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Choosing a Dealer - What to Look For

tidestertidester Posts: 10,110
What do you look for in selecting a dealership? Are there telltale signs to distinguish between great dealerships and those to avoid?

tidester, host
SUVs and Smart Shopper


  • jipsterjipster Posts: 5,345
    I usually try to avoid the dealeships with the 3 story inflated gorilla. The ones with ballons all over the place doesn't sit well with me either. Screamer ads... don't like them, though they all pretty much do them. I have no scientific data to back this up, just a gut feeling.

    I'll usually pick a dealership by referral. A dealership that has been in the community for a long time, and has built a reputation would be a safer bet.
  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Posts: 6,221
    I like to see lots of salesmen standing out in front like sharks smoking ciggys. This tells me that I will receive quick service. The salesman must have slicked back hair as I don't want it blowing about during the test drive. Plaid pants are a plus too. This way I can find him out in the lot when I have questions. Oh yea, and I must hear him using terms like "bump" and "laydown" so that I know he is well versed in the car biz.

    Seriously, I would select a dealer where they answer my questions honestly with a minimum of BS. If they will lay off the tricks I will offer a decent price and we can be done quickly.

    In reading these forums I have come to see how in many of my previous purchases I was taken advantage of. I hope to not repeat that experience in the future.

    2009 PT Cruiser, 2008 Eclipse, 1995 Mark VIII, 1988 GMC Van

  • jlawrence01jlawrence01 Posts: 1,828
    Here are the things that I like to see in a dealership:

    1) A variety of vehicles and models. At a minimum, two or three of each model in a place that is readily accessible for viewing.

    2) Friendly staff who will get you information and service. Nothing turns me off more than having to find help when I walk into a dealership (as happened this evening).

    3) Professional staff who know their vehicles. I mean a Ford salesman should be able to know the basics of every Ford model on the lot ... or at least where to find it.

    4) The vehicles on the lot should be consistent with the type of store that you operate. If you are a new dealership that sells certified vehicles, I don't want to see a bunch of cars on the lot that have had major damages.

    5) Professional salespeople - dressed properly, using clean language, PRINTED business cards, etc.
  • joel0622joel0622 Posts: 3,302
    Great points Jlawrence. I printed them off and shared them at the sales meeting this morning. Here is the one that always gets a rise out of sales people and it is hard to find the line.

    2) Friendly staff who will get you information and service. Nothing turns me off more than having to find help when I walk into a dealership (as happened this evening).

    If a salesperson greets a customer to quickly then they say they are pounced on, if it is to slow then they say that they were ignored. Some people say just let me look I will come find you if I need you, some people say they just want to look then come inside and tell a manager no one will help them. We greet people within 2 minutes of arrival and say "Welcome to XXX XXXXXX XXXX, how may I help you today" if they say they just want to look they are given a card and cut lose told to keep the card in there hand visible so others will no they have already been greeted. We then check in every 5 minutes or so to see if they have any questions.

    Like I said its a fine line.

    Once again thanks for the bullet points, hopefully they will help the sales people here give better customer service
  • jlawrence01jlawrence01 Posts: 1,828

    During the last MAJOR snow storm in Chicago, I stopped by the local Pontiac dealership. I was just driving through at 8 pm to see their used car stock as I believed the place was closed. One of the salesmen nearly jumped on the hood of my vehicle to talk to me. That is a bit too addressive for me (although I did stop in later and test drive a car).

    On the other hand, yesterday, I got out of my car, walked the lot, walked into the showroom and had to wait six minutes. What was really discouraging was that I got a greenpea who did not know all that much about the product.

    My favorite: "the Fusions and the Five Hundreds all come with AWD which is essental for the snow in Chicago." Umm, are your sure about that.

    The handwritten business cards are kind of bush league.

    The local Toyota dealership does a good volume of vehicles and is in the process of moving to bigger quarters. However, despite having a good few years, the place looks absolutely shabby. If you buy IKEA style furniture, plan to replace it a couple of times a decade.

    Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of good dealerships out there. And when a buyer is in a "tie situation", that is where the offerings are equally attractive, the dealership that does a better job gets the business.
  • audia8qaudia8q Posts: 3,138
    nice post..

    but it won't stop most consumers from buying from the green pea who knows nothing at the sleazy dealer who was $50 cheaper.
  • joel0622joel0622 Posts: 3,302
    And when a buyer is in a "tie situation", that is where the offerings are equally attractive, the dealership that does a better job gets the business.

    I know I am pulling this thread off track and maybe the Mod's want to move it to another, but.

    How much is "Good Service" worth in $$ to a consumer. If you have had a good experience with Service and the Sales associates were well informed, polite, and proffesional will you pay that store an extra $100, $200, $500? Or is it soley on the best deal regardless of how you were treated? I.E Which do you choose?

    Dealer A
    2007 Fordorrolatundra sl Crossover $23500 OTD

    Internet department was quick with the quote and answered all questions. Came in for appt, sales person had car ready for test drive, was polite, friendly, and knowledgeable. No pressure

    Dealer B

    No reply from internet. When you got there had to find some one to help you. Salesmen asked if you were gonna buy today when you asked to drive it. Once you got a price 2 hours later it was $22500 OTD. But in the Business office they sprang another $200 in fees on you.

    Where do you buy?
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 10,823
    Well, I got a follow-up call from my salesperson (at the same dealership) nearly a year after I purchased the car. She wanted to know how I was liking it and if I was happy with it/her.

    She was honest and said she was also making sure her contacts were updated, and reiterated the offer of a $100 referral "bonus" for me. For me, it was a win-win. I was impressed that she took the time to call a year later, and she still knows how to get in touch with me to sell another vehicle.

    I said I was happy, but if I hadn't been, she could have used the opportunity to turn another vehicle, if she'd used the right tactics. I've had follow-ups a month later, but a year later was quite nice.

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  • jlawrence01jlawrence01 Posts: 1,828
    How much is "Good Service" worth in $$ to a consumer. If you have had a good experience with Service and the Sales associates were well informed, polite, and proffesional will you pay that store an extra $100, $200, $500?

    As much as I hate to admit it, I do not think that I ever get the best deal on my personal ride.

    I like to shop at dealers where they keep only the best cars. If I drive around your used car lot (not the service area) and I see poor looking body work on half of your used cars, I have to think that you'll sell anything.

    I also like to buy from people I have dealt with before - if they have the inventory available. $500-700 on a purchase that I make every 7-10 years is pretty irrelevant in the long run.

    Personally, I won't accept any additional fees after the negotiation. And yes, I have gotten up to walk out on occasion.
  • bobstbobst Posts: 1,783
    In our area, we have bought cars at six dealers and they all seemed about the same. As long as the dealer has the car we want, we will go there.

    EXCEPT when I was looking for an Acura RSX in October 2003. I visited a dealer and they had the exact car we wanted. As I recall, it only had about 30 miles on it but the interior was filthy. I could have reached down and picked up a handful of dirt from the carpet.

    I decided I didn't want to buy a car from a dealer who could treat a beautiful car so cruelly. I don't mind if they lie to me and try to cheat me, but I don't like it when they mistreat a poor helpless automobile.

    We bought a car at Pohanka Acura in Herndon instead.
  • jlawrence01jlawrence01 Posts: 1,828
    Since February 5th, I have been looking for a vehicle to replace my 1996 Olds Ciera. Since I needed to own a car to keep my insurance coverage in force, I bought a 1989 Cutlass Ciera as a "bridge" car. However, the bridge is rather old and falling apart.

    I have been to 10-12 different dealerships. I have to admit that I did not find a single sleazy dealership. Of course, I could attribute that to avoiding the two dealerships in the area that have a bad reputation.

    Only one overly aggressive salesman out of ten. Only one helpless greenpea (no, the Fusion does not have AWD as standard equipment on the base model.)

    Today, I went into the local Toyota dealership with a Chicago Tribune ad from Saturday's paper advertising a Toyota Corolla LE with Auto, AC, PW/PB for $13,950. I have to admit that I believed that I would not see a car at that price as most of the Carolla LE models stickered at $17.1.

    I showed the ad to the salesman and he took me to a row of 15 Corollas on the lot at that price and asked me which color I wanted. No pressure and the transaction was done in under 50 minutes including test drive.

    I chose the dealership because it was the closest Toyota dealership to home and work. I wanted to deal locally as it is a lot more convenient AND the local dealerships provide free loaners when you bring the car in for service. The other dealerships generally don't.

    I chose not to haggle at all because the OTD price was less than I had expected it to be.
  • jipsterjipster Posts: 5,345
    but I don't like it when they mistreat a poor helpless automobile.

    What happened to the "grow up... expect nothing from people and they won't disappoint you" philosophy? They had the "exact" car you wanted. Probably left the windows down near a construction site. You could have had them vacuumed and cleaned out the interior in half an hour, and had the "exact" car you wanted.

    The dealership we bought our Mazda MPV from was near a construction zone. It's exterior was filthy. I didn't whine about it because it was the "exact" car we wanted. Bought and drove it home that night as service dept. had closed for the day. I came back the next day and the delearship washed and detailed it for me. Easy peasey.
  • bobstbobst Posts: 1,783
    "Probably left the windows down near a construction site."

    How could any person with a conscience do something like that and still live with themselves?

    Actually, it was an amazing amount of dirt on the carpets on both the driver and passenger sides. Maybe the car had been in a flood or something, but then wouldn't the dealer have made more of an effort to clean the car and hide the flood damage? It was kind of strange.
  • jipsterjipster Posts: 5,345
    Well, it wouldn't have bothered me if it was just dirt in the carpet. I have a dog and 2 kids... so dirty carpet I'm use to. But, if any dirt was in the seat upholstery (non leather) then I would have passed on it as well. Flood damage? You add flood damage and a lazy owner together you may get the car you're describing. If the "new" car was unusally discounted... that would be my guess.

    I did feel sorry for whoever the lot boy was at the dealership I bought from. He probably was out washing and drying every car on the lot 2 or 3 times a day... a lot of dirt and dust from construction work.
  • redsox24redsox24 Posts: 3
    I asked for a copy of the invoice and the dealer said no way. Yikes. Did I make a mistake?
  • thenebeanthenebean Posts: 1,124
    if you were planning on taking a copy of the invoice home with you, dealer is gonna say no. asking to see it on the other hand is a different story, and the dealer will probably let you do that...

  • joel0622joel0622 Posts: 3,302
    I am going to take the fact that since not one person put a $$ figure on the value of good service that no one cares how they are treated as long as they save a buck.
  • jipsterjipster Posts: 5,345
    WELLLLLLL.....JOELLLLLLL.... I think we want both(service & price). :blush:
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 10,823
    It's not an exact $ figure. When I bought my last car, I paid asking prices (which I thought was decent anyway) on the condition that they could get me totally OUT of there in an hour, no need to return to "finish up."

    I absolutely HAD to be somewhere, and was happy to just wrap up the deal on the spot. If I'd had to return on Saturday, no biggie, but I would've had more time on my hands and thus might have spent some of it haggling. The quick & easy transaction was worth the few extra $ in that case - no idea how much I could've saved haggling.

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  • joel0622joel0622 Posts: 3,302
    The only reason I asked is because folks are quick to let you know when dealer in there eyes mistreats them, and it always seems to be the same dealers doing it. And if you go to dealer and are treated well every time that is not by coincidence.

    That means one dealer is taking the time to screen employees to try to get what in his eyes is in the top of there field, where dealer B is looking for a warm body to greet you and get you in front of a manager.

    Good dealerships come with a cost. it usually means more time and money is spent on training and Customer Service. I personally think it is money well spent ;) I was just wondering if Joe Consumer is willing to pay a few hundred more for it.
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