Image from UsedCars.com (not from the Vegas lot I visited)
I've been driving my 1998 Jeep Wrangler for over nine years now. It was my dream car, and I still really love it. But while it still has a fairly high resale value, and still looks pretty damned good (especially after my "refreshening" project), nine years is a long time to own a vehicle. It's cost me a lot in repairs recently, and though just about everything is now "new," let's face it, I deserve a car or truck made in this century. Especially since we're entering a new decade.
But I'm not in any kind of hurry. After all, I intentionally put the most recent repairs on my credit card (to help continue rebuilding my credit), and I have a little ways to go on the payments. Who wants to make payments on a vehicle they no longer own? Also, there is the economy to consider. A person could lose their job without much warning, and I'm not immune to that. Still, I'm curious, and interested in some window shopping.
Ever try to window shop at a car dealership? It can't be done. The second your feet hit the pavement, the salesmen descend like locusts. We stopped at a local Las Vegas Dodge dealership when a 2008 Jeep Commander caught my eye. My primary interest was in a late model Jeep Liberty or Wrangler, but what the hey. It was burgundy, and cool looking, and was priced at $14,999. I just wanted an up-close look, and maybe to sit in it. Seconds later, a salesman was there to chat us up.
I should point out that I virtually never buy a vehicle at a car lot, and have never traded a car in. My first two cars were loaners from the parents, my third a gift for graduation, the fourth was bought at a used car lot, a 1980 Toyota Celica GT Liftback, purchased in 1985. After that, two more were bought at auction, and the last two purchased from friends. So my experience with dealers is very limited, though I'm familiar with high-pressure sales tactics, and I don't go in for them.
Our salesman encouraged us to test drive the Commander, and The Other Half and I agreed. I have to admit, I really liked the look and feel of the truck. I can see myself owning one. But it had 53,000 miles on it--more than even my 1998 vehicle has. And it had a couple of flaws that I didn't have to put up with last time I financed $15,000. Still, our salesman encouraged us to come in, "just to see" what kind of numbers he could work up. Having no intention of buying--but still curious about several things--semi-reluctantly agreed.
They took my keys and drivers' license, along with much of my data to run my credit. I wouldn't have, but was curious enough to see if I'd qualify for financing. Well, apparently I did, in spades, because after that they wouldn't stop the sales tactics. Inartfully, to say the least. They ladled on $1000 more in "dealer prep fees," making the cost more like $16,000. With tax and other fees, the cost (not counting registration) was over $18,000. They were only able to cough up $4000 for my Jeep, even though it can sell for as much as $8,000 on the open market. And they were ratcheting up the pressure.
I kept hand-waving them off, indicating that we were just looking. That I rarely buy from car lots. That I didn't have my heart set on a Commander in the first place. That it had high mileage. And flaking paint. Still high pressure, "but you were willing to let us run your credit!" Yeah, so? Eventually, after pressure from three people, I had to stand up and declare that I wasn't ready to buy, and that a salesman should be able to see when a client is not going to buy. And we were out of there.
Could they have won me over? Doubtful. But they didn't start in the right place to even come close. First of all, you don't start by raising the price $1,000. You don't offer bare minimum for a trade in. You don't lie about the "tax savings" a low trade-in provides vs. selling on the open market. Had they lowered the sticker (with no ludicrous fees--allegedly to finance their weekly TV infomercial with a huckster local celebrity), and come up with at least a mid-range trade offer, they may have at least given me pause. Also, if the supervisor (the second guy to pressure me) hadn't been such a ludicrous stereotype of a smarmy salesman, I might have had reason to think about it. In short, they lost me at "hello."
So, unless some sort of no-pressure, no bullshit car lot should magically appear in the Las Vegas desert, I'm unlikely to buy a car from a lot. I'm less likely to trade in my vehicle. And I am not going to be pressured into buying anything. My only weak spot will be if my heart suddenly melts for a certain car and I've just gotta have it, like I did for that 1980 Celica. But I'm not 21 anymore.