New Car Buying Jedi Mind Tricks

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Remember the famous scene from the original Star Wars? Obi Wan and Luke run into an Imperial checkpoint heading into Mos Eisely spaceport. Using his Jedi powers of suggestion, Obi Wan whispers to the imperial stormtrooper, “You don’t need to see his identification… These aren’t the droids you’re looking for… he can go about his business.”

No fuss, no muss.

Buying a new car at a fair price is not unlike dealing with an Imperial checkpoint. Here are some Jedi mind tricks that will help you pass through the gantlet unscathed:

* Never shop when you’re desperate for wheels – 

Going car shopping when you really need a car – ASAP – is a great way to leave the dealership with the wrong car that you paid way too much for.

A typical scenario goes like this: The transmission in your 12-year-old car (that’s worth maybe $4,500) fails and you’re looking at a $3,000 repair bill for a new transmission. You don’t want to put the money in the old car – but you’ve gotta have a car.broken down car

Often, you’re already at the dealership – with your old car. And the new car salesman is right there, ready to help.

Your mindset is all about getting back on the road, so you don’t have to walk or bum a ride or keep on paying for an expensive rental car you can’t afford. You’re also sick of your old car and just want it to go away. The salesman is eager to help.

Before you know it, you’ve bought a new car that’s maybe not exactly what you wanted – and probably paid more for it than you should have.

How to avoid? Stay calm. Do not even consider shopping for a new car until you’ve dealt with your current car (broken down or not), decided exactly which new car you want, which options you want – and whether you can afford it.

Anticipate the need to replace your current car. Ideally, sell or trade it in before something expensive breaks. Once it does break, you’re stuck. If you don’t fix it – if it’s something like a dead transmission – the car is basically worthless. But if you do fix it, it’s probably not going to be worth more than what it was worth before the transmission failed.

* Act nonchalant (and noncommittal) –

You’re just browsing. That car’s ok. Meh. No big deal. What else have you got? Pretend you are Mr. Spock. Show no emotion. Pretend you are shopping for a toaster (which in a way, you are; cars are just expensive appliances). The point – the mission – is to never convey to the salesman (or seller, if it’s a private sale) that you really like the thing. This shifts the strategic advantage to the seller. He will know that you are probably not thinking clearly and are likely willing to overlook a lot of things – including very possibly the price – in order to make that car yours.chill out image

The smart policy is to feign indifference. The car’s ok. But you’re not all that attached to it – and don’t mind buying a different car on another day, if it means getting a better deal. Maybe from someone else.

If your will is weak – or you need moral support – bring a trusted friend to help keep you in line.

* Let the salesman talk – 

Keep your mouth shut. Let the salesman talk. You may actually know more about the car than he does – but don’t reveal this.

Let him think he knows more.

When you do speak, be sure your questions and comments are informed and intelligent. You don’t have to be a “car guy” to be able do that. But you do have to spend a little time researching the make/model vehicle you’re looking at (along with competitor models) so that you know enough about it – and them – to not sound like a mark when you start talking with the wan

If you’re totally clueless about cars, bringing along a knowledgeable friend/spouse can be an invaluable lifeline. If you don’t have any such car-savvy friends/family members, consider a buying service. These handle the negotiation process for you – and while there is a fee involved, you’ll know what it is up front and it’ll probably be lower than what you could have achieved on your own through “haggling” with a sales shark. Some of these are entirely online. You won’t have to deal with anyone until it’s time to actually do the deal.

* Never reveal what you can afford to spend each month – 

Salesmen often try to focus on the monthly payment – because it seems more manageable than the price of the car itself. For example, by extending a loan from four years to five or even six years, the monthly payment can be lowered –  which may make the car seem more affordable – but you might actually be paying more overall. Especially when interest is factored into the equation.monthyl payment pic

Keep in mind, too, that once you’re locked into a monthly payment for “x” years, you’ll be less able to absorb other financial hits (such as the need to buy a new washing machine or pay an unexpected vet bill).   

Always negotiate the purchase price first – and the monthly payment will take care of itself.

* Say nothing about your trade-in plans – 

A common mistake some buyers make is to arrive at the dealer with their old car – and get sucked into a discussion about its trade-in value before negotiating the price of the new car. It’s an old car salesman trick to make the buyer feel he has the edge by giving him what seems like a sweet deal on his trade … while making up the difference on the price of the new car.junker car

If you plan to trade, it’s smart to avoid any discussion of what your plans are until after you’ve settled with the dealership on the sales price of the car you’re buying.

Then bring up your trade.

Politely tell them – if they ask – that you’re not interested in discussing your trade-in right now.

Don’t arrive at the dealership in an expensive car – yours or someone else’s. The salesman will make all kinds of assumptions about you – and what you can afford to pay – based on that.

Good luck, Young Jedi!

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  1. I don’t agree with all of Dave Ramsey’s financial advice…(The most egregious he does is omit telling people with massive CC debt to declare bankruptcy, WHY? The banks would come down on him…)….
    He does correctly tell people NEVER to buy a new car unless they have ONE MILLION DOLLARS net worth….

  2. I was negotiating for a Mitsubishi Outlander GT. The price on the internet/newspaper ad said $29,000 but I found out that I did not qualify for the internet price because;
    1. I was not a recent army Vet
    2. Not a hurricane victim
    3. Not police
    4. Not special ed
    5. Not minority
    Okay I made the last two up for comedic effect
    They did not stop me going out the door and never called me back.

  3. Why would anyone but the clueless buy a new car, with all of it’s government-mandated garbage and uber-expensive-to-repair non-durable electronics which make the Space Shuttle look primitive?

    They just keep getting worse and worse. If you don’t keep buying new ones when the warranty runs out, you’re SOL.

    I only buy old cars. Whenever one of mine wears out (Usually around 300K miles) I replace it with an even older one. (I’ll probably end up driving a Model T before long!)

    If they ever again start making simple, durable cars without all the crap, then maybe I’ll buy a new one for once in my life.

  4. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I know a much better way where you do not even have to make an offer for a new car. A way that will allow you to even shop in the nude, and get the BEST possible local price!!! First research cars on internet, then go to dealers to test drive cars you are interested in. Tell the salespeople that you do not know what you want yet, and are “trying cars on for size”, or tell them whatever, but you are definitely NOT there to buy. Once you have figured out which car you want, and which options, get on the internet and find the emails for all the dealers, of your preferred car, within the distance you are willing to go to get the car. Now email all of them and ask what is the best total out the door price they will give you for your car with the options you desire. When one of them gives you a quote forward the quote to all the other dealers asking how much they can beat it. Simply repeat this until all of the dealers say they can’t beat it, but maybe say they can match it. This may take several days of emailing to make sure you have gotten a response from everyone. One time when I followed this method I never spoke to a soul until I was driving to pick my new car.

    • I’m with you until the end, where I would send the wife like I already do for all real life purchases. Nothing could be more distasteful to me than nearly all modern day shopping.
      – – –

      Life over the airwaves, is increasingly the only civilized life left to us.
      – –

      “The Spirit of Radio (And Also the Internet)” Avery Molek, 7 year old Drummer

      Invisible airwaves crackle with life. Bright antennae bristle with the energy. Emotional feedback on timeless wavelength. Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free.

      All this machinery making modern media. Can still be open-hearted. Not so coldly charted. It’s really just a question of your honesty, yeah. Your honesty.

      One likes to believe in the freedom of media. But glittering prizes and endless compromises. Shatter the illusion of integrity.

      For the words of the profits were written on the studio wall.
      Concert and Googuhl hall.

      And echoes with the sound of salesmen…of salesmen…of salesmen.
      – – –

      Closed borders are one of the world’s greatest moral failings but the opening of borders is the world’s greatest economic opportunity.

      (Which is not to advocate or capitulate to any further enslaving political agendas attached to this action, of course.)

      It is beyond time to put an end to “Your Papers Please” at a minimum between all like-minded and compatible nation-states. (Muslims or Africans may understandably be required to prove evolved-civilized behaviors somehow, before crossing.)
      – –

      The grandest moral revolutions in history—the abolition of slavery, the securing of religious freedom, the recognition of the rights of women—yielded a world in which virtually everyone was better off.

      They also demonstrated that the fears that had perpetuated these injustices were unfounded. Similarly, a planet unscarred by iron curtains is not only a world of greater equality and justice. It is a world unafraid of itself.

      The Case for Getting Rid of Borders—Completely

      No defensible moral framework regards foreigners as less deserving of rights than people born in the right place at the right time.

      To paraphrase Rousseau, man is born free, yet everywhere he is caged. Barbed-wire, concrete walls, and gun-toting guards confine people to the nation-state of their birth. But why?

      The argument for open borders is both economic and moral. All people should be free to move about the earth, uncaged by the arbitrary lines known as borders.

      Open Borders Manifesto

      Freedom of movement is a basic liberty that governments should respect and protect unless justified by extenuating circumstances. This extends to movement across international boundaries.

      International law and many domestic laws already recognise the right of any individual to leave his or her country. This right may only be circumscribed in extreme circumstances, where threats to public safety or order are imminent.

      We believe international and domestic law should similarly extend such protections to individuals seeking to enter another country. Although there may be times when governments should treat foreign nationals differently from domestic citizens, freedom of movement and residence are fundamental rights that should only be circumscribed when the situation absolutely warrants.

      The border enforcement status quo is both morally unconscionable and economically destructive. Border controls predominantly restrict the movement of people who bear no ill intentions. Most of the people legally-barred from moving across international borders today are fleeing persecution or poverty, desire a better job or home, or simply want to see the city lights.

      The border status quo bars ordinary people from pursuing the life and opportunity they desire, not because they lack merit or because they pose a danger to others. Billions of people are legally barred from realising their full potential and ambitions purely on the basis of an accident of birth: where they were born. This is both a drain on the economic and innovative potential of human societies across the world, and indefensible in any order that recognises the moral worth and dignity of every human being.

      We seek legal and policy reforms that will reduce and eventually remove these bars to movement for billions of ordinary people around the world. The economic toll of the modern restrictive border regime is vast, the human toll incalculable.

      To end this, we do not need a philosopher’s utopia or a world government. As citizens and human beings, we only demand accountability from our own governments for the senseless immigration laws that they enact in our name.

      Border controls should be minimised to only the extent required to protect public health and security. International borders should be open for all to cross, in both directions.

      • So I’m reading along here and see the line “the words of the profits(sic) are written on the studio walls causing me to sing The Sound of Silence to which the wailing cat stopped and listened to the entire song. Cats are a good judge of music. He began to complain again so I sang That’s The Way (I Like It) and he was silent again. One of us has got to stop.

          • Tor, I’m unfamiliar with this person so I go looking and find Mark Lewis, a black man who has an LP In the Spirit, jazz music. Of course I also find The Spirit of the Radio by Rush, a different sort of music. But now I’m very interested in Mark Lewis, may have to buy his album from ’88. Thanks.

            • LoDo

              They take no lip from surly bartenders, and they don’t rent pigs. Retired Texas Rangers seek one last adventure by running cattle from Lonesome Dove, Texas, to Montana in 1876.

              “I sure would like to see that country,” dreams Woodrow Call, a taciturn, industrious, and puritanical man of vision.

              Woodrow’s friend and loyal tormenter is Augustus McCrae. Gus possesses a leisurely philosophy and loves to argue. “He’d rattle off five or six different questions and opinions running them all together like so many unbranded cattle.”

              Gus advises us to love the simple pleasures of life–a glass of warm buttermilk, a hand of poker, and a “poke”.

              “Any man who won’t cheat at cards for a poke don’t want it bad enough.” Sometimes Gus doesn’t need to cheat for a free poke because his persuasive tongue can talk a squirrel out of a walnut tree.

              Possessed of supreme self-confidence, he woos women half his age. “The older the violin, the sweeter the music.”

              Dozens of memorable characters fall in with the Hat Creek Cattle Company. Meet Deets, the ex-slave and scout– “cheerful in all weathers; never shirked a task.”

              Meet Corporal Pea Eye Parker, so shy he can’t look a woman in the eye and too easily unnerved by Indians. Meet mild-mannered July Johnston, an Arkansas sheriff searching for his wife who ran off with a riverboat man.

              Meet Po Campo, the cook who serves tasty grasshoppers, refuses to ride animals, and who had a wife who “lives in hell” –where he sent her.

              • “Any man who won’t cheat at cards for a poke don’t want it bad enough.”

                That became my motto. Not sure anyone but a deceased friend realized where it came from. My mother gave me the hardcover book for my birthday when it came out.

              • I love Larry McMurtry’s novels. His characters spout some of the funniest non sequitors imaginable.

                His son James does the best cover of RWH’s “Choctaw Bingo” I’ve ever heard. Also, James McMurtry’s “We Can’t Make it Here Anymore” is a killer.

  5. What if you’re prepared to pay cash? How does that change things? Should you reveal this to the salesman? Do the dynamics of a cash purchase vary between new and used vehicles? Thanks! LN

    • LNelson – generally speaking the less you reveal about your plans, the better. If the salesman thinks you may be wanting the dealer to arrange financing, they may cut you a better deal, as they often get kickbacks from the bank.

  6. What about a Subaru, when you have to pre-order it, and you need to know what the trade-in value is before placing a deposit? Thanks.

    • Hi Eric,

      I’ve not heard about that. In my area, Subaru dealers have cars on the lot, like anywhere else. You may have to order a car if there isn’t one on the lot in the color or with the equipment you want… but that’s true generally, not unique to Subaru stores.

      As far as trade-in value: You do not need to know what they’ll give for your old car before you agree on the purchase price of the new car. If they insist – tell them you don’t operate that way and take your business elsewhere.

      Keep these transactions entirely separate!

      • Got it, and thank you very much. I want the EyeSight package–I know you have some heartburn about some of these technologies, but like you’ve pointed out the one regulation about the higher shoulder skirt means I can’t see out of my back window so at least need a backup camera–and no dealership has any in stock for hundreds of miles. Again, thanks for all you do.

        • Hi Eric,

          My pleasure!

          On the EyeSight package: Have you asked your local dealer whether they’ll arrange a swap with another dealer not in your area that has the car you want on their lot?

          This is a pretty common thing. The dealer wants not only to sell you the car, he wants you to come back for service. That makes it worth his while to do this sort of thing…

          • Great tip and will do. I just re-read your classic on backup cameras and beltline (not shoulder skirt). If there are government schools and some sort of schooling is compulsory, that article should be mandatory reading. My children will read it for sure, when they can read and as long as I haven’t backed up over them before getting a backup camera. Thanks again

  7. If you don’t like the deal and threaten to leave, don’t threaten. Just get up and walk out the door. If the salesperson has your contact information (which any decent salesman will have from the start of the negotiation), he’ll be in touch.

  8. Everything you fear to lose you must IMO, train yourself to let go you should.

    Limited success navigating some checkpoints I had once, but hyperspace terminals in stormrollers with my prole-files, make this tough, it has.

    What each has learned pass on, best way always it is.

    You thank, I truly do.

    This awakening force of this web site, like most independent media, to keep the wheels turning depends on the support of readers, it does.

    Made it impossible to rely on advertising to meet expenses, empire strikes first goo-guhl has.

    End-run goo-guhl and keep independent media viable by supporting eric directly, and help jedi survive, you can.

    Really help, $5 or $10 a month would, young padawan learners new hope could give.


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