Car Buying Articles

Internet Prices on the Showroom Floor

This In-Person Internet Strategy Saves Time and Money


  • Internet Sales Manager Picture

    Internet Sales Manager Picture

    By asking for a sales representative from a dealership's Internet department, you bypass the usual high-pressure tactics. | January 12, 2011

3 Photos

I once conducted a car-buying experiment that proves the value of working with a car dealership's Internet department. I walked onto a car lot, asked for a salesperson from the Internet department and in less than an hour, bought a minivan for at least $1,000 less than if I had been shopping the conventional way.

It can't be that easy, you might say. I assure you that it is. Instead of following the usual car shopping method of walking onto a car lot and being approached by a salesperson, I went into a Toyota dealership in Santa Monica, California, sidestepped several conventional car salesmen and asked the receptionist for a salesperson from the dealership's Internet department. Her expression told me that this might be a first: Why wasn't I actually using the Internet? But she went along.

And so I met courtly, no-pressure Mark. I told him I wanted to buy a 2011 Toyota Sienna SE. He escorted me outside and offered to let me test-drive the minivan. I declined (I'd already driven a Sienna) and asked him to give me a price.

Mark led me to his office, which was across a busy street from the dealership, as though to remove it from the usual selling atmosphere. He turned his computer screen toward me, pointing at the Sienna's MSRP, the invoice price and all the options. He then said he could sell it to me for $500 over invoice.

I pulled up the vehicle on my iPhone on the Edmunds.com mobile phone car-buying app. It listed the True Market Value® price as $1,037 over invoice. This meant that Mark's offer of $500 over invoice was well below the average price that other people were paying for the car. So I made the deal.

I gave him a check as a deposit and arranged to have the minivan delivered to my office the following week. I left the dealership an hour after I had arrived.

The next week, Mark arrived with the Sienna and the paperwork. I asked what the price would have been if I had gone to the regular salespeople instead of the Internet department. He said it would have been $1,000 more, "at least." The "at least" was probably because he was thinking that a conventional sale would have been completed in the finance and insurance office, where the dealership would have tried to sell me additional products and services.

When you're buying a car, you should try to handle as much of the deal online as possible. (Edmunds.com continues to make this easier, such as by offering Price PromiseSM, which provides you with a locked-in, up-front price for a new car in the comfort of your home.) But if you like some of the hands-on aspects of car buying, you might try out this Internet-in-the-showroom approach. Here are a few tips:

  • Schedule a test-drive by calling the dealership and asking for the Internet manager. Say up front that you won't be buying the car the same day as you test-drive it.
  • Check TMV® before visiting the car lot so you can spot a good deal when you see one. Additionally, look for a Price Promise offer. Compare the Price Promise quote to the TMV price to confirm that it's good deal. You also can get Edmunds' mobile new-car buying app and refer to it during the deal-making process.
  • If you started the buying process with an e-mail or phone call, get the contact's name and continue dealing with him or her when you are on the car lot. If you're coming onto the lot cold, ask the receptionist to get you a salesperson from the Internet department.
  • Before agreeing to any deal, ask for a list of all the fees you'll have to pay. You should only be charged for the purchase price of the car, local sales tax, a documentation fee and registry fees.
  • Request that the document preparation be handled by the Internet person, rather than the finance and insurance manager. The Internet salesperson might not go along, but it is worth asking.

If you follow these steps, you might be able to cut through the complicated knot of the dealership buying process and get the same quick action and good price enjoyed by Internet shoppers.

Comments

  • carwheeler carwheeler Posts:

    Great article! I am a research guru and have been thinking about how the internet process of car buying works. I am shopping around on the internet and have seen sites where the "internet price" is listed...can the "internet price" still be a good negotiator? Also, could it be as simple as knowing what you want, shopping online and communicating online until the deal is done? I just don't feel like dealing with people who are fishing for profit~ let the consumer have a little room!

  • thelastbill thelastbill Posts:

    Just one comment/questoin about the wording of this article... "When you're buying a car, your first plan of attack should always be to handle it online as completely as possible." Plan of attack?? I didnt know it was a war. I dont go into negotiating with a customer thinking I'm going into battle. I dont get out the war paint and scheme on how to sell this new vehicle for a price that is thousands more than I can. With all the information online with the cost of the car (which edmunds followers dont believe is true anyway.....they think we are STILL hiding thousands somewhere....) Why does it have to be battle from the customer??? Let me be a professional, show you the vehicle, probably educate you about an option package or trim level that may be more beneficial and cost-saving. Then let me present you an offer and expect me to ask for some profit. Not alot on one customer, but a little on many. If you choose to counter and we dont accept, no big deal....we can either shake hands and part or work it out. I fail to see how any definition of battle is necessary in a friendly business transaction. If a customer expects to do battle and has a "plan of attack", the experience will be cold, stressfull, and I promise, will not get any professional perks of service from me. -Silver Level Honda Salesperson

  • sjvhondas sjvhondas Posts:

    Thank You thelastbill. I agree completely. Now I will admit the article has merit. I believe all consumers should research the product and look to reputable 3rd party sources for tips and information, and Edmunds.com has been an invaluable resource for so many of my clients. But my beef with the article lies in the idea that it is necessary to have some secret plan or code words to save money. The fact of the matter is, if you come equipped with all the knowledge available here, you could have still gotten that same discounted deal from a proper salesman who would personally tour your new vehicle with you (An invaluable service that no internet website could ever match) and when you service that vehicle and need a ride to work but can't wait for the shuttle, that very 'thrilled-to-see-you' salesperson will gladly take a CPO vehicle to drop you off! You got the car, the deal, the personal service, AND you helped feed another american family by using the internet to educate yourself as a consumer and conduct business like an adult. Show me a dealership that wouldn't take an offer of 500 above invoice and I'll show you somewhere they never sells any cars! Good luck everyone, be smart and be prepared and the world is your oyster!

  • thelastbill is 100% correct. Not all salesmen are out to swindle you out of every last dollar. In today's market, a salesman needs to be professional, respectful and, most importantly, FAIR. With all the the information out there it is almost impossible to rip a customer off. I also think that the language used in this article is a bit extreme. "Plan of attack?" I have never treated my customers at though we were battling. Let me demonstrate my product, help you choose the right trim line for you and things will go very smooth. In fact, get an internet price before hand and let me write that deal for you. The ironic part about this article is that will all the incentives out there, the buyer of the car in the article most likely should have paid LESS than the deal they got. But if you don't want to negotiate the best deal with a salesman, that is the risk you take. -Honda Gold Level Council of Sales Leadership (413 Cars Delivered; 99.2% Customer Satisfaction rating)

  • sjvhondas sjvhondas Posts:

    I am seeing a trend here, all 3 sales professionals that took offense to this article are Honda Trained Sales Consultants. Let that be known among you Edmunds.com subscribers. Please, all the people leaving a 'Thumbs Down' leave a comment as well. I would like know your thought process if for no other reason than to be better able to empathize with what's looking like the majority.

  • revoarrival revoarrival Posts:

    First of all not every customer believes edmunds true market value on any particular vehicle. If this person just walked in the dealership and asked a internet sales associate and got a price on a vehicle, Im sure he could have gotten it for less. in fact. at least $1000 less. Most dealership are wanting to sell cars. Im a sales person my self and 500 over invoice on a Seinna is too much. You can pick one up for about $500-1200 under invoice. If this person bought it for $500 over and there were incentives on the car, which they typically do. The "INTERNET " sales person made out more.

  • sjvhondas sjvhondas Posts:

    100% True Revoarrival

  • alamocity alamocity Posts:

    I find it ironic that thus far the only replies are from those in the business, so guess I'll be the first non sales related person to say that the article does have some merit, though perhaps some of the wording may be a bit over the top. In my experience I've found that buying a car can indeed be a very frustrating experience solely based on the wide variance in price from one market to another and that leaves many wondering just why there is such a huge gap in prices. Granted a vehicle is a commodity like anything else but when the gap is say a thousand or more does make you wonder what is going on. I've gone to dealerships that still display that arrogant attitude where they refuse to tell you their price because they're afraid you'll cross shop prices which makes no sense to me at all, list your price and let me decide if the deal fits my needs, after all every other commodity you can buy is done that way so why not for vehicles. I actually prefer a one price dealership that tells you upfront what the cost is, that way neither of our time is wasted.

  • tacomadoug tacomadoug Posts:

    Interesting responses from the car sales people. It's nice to know that there are reputable persons out there but let's be honest. Car buying is a war. And you have to be prepared. Their high pressure, time consuming games of " I'll take this to my manager and see what he says," are ridicules. I once made an offer on a truck that I had researched heavily on Edmunds. I knew the numbers and it was a fair offer. The salesman had to take the offer to his manager. The manager came into the room and wrote down a price and slid the paper across the desk to me. The price he wrote down was higher than the price posted on the windshield of the vehicle! I had not been rude or difficult. I just told them what I was willing to pay based on my research. His response was out of line and I got up and walked out. The salesman followed me all the way to my car trying to patch things up. As I got in my car I told him that if my boss had ever treated one of my customers that way I would have quit on the spot and that he needed to find a new employer.

  • bayanjim bayanjim Posts:

    My experience has been that most car dealers in northern Virginia know that we are becoming smarter consumers. The salespeople are courteous and very helpful. My beef is with the dealership OWNERS. They tack on a $400 or $500 "processing fee," even when I ALWAYS pay cash for a car. They lie about what the processing fee is for: One dealership even lists 4 items that the processing fee is for, and when you pay cash for a car, none of those items is involved. It is just pure profit on ever car sold. In many cases if your "deal" is $500 over invoice, they tack on that extra $500 as a "processing fee." I'm only one consumer, but I have black-listed a Manassas Virginia dealer because of that processing fee. I still have the dealer do the servicing (which is excellent) on a vehicle I bought there at Christmas time 1998, but have made it clear that I will NEVER buy another car from that dealership. And those financing departments play games, too. One person (more than half my age) tried to convince me that paying cash was not a good way to buy a car. She said that I could invest that money! I said, "Now let me get this straight, you're telling me that the interest-rate on my investment is greater than the interest-rate you are charging me if I finance this vehicle?" She must have thought I was an idiot!! And she also said that I needed to get the seats treated because the manufacturer did not treat them for stains. Another lie. My granddaughter spilled a Coke on the seat and it just ran off like off a duck's back. I have found that leaving large metropolitan, high income areas, to buy a vehicle is one way to fight this lying. Oh, and did I say anything about so-called "paint protection"? Ha!

  • bayanjim bayanjim Posts:

    P.S. Some sales people have spent HOURS showing me many cars, and explaining in detail the features on the cars. I'd gladly apply a $400 "processing fee" if I knew that the courteous, helpful sales persons were to receive it, and not the dealership CEO!!

  • As a fully certified sales representative of GM, Ford and Hyundai with 5 consecutive years of experience to this date and time...I am a very researched and thoughtful consumer myself, no matter if it is buying a home, a car or a bottle of salad dressing. I GET IT! This past weekend though, I had the most over-researched customer. He's a PhD. So is his wife. They are 30 years of age. They have spent 7 months in the depths of car research "hell". Finally decided on my brand, my dealership and most importantly...me. He had 5 hours of making the numbers make sense to himself based on his huge mass of data and information he pulled from the internet buying guides and resources. In the end, he paid invoice and feels as though he invested his 5 hours well. We would have loved to get $400 over invoice, but he is a happy client telling all his highly educated co-workers that he bought the best car at the best price from the best salesperson. However, had he found time in his busy schedule the weekend prior to come in and do it all, he would have found that HIS vehicle was the one on ad special for the weekend. ($1,300 under invoice). Hmmm. Not so researched after all. He does not read the good old fashioned newspaper! I guess my point is, you can slice and dice numbers till your's and your salesperson's eyes cross, spend your ENTIRE day in the dealership, and get a deal you could have gotten in 20 minutes, had you just known when fair was fair in the first place. No salesperson wants the battle. We would just as soon, make sure you have found the right car for your family, your long term needs and most important YOUR BUDGET! We want you coming back in 4 years with your credit in tact not having a repo or a bankruptcy on record. We want you happy, and sharing your positive experience with all your friends and family and co-workers and sending them in with your referral, for which we want to send you a nice little monetary thank you. We want you to spend not so much time buying your car and more time enjoying your car. And we would love to have time left in our day to increase our chances of selling another car after you leave in your new car with a big smile on your face. In all honesty, my internet manager is not so very very bright or nice. He gets 200 leads a month and I sell twice as many cars as he does because...I know my product, I am genuine, and I care about my clients. He just sends out template emails and waits for the ones who fall for his "I can get you a better price" line. Guess what... No he can't.

  • lamkram lamkram Posts:

    re: debbsseattle - I find it interesting that debbsseattle didn't inform her customer that a better deal was available. I also find it interesting that there is an antagonistic and competitive relationship between the traditional salesperson and the internet manager. Very revealing...

  • bassrockerx bassrockerx Posts:

    @thelastbill becasue every customer pays a different price that is why the consumer is going into war. this is first rate price discrimination. if every customer paid the same price for the same vehicle then things would be different. because there is a &

  • bharper766 bharper766 Posts:

    How hipocritical is it of Edmunds.com to create a "Premier Dealer" program to recommend to consumers car dealers they should consider when purchasing a new or used vehicle and NOT disclose to the consumer that these dealers pay Edmunds.com to be considered one of these dealers? I have been a fan of Edmunds.com personally for over 15 years and have always respected their integrity as a consumer advocate website. But to me this violates that very integrity from which their integrity was built. There are quality car dealers, with employees who work their tails off daily to take home a living to their families, that are approached by Edmunds.com sales associates to pay them to be considered a "premier dealer" and the program does not disclose to the consumer that ONLY dealers who PAY Edmunds.com monthly can become a part of this program. Come on Edmunds.com! Full disclosure to consumers or you are no better than those you have been critical of over the years.

  • To bharper766... We value your feedback and don’t in any way mean to deceive. We’ve tested the “Premier Dealer” presentation on our site with consumers, and most identify that those are dealers that are paying Edmunds to be highlighted on the site. Since “Premier Dealers” provide us with inventory content and offer a desired service to our customers (free price quotes, chat, etc.), we don’t put an advertisement label wherever dealers are listed. We have a team of folks across the country who are working with the “Premier Dealers” to share with them insights and best practices on how to best serve Edmunds shoppers. We are constantly looking for ways to improve our service and do whatever it takes to help customers find the car that meets their every need. We will keep your comments in mind. You can find more information about our business practices published in our FAQs: http://www.edmunds.com/about/faqs.html

  • slowcar slowcar Posts:

    Totally wrong way of buying new car. 1) Thinking buying through Internet department is cheaper is simply wrong. They gave you impression that is cheaper but the price is determined by the GM whether to sell the vehicle; internet department does not have any authority. 2)Asking the seller to give you the price was a mark of novice. You come in the dealer and offer them the price after the research. If they don't sell and you walk, which mean you did not over-pay and you need to come up a bit more. 3) Accepting the very first price asked by dealer is amature. The Edmunds's True Market value was always over-inflated, not up to date, and location dependent. 4) Believing that it would have cost "thousands" more if going with regular saleperson is such gullible. Again, you offer the price and the GM decides whether to sell the vehicle. The best you can ever do is to walk out the dealer.

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