It seems techniques in buying a car have changed, and and in some ways returned full-circle.
Six years ago when I bought my first car, the “hack” thing to do in order to get the best deal was to email plenty of dealerships, and then pit the respective quotes against each other. The prevailing wisdom back then was to get the numbers down concretely in email before you even step a foot inside the dealership. While I didn’t have the dealerships I contacted compete with each other because one in particular gave me the deal I had wanted immediately, the deal was indeed done completely over email. I remember spending just over an hour actually inside the dealer premise.
I really like that way of car buying.
The problem with the Internet being able to easily disseminate information to the masses is that what was once an obscure car-buying method used only by those in the know have evolved into a technique utilized by nearly everybody. The dealerships get bombarded with email inquiries, and for them it’s difficult to ascertain who’s a serious buyer and who’s simply looking for numbers to be used at a competitor. Due to this they aren’t quite as keen to do business over email as before.
I found this fact out last week when I was in the motions of buying a car for my father. I looked up the dealerships within travel distance and then sent them an email, detailing precisely the model and trim I wanted and to please provide me with a suitable quote. I wasn’t looking to shop the quotes afterwards to attain the best price: I was completely ready to pull the trigger with the first salesperson to email me an offer within the price target I had researched (TrueCar is nice).
Of the half dozen dealers I contacted, only one was willing to talk concrete numbers over email. The other salespeople replied with generic boilerplate asking when I am free to visit the dealership or to give them a call for the best price. Initially I was extremely put off by this because why can’t they respect my time and preference to communicate over email? I even wrote in the initial email that I was ready to purchase by the end of the week.
It was after mulling it over few days (and working out a deal over text-message) that I realize these days email inquiries are a dime a dozen and therefore dealers treat them as not serious. Contrast to over half decade ago when a detailed email from a customer would denote a knowledgable buyer with zero bullshit. To convey the same intentions today, one needs to do the opposite and actually call or show up: person to person communication projects a customer’s seriousness.
It’s definitely more time consuming that way, but what was once a hack is no more, and the personable “traditional” way of buying a car is now the hack. Funny how that is.