Buying Cars from Dealers the Smart Way

I Avoid Buying Cars From Dealers

2002 Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe

Buying cars from dealers can be a pleasant and fun experience. It can also be a horrifying ordeal. Some dealerships view customers as a valuable asset.

Treating the customer right can bring in additional business from the best kind of advertising, positive word-of-mouth. This is rare in an industry with a poor reputation for customer satisfaction.

Some dealers may view the customer as a giant bag of money. Dealerships with this outlook on people are often out to get the maximum amount of dollars per sale and move units.

It can be hard to determine just how the dealership views you when everybody is smiling at you. I hope the following car buying story will help improve your outcome.

At the time of this writing I’m looking to purchase a Cadillac CTS. A CTSV Coupe would be nice, but that kind of ride is just outside my financial capabilities. I haven’t owned a Cadillac since my beloved 2002 Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe. This was the last year for the ETC model.

Since I can’t afford a brand-new one I’ve been looking around the area for one that’s gently used.

Note that I saved up the money for the purchase, because I don’t believe in car payments or financing anything automotive. This took me years of disciplined saving and doing without many other things.

I would prefer to buy a used vehicle from a private owner. However, most of the ads in the local news paper are from dealers both new and used. A private sale vehicle can avoid many of the problems associated with dealing with salespeople.

Unfortunately, I havn’t been able to find a used Cadillac CTS private sale. I visited 6 giant car dealerships looking for this specific used vehicle. The story that follows focuses on one bad experience. This doesn’t condemn buying cars from dealers overall. Some businesses value their customers. And the ones that don’t deserve what’s coming.

Used cars from a New Car Dealer

I went to a Chevrolet dealership looking for a Cadillac CTS. This dealership had 20 Cadillac cars in total.

There were about 10 CTS models and also 10 SRX’s which is the Caddy version of a cross-over vehicle. This should have been my first warning sign that a Chevrolet dealership would have so many used Cadillac vehicles.

After inspecting several of the automobiles I found many issues like replaced body panels, tires that did not belong on the car because they were the wrong size and speed rating. I also found some mismatched paint indicating poorly done body repairs.

A large percentage of these cars looked like they might have been in an accident. I found a 2013 CTS that wasn’t to beat up and had about 37,000 miles on it, so there was still a little factory warranty remaining. I was truly interested in trading in my 2004 Chevrolet Blazer ZR2 on this vehicle. I asked the dealer to run me a vehicle history report on the Cadillac.

When he brought this report over to me he was all excited, and somewhat suprised, because it showed the vehicle had a clean history.

The report was three pages long and had a bunch of green check marks on the front. But when I dug in to this report I could see the vehicle was purchased at a local auto auction.

This is where all 20 of the Cadillac cars came from. Although I have nothing against auction cars overall, in some cases dealerships will purchase the cheapest of these vehicles.

As you know if something is that cheap it should be thoroughly inspected to make sure it doesn’t have issues. I also stress to all used car dealerships that you’re only as good as the products you sell.

At dealerships there’s usually one or two people responsible for filling the lot with product. I say to these people, if you want top dollar, you have to provide top shelf automobiles. I know the object is to buy low and sell high, but if you screw everybody with junk cars you’ve doomed your used car business to failure.

Buying a Used Cadillac CTS Sport Sedan

2004 Chevy Blazer

Even though I was not happy with where the CTS came from I was still interested in trying to work out a deal. This is where buying cars from dealers can get tricky.

Included in the vehicle history report was a suggested retail value of the automobile and this was the number the dealer wanted to get. However, when it came to evaluating my trade they offered me $2000 less than the wholesale value listed for the Chevrolet Blazer ZR2.

Keep in mind the Blazer was a one owner and loaded with every available options and in perfect condition. This price is a full $4000 less than the retail value.

So they wanted full retail for the 2013 Cadillac CTS and to give me less than wholesale on my trade. Now I understand the dealership needs to make money and they have the right to.

By my estimate they were planning on making about $6000 or more from this one single deal.

This seemed to me, to be quite excessive. After trying to negotiate with the used car manager I could not work a deal out with them and they refused to budge off of both their trade-in offer against my vehicle or coming down from the full retail value of the Cadillac.

Time to Walk Away from This Dealership

This is when I tried to leave the dealership. It was at this point I realized I didn’t have the keys for my truck. I had given it to the used car manager, so he could perform an evaluation and road test.

They came up with a bunch of excuses why they could not give the key back to me. First the sales team stated they wanted to work out a deal and that he needed to sell a car today, because he had a baby on the way.

To make a long story short I had to threaten to call the local police to get the key back to my truck. As I tried to make my way back to my automobile I had to walk through a gauntlet of salespeople that said I couldn’t leave unless I bought a car.

The scary part about it was they really meant it. When I got home I saw a TV ad from this outfit showing how they won a customer satisfaction award. How could that possibly happen? In closing what I learned about buying cars from dealers is never give the key to your trade-in vehicle away to anybody.

If the dealership wants to perform an evaluation and road test you hold on to your key and take the guy for a ride. Give them access to any areas they want to inspect but be ready to leave.

I have a few more pages on this site that provides more information about buying cars from dealers and tips about car buying in general.

Update: I did buy a car from a dealers used car inventory and it has not been all smooth sailing. See what the 2009 Cadillac was recalled for.

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