ordering a New Car Buying Kit from Consumer Reports. It contains a wealth of useful information, including the car's wholesale price. This information should strengthen your position tremendously!
posted by JDC8 at 6:35 PM on June 7, 2004

You might give carsdirect.com a try. It might be a good addition to the so-called fax attack. Also, Edmunds as an illuminating series of articles titled "Confessions of a Car Salesman". Be warned. It's long.
posted by funkbrain at 6:57 PM on June 7, 2004

This is what I did. Get quotes over the phone from the dealers. Find the cheapest one, and show up on Friday at 6pm (call around 4 to say your coming in).. the salesguy will be wanting to get out of work for the weekend and will want to close the deal. Tell him the price you want to pay and at least in my case I had no problem getting it quickly. Someone was throwing an office party that night and he was the only one left and wanted to leave for some partying. The price you want to pay is going to be based on your research on things like wholesale and then mark it up a little to give the dealer some room. Anyway, one tip of many.
posted by stbalbach at 8:34 PM on June 7, 2004

When we purchased our new truck, we just solicited quotes over the internet and went with the best one, knowing that it was a solid deal based on our research. A lot of the time the salesman that do the internet sales are also do the fleet sales, meaning they tend to have the best prices. As well, they are often given cash incentives by the manufacturers (up to $1000) which may result in greater savings to you. Definitely get the dealer cost, it won't cost you that much but you will get increased piece of mind.
posted by trillion at 8:43 PM on June 7, 2004

Do you have AAA? A buddy of mine knew exactly what he wanted including all the options. He called AAA and told them everything and within a week or so, he had met with a certified AAA dealer who got him the exact truck he wanted for $500 over invoice.

He had most of the cash upfront and great credit, as well as a credit union loan lined up. But, because he chose to go through AAA for financing, the AAA dealer knocked the price down to $300 over invoice. The best part is that it was easy and painless.

Good luck and I second the Edmunds article. It was long but a good read.
posted by inviolable at 10:09 PM on June 7, 2004

I just bought a used car with cash (from a home equity loan) and found it pretty easy.

The key, for me, was not trying to find the dealer's "best price," but doing heavy research and finding out what a reasonable amount to pay would be for the particular make and model. Edmunds is your best resource for this. I took the Edmunds price, confirmed it against the general going-rate on autotrader.com, and subtracted about $500. I then went to one of the autotrader.com dealers with the exact car I wanted, took a test drive, and made a bid. I knew that my bid was reasonable -- not a total steal, but good -- so I was very comfortable not budging when the dealer put me through about 20 minutes of efforts to raise the price.

What really helped, also, was that I had the cash in a cashier's check, and brought no other real money with me. I kept saying: "look, this is a fair offer, and its all I have with me. We can get this done right now if you just take my cashier's check." They pressed me for about 20 minutes with things like "we can't go below the special 'internet price'," but quickly dropped this. There is just no way they were going to let me walk out with my cashier's check.

I strongly recommend lining up the financing outside of the dealership -- a home equity loan is perfect. This greatly simplifies the deal and all the paperwork.
posted by Mid at 7:13 AM on June 8, 2004

My sister used autobytel.com when she bought her car--this is probably similar to carsdirect.com: you spec your car, an RFP goes out to dealers, and they have the option to respond. Funny thing: she got an offer from a dealer pretty quickly, but the dealer turned her off. The next weekend, she visited a different dealer for the same brand; this dealer knew (without her prompting) that my sister had used autobytel and said something like "oh, well, if you're hunting around on the Internet, you already know what the deals are" and he cut her a pretty good one.

When I bought my car, there was only one dealer within 50+ miles selling the make I wanted, so I couldn't play one against the other so easily. I checked edmunds, found the average price paid for my car as spec'd (about $2000 under list) and said to the salesman "look, this is what I'll pay." He gave me a little bit of a hard time, but relented.
posted by adamrice at 7:48 AM on June 8, 2004

Response by poster: UPDATE: The technique of obtaining multiple quotes via email (hence a written record) and offering them to other dealers to beat has so far saved me $1,000. It might save me more depending on how far I push it.

Thanks, Mefites.
posted by sacre_bleu at 9:22 AM on June 8, 2004

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