How to beat a car dealer at the end of the month
People get this wrong all the time. And then a car salesman bends them over
My number one tip to new car buyers is to shop at the end of the month. It’s strategically important to go to battle when the enemy is weak, right? That’s the end of the month.
Unfortunately, though, a lot of potential car buyers go in at the end of the month, but get the approach monumentally wrong.
They blow the deal, and it costs them thousands. See also:
Top 20 ways to beat a car dealer >>
I’ve worn hidden cameras into car dealerships on top-rating tabloid TV in Australia, to expose car dealers’ grubby little secrets. And I’ve built my business off the back of deploying countermeasures on the showroom floor on behalf of car buyers. So let me tell you how the end of the month really works.
HOW DEALERSHIPS WORK
When you look at all the shiny new cars there in the dealership, realise one thing: The carmaker has already sold them. The dealer has purchased them. They’re his problem now. He bought them on credit and the interest hurts him in the wallet. It’s payable at the end of the month. He needs to clear that stock. It’s imperative.
The importer who sold him those cars is under pressure, too. They need to account to the mother ship overseas - the factory - every month - because when you own a factory there’s a real simple equation: production equals sales, otherwise you go tits up. Importers therefore incentivise dealers. They say: Your quota this month is X. There is a massive carrot dangled out the front of this quota, and the message is simple:
- Make your quota, we’ll pay you a huge bonus.
- Don’t make your quota: no fat bonus for you.
The end of the month is a strategically significant time to buy a car, because it’s good to go into battle when the enemy is most likely to be vulnerable. So what you need to find is a dealer who has the car you want in stock, and who is also just short of making that all-important sales target.
That’s a plan, right?
See also: How to test drive like a pro >>
HOW NOT TO PLAY IT
It’s the 29th of the month right now, as I’m getting this report package together. For the past several days I’ve been deluged with end-of-the-month enquiries from punters. It happens every month. And a lot of those people are making a critical error. This happens every month, too. The error is: Some people seem to think that simply turning up at the end of the month in some way guarantees a great deal, as if the rest of the process will just unfold automatically in their favour.
This is the wrong way to think about the end of the month. At its core, I think this presumption exists because a lot of people really don’t want the confrontation that buying a new car entails. And trust me, it’s intrinsically confrontational - even if the wolf is wearing Armani and a Rolex. Some people hate confrontation so much that they imagine some magic time when confrontation in dealerships just evaporates. Like, they’re gunna walk into the dealership, sing kum-bah-yah, braid each other’s hair for some suitable interval, and drive out with a great deal - all because they got the date right.
Frankly this is nuts. It’s a bit like going into battle at exactly the right time, breaching the door with that glint of malevolence in your eye … but forgetting to draw your weapon. Result: you get shot in the face. And this is exactly what will happen at a dealership if you forget to draw and fire. Even if the date is right.
Car dealers are match fit. They know this dance. They do not light up some neon sign out the front that flashes: ‘buy now; we’re desperate’. A desperate car dealer is quite happy to sell you a forty-thousand-dollar car for forty grand at the end of the month - if you are dumb enough to buy it at that price.
And one of their primary weapons is bullshit. Disinformation. They will bullshit you better than the Bible that this is a great price. Unbeatable. For today only. You’re so lucky. This is the last one. Absolute best they can do. They’re doing you a solid here. These things sell like back, sack and crack waxes in the week before mardi gras. (They’re that popular.) In fact, there’s a young couple who are coming in with a deposit just before closing - but, hey, I can take this car off the market now if you just let me tap your credit card. This is a real opportunity for you. Whatdya say? Let’s do this. The sales manager’s gunna kill me, but, hey, I like you.
Really? Look at the clock. It’s bullshit o’clock. Car salesmen - not always, but often - are pathological liars. They feel the truth of their statements, in the moment - therefore, you can too. The reality is sometimes very different: There has not been an enquiry on that particular car for a week. The only thing that’s been rolling through the showroom lately are tumbleweeds. They’re as desperate as a sailor on shore leave, and the sales manager is going to cut off his nuts if he blows this sale, because the dealer principal has his nuts in a vice over poor sales performance this month.
Are you sure you know what bullshit really is? >>
HOW TO WIN
That’s the dance you’re in. Therefore, assume everything that is said to you is bullshit. Do not answer questions - except with other questions. Example: ‘How much would you like to pay for this car?’ Answer: ‘What’s the lowest price you’ll sell it for?’ Don’t give information to the enemy. If you think these ‘battle’ metaphors are over the top, you really are missing the point. This is a battle, philosophically. You and the salesman want a mutually exclusive bipolar opposite result.
You want to get the car as cheap as possible. He wants to sell it to you for as much as possible. It’s a war of will. If I was you, I would not get sucked into any vortex of coercive bullshit. You know what the recommended drive-away price of that car is - because you looked it up online, right? All manufacturers have drive-away pricing calculators online. At least they do in Australia. Look it up.
If it’s - say - $45,000, drive-away, recommended price, just do this. You say: ‘I’ll give you a deposit right now, if you sell it to me for $40 grand. I won’t spend a cent over that. Don’t upsell me anything else - not interested in the paint protection, etc. $40k, right now, and it’s a done deal.’
Was that so hard? You don’t have to be a rude arsehole about it - you just have to be firm, and draw a line in the sand. If he doesn’t go for it, walk away. The second he comes back with a counter-offer, shake hands, give him your mobile number and say: ‘I’m sorry we can’t do business. I really like that car, but I’m not spending more than $40 grand. The offer’s good for the next few days, unless I find something better in the meantime. I’m gunna keep looking. You have my number if you reconsider.’ Then just walk out.
This is the most powerful play in the entire game. Walk out. It casts into stark relief that you don’t want the car as badly as he wants to sell it. And you might be amazed just how malleable the price suddenly becomes as the countdown clock ticks down inexorably to the end of the month and the sales quota still is not met. And if the phone doesn’t ring, hey - they weren’t that desperate … this month.
Do not walk into a car dealership on the 29th and expect the only sound you hear to be the sales staff dropping their trousers in unison because, hey, it’s that day again. (’We always do this on the 29th. It’s just our way of thanking you for your support.) It just doesn’t happen like that. You can choose the time to optimise the strategic advantage - but if you want a good deal, even from a desperate dealer, you still have to fight for it.
Many people find the intrinsically combative nature of this process off-putting. In my experience, some people would rather cave in that take the fight to the salesman. If you’re one of those people, I get that. It does not mean you are weak or worthless. It just means you don’t like confrontation. That’s fair enough. But if that is you, retrospectively, after caving in and driving home in that over-priced new car, you will probably hate the fact that you let them get away with it.
I think that’s unfortunate.
A little more discomfort up the front end of the deal is the only way to ameliorate that. And it can be very difficult - because you have to stand your ground with an expert liar. It’s a battle of will. But I guess you can leverage the ‘golden’ rule: You’ve got the gold, which empowers you to make the rules.
Hit me up here >> to save thousands on your next new car. (Australia only - although I do plan on taking over the world in the second half of 2017. Don’t tell Trump.)