by Pete Levy


The Best Car Buying Service Award Goes to. . . .you.

That’s right, you! Not the buying services that seem to be sponsoring every other TV ad, not the “members only” services, not the internet destination sites. You. Without much effort and with savings.

I recently was in the market for a new car, and I decided to give these services a “test ride.” I went to three different “no haggle” services (two that anyone could use, one where I had to be a member). I searched for the same vehicle from all three. Things seemed muddled from the start. For example:

  • With one, I specified that I was only interested in a white exterior. The vehicle that they selected for me was silver.
  • Each showed me an “average price” that others were paying, but the averages were different by thousands of dollars. If the “average” price is accurate, then all the services should have a similar average price.
  • Only one accurately displayed the $2,000 consumer rebate that was available on the car I wanted.
  • The “fair price” that each offered was hundreds to thousands different from the others.
  • Just to make matters worse, the service with the prettiest report would not print on my printer – the report was too complicated.
  • And to make matters even worse, as soon as I was asked for and submitted my email address, my inbox started filling with emails from dealers.

After this bumpy start, I went to the dealer (actually to make a fair test, I went to several different dealers over several days.)

At two dealers, my experience was almost the same and comical. I showed the salesperson the price that I was promised for my “no haggle” price and asked if they would honor that printed price. The response was that they would not only honor it – they would beat it! So what was the point of a no-haggle price if it was thrown out in the first minute? I was back to square one: negotiating a price while not knowing if the price I was quoted was fair.

I spent the longest time at one dealership with a nice, helpful salesperson. After a test drive we sat in his office, where I asked him to explain the “no-haggle” service to me after showing him the printout. He explained that the price was the best available one. But then he asked me if I was a member of a certain club (which I am), and then informed me that I could get a better no-haggle price from the club than the no-haggle internet site price I walked in with.

I then said that both of the no-haggle prices were too high – could he do better?   He went to his computer, did some keyboarding, and produced a price that was $600 lower than the lowest of the two no-haggle prices. Mind you, though I’m a skilled negotiator, I didn’t need any negotiation skills; I simply asked him if he could do better than the no-haggle price. He explained to me that his dealership has to pay hundreds of dollars to these services, so of course he could offer a better price directly.

So the question remains; what is the point of using a no-haggle service if you can effortlessly get a better price yourself – and get no-haggle and the best price?!

These services are simply to make car buying convenient. Though they market themselves as providing a “great price-“ they don’t. You do.

In other posts, I will share buying strategies – from how to prepare to how to negotiate. But for now, if you want a dead-simple way to pay less than the buying services but get all the convenience of no-haggle, do what I did:

  1. Use the services to find their “fair” price.
  2. Have a dealer commit to that price.
  3. Then ask if he can do better.

You’ll save money – not as much as if you really prepared and negotiated, but more savings than the buying service customers get. And the next time you see one of those buying service ads on TV, you’ll know that your money didn’t provide the profit that paid for that ad.

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