You would expect that everything should go smoothly when you arrive at the Honda dealer that gave the lowest price quote on the new Civic LX you want to buy. After all, you did due diligence by getting competitive quotes from the closest Honda dealers. You even made sure that you were comparing apples to apples, that the cars were identical trim lines, in this case the LX sedan. All came with automatic transmissions, and there were absolutely no accessories on any of the cars that would make one vehicle more expensive than another. Easy as pie.
However, what many of my friends and clients are finding is that when they arrive at the dealer with the lowest selling price, they were still surprised -- and not in a good way. In fact, for some, it turns into a nightmare where their fears of dealers using “old school” selling tactics come alive right before their eyes.
What Can Happen?
One client reported back to me that when they arrived at the dealership that gave the lowest price, they were pleased to discover that the selling price still matched the price quoted. So far so good. However, what they were not expecting was the car had a long list of accessories already installed that increased the price by an additional $2500. The dealer had added an alarm system, wheel locks, splash guards, and other accessories. Now what?
When faced with this common ruse, some people simply get up and walk out. After all, if dealer was low brow enough to trick you once, can you really trust them not to trick you again before the transaction is complete? Others have admitted that after all the time that they invested in price shopping, driving the extra miles to the dealer with the lowest price, and the embarrassment of being fooled -- and after their protests landed on deaf ears -- they accepted the dealer’s offer to reduce the price of the accessories in order to simply get the process over with.
The bad news? Even the discounted price nets a much higher cost overall compared to what they would have paid with one of the other dealers with an initial higher selling price, but who didn’t pull such shenanigans.
What Can You Do?
To be clear, this doesn’t happen with all Honda dealers in the SF Bay Area. But it happens with enough that it’s become a serious issue for savvy car shoppers looking for the best deal. How do you protect yourself and not make this mistake?
I recommend to my friends and clients a few simple steps when getting competitive quotes from any dealer on a new vehicle.
1. Get an out the door (OTD) price. Most people simply ask for the best price of the vehicle they want to purchase and this opens the door to abuse. You need an OTD price that includes tax, DMV fees, and any other costs associated with the purchase, including accessories on the car.
2. Get the VIN of the car. This is a 17 digit number that is unique to the car you want to purchase. You can simplify the process by asking for the last 6 digits of the VIN. When the dealer provides an OTD price quote on an exact car there is less room for them to squirm out from under their quote.
3. Get it in writing. Email is fine, but it has to be in writing and signed off by a represenative of the dealer. Note that most dealers state their quote is valid for a specific time period, such as 48 hours. That's fine along as it's in writing.
These three steps will go a long way to reducing the stress of purchasing your next vehicle. It won’t eliminate the games that some dealers play, but should significantly reduce them.
What If They Won’t Comply?
What do you do if the dealer won’t provide the OTD price and the VIN of the vehicle in writing? I suggest that you run, don’t walk, from that dealer and find a more trustworthy salesperson/dealer who will work with you in a sensible and ethical manner. Doing so can save you time, stress, and money.