Like many of you, I’m a completely car-obsessed nut job.
I love almost everything about cars: I love driving them. I love reading about them. I love writing about them. I love criticizing them and praising them. Heck, I even love smelling them (2004 models and newer only, please).
Buying cars is perhaps the only thing that I don’t like, even though I’ve done it now 13 times in 12 years.
Last weekend I again began the process of car shopping to replace my wife’s 2002 Honda CR-V. Last night we finished the process and happily brought home a 2004 Lexus RX 330 with only 28,000 miles on the odometer. The days in between were a mix of delight, excitement, frustration, and torture. But I have a way to fix the process.
First, though, this Lexus is the first car my wife picked out herself, test drove herself, and took delivery of herself. Being the car nut that I am, I ALWAYS decided what cars we had and when we bought them. This time I was the casual observer – the friend who came along for advice, support, and negotiation know-how.
My wife is quite delighted that I hadn’t even driven an RX 330 before she did, which is a miracle, considering how many cars I’ve tested.
Lexus was the first brand we looked at and the last, with Mazda, Nissan, Chevy, Volkswagen, Ford, and Cadillac in between. Negotiations started and stalled, we walked onto dealership lots and off them. It was during one of those walk-offs that a stroke of brilliance hit so hard I was nearly ready to go start my own dealership and change the way America buys cars. And it’s so simple it’s almost silly!
I want dealerships to negotiate whatever price they want for the trade-in vehicles they acquire. But, when a shopper comes in to look at that vehicle, the dealer has to show them what they paid for it and include a set mark-up that’s not negotiable, say 15 percent. The shopper then knows exactly what the car costs, the salesman knows exactly what his commission will be, and the dealership knows exactly how much profit it will make. It’d be like buying from Saturn, only better.
Would you rather buy a car at a no-negotiation price, or do you like the back-and-forth experience?