Patience, Grasshopper

Over the summer I considered getting a new car. There wasn’t anything wrong with the 2014 Ford Fusion that I had. It was 3 1/2 years old and had less than 40,000 miles on it. But it was out of warranty and I figured it I could get a comparable car for about the same payment and without any down, it might be worth it.

My searches led me to Fritts Ford in Riverside. They had a brand new 2015 Fusion Titanium. The sticker price was $35,490. They wanted $40,200. Surely, that had to be a typo. Finding the equipment I wanted in the color I wanted proved to be more challenging than I had thought. I liked the Titanium trim and I didn’t necessarily have to have the newer body style. I could sacrifice a few things for a good price.

I gave them a call.

Nope, that was the asking price. $5000 over sticker for a car that was turning 3 model years old. They actually had two of them. And a couple of Mustangs too. What kind of added value did they incorporate that justified such a markup? None. They insisted that it was the market. Really? Then why weren’t they selling?

Yeah. Sure. Okay. I can play that game. I lowballed them and offered them $28,000 out the door. Tax, title, license, doc fees, whatever else they tack onto the total. After a little back and forth, I wished them well. Actually, what I said was, “Good luck selling that 3 year old, dated body style Fusion for anywhere near sticker price.” I even tossed them a freebie and suggested they remove the $5000 markup.

That’s the secret. You have to be willing to walk away. If they see that you’re in love with a car or a house, there’s blood in the water. They know that you’ll give a lot more away during negotiations just to get it. I didn’t NEED a new car. I WANTED a new car. Maybe. If I could get what I was looking for at the price I wanted. If not, then I’ll happily continue driving the one I had. But that’s the difficulty most people have. They become emotionally attached to something, artificially inflating the value.

They called me back a couple of times. I offered to do them a solid and take the car off their hands, but they’d have to be more reasonable. They thought they were being generous by discounting $1200 off the MSRP. Nope. Some months down the road they sold those Fusions, but they still have the two Mustangs, and their still asking thousands over MSRP for them.

I kept looking. I had the time. The local Ford dealer didn’t have what I was looking for. Sure, they could get it, but they wouldn’t give me the kind of deal I was looking for. I’d get the price I wanted, but not what I wanted to get for my trade.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not unreasonable. I worked in the car business for a few years. I sold cars, I appraised cars, I ordered cars, I did dealer trades, and I was the finance manager. I know how the game is played and I generally refuse to play it. I do my homework. I have a pretty good idea of what the value of a vehicle is, and I know what a reasonable price is. The invoice they show you isn’t their true cost. They have all kinds of holdbacks and incentives. But I also know that the sales people generally get paid a percentage of the difference between the invoice and sales price. I’ll let them earn a reasonable profit from a vehicle so that the sales person earns a fair commission.

What the sales people are trained to do after drawing up their little 4-square form and hashing out a couple hours of back and forth, is to find out what it will take for you to drive a new car off the lot today. Not tomorrow. Right now. I just start there. I’ll tell them what I’m willing to pay, my best and final offer. Take it or leave it. The only time I didn’t do that was when I had two dealers competing for my business. For two days, the salesmen called me several times, trying to outdo what the other guy was promising.

Which brings me to a car I found at Raceway Ford in Riverside. They had a 2017 Fusion SE with all of the equipment I was looking for. I knew what my car was worth and I knew what invoice was on theirs. I filled out their interest form on-line, complete with my trade-in information. I even e-mail photos of the odometer, chip in the windshield, tire tread, and parking lot dings. I wanted to be totally honest with them so that neither of us were wasting our time. I told them what I needed to get out of my car to pay it off. They asked about financing. I told them that I already had that arranged through Navy Federal Credit Union, that way I could take advantage of a very low interest rate and still get the $4000 in rebates.

“Oh. You bank with Navy Federal?”

“Yes. Yes, I do.”

“Well, we have an arrangement with them. Their members get cars for $750 under invoice.”



“Sold! I’ll be there in a few hours.”

I hardly had to do anything. We hadn’t even gotten around to discussing price yet. They just slapped me upside the head with a deal I couldn’t resist. But there was still one wrinkle that needed to be smoothed out, and it wasn’t a small one. It was one that caused a lot of seemingly done deals to fall through. Trade-ins are almost always a sticking point when buying a car.

They said we were in the ballpark paying off my car, but they couldn’t guarantee anything until they saw it. I get it. Not a problem. But if they try to lowball me, I’ll fill up my tank and drive back home.

As luck would have it, the left rear passenger door on my chariot wouldn’t latch properly. It took a few tries, but I finally got it closed. Of course, I told them before they got their hands on my car. I didn’t want them to think I was trying to hide it. Turns out it was no big deal. They can replace a door latch in an hour.

I got what I needed to pay of my car and I drove away with a 2017 Fusion that had an MSRP couple thousand more than the 2014 and had more equipment for about the same price. The difference is $2 a month.

This was by far the easiest, smoothest, most enjoyable car purchase I’ve ever made. It was well worth the two hour trip. and I will go there again when it’s time to buy another car.

But this isn’t a plug for Raceway Ford.

It’s easier to find a job if you have a job. It’s easier to find a home if your already have a place to live. It’s easier to find friends if you have friends.

It’s not always easy to project your needs, or even your wants, for that matter. But if you can foresee something on the horizon, you have the chance to prepare for it, even forestall it altogether. You have the time to deal with all of the particulars and details involved. You can explore various options and allow opportunities to arise that you would likely miss because you were pressed for time. You don’t feel the pressure to perform with deadlines looming in the immediate future. When you can be patient, you have an advantage you would otherwise enjoy. This can help relieve the stress of those things that you cannot control or prepare for. Putting these things off because you don’t want to deal with them right now can make things a whole lot worse, and incredibly more difficult, when you are finally forced to address them.


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