I tried to buy a car on the internet.
Negotiating is fun, but the price was reasonable and it was the exact car I wanted, so I went through the checkout process.
It was pretty smooth. I entered my credit info and got pre-approved, selected the day I wanted to pick up the car, and it even gave me a value for my trade-in.
Could it be this easy?
My 2012 Nissan Rogue was showing its age and I wanted something roomier for when Gary & Fox are with us or we’re taking Ava’s friends to soccer, basketball, whatever.
I did a ton of research and the Kia Telluride kept coming up as the best midsize 3-row SUV.
Features, reliability, customer satisfaction… it had everything I wanted along with captain’s chairs in the 2nd row – the perfect setup in my opinion.
Of course, I read about the other top contenders, but one comment I read in a forum made a big impact.
“If you don’t look back after you park it, you bought the wrong car.”
Something about that just hit home with me. I drove my last car for a decade and I’ll probably do the same with this one. I should get the car I really want.
To my eye, the Telluride in Jungle Green with the X-Pro package looks better than every other SUV in its class. I love the blacked out grille & trim with those the beefy tires. This is the car for me.
But just to be sure, I went to the South Austin dealership and took a test drive.
I loved it. They didn’t have the color or trim level I wanted, but one was due to arrive in two months.
These Tellurides are a hot commodity. People are flying out of state to buy one at MSRP and drive back. The South Austin dealership had a modest $1595 markup which included some dealer add-ons, but the North Austin and Round Rock dealers are selling them at $6-10k over MSRP.
I could have put down a deposit and waited for it to come in, but I searched the state of Texas and found the exact Telluride I wanted in Frisco… which coincidentally was just 20 minutes from where we’d be staying in Grapevine on our visit to Meow Wolf in two days.
Their $1896 dealer add-ons included window tint, paint protection, battery replacements for life, and a couple other things. So I pulled the trigger and bought the car online… or I thought I did.
For our trip to Grapevine, I chose the Gaylord Resort and got a 2pm checkout so Sarah, Ava, and Maria would have plenty to do while I went to the dealership at 9am the next morning.
My salesperson Alonzo had all my paperwork ready when I arrived and went to the sales desk to get the deal finalized, but he came back with some bad news.
The sales manager told him the total price would be an extra $1,000. The Tellurides have a mandatory $2896 dealer add-on, but I would be getting three years of maintenance instead of one.
Ah, so this is how it’s going to be.
The best leverage in a negotiation is being able to walk away. I knew the same car would be available to me in two months and I wasn’t in a hurry.
So I sat back in my chair with a smile on my face and said, “I noticed your dealership won the President’s Club award last year for customer satisfaction. I’m sure your manager wants to win that again this year, but adding $1,000 to the price after everything has been signed and submitted online doesn’t seem like a good customer experience. I’d like to move forward with the deal I already agreed to.”
Alonzo left to talk to the manager. He came back and said the sales manager wouldn’t budge, but he would text the GM to try to get it waived.
I asked to talk to the sales manager, but he wouldn’t come over. Fortunately the GM replied after 10 minutes and approved the deal.
But I knew we weren’t done.
The next step was the trade-in. During checkout, their website had me input info about my Rogue to calculate the KBB value – VIN, interior & exterior photos, questions about its mileage and condition, etc.
The good thing about doing all this up front is that the KBB trade-in value is guaranteed.
The website said my Rogue was worth $3,700 and I was content with that. But of course, after doing the dealer inspection, they said it was only worth $2,000.
I told Alonzo that doesn’t work for me – I need the full $3,700 that was guaranteed by KBB. This time the sales manager came over.
He talked about market conditions and retail value, trying to explain why they could only offer $2k.
I patiently listened and then asked what they found wrong with the vehicle. KBB says if nothing was misrepresented, then the full price is guaranteed.
After some back and forth, he said he’d go try to make it work.
He came back with an offer of $3k and said that was the best they could do on the trade-in.
I again asked what was misrepresented. He said nothing was misrepresented, but that it was only $700 and I would just have to cover the difference.
I said, “That’s a good point – it’s only $700. I’m sure you have a variety of banks you work with. My credit score is over 800, so why don’t you shop it around and find an interest rate half a point lower than the pre-approved rate and that’ll make up the difference.”
He sighed and said he would see what he could do.
Five minutes later he messaged Alonzo and told him they’d give me the full $3,700 trade-in value.
I got the deal I came for.
While this would have been a frustrating experience for most people, I enjoyed the sport of it.
My favorite book on negotiation, Never Split the Difference, refers to the person on the other side of a deal as your negotiating partner.
I like that terminology. This sales manager wasn’t a bad guy – he was just doing his job. And I was doing mine.
I’ve had the Telluride for a week now and based on the number of times I’ve looked back at it after parking, I made the right choice.