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How Would You Improve the Car-Buying Experience?

Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 10,837
We often hear from consumers who dread the car buying process. Whether you're a relative novice or a seasoned automotive consumer, we'd love to hear your ideas for improving the car-buying experience.

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  • qbrozenqbrozen Posts: 17,210
    edited March 2013
    Well, quicker and easier is always preferable. What really bothers me is the time it takes to sign the papers and get the keys after a deal is already struck. I've been able to cut deals in minutes, but then have to wait around for several hours just to get the paperwork done because, in most cases, there is/are only 1 or 2 F&I guys, and they are inevitably backed up. I honestly can't say what takes so long with each deal, as I don't really understand all that goes into the paperwork.

    But, hell, let me start filling it out. Set up a few machines where a buyer, after the deal is set, can sit down and plug in their info. I've seen some places work much more efficiently than others, and it appears to come down to software. I'm a bit surprised that there seems to be many different types of software out there for dealers from what I've seen, and some are far more antiquated than others. At the end of a deal, I think the amount of time someone spends sitting around is going to leave an impression of the dealership and could affect if they come back or recommend others.

    '13 Stang GT; '86 Benz 300E; '98 Volvo S70; '12 Leaf; '14 Town&Country

  • boomchekboomchek Vancouver, BC, CanadaPosts: 5,108
    Yes, usually the business office/finance office is where the bottleneck happens.

    On most shifts there is only one F&I manager. Busy stores will have two or more.

    On a busy Saturday there might be 2 or 3 F&I (finance) managers working, however all new deals, and all customers coming in for deliveries (who did a deal a day or two prior) also have to go through them.

    Because the F&I managers are paid on commission as well, their job is to sell extra products like warranty, insurances, and paint/rust protection. So having extra finance office people sit around when there is no customers usually doesn't make sense for a dealership, or the finance manager if they're on commission as they wouldn't be making money.

    Even if a deal that's done is a straight forward cash deal, and there is no sales pitch involved from F&I, there is still a bit of paperwork to sign which usually might take 15-20 minutes. Compound that with 5 customers who are waiting, and you can end up waiting a good hour or two.

    2007 BMW 328i Sports Pkg, 1993 Honda Accord EXR (my 33rd car).

  • abacomikeabacomike South FloridaPosts: 3,509
    The entire process cannot be improved enough because no two car buying experiences are the same!

    As previously cited, the timeframe for F & I is usually the most frustrating, either because there are not enough F & I managers at the dealership or the inabilityo to expeditiosly find a financing source (bank or financing arm of the manufacturer) that will buy the deal, or pulling 3 credit reports from Experian, Equifax or TransUnion to average scores, or software used to print necessary paperwork is compatible with the software used by the sales department, or conflicting data regarding the buyer, etc., all of which slows the entire process. If all the necessary info and VIN's and credit reports and approval of financing were all set prior to giving the deal to F&I it would expedite that part of the process.

    Another area deals with getting the car ready for delivery. First it has to be mechanically inspected, cleaned and detailed, plates transferred, satellite radio registered and set up, telemetry set up (if On Star, BMW Assist, Mbrace by Mercedes, to name a few), inspection paperwork signed by the customer, etc.

    Then indoctrinating the buyer as regard proper use of all buttons, fictions etc.

    The real culprit to improving the experience is the dealer's insistence of delivering the car that same day and the buyer's desire to drive his/her car home that same day. The best way to improve the experience is to not require the dealership or the customer to take that new car home that same day - but that will never happen! So, in conclusion, until something changes so the process of completing paperwork and getting the car ready for delivery, the process cannot be improved very much in my opinion.

    If the customer came back for paperwork after it was completed the next day, had a cursory demo of car functions and another appt. for individualizing the process of showing all functions, it would be a better experience.

    But because of dealer and buyer demands and expectations, it really is not going to improve.

    2014 Mercedes Benz CLS 550 - best car ever! 2nd best car ever, my 1967 Corvette Stingray Coupe with 435 hp.

  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,171
    The real culprit to improving the experience is the dealer's insistence of delivering the car that same day and the buyer's desire to drive his/her car home that same day.

    Yep, I've seen people comment that they purchased their expensive new house in one-third the time it took to buy a new car.

    But they forget that the offer and acceptance, loan approval, home inspection and title search took at least a month, so when they went in to close on the house, there was nothing left to do but sign the paperwork.

    And unless they made a pre-sale rental arrangement, they weren't living in the house all month before closing either.

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  • tommister2tommister2 Mechanicsville, VAPosts: 131
    In 1997 I bought a Maxima from a Nissan dealer in Chesapeake VA. They didn't have F&I people - each of the salespeople were trained to do the entire sales process. I don't remember if that made the process any quicker. The dealer got gobbled up by a bigger chain, I think.

    I would prefer a "pull" inventory system. I buy new cars. Dealers always try to fit me into what they have, rather than ordering what I want. That's a pain and a waste of time.

    I also would prefer the Saturn/Scion pricing model for everyone. Then you can go to any dealer and get the same car for the same price.
  • suydamsuydam Posts: 931
    Everything about buying a car is awful! Why can't prices actually be posted so the buyer can comparison shop the way we do for virtually every other product?
  • sandman_6472sandman_6472 Coral Springs, FLPosts: 2,638
    Totally agree here. We are the kind of buyers who simply refuse to drive the new vehicle home that day...and dealers down here in Broward County don't like that...they want the vehicle off their property asap! We will simply not do that and have frustrated a few stores that way. But this system works for us as we call our insurance guy, clean out the old vehicle and just do not like to be rushed. When we pick up the next day, we make sure the car has been through pdi and is detailed. If it did need an alignment or any other thing done to it, we make sure it's been completed. We usually pay by credit card and a cashiers check , so that cuts down the time also. We only will finance part if there is a real incentive to do so, as when we bought our daughter's Versa...made financial sense for her to finance part of it. We usually do not purchase any extra stuff like the maintenance plan with the Mazda, so F & I usually goes smoothly. We then get our keys and learn anything we need to know from our sales person and then we drive it away. We are pretty easy for those folks since we have stellar Fico scores and most times pay cash. This system works for us so we continue to do it. Also, I prefer to purchase on a weekday when they are less busy and can give us the necessary time to do the job right. As we all know, the devil is in the details!

    The Sandman :) :sick: :shades:

    2014 Hyundai Tuscon SE/2005 Mazda 3s/2008 Hyundai Accent GLS/2009 Nissan Versa SL hatch

  • ken117ken117 Posts: 189
    Paying cash would make a stellar FICO score irrelevant.
  • boomchekboomchek Vancouver, BC, CanadaPosts: 5,108
    Why can't prices actually be posted so the buyer can comparison shop the way we do for virtually every other product?

    MSRP's are posted, online, on dealer sites, and on manufacturer sites.

    2007 BMW 328i Sports Pkg, 1993 Honda Accord EXR (my 33rd car).

  • sandman_6472sandman_6472 Coral Springs, FLPosts: 2,638
    Well, that's a given...my point was that we could get the best rates if we did finance the purchase. But thanks for pointing out the obvious to me! If the rates ever get back to 0% again on a new vehicle purchase, I would definitely take advantage of that so I could keep the $20k working for me in whatever investment it's parked in and pay the monthly payments but usually going the cash route is our method of choice. And doubt we'll see 0% financing any time soon. And after just driving the wife's car with about 118k on the clock, it's flawless! Drives so smoothly and nicely that I told the wife let's just stay the course for now and she agreed. But she does need to test drive stuff to make sure when the time comes she knows what's up!

    The Sandman :) :sick: :shades:

    2014 Hyundai Tuscon SE/2005 Mazda 3s/2008 Hyundai Accent GLS/2009 Nissan Versa SL hatch

  • roadburnerroadburner Posts: 6,374
    edited March 2013
    I would prefer a "pull" inventory system. I buy new cars. Dealers always try to fit me into what they have, rather than ordering what I want. That's a pain and a waste of time.

    My local VW dealer lost a sale for that very reason. I wanted a GTI with a specific set of options and the sales guy acted like ordering a car was virtually impossible.

    2009 328i / 2004 X3 2.5/ 1995 318ti Club Sport/ 1975 2002A/ 2007 Mazdaspeed 3/ 1999 Wrangler/ 1996 Speed Triple Challenge Cup Replica

  • suydamsuydam Posts: 931
    Yes, but unlike a tv at Walmart no one expects to pay MRSP so it's a guessing game.
  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,171
    Even Walmart has a price match policy so you can sometimes buy stuff below their marked price. Be funny to see a dealer price match a screamer ad.

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  • boomchekboomchek Vancouver, BC, CanadaPosts: 5,108
    Well you have invoice prices available as well posted on various websites and through paid services. So what you negotiate from there is up to you. If you don't want to negotiate back and forth then pay MSRP. If you want a discount then go through the negotiating process.

    New car business is probably the most exposed business in terms of pricing and costs. The info is available to anyone that wants it.

    You will never find as much info on the invoice pricing or true cost of new sofas, TVs, laptops, or a smart phones, or most other consumer goods for that matter. Yet people rarely bargain on prices of those items and happily pay the gigantic markups on those items.

    2007 BMW 328i Sports Pkg, 1993 Honda Accord EXR (my 33rd car).

  • tommister2tommister2 Mechanicsville, VAPosts: 131
    I don't disagree with you about the other items, but I don't consider invoice to be the " true" cost for a new vehicle. I've bought many cars under invoice and I was as aware as I could be about rebates and incentives. I know the dealers get kickbacks from the manufacturers based on sales volumes (extra allocations, cash bonuses quarterly, etc.). If they are willing to sell below invoice they must get more money some other way. I usually buy Honda or Toyota with low rate financing so I don't think they get money from that. I rarely have a trade in either.

    I still say go to a fixed price model and let me order the colors/options I want. Maybe my CCBA membership would expire then....

    Why is the one price model not more popular?
  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,171
    edited March 2013
    I agree, invoice is losing meaning.

    "Automakers have fattened dealers' "invoice" or wholesale price so it looks as if they're paying a lot more than they used to — perhaps 95% of the retail sticker price, vs. 85% before Internet car shopping began in the mid-1990s.

    But that modern invoice number now is padded enough to let automakers send significant sums back to dealers in hard-to-track give-backs and bonuses that make the dealers' real (and well-hidden) wholesale cost for the vehicle well below "invoice." (USA Today)

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,580
    edited March 2013
    Kind of slick on the part of automakers, still allows for profits.

    I was able to get a car for literally thousands under invoice, when negotiating for maybe 10 minutes.
  • berriberri Posts: 4,159
    Interesting. I think you kind of understand this concept internally, but this info does a good job of laying it out objectively.
  • sandman_6472sandman_6472 Coral Springs, FLPosts: 2,638
    Bargained at the flea market today on a couple of items. Guy had a beautiful wooden cane that he wanted $25 for. Offered $10 and he took it! He had to cut it down to match my current cane size and put a rubber tip on the bottom also...he's very good and was recommended to me by a friend. he sells all kinds of stuff and saw a German paring knife for $4.00 and got it for $3.00. Don't know his cost on all these items but they must be really low for him to accept my deals. But I was the only one in his cubicle so he made something from me no matter what...and all cash as it didn't seem fair to charge it all. he also reglued my other loose cane "Cain" and put on a tip on a 3rd cane that had lost it recently. Real nice guy whose shop I definitely will go back to...he made a customer out of me and the wife & girls will love his place.

    But even though there's all this info on the web about invoice, etc., I never really know if we got the best deal possible as it involves many variables and we as consumers don't know most of them. No matter what, the dealer is usually always in the catbird seat on any deal. We all have our "target price" on what the vehicle is truly worth to us ans usually start at a much lower price point so we can negotiate. If we do better, we're thrilled to death and if we make it by a few bucks, there still is joy that we didn't pay over our "target price". After the papers are signed and we drive off, we stop wondering as the deal is done and just want to enjoy the new vehicle purchase. It must feel terrible to find out later that one got raped by the dealer because every day you drive the vehicle, it's a constant reminder of the bad deal. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss so get your best deal and move on and enjoy as there's nothing so wonderful as purchasing a new to you vehicle and that great new car smell...orgasmic!

    The Orgasmic Sandman :) :sick: :shades:

    2014 Hyundai Tuscon SE/2005 Mazda 3s/2008 Hyundai Accent GLS/2009 Nissan Versa SL hatch

  • boomchekboomchek Vancouver, BC, CanadaPosts: 5,108
    I know the dealers get kickbacks from the manufacturers based on sales volumes (extra allocations, cash bonuses quarterly, etc.). If they are willing to sell below invoice they must get more money some other way.

    Yes, but those like you said, have more to do with performance bonuses than the dealer cost of car. They don't occur all the time and are variable.

    Just like if your salary is $xxxxx per year, an occasional performance or Christmas bonus that may or may not happen still doesn't change your salary figure. It's just a bonus.

    If you go to your bank and ask for a loan, they will want to know what your guaranteed salary is, not what your occasional bonuses may be.

    So true cost may be the invoice, however the dealer may receive bonus money from the manufacturer for performance and they can allocate it as they wish - to employee bonuses, facility upgrades, or to lower their cost on cars, but it doesn't mean they will give it away to customers.

    2007 BMW 328i Sports Pkg, 1993 Honda Accord EXR (my 33rd car).

  • tommister2tommister2 Mechanicsville, VAPosts: 131
    Right, I understand that they can use it any way they like. Some dealers will not sell below invoice and some will. It is their choice. I wonder if the ones that sell below invoice without too much of a fight know they are getting a bonus, or maybe they figure they will get it from the next buyer? Or they hope to get something from the buyer in F&I...
  • boomchekboomchek Vancouver, BC, CanadaPosts: 5,108
    From personal experience of working in the car sales business for about 10 years, the ones that sell the cars way below invoice, or cheaper than other regional dealers, tend to also sell fewer cars, and tend to either close down or change ownership often because they lose money on a regular basis.

    When I worked at Chrysler, each month we had sales figures of all local Chrysler stores, and their average profit per car. The dealers that made the least also sold the least (they lacked sales process and HAD to give their cars away in order to try and stay afloat). They ended up closing down, being bought out by bigger franchises and turned profitable, or changed brands completely.

    2007 BMW 328i Sports Pkg, 1993 Honda Accord EXR (my 33rd car).

  • ken117ken117 Posts: 189
    Your welcome, my observation was for readers who might not have gleaned the obvious. Most lenders do not require a credit score of much more than 720 for the best rates. A score of 720 is very good but not stellar.

    Rather than pay cash, it is often better to let the dealer finance the sale. Allowing the dealer to think it made a bit of profit on the financing might result in that dealer selling the vehicle for a lower price. Since there are no pre-payment penalties for most auto loans, especially for someone with a stellar credit score, the loan can always be paid off immediately.
  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,171
    edited April 2013
    Takes too long and everyone thinks they're getting ripped off.

    Is Your Auto Dealership’s Sales Process Customer-Approved? (NCMi)

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  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,171
    edited September 2013
    "All vehicles in the Scarff inventory have a large "Bottom Line Price" tag hanging from the rearview mirror. This offer applies not only to new cars, but to pre-owned and certified pre-owned vehicles, as well.

    The store nearly doubled its market share after implementing the sales strategy. In addition to the uptick in sales, the level of stress was reduced for both the buyer and the dealership's employees. With less stress on the employees, staff turnover was reduced. Scarff has been able to retain a long-term, experienced sales team. Scarff says this is one of the reasons his dealership was rated the number one dealer in customer satisfaction in his area by Subaru of America, five years running."

    Washington Subaru Dealer Takes Haggling Out of Car Buying With Bottom Line Pricing

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,580
    Interesting...my grandpa and uncle (I think) bought a few cars from that group over the years.
  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,171
    I wonder if Fitzmall gets the same award back East; they're no haggle.

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  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,171
    "GM also is aiming to win over shoppers like Debbie Mahaffy, of Gladwin, Mich., who said she didn't want to take time off work to go to a dealership to buy a car.

    She knew exactly what she wanted—a 2013 Chevrolet Camaro—so she completed the entire process online and over email, ultimately buying the car from a dealership about 125 miles away and having it delivered to her workplace.

    It certainly isn't how most new car sales are sold. "Other auto makers have looked into this, but GM is the first to bring it to prime time," said John Giamalvo, director of dealer strategy for car-shopping website Edmunds.com. "There has been a slow creep to this model for the last five years now."

    GM says the program isn't intended to replace dealers or their showrooms, but rather to give its dealers a way to reach a growing group of customers, many of them young and tech-savvy, who prefer to complete transactions online and skip the showroom ritual."

    GM Prods Dealers to Sell Cars Online (Wall St. Journal - registration link)

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  • cdnpinheadcdnpinhead Forest Lakes, AZPosts: 3,244
    edited October 2013
    the hell out of the transaction is the key, but it'll take until well after I'm dead for it to happen.

    There is no reason on god's green earth why a potential car buyer couldn't select the car they want to buy online and have it built in a couple of weeks, much like Dell does for computers, other than:

    1. What to do with the trade-in
    2. How to arrange "difficult" (that'd be upside-down, better know as typical) financing
    3. Test drives

    The manufacturers could work their way around this, but the dealer cabals have built state laws to prevent such heresy.

    The present system makes no sense to a financially responsible buyer who is willing to dispose of his/her present car on the open market and knows exactly which vehicle he/she wants to buy and what packages or options he/she wants it to contain.

    All 117 of such people in North America can gather in the meeting room of their choice to work this out.

    The dealers suck and most buyers (or, worse yet, leasors) are ignorant and/or financially irresponsible.

    Ain't life grand?

    My solution is to buy cars as rarely as possible and to hold my nose through the whole thing.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,580
    Dealing with dealers can be a pain in the butt, but those three obstacles you mention will be hard to overcome. Trade-ins, financing, and test drives are really the reason dealers exist. Can't get around them. And of course, dealers help to get people to spend more than they initially planned. But, nobody has a gun pointed at their head when they sign on the dotted line, so if they buy what they don't need...not my problem.

    Most people don't want to sell privately, it's a lot of work, and in the growing socio-economic chasm, might become dangerous. Some people require a lot of work to finance, and a test drive setup not based on sales will not last long.

    Negotiation will also be a problem. Many buyers find it a game, and some brands are notorious for negotiation, especially premium brands.

    And fiscal responsibility can be subjective. Some want to enjoy life as these are the good old days, some want to live like Scrooge, pretend to be poor, and then leave everything to ungrateful devilspawn who will waste it after pretending they earned it themselves. Priorities, I guess ;) The way I see it, if someone spends less than they make (and puts at least something aside for the future), they can spend how they want. My solution is to just deal with it, a couple hours of dealer annoyance for hopefully years of pleasure with a car.
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