By on June 7, 2019

“I’ll tell you something.”

Normally this sort of phrase is followed by, well, something. But the grizzled old dealership veteran seated across the desk from me seemed to be sizing me up a bit, seeing if I was worth the time it would take for him to dispense some of his six decades’ worth of wisdom. After a deep sigh, he must have decided that I was, because he continued.

“This is the worst business. The absolute worst. I invest $30,000 to make $500 — if I’m lucky. Even Vegas would give me those odds. If I had any sense at all, I’d liquidate every car on the damned lot and put all of my money in the stock market. If I had done that at the beginning up the year, I’d be up a couple of hundred grand right now.”

I sensed that I was supposed to say nothing. So I did just that, silently encouraging him to continue.

He noticed my obedience and nodded gently. “Of course, I’d never do anything of the sort. I was born into it, you know. I’m a little bit older than most people think. My father opened the first of the Japanese stores here in (undisclosed state). Then he opened another one. I opened the first Korean store. And now look at me — master of all I survey, owner of ten points.

“As much as I want to get out the business — as much as I wish Daddy had never even thought about buying a car lot — I can’t. But you, young man, you should get out now. I mean now.”

It only took me about seven more years to follow his advice. I am officially out of the car business — kinda. I still have clients who have automotive clients. But I don’t directly sell to car dealerships anymore, which is why I have no problem pulling back the curtain in answering this next question from our friend and reader, Bart.

(Find Out…)

By on February 1, 2018

cars dealer dealership, Image: HappyAlex/Bigstock

In 2017, car dealers across the country experienced something they hadn’t experienced in a decade — a year without sales growth. The decline was ever so slight, thanks largely to a couple of bad hombres named Irma and Harvey, but it was a bit of a challenge for dealers who were used to consistent improvement year-over-year since the Great Recession. As such, dealers and automakers are more concerned than ever about consumer shopping behavior, because all of the predictions for 2018 indicate a continued decline for new car sales in the U.S.

Dealers are no longer content simply to throw their inventory up on a third-party listing site, hoping to win your click. They’ve paid millions of dollars to collect unstructured data, track your online behavior, and enter your name into customer relationship management systems.

Today, I’m going to walk you through the way that the industry thinks you shop for cars, and you can tell me if they’re right.

(Find Out…)

By on August 10, 2017

used car sales, Image: alptraum/Bigstock

 “The internet has ruined the car business.”

“I’m not interested in a race to the bottom.”

“There’s an ass for every seat.”

Yes, my friends, in the year 2017, dealership general managers still say these sentences. What’s worse is that they’re not even being ironic. And in this era of record-setting car sales (yes, despite what you’ve heard, 2017 is going to be the fourth-best sales year in history), some of them are even able to keep their jobs.

But smart dealers know better. They know that the internet is their friend, that being the cheapest sometimes really is the best strategy, and that no, there most definitely is not an ass for that 2013 Malibu that’s priced at 117 percent of the market average.

Why are they so smart? Because they understand a seemingly simple concept that can get quite complicated when dealers try to execute it. That concept? It’s called “turn.”

(Find Out…)

By on January 11, 2017

2016 Chevrolet SS blue

Mattias writes:

I’m doing my responsible midlife crisis thing, and I’m wanting a V8 sedan. My budget is around $40,000, and I’m looking at used examples of the Lexus IS-F, Cadillac CTS-V, and Chevy SS.

(Find Out…)

By on December 21, 2016

2011_ford_mustang_eng_10-de-as_4_717

Charles writes:

Dear Bark,

The 1986 silver, manual Accord Yokohama company car I was lucky enough to cut my teeth on in rural Ohio still comes to me in my dreams as I’m nigh on middle age. Here I am back in Ohio, and I’m sitting on the theoretical cash for my ’15 Golf TDI. My neurotic self vacillates far and wide: country boy F-150, Tacoma, Fusion Sport, Mustang GT, Civic Type R, Accord V6 Touring? My wife will have the family hauler, but I need something fast and mature that will occasionally accommodate my milk-chugging sons.

My wife says I’m too old for a civic, and she thinks a truck is “trying too hard.” The joy of the car fantasy ceases as soon as you drive one home. This is my struggle: once I choose the car I lose the potentiality. What’s my problem? What’s my car?

Oh, boy. Here comes some tough love. Buckle up.

(Find Out…)

By on November 16, 2016

Used Car Dealership NYC

If you fancy yourself an automotive bargain hunter, the best time to score a deal on a used car is right around the corner. So, stop clicking around on Autotrader for five minutes and equip yourself with some useful knowledge to better your odds of snagging some savings.

(Find Out…)

By on November 15, 2016

2016 BMW M3

My friend “Edward” is a conservative fellow. He’s smart, and he’s successful, but he’s also not going to be the first person in a group to, say, jump into a lake of unknown temperature. He’d rather let some other idiot take the risk.

In at least two cases, I’ve been that idiot.

When he met my voluptuous Italian housekeeper at my 40th birthday party, he thought she was pretty neat — but he waited to ask her out until I’d confirmed that said housekeeper was both fantastic in bed and unlikely to send him a boiled rabbit in the mail. And once he saw that owning an Audi S5 didn’t mean that I’d be spending every weekend drinking coffee at the service department, he picked up an Audi S4 for a daily driver. In contrast to my lime green six-speed V8 coupe, however, his Audi was a dual-clutch, supercharged-V6, metallic black four-door. Conservative. Just like him.

Edward would like to replace his S4 before winter comes. My advice to him was to take a safer version of my current path: get himself an Accord V6 sedan for the commuting grind and a brand-new Z51 Corvette for the weekends. He can certainly afford to do it, but instead, he’s thinking about upping the ante to a loaded-up M3 with a dual-clutch transmission. However, I had a slightly different idea, as you will see.

(Find Out…)

By on November 15, 2016

Screen-Shot-2016-11-15-at-11.11.05-AM

Kori writes:

Hey, Bark! I’m a 37-year-old woman with a couple of financial degrees and a decade of experience in the world of money, yet I still dread going to the dealership. I know that they’re screwing me but I just don’t know how, and that’s the worst part. I don’t object to the dealer making his fair share of money (I’m a capitalist after all), but I just wish that there was a way to know how they were making that money, and where.

In your experience, where do most customers get the shaft in a car deal, and how can it be avoided?

Thanks for your question, Kori. Most customers feel uneasy about the whole purchase experience for this very reason. Let me see if I can help you feel a little better about it by breaking down the various money aspects.

(Find Out…)

By on October 6, 2016

dealership2

I bought a car yesterday (as seen below). I’ll do the full reveal and write-up for you tomorrow. For now, let’s talk about all the things I considered buying but didn’t, and how it might help you make your own buying decision in the future.

And yes, I bought it. I didn’t lease. We’ll discuss that tomorrow, too.

(Find Out…)

By on September 27, 2016

2012_BMW_328i_sedan_--_2012_DC_1

Doug writes:

Hi Sanjeev,

(OH FFS)

I am coming up to a time that many of us must face. My son is about to turn 16 and will need to have his own ride. Currently, we own a 2012 Toyota Highlander that my wife drives, and a 2013 Honda CR-V that I drive. I am currently scheming to dedicate the CR-V to my son and then my daughter as they begin driving, then buy something for me to enjoy driving for a while. My sights are set on a used 2008-2012 BMW 328 that is in the 70,000 mile range.  I have always wanted something like this, but would not be able to afford a new one.

So here is my quandary: my wife likes that the CR-V is well rated on safety and that it is not too powerful of a car. But, she and others think the car is too new.

(Find Out…)

By on September 22, 2016

2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Image: i-MiEV

Right up there with I wish they’d make a manual diesel wagon in brown, it’s among the most played-out tropes on the Internet.

There just aren’t any bad cars anymore.

This is generally followed by some recollection of a Saturn of the early ’90s that had a faulty engine, or perhaps some . Blah blah blah nostalgia blah blah A Christmas Story blah blah. Enough.

There are plenty of bad cars out there, but the majority of people haven’t driven enough of them to know it. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I have. And I’m here to break the bad news to you: some cars suck. Maybe even the one in your very driveway.

(Find Out…)

By on September 6, 2016

2010_Lexus_GX_460_003

Austin writes:

Bark,

For the last two years, my daily driver has been a used 2006 Audi A6 Avant (bought outright in cash). Living in Minnesota and attending college in a rural part of the state, it’s the ultimate vehicle. It swallows 4 people and gear for a spring break Chicago vacation, gets through the snowstorms, and has heated seats and steering wheel. It even averages 24 mpg!

However, its mileage has reached the point where it’s no longer economically feasible to hold onto (repair-wise) going into the spring of 2017. I’m trying to hold off until used car prices fall, because of lease returns. With a budget of $15,000, I’m hoping to get five- years of use out of my next vehicle. My search has gravitated towards larger vehicles that are kinda low-volume players (with a slightly better reliability record) like the Lincoln MKT, Toyota Sequoia, Lexus LS/GX, Volvo S80, etc. Something bigger and a little more cushy. So, what do you recommend?

(Find Out…)

By on August 2, 2016

2012 Mazda3 Hatchback, Image: Mazda

MrKiwi writes:

I’m currently driving a 2011 Ford Fusion with 80,000 miles. It’s good, reliable, and utterly boring. I’ll have it completely paid off in a couple of months. Here’s where I’m going to get myself into trouble.

The responsible thing to do would be to keep the Fusion and enjoy a paid-off car. But …

While driving a rental car recently, I remembered how much I enjoy a manual transmission. There are also a couple of times a year when I could use the extra capacity of a hatch. I’m starting to look at the listings for lightly used Ford Focuses and Mazda3s with manual transmissions, thinking, “Wouldn’t it be fun?”

(Find Out…)

By on July 26, 2016

2016 Honda CR-Z, Image: Honda

Lichtronamo writes:

Hi Bark,

I’m starting the process of finding a used car for my daughter who turns 16 in September and will (hopefully) get her license afterwards.

She’s 5’3″ and about 90 pounds, so a B- or C-segment car would be right in terms of size. She’s also listened to me go on about how great it is to drive a manual transmission since she was born, and believes this to be a fundamental need of any car purchase. Our budget is upwards of $10,000 with driver safety the other primary criteria. Fuel economy and reliability aren’t negatives. While I should probably zero in on finding a nice Corolla, I’m looking for an out-of-the-box choice with some car-guy (and girl) cred. Golf? Mini? Mazda3?

(Find Out…)

By on July 13, 2016

Rebecca Lynn Z4

Let’s give a hearty “Welcome back!” to our friend Rebecca, who previously wrote about her Tacoma on these pages. She just picked up this beautiful Z4 from a dealership hundreds of miles away from her home. This is her story on how she did it. 

This journey started in October of 2007 when the lease on my 2005 Z4 3.0 matured, and I had to give the car that I dreamed of, and built on BMW NA’s site for two years, back to the dealership.

Since then I’ve had the recurring dream that I still had that car — it’s just been in storage all this time. I have serious commitment issues with cars, so it dawned on me three years ago that this was the one that got away. Fast forward to April 2016, I’ve saved for this car for a couple of years, and casually checking out the market with the plans to purchase before the end of the year. I happened upon a couple of white ones just outside my price range, and decided it was worth the stretch.

So what was my process?

(Find Out…)

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