Technology and Car Buying

My wife and I bought a new car last weekend, and I seriously can’t imagine how it was ever done before the Internet and PDAs. We started out researching different models online, reviewing not only what the different manufacturers had to say, but also reading posts from owners of those particular models. Fortunately, all evidence pointed toward the car my wife already wanted, so we drove to a dealership just for a test drive with no intention of buying the car that day. After verifying that we liked the way the car drove, we went home and shifted our focus from browsing to buying. Thanks to edmunds.com (never buy another car without spending a significant amount of time on edmunds.com), we decided on exactly what options we wanted, found out exactly what dealerships’ costs were, and got up to speed on all the new pricing scams (is it really fair for dealerships to pass their advertising costs along to their customers? Hmmm.). We found great interest rates online, and thanks to the interest calculator at cars.com and Microsoft Excel, we were able to model all kinds of pricing scenarios. (I ended up replicating the interest calculator in Flash 5 for my Sony Clie so that I would not have to depend on the financing manager at the dealership to provide me with numbers during negotiations.) By this time, we knew exactly the car we wanted and exactly what we wanted to pay for it.

We spent another half day at a dealership trying to make a deal, but they would not come down far enough. It was an interesting experience since I knew every penny of their costs and all of their tricks to try to artificially inflate the price of the vehicle. The price I was willing to pay had a decent profit built in for them, however they kept claiming that they would be selling the car at a loss if they were to agree to my price. Finally, I took out my spreadsheet and went over it line by line with the manager at which point, he leveled with me and said he simply believed he could sell the car to someone else for more, and that was the bottom line. You can’t argue with that, so we left and executed plan B which was to drive up to Maryland to a dealership with a no-haggle policy which had the exact car we wanted for a very reasonable price. On the way up, we did some additional research on my Clie (connected via GPRS via my cell phone), and put together a game plan for approaching the sales team. It turns out this dealership had a very open policy and was very willing to show you all their costs associated with the car, and even the amount of profit they wanted to make. All their numbers checked out against mine, and we ended up getting the car with additional options for $100 less than what we were offering the first dealership. It turns out I had actually built in more profit in my price than they even wanted to make!

Anyway, I can’t imagine how I could done it without being able to do research via the internet, and without the calculator, browser and interest calculator on my Clie. How did Macromedia technology figure in? Many of the sites I used for research were powered by ColdFusion, all car manufacturers use Flash to give customers a better experience, and the interest calculator I wrote for my Clie was implemented in Flash 5. Now if only the car had a built-in Flash 7 player and an SDK.

7 Responses to Technology and Car Buying

  1. Nik Khilnani says:

    Which card did u guys pick up in the end?:-)nik

  2. Nik Khilnani says:

    typo* i mean.. which car did u guys end up with?nik

  3. We ended up getting my wife a Toyota Sienna. Goodbye SUV, hello minivan.Christian

  4. Danilo says:

    RE:”is it really fair for dealerships to pass their advertising costs along to their customers? Hmmm.”Absoltuely! How would they stay in business if they didn’t? Perhaps your concern is that the auto dealerships are a bit different than most companies in that they break it out on the invoice for the product that the consumer receives.How much of ColdFusion server’s price is based upon advertising costs?PS: Great idea on bringing a financing calculator along with you. And being based in your PDA makes it less obtrusive.Since I may be shopping for a new car in the next few months for the wife, maybe you could post your SWF/FLA for folks to use in their shopping experiences?

  5. Danilo says:

    BTW: Last car I bought I extensively researched it online before going to the dealer. The price the slaesman quoted me in the dealership was almost $2000 more than the price posted on their web site. I feel sorry for folks that either don’t know or can’t be bothered to do the research on pricing of major purchases.

  6. Danilo,Yes, it is fair for dealerships to try to recoup their advertising costs, but passing them directly on the buyer seems crazy to me. It’s a cost of doing business. That’s like walking into Best Buy and being told you have to pay a little extra because of the weekly insert that got you into the store, and the heat to keep you warm, and to pay the hourly wage of the person working the register. Sure, all those costs have to be passed on to customers, and in general, I’m happy to pay them, but I like to group all those costs in with dealer profit. Or maybe I should call it dealer revenue. How much of that is profit is largely up to how they control their costs.Anyway, you can download both the SWF and FLA for the calculator here:http://www.markme.com/cantrell/archives/004212.cfmGood luck getting your next car!Christian

  7. Danilo says:

    Thanks for the link to the calculator, Christian, I must have missed that previous post.