My Uncle Julius was a wise man. He drove a taxi in New York City for more than 30 years and before I could even apply for a learner’s permit he would caution me with these words, “When you buy a used car you’re buying someone else’s problem.” How right he was! But financial considerations often dictated that a new car purchase was out of the question and Uncle Julius’ admonition invariably proved true.
Around 1973 I bought my first new car, a Dodge Dart Sport, painted taxicab yellow. I was a relatively inexperienced driver and wanted to be seen. More importantly I followed the findings in the April issue of Consumer Reports which gave that car its highest rating. It was great advice for the time. Ralph Nader’s consumer campaigns for safer autos and quality built Japanese cars were emerging from their infancy while the Big Three auto makers reigned supreme. But even with CR’s recommendation my Dodge was a dog mostly because of the inferior Junk cars Boynton beach technology and standards of the time. Fortunately, times have changed and cars have significantly improved thanks in large measure to the combined efforts of consumer activist Ralph Nader, the influential Consumer Reports, and the competition waged by the Japanese auto industry. What hasn’t changed is the selling practices of new car dealerships and for this reason alone a Survival Guide becomes necessary for serious consumers looking to purchase a new car. This writer has been through the ringer with new car purchases and the maintenance that follows so it’s with more than 30 years experience, like my beloved Uncle Julius, that I share what I’ve learned. Be prepared to be shocked.
Automobile dealerships exist to make a profit, they should, I don’t begrudge them at all for that. It’s a very tough retail business. Markups on car sales are particularly low in contrast to retail sales of other goods. For example, a dealership buys its cars from manufacturers for several thousands of dollars less than the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), less confidential bonuses, incentives etc. The smaller the passenger car the smaller the profit margin. I worked in the fine jewelry business right out of high school and soon learned that the markup on fine jewelry was at least 100% with merchandise moving much faster than new cars in an automobile showroom. So the bottom line is this, dealerships are going to squeeze every dime from customers to meet their exorbitant overhead, payroll, taxes etc. but they must sell cars to stay in business while consumers want the best deal possible.