What The Car Salesman Won’t Tell You

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Car salesmen are… salesmen. Their job is to sell you stuff. Whether you need it or not.

Here are some things you don’t need – and some things you need to know about:

* You probably don’t need the optional engine – speedy car pic

Wanting more power is one thing; paying extra for power you don’t need – and let’s be honest, can’t make much use of – is another. Unlike in the past, when many cars were under-engined as they came, there isn’t a new car on the market that can’t do 0-60 in 11 seconds or less and most (better than two-thirds of them) do it in eight or less. This is three times as quick as a ’70s-era VW Beetle. And it is about as quick as a V-8 powered car from the same era. Any new car you might buy is capable of reaching at least 115 MPH – and most are capable of more than 120. Trust me on this.

All them can cruise at 90-plus all day long – without struggling.

That’s with their standard, as-it-comes engine. How many of you ever drive faster than 90 MPH? The highest speed limit in the United States is 80 MPH. In most states, it’s maybe 70-75. If your car can comfortably handle cruising at 75-80 and has enough power/performance to merge and pass – you’ve got all the power/performance you need.

If you want more power/performance, fine. There is nothing wrong with that. Just don’t be fooled by a salesman into believing you need that.

Because probably, you don’t.

* A six-year-loan could leave you under water – car rip offs lead pic

To make new cars appear more affordable, new car loans as long as six (or even seven) years are now available. Adding an extra year (or two) of payments is a way to lower the monthly payment – which is becoming more and more necessary to facilitate the purchase of vehicles with sales prices in excess of $30,000 (the average price paid for a new car last year) at a time when the average person’s annual income can’t deal with a $500-per-month payment. Which is about what you’d be facing to finance a $30k car over 60 months… assuming zero interest. But, here’s the problem: Unlike a house – which usually will at least maintain its value – a car will almost always lose value over time. The longer you stretch out the payments, the more likely it is you’ll reach that awful nexus of still owing money on something that’s worth less than your balance due.

The average new car is worth half or less what it sold for at the end of five years. So a car that sells for $30k today will probably be worth only $15k at the five year mark. This “depreciation trend” is not, however, steady. After five years, the average car’s value really begins to plummet – in part, because the market perceives them as being “old” (yesterday’s news, no longer trendy or cutting edge) and in part because they are getting to the age at which stuff begins to break or requires repair. The car is out of warranty – and because of the complexity of modern cars, even minor repairs can be very expensive. Market value slides downward accordingly. You do not want to be making payments on a six or seven year old car – no matter how “affordable” those payments may appear at sign-up time.

If the monthly payment on the five year plan is too high, you’d be smart to shop for a less expensive new car. Or better yet, a used one. That way, someone else will be left holding the bag instead of you.

* You do not have to come back to the dealer for service –service rip off pic

Some will hint that you must – in order to maintain warranty coverage. Or at least, try to make you nervous about going somewhere else (such as an independent shop) or doing maintenance/repairs yourself, This, as Henry Ford once noted (about history) is bunk. As long as you adhere to the service schedule (i.e., the mileage and time intervals for such things as oil and filter changes and other routine maintenance specified as necessary by the manufacturer – as opposed to the dealer’s “service advisor” – who is a salesman working on commission) you will not void the terms and conditions of your car’s warranty. The critical thing is to keep records (especially receipts and invoices) so that – in the event a warranty claim arises – you can prove that you lived up to your end of the bargain by having the car serviced as required.

* “Free” inspections can cost you a lot of money – 

This little con is becoming very common. It’s presented brilliantly. Bring your car in a for a “free” multi-point inspection; we’ll make sure it’s “safe” for you to drive. When you hear that word – “safety” – run. Nothing in this world is free and if you believe a car dealer is in the business of handing out freebies, you are in for a fleecing. They will always find something that needs to be fixed – usually right away, as a matter of great urgency because – gosh! – it might not be “safe” to drive the car. The mechanically unlearned are easy prey. A drop of oil (or power steering fluid) underneath the car is often all it takes.

Fear does the rest.free inspection pic

This isn’t to say you ought not to have your car checked out periodically. Just be wary of any shop/dealer that aggressively markets such inspections for (ahem!) “free.” And before you agree to any proposed repair, for the love of god, get a second opinion. If the car was fine when you drove it in for the “free” inspection, odds are it’s fine to drive it to another shop for a look-see to confirm the alleged problem.

Or, not.

* He can get the car you want (as opposed to the car he has) – car rip off lead

A dealership pays what amounts to monthly rent on each car it has in inventory – each car it has on the lot – until each car is sold. Accordingly, the dealership wants to sell you a car from its inventory – in order to clear inventory (and avoid another month’s payment on the inventory). The salesmen will therefore often try to pressure you into buying whatever he’s got – whether it’s the color you wanted, the trim you wanted or has (does not have) the equipment you wanted being a secondary consideration. However, most of the time, the dealer can order exactly what you want from the factory, or make arrangements with another dealer to “swap” one of their cars in inventory for one of the other store’s – the one that’s the color you want, equipped the way you want it. You may not be able to drive it home today – and you may end up paying a bit more. But it’s worth it, to get the car you want as opposed to settling for the car they have on hand.

Never forget that as the buyer you’ve got leverage.

Use it.

Be nice, but don’t accept anything less than what you want. Unless of course the salesman makes it worth your while. Sometimes, you can use the dealership’s desperation to move inventory to your advantage. Let ’em know that you might “take it off their hands”… if the price is right.

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  1. What’s always worked for me, is knowing a guy, who knows a girl at the DMV. I give him the keys and a scrap of paper with Uncle Ben’s bald head on it, and in a day or so. Its passed smog, its unclear/non-existent title has been cleared and legitimized. Of course Nevada is one of the few, maybe the only state without many computerized systems, an official’s signature goes a long way.

    But what if you have too much to lose. And don’t know a perfect stranger patsy willing to title something for you, a la Hitchcock’s Strangers On A Train scenario.

    When you have a used car or truck from Canada that’s become available at an attractive price, you’ll need to take certain steps to make sure your used vehicle is right for the U.S. market.

    Due to North American Free Trade Agreement, lots of goods are shipped between U.S. and Canada for sale in the two countries. There’s little to limit the free flow of goods. That doesn’t mean the average consumer can bring a used car or used truck from Canada without jumping thru a series of mandatory hoops in just the right manner tho.

    1 Look for the Manufacturer’s Label

    Sure, companies like Ford, Chrysler and GM have manufacturing plants in Canada that produce goods sold in the United States. Ford, for example, makes the Ford Edge and Ford Flex in Ontario. GM makes the Chevrolet Impala and the Chevrolet Camaro in Oshawa, Ontario.

    Sure, Canadian manufacturing facilities make cars for sale in the U.S. market, but don’t imagine that means all cars made in Canada, even by U.S. companies, are considered conforming for the U.S. market. That’s too simple.

    You’ll have to inspect the vehicle manufacturer’s label to determine whether or not the vehicle was manufactured for U.S. distribution.

    The label is usually found in one of the spots: the door latch post, the hinge pillar, or the door edge that meets the door-latch post, next to the where the driver sits.

    2 Used Car Import Standards

    I used the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/, website which had some good advice on its website about this topic. But I’m an anarchist, not a lawyer or cautious and prudent worrier about regulations in genera.

    The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has advised that vehicles made in Canada for the Canadian market, U.S. manufactured vehicles originally intended for the Canadian market, or other foreign made vehicles available for the Canadian market may not meet the requirements in the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (and the policies and regulations adopted as a result of this Act) and EPA emission standards.

    In addition, certain makes of vehicles, Volkswagen, Volvo, etc., for certain model years, 1988, 1996 and 1997, do not meet U.S. DOT safety standards.

    However, the standards are pretty lenient. The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) says on its website: “Because the requirements of the Canadian motor vehicle safety standards (CMVSS) closely parallel those of the Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS), rather than determining import eligibility on a make, model, and model year basis, NHTSA has issued a blanket import eligibility decision covering most Canadian-certified vehicles.

    However, because there are some dissimilarities between the CMVSS and FMVSS, a Canadian-certified vehicle manufactured after the date on which an FMVSS with differing requirements takes effect can only be imported under the blanket eligibility decision if the vehicle is originally manufactured to meet the U.S. standard.

    In effect, most Canadian vehicles are going to meet U.S. standards. It doesn’t hurt to spend a few minutes to check out the NHTSA import rules, http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/import/ though.

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also regulates the importation of vehicles for compliance with the emissions standards administered by that agency. For further information on those requirements, you may call the lovely angels at the EPA Imports Hotline at (734) 214-4100 or visit that agency’s website. http://www.epa.gov/otaq/imports/index.htm.

    3 Who Can Import?

    Any one can import a vehicle into the U.S. if the vehicle is being brought in for personal use. (what can I say, I get bored with cars a lot, and like a constant change of pace, or so I’m willing to swear on a piece of paper.) I have a few close associates who think just like me. We’re always changing up the vehicles we drive for personal use. We’re a bunch of kooks, really.

    Your ride has to comply with U.S. EPA emissions and federal DOT safety standards. Otherwise, a U.S. Department of Transportation Registered Importer http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/import must import the vehicle.

    BTW, there’s a helpful system in place to check if a used car from Canada has liens, title problems, or has been reported stolen. Can you imagine the nightmare of paying for a used car and having it denied entry into the U.S.? I sure can.

    Canadian authorities strongly suggest that no vehicle be titled or registered until it’s checked for liens, brands and stolen status. It’s only because they care.

    You can go to a website called AutoTheftCanada http://www.autotheftcanada.com and follow the VIN/Lien Check tab.

    CarProof.com https://www.carproof.com/home.aspx will provide direct, online information regarding liens and brands in Canada. A fee is charged for each request tho.

    If you happen to be used car shopping in Canada and live in the United States. Just remember that it’s not so easy to bring a used car into the United States as driving across the border. The CBP and friends can’t allow that, because they fear for your safety and pocketbook, honestly. Freedom isn’t free, don’t you want to remain proud to be an Americunnnnn….

    • Thanks for that, Tor Libertarian! Food for thought. You’d think NAFTA would make it easier to buy cars north of the border, but it doesn’t seem that way. Perhaps US emission regulations, etc have actually reduced the free trade of used cars between the two countries.

  2. I wonder if anyone would have some advice for American citizens who might want to buy a car from a Canadian seller. I live in the US near Canada. Looking on Craigs List, I see plenty of desirable cars offered in Canada not too far from me, but I’m not sure about the tax situation or what I could do if I bought a lemon.

    Long ago, my father bought a Peugeot in Canada when the Canadian government had incentives for buyers on French made products. He claimed he got a good deal on it, though I don’t remember the details.

    • Hi Arnold,

      I once bought a bike from a guy in Canada and it was an ordeal to get it “legalized” here. The paperwork can be a big hassle; also, the car may require some modifications to be road-legal in the U.S. Check into this carefully before you commit to buying!

    • IIRC there is used to be a ban on importing vehicles less than 25 years old to the States. Not sure if it is still in force.

      Simple (but I am sure illegal) way some Canadians in the past have imported vehicles from the US is to get tags and papers from a wreck or rust bucket, get plates for it, buy a car in the US and drive home on the wrecks plates. Nobody ever seemed to check the VINs at the border. YMMV, technology and database linking might have sealed this hole.

      Back in the 80’s lots of BC folks would go on a Pacific Coast Highway vacations in a rusted muscle car, and miraculously have a fully restored car when they got home.

  3. Ok,I must chime in here,if I may please. Little background,I graduated Lincoln Tech 95′ Spent 13 years Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge certified level four in all categories including transmission overhaul,then two years of my own shop,ASE Master certified. After the bailouts,couldn’t bring myself to work for them(Chrysler)anymore. I now work at an independent NAPA care car center. 99% of aftermarket shops use inferior parts IMO compared to the dealership and you pay 75-90% of what it would cost you at the dealership. The only benefit is most aftermarket shops carry longer warranties,but you must ask if they are “pro-rated”. I tell the wife,whom drives a Grand Cherokee with the venerable 4.0,If I die,take,tow or push your Jeep to the dealer. Just my two cents anyways.
    Great site,keep it up. I spread it as much as I can.
    . Again just my two cents,the factory based warranties are better,cover more,have less restrictions and do not require an “inspector” to approve repairs.

  4. “Wanting more power is one thing; paying extra for power you don’t need – and let’s be honest, can’t make much use of – is another.”

    “Need” is a very low standard for deciding how to live. Socialist’s mantra is “from each according to his abilities….to each according to his needs. It’s good to set high standards.

    I always make it a point to always get the most powerful engine available in whatever vehicle I buy. 🙂

    • Oh, I know! I just object to the idiocy of these powerful cars driven by Clovers who won’t use them… and the extreme sanctions that come down upon those few of us non-Clovers who do!

      • What about riding mowers. They could be heavily modified. Sit in your garage like a sleeper SHTF vehicle you can use right now. Even urban proles could keep one. They’d have uses for the future agrarian and shepherd alike. Deliver goods and communications in a neighborhood social network. Deliver the code sheet that changes each day for secure comms.

        If we drive everywhere without crossing any municipal pavement, they wouldn’t have an opportunity to tax us. Each block could have a hidden bodega, tavern, meeting hall, accessible to the mower. We could own in common in a handshake joint tenancy, with one guy the official owner. Use it to tend to our lands and grow food crops that you can’t see from the street.

        One guy’s shed has a chickens, a cow, a horse, but stealthlike so no one knows. Share tools, maintain each others property, produce and hide weapons in an assembly line process. Create and share media via the neighbornet.

        Might also use a few RC cars with offroad wheels and an attached microcam and microphone. Deliver medicines, gold and silver, USB sticks with important info. Send around modified walkie talkies that sound like static unless you have a proprietary descrambler, coder.

        A new suburban/urban American underground could be formed and kept a secret.
        – – – –
        The societal purpose of marriage no one talks about.

        Photos of my wedding


  5. What I want is an economical car that runs forever with minimum maintenance around town. While I don’t do my own work often, I get really upset with engineering that makes it impossible to repair your own car.
    Such things as burying the parts where no one but someone that can put it over their heads can work on the car. Things like starters, alternators, water pumps, radiators. The picture is not good when you have to pull the engine to change a spark plug. Not that we change plugs much anymore.
    And yes I will get my hands dirty occasionally and change my own oil and filter.
    What sticks a bad name on a car is when a car goes bad before the car payment is even up. When they put faulty parts on the new car to begin with and the dash lights up with nice little things like the Air Bag light or the the fuel guage no longer works. The dealer will fix it. But I really did not want Robin Hood to work on my car because I do not trust him.
    When a dealership wants $90 an hour to fix a car. That is a ripoff no matter how you handle it. What salesman wants to work behind that kind of service work?
    The latest truck I own will be the last vehicle that dealership ever sells me period.
    And that in a word is what killed the big three in the american car business.
    The horse traders switched to cars. And they are out there in full force.
    When they cheat people, eventually it comes back and bankrupts them.

  6. I spent decades first as a car salesman and later as an F&I manager. In all my years in the business, I only ever factory-ordered one car, one time, for one customer, and that was a brand new Corvette that he incidentally had to wait many months to get from Chevrolet. However, we did dealer trade other dealers for new cars customers wanted, on an almost daily basis.

  7. The twin evils of our age, senseless violence, and baseless faith, are not the answer to anything.

    But if for one moment, I were to do as the romans do, and have a turn at trying to strangle the life out of one just one intolerable clover.

    It would be one who speaks with an authoritarian erection in glowing terms of “our national parks.”

    The anger at them I experience is a fusion process happening deep inside my core. This core of rage I’d say extends from the very center of me out to about 20% of the actual distance to my outer epidermal layer of skin

    Inside this fury zone, pressures are created that are million of times more than at the outer surface of my body, and the emotional temperature reaches more than 15 million Kelvin. This is where unchecked wrathful fusion within me happens.

    Every second, millions of atoms of my cellular hydrogen are being converted into helium when I read about her. This reaction releases a euphoria and tremendous amount of heat and energy as I imagine disassociating every atom of a clover such Miriam M. Sizer’s corporeal being into a molasses of plasma via some as yet unnamed mental cellular chemical process.

      • Sure. I don’t know why those clovers are always pulling out without looking. But they always are, even when I’m driving and blogging in the left lane at ten below the speed limit. I for one have had it with sail fawns. It no limit deer season as far as I’m concerned. For some reason what I’m typing jumps to another article than the one I have open in my browser at the time. Maybe it’s when I have two windows open or something. Freaking googul. I’m done with paragraph breaks also. Stupid self-firing tazers. I’ll roll them up and eat them all in one big Hero Sandwich. Fred, doesn’t seem like a real person’s name. Sounds like a cartoons name. Yabba dabba do. You’ll have a gay old time, WILMA!!!

  8. I remember when loans switched from 36 months to 48. It was only a modest reduction in the monthly payment because of high interest rates. Today going from 60 to 72 months is a fractionally much smaller so many people lease, especially the expensive models.

    My neighbor recently traded in a middle-aged Toyota and leased a new Ford. Not because they needed a new car but they couldn’t come up with enough money to replace tires, brakes, a gizmo triggering the CEL and timing belt on the old one. Easier to scrape up a monthly payment than cash for common maintenance expenses? Must be new math.

    • Today on the radio I heard for the first time a tire shop offering to finance a new set of tires for only $20 down…I bet the interest rate’s something, though.

      • Hi Bill,

        Lawsee. But I am not surprised. A set of “cheap” tires is $400 once you include mounting/balancing and “disposal fee.” It is easy to spend $700 or more on a set of tires. That’s a lot of cash for many people these days.

  9. Great advice. The only thing I might add is that dealer service coupons can actually make it quite attractive to do maintenance there. If you can get an oil change for $25 or less, that’s not bad at all. Be sure to check both the local dealer’s web site and the manufacturer site for coupons.

  10. Chiph – I drove that road myself. I wouldn’t say that 85 is unsafe on that road, but it does have a lot of undulations and dips that weren’t there when it opened. I wish this toll road an unqualified success. America needs more roads with an 85 mph speed limit. At a minimum, we need to keep this road in top shape.

    • If the Austin city council gets their way, and moves truck traffic off IH-35 onto SH-130, the condition will deteriorate even more quickly. But hey, at least we’ll have all that truck toll revenue. I think it’s currently $7 for a car, $28 for a truck to drive the full length with a TxTag. Without a TxTag, it’s 1/3 more.

      I’m curious how many council members own property near intersections on SH-130. Building a truck stop there could be a gold mine. Especially if they can mandate that the trucks have to use the road.

      • If you pay fuel excise then the roads are already paid for, not forgetting that every other tax imaginable is somewhat liquid in being used for roads as well. It’s called Fee Simple.

        Toll roads are another cunning graft on the populace. Here in Oz, grabbermint creates a company for itself, gives it a catchy name such as CityLink and charges people for a road already paid for by us.

        Think about it. There’d be no way in hell grabbermint would ever risk having a fully private consortium running a stretch of road because, if they ever went bust, there’d be a pile of bitumen real estate that nobody could use and grabbermint would have to purchase at any price the private consortium asks.

        I don’t pay tolls, ever. It’s blatant fraud and here at least, there are enough legal loopholes to send them packing if they even think to send a fine or invoice.

        I recently came across some glib rubbish from a roads minister that grabbermint owns the roads. Like hell.

        • Try doing that in the Bay Area of Nor Cal and you’ll drive about 100 miles out of your way to get some places. I agree with your sentiment, however. What frosts me (among other things) is bicyclists (mostly the tree-huggin’ libtard types) demanding a bike lane and not wanting to pay for it. I think they ought to have a way to prove they helped pay for their share of the road they want to ride on.

  11. > The highest speed limit in the United States is 80 MPH

    Correction: it’s 85 mph on SH-130 south of Austin. I’ve been on it a few times, but honestly, the road construction quality is so poor that doing 85 doesn’t feel safe since there are lots of dips and undulations. Not autobahn quality, for sure.


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