How we bought a new car this time

This is pretty similar to a guest post we did on GRS like a decade ago.  One big difference is that it is very hard to find email addresses on dealership sites now.  Still, if you live near a city or two, even a couple of hours away, I strongly recommend using this method after you’ve decided on a car.

First:  I made a list of all the Honda dealerships in a 2.5 hour radius.  I then found the contact information page for each one.

Here’s what we emailed:

We are in the market for a 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Base Model, any trim.  We are not willing to pay extra for add-ons.

What is your walkaway price?

Usually this would start with a generic email that didn’t autopopulate asking if we were sure that we wanted a [blank].  Then we’d be invited for a test drive.  Next we’d get an email asking for a phone number or to come in for a test drive.  We’d reply that we weren’t interested in a test drive and preferred to do business via email.  And then we’d reiterate that we were looking for a walkaway price.  Enough iterations of this and someone would finally send a walkaway price.  Those started coming in:  $36,443.82; $36,771.90; $36,086; $36,059.63; $35,573.50… and a bunch in the 37K range.  Once we got the $35,573.50, we mailed back everyone who had given us a quote and asked if they could beat it.  Several dealerships offered $35,500, which we then emailed back to people as they sent in new $37K offers.  At that point everyone left converged on “we can beat $35,500 if you come in right now and talk to us in person”, at which point I went to the local dealer and said that if they could match or beat $35,500 then we’d buy from them.  After some confusion in which they thought they’d given us a walkaway price when in fact they had not, DH went to the local dealer and bought the car.

Sadly they only valued our trade-in at $1000, which was lower than the $1300 minimum that KBB suggested our car (in “fair” condition) was worth as a trade-in (it’s worth quite a bit more according to KBB as a purchase).  So DH didn’t trade in.  I’m not looking forward to selling on Cragislist, but DH says he’ll take care of it.  I suggested he add any amount he gets over 1K to his allowance.

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27 Responses to “How we bought a new car this time”

  1. KW Says:

    Were people giving you quotes for the Touring model? Because those seem high for the basic trim. In any case, this is great car buying advice. I think we’re going to do something similar.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      They were but not the ones we listed here. For the touring model their quotes were higher.

      Keep in mind that the walk away price includes taxes (sales tax is high in my state because income tax is low) and all the random fees. The base price for these were all MSRP or lower.

  2. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Also, my Hyundai Accent check engine light popped on yesterday so I’m happy right now we didn’t trade in the civic.

  3. undine Says:

    How did you know that was the model you wanted if you had never driven it? Did you rent one?

  4. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I used to do this going through the fleet departments of each dealership but I’m hoping I won’t have to do this again any time soon. I remember when I bought that ill fated truck for my family, and walked in to sign the paperwork, the salesman did a double take and then wryly said something like, “she’s the one who knows how to take care of business, huh?” Bet your sweet bippy I do. (did)

  5. SP Says:

    That is exactly how we bought our last two cars. It is a little stressful, but much less stressful than going in and trying to bargain in person with a single dealership. Seems like several of the subaru dealerships around here have an “internet sales” department that deals with this type of request.

  6. Leigh Says:

    I somewhat tried to buy my current car this way and only got partially along the way. I did end up with a reasonable price in the end, I think. I had planned to take out a loan for part of the car through my credit union at 4.99%, but the dealership finance manager told me the loan would be at 12.99%, which is highway robbery! Then they wouldn’t let me write a personal check for my portion of the car. I think we ended up walking away and then they changed their tune. I’m so glad my credit score is better now and that should help the next time we buy a car, but with 30,000 miles on a 2011 car, I’m not really worried about when that will be.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Good credit is great to have! We financed our last car through our credit union—the loan rate was lower than their term share (CD) rate! This one we paid cash. Thankfully they took a personal check.

      • Leigh Says:

        My husband tried to say we should take out a car loan when we buy a car next time because with our good credit, interest rates would be low. I regaled my story of how annoying it was to get the lien taken off the title of the car after I did pay off the loan and I would rather sell index funds to buy a car. Less effort tends to win him over quite easily.

  7. Kelly-Ann Says:

    One of my coworkers used Carvana I think–not sure if that was the service, but essentially it gives you walk-away prices from dealers through this website. And then you show up with the print out from the website and pay that for the car you want. Some dealers will offer to match other dealer’s prices.

    My friends who moved to cities where they no longer need cars both sold theirs through Carfax I believe. Might be worth a try alongside Craigslist.

  8. KW Says:

    I’ve been trying this approach, but I’ve encountered a hitch, which is that the car we want (Kia Niro PHEV) doesn’t seem to be widely available in a 200 mile radius from where we live. And dealers don’t seem as willing to give us a price on a car they don’t currently have.

  9. Katherine Says:

    I bought a car this way twenty years ago. The last time I bought a car (5 years ago) I checked out Costco, Consumer Reports and Overstock. It was super easy: each one emailed me a dealer in my area and their drive out price. I ended up going with the Costco vendor, because I really love Costco. It took maybe two hours and I remain happy with the purchase.

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