Our 28th year of publishing

Published November 9, 2021

New car buying not the same as in the good old days


By John Toth / The Bulletin

My younger son wanted to buy a new car and asked me to come along, figuring that dad’s been around the block a few times when it comes to haggling.

I think of myself as being a pretty experienced new- and used-car buyer.

Over the years, I have developed the instinct of bargaining with the seller and asking so many questions that by the time we’re done, all they want to do is get it over with. It does not work all the time, but asking the questions is a good idea, anyway.

He wanted to buy a certain type of foreign-made car that was not available at my hometown dealership, so we drove a little. The trip allowed me to get the questions lined up in my head and put my haggling cap on.

“Are you sure they sell cars here?” asked the son as we pulled up to the dealership. The front parking lot was empty.

Let’s pull in and see if they are open, I suggested.

“Do you have any cars to sell?” I asked the person who greeted us.

“Yes we do,” he answered and began to go into sales mode.

“Where are they?” I asked.

“They’re out there,” he said and pointed to the side door. “We decided to power wash the front lot because our inventory is so low. It’s a good time to do it.”

That made sense. We told him what we were looking for, and he asked us to follow him outside.
“Here it is,” he said.

“There is one car,” I pointed out.

“Right. It’s the only one we have left in this model,” he explained.

At least the color was right - white exterior, black interior. I like that combination. I especially like the white exterior because it reflects the sun and keeps the car cooler. It also is an easy color to keep looking good - a wash and a little wax, and it’s like it just came off the showroom floor.

Son liked it also. We drove it around the block and told the salesman to wrap it up. We’ll take it.

Now it was my time to show off my haggling skills.

“How much can you come off the MSRP price?” I asked.

“Zero,” was his response. “It’s the last car of this model on the lot. In Houston, they sell above MSRP.”
That ended the haggling.

Now for the financing part, where I turn down every add-on the financial officer suggests. But son was leasing, not buying. There was only one little add-on, and it actually made sense.

What happened to the days when the financial officer threw a burnt-out control panel on his desk while trying to push on us an extended warranty? I usually bought it, anyway, but I liked the showmanship, the drama.

And whatever happened to the days when I got up a few times and pretended to walk out while saying, “I’ll think about it?”

Instead, we compared smart watches while the financial officer got all the paperwork in order. We talked about the Astros and how cold it was in the dealership. He turned on the space heater under his desk.

Son got a good-enough deal on the car, considering that it’s not a buyer’s market right now. We drove away satisfied and not really drained from the experience.

And I still got a chance to kick the tires. They’re filled with nitrogen. Things have changed.

(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send comments to john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)