posted by Joe Anaya on May 6th, 2013

No sane person likes buying a new car. There is a reason the stereotype of car dealers is sleazy, fast-talking, swindlers. Because it’s true. Some of my friends are car salesmen and I’m sure they’re the “exception” to this rule.

First, we had to choose what type of car to get. By nature, I’m a very analytical person when making decisions. I love research, spreadsheets, and getting the opinion of friends and even strangers I see driving the car I’m considering. Hatchback or station wagon, front-wheel or all-wheel drive, hybrid or merely “good” fuel economy, new or used (losing 5% of my investment just by driving off the lot kills me, so used it is) and of course price.

Anyway, eventually, we settled on a 2008 or newer Prius.

More research for me, looking for a 2008-2012 Prius with fewer than 60,000 miles, within 50 miles of my house, under our agreed price limit and with navigation. The internet is awesome when it’s not being evil. I found several cars that fit our criteria and weed it down to a couple to go take a look at. I am now mentally preparing myself to go to war, but it’s a war of attrition not a quick skirmish. Play the part and dress down and take my old beat up family car not my wife’s nice executive car. I’m ready.

Anyway, after driving out to one dealership, the salesman said their price was firm. While a fair price, it was not great. It was essentially a “door buster,” the car was priced to get people to make the trip, and if you didn’t want that specific car, they would try to sell you another one for more money. Pass.

At another dealership, I caught another salesman in an outright lie. I sometimes ask questions I know the answer to in order to see what type of salesman I’m dealing with. I “innocently” asked my trick question “What if something goes wrong with the hybrid battery (as opposed to the regular starter battery).” His response was that it was “no big deal” just a couple hundred. Well, in reality it is a big deal over $3,000. Pass.

Eventually, I ended up test-driving a trade-in at a Ford dealership. Already test-driving several Priuses, I had a clearer understanding of the car than the Ford salesman who rode with me. But he passed my trick question test. His answer was “Honestly, I don’t know. I’ll have to look into that.” When I brought my wife back to see the car, the Ford salesman had brought in another salesman. My first thought was, “Oh no, a double team.” But the Ford salesman said, “This is Ray, he used to be a Toyota salesman, he’ll be better able to answer any questions you have,” and he left. I have added him to my short list of respectable car salesmen.

After getting the thumbs up from my wife we go into the office and work over the salesman for a good price. With my wife’s knowledge of corporate meeting dynamics and me being familiar with stage blocking for dramatic effect, we intentionally sit on opposite sides of the table, forcing Ray to sit in the middle and swiveling his head back and forth to get a read on us. This also allows us the opportunity to give each other looks and nods, without him seeing both sides of the exchange. My wife and I have excellent teamwork. I play the calm, reasonable one with all the numbers and stats in my head, knowing exactly what’s a good price, and how much things should cost (the spotlight moment for all my research). She plays the impatient, quick-to-anger, not-afraid-to-make-a-scene hammer to my anvil. (A bit of typecasting on our part.) This method nets us a great price in a fairly short amount of time.

Then we go into the finance office. My wife has a great way of dealing with this wave of the gauntlet. “I’m not buying anything else, I’m not paying for anything else. If you even ask, I’ll walk out and you’ll have to explain to Ray why he lost a sale.” The poor finance guy sheepishly offers, “Okay.” He takes back the piece of paper he was about to hand us. Crosses out a large section of another paper and asks us to sign at the bottom. Done.

We are now the proud owners of a 2011 Toyota Prius, with 25,000 miles. We survived the gauntlet and came away with a bragging rights story about how well we did. But more importantly, I won’t have to buy another car for at least 3 more years, when my son starts to drive.

File Under Mr. Cool