The Second Negotiation Starts With Jokes
On the second dealer's lot, it was over 105 degrees, and the sun beat down so mercilessly that it was impossible to stand in the open for more than a few minutes. But when I located the Odyssey, I was pleased to see that it was in better shape than the one we had seen that morning.
"Salesman's coming," Leamy said under her breath
A Tim Allen look-alike appeared, carrying cold bottles of water for all of us. He handed them out as he said, "Hi, I'm Rich. Actually, I'm not rich — that's just my name." I laughed, but he must have used that joke a million times.
After a short test-drive, during which the van checked out fine, we sat in air-conditioned comfort across the table from Rich, ready to begin Round Two of negotiations. I pointed my shirt camera directly at him. "We are willing to offer you $20,500 for the van," I said, and forced myself to remain silent and still once I'd put the number on the table. He immediately stood up and promised to return quickly with an answer.
Meanwhile, "Chandler" had called again, meaning we needed to leave the dealership. We hurried back to the car, checked the footage and found everything working. We returned to the sales office and waited for an answer. Rich returned with his manager, a stern, barrel-chested man who looked like actor Bob Hoskins. After the usual preamble, during which he justified his price, the manager said that the best he could do was $22,900.
Leamy keyed in the figure on a pocket calculator and showed me that this was a discount of $1,088 from the dealer's Internet price, That was actually a signal that we were going to hang on to our number of $20,500. Leamy then used another tactic, telling me that she really liked the Honda we had seen in a different color elsewhere. If we didn't get our price here, she said, we should head back to the other dealership. While not-rich Rich and his manager didn't acknowledge this opening gambit, it seemed to put pressure on them to speed up their counteroffers.
I improved my offer by $500 to $21,000 and eventually moved up to $21,500. This was still well below the TMV price of $22,300, but it left me with very little room to negotiate unless I did it in much smaller increments.
Then the unexpected happened. The manager left to talk to the "big, big boss." A tall, clean-cut young man arrived and sat down in front of us. He began another lengthy justification of his price and then suddenly said, "So, we accept your offer of $21,500." After I got over my surprise, I asked to review all the fees. When I decided they looked good, I said we had a deal.
Our trip through the finance and insurance office was smooth. The only tense moment was when I handed over my debit card and watched the F&I manager key in $23,934.48 (the total cost with taxes and fees added). We all stared at the computer, which seemed to be considering the request. It then spit out a small receipt, just like the kind you'd get if you'd just bought a burger at McDonald's.
As I drove away in the freshly detailed Honda Odyssey, I thought about how thankful I was that Edmunds' car-buying tools and the Internet have given us an easier way to buy cars. Still, doing it old school gave me a real sense of accomplishment and something extra — the peace of mind that comes with knowing I had fought for the best price and gotten the most car for the money.