So, if any of you out there have been hearing that tempting commercial for the new Kia Spectra for $9995; I hate to break it to you but it really is too good to be true. I'd been hearing it running on the air for almost three weeks before I finally decided to check it out. After all, I was looking for a car and if you can get a new one for under ten grand it's worth checking out right? I found their ad for the car online and read it over several times. There was no fine print, the warranty was amazing and of course the price was right. I had also heard the commercial advertise $99 down and $147 per month and when I called the dealership, I was told the interest rate was averaging between 2.99% and 4.99%. I also went online to get my credit report and score (you need to know if you are worth the amazing interest rate right?) and found out that not only was my score ok but that it was awesome. I had done my homework: I had found out everything I could about the deal without actually going down there and I knew my strengths as a buyer. I had also been pre-approved for a loan through the dealership.
So we drove from Tigard, Oregon to Vancouver, Washington to check it out. When we got there, a salesperson asked what we were looking for and I handed over a print out of the ad from their website. I also had a sticky note on it that included all of the terms that had been confirmed over the phone and the name of the person who had given them to me. He took a look at the ad, led us over to the Spectras, said that he didn't see the model the ad was showing and could we wait a moment while he went inside and asked. When he came back out he informed us that they didn't have any cars they were selling for that price and could he interest us in another car at a different price. This is a tactic called Bait and Switch and it is illegal according to the Washington State Consumers Protection Division.
The minute we accused him of it and started walking back towards our car he came right back with his manager who was suddenly able to show us one (only one!) car that he said they were selling for that price. There were other base models on that lot but the white one he showed us was the only one that they were going to sell at that price and apparently it was being sold as we spoke. Did we want to look at anything else? We firmly said no and left.
Now pay attention: the salesman made a terrible mistake when he said they did not have any of those cars and that he wanted to sell us something else. What he did was illegal which was why the manager showed us the one car they were willing to sell for that price. Keeping that one car there and saying it is being sold is their loophole around the Bait and Switch. Other than that: it's the exact same thing. This is an example of a dealership abusing a law that is supposed to protect you, the consumer.
True to form we got home and the phone was ringing as we walked in the door. Apparently the car had not sold and we were welcome to come back and look at it. I told him on the phone that I wanted it for the advertised price, the advertised down payment, and the advertised monthly payment and that I would not buy the car without those terms. I also demanded that we be given a gas card for our trouble of driving all the way back there. He agreed to everything I said and so we left.
Naturally, we were treated to the dealership song and dance. I gave him information on my income and credit history; he would disappear for awhile and come back with some concern or other about my eligibility for the loan. I got your basic intimidation tactics: I looked young and did I have a credit score (I told him exactly what it was and he shut up), I didn't make enough money (I pointed out he was only including one of my employers and I made more than twice what he thought), and finally the "I'm sorry you just don't qualify".
After over an hour of waiting for the papers I finally got the numbers they were actually willing to offer me. They would only give me the car if I was willing to pay $490 per month for 60 months. Do the math - that's an interest rate of 24.99%! By the time the loan is paid you have spent almost 30 grand on the car that was supposed to cost you less than 10! Apparently I was not eligible to pay $147/month but they were more than willing to charge me almost $500!
I flat out refused to accept any such terms and asked for the gas card we had been promised (the gas card had also been offered as an incentive for test driving one of their vehicles). Ooops! They were out of gas cards.
Unfortunately, my experience is something everyone deals with when buying a car. No one's credit, income, etc. is acceptable and they say the terms they are offering you are the best they can give. This is what they do! And as a salesperson once said to my parents "most people would just sign this". And the really sad part is that it's true. Most people do sign on the dotted line. They allow themselves to be intimidated and bullied and by the end of several hours they feel bad enough about their qualifications that they are willing to accept any terms just to get the damn car and be done with it. Think people! Just say no and walk out!
I know what you are thinking. What can you do if you leave? If every dealership does this what difference will it make? Well it is true that car dealerships are a singularly corrupt institution and it is also true that cars are the only consumer products that are sold this way. But here is what you can do as a buyer: First, get your own financing before entering the dealership. If you come in with your own loan the only thing you argue over is price, not monthly payments, interest, etc. You'll get a much better deal on your interest and monthly payments if you go through someone who isn't trying to make an extra 20 grand on a car. Second, know your price and stick to it. Eventually, someone will cave, especially if you've done your homework and know the vehicle's MSRP, and most especially if you make it absolutely clear to the salesperson that they have 15 minutes to make the deal or you are walking.
And most importantly: don't go to Dick Hannah. If their goal was to simply sell for less, I'd have a car in my driveway right now.