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How to Buy A Car

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Gateway Motors, Simca, Jacksonville, FLDo you absolutely hate going to the dealership and buying a car? Do you hate the games, the time wasted, the haggling and the long drawn out dance? It’s one of the reasons why CarMax has been so popular (we bought a car from CarMax just last year because they offered the best price and no dance), people just hate this silly game that dealerships make you play just to buy a car. The reality is that your average car buyer, who buys a car only one time every few years (hopefully many years if they’re lucky) is up against someone who sells cars every single day. We’re just not well equipped to battle in this arena, which is why buying a car when you’re a dealership, on their home field, is a mistake.

Here’s how to buy a car on your terms. First, you need to decide what car you want down to the very last detail. You’ll want make, model, year, trim, color, etc. Every single detail you could possibly want because you will want to put this down on paper and fax it to every dealership in your local area that could have that car. You’ll want them to give you their “best price” on this car because you’ll be buying it from a dealership within the next week. Ideally you’ll want to send this to as many dealers as you can because some won’t respond. Some will tell you to come in and you can chat, but avoid this at all costs. You can give them your phone number or your email address (a throwaway gmail so you can avoid spam) if you want but the goal is to get a bunch of prices. The prices should be all inclusive too, don’t let them add in extra fees afterwards. If they do, just walk out and buy from the second one on the list.

I first saw this strategy over ten years ago in The Motley Fool’s Money Guide (published 2001) and they called it the Fax-a-thon method. The same idea as the above except you do it by fax, never talking to anyone and doing nothing more than faxing a few requests. You will need a way to receive faxes with their method (it relies on not including your phone number so you don’t get bothered), but you can always send free faxes using online tools. I next saw it in this video about how to buy a car using this same idea, except over the phone rather than over fax:

Have you tried this with any success?

(Photo: aldenjewell)

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4 Responses to “How to Buy A Car”

  1. F2O says:

    I have – worked well for me three times.

    Bought my wife’s CRV in 2008 with the email/call method. Had 20 dealerships on the list, about half played along. Took the best price and emailed to all 20 telling them they had 24 hours to beat it and I was making my decision. 3-4 responded and I ended up buying from the 2nd lowest price beacuse the lowest tried to play games with fees. About a month later I took my sister back to the same dealer and told the salesman that if he could give her the same deal, she’d buy on the spot. He did and she did.
    In 2010 I helped my other sister and brother-in-law buy their car. Started out with the same method, but my brother-in-law modified it to actually visiting each dealer to listen to their sales pitch. He ended up with more dealers trying to outprice each other than I did 2 years earlier, but the price % under list ended up just about the same.
    Also, this was for new cars. I wouldn’t expect it to work nearly as well for used since the inventory is not at all consistant from dealer to dealer.

  2. Hey Jim, The strategy in this video (and from the Motley Fool) works great! However there is one enhancement I’d suggest to both the fax approach or the phone approach…..and that’s to use email instead. It’s so much easier than a fax and allows you to avoid difficult phone conversations and stick to the facts.

    I’ve actually documented this strategy in detail on my site and inlcuded free email samples to send to dealers as well.

    Btw- In addition to creating a temporary email account, I’d suggest setting up a temporary Google Voice phone number as well so you don’t get innudated with calls.

    Jim- I’d be happy to answer any questions or go into any more details to help your readers as well. Feel free to email me. -Geoff

  3. freeby50 says:

    Is there any benefit to use fax to negotiate instead of just sending email?

  4. PFM says:

    When I purchased our last car in 2006 I sent an email to every Honda dealership within a 50 mile radius, a few responded with “come in & chat” and a few with a price, the lowest price ($700 less than the next closest) was about 15 miles away, I gave the closet dealership to me (about 3 miles away) the opportunity to just match the price and they wouldn’t. No hassles when I purchased, easy transaction, recommended that dealership to other buyers.


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