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We moved to Arizona to see burrow owls. Where the hell are all the burrow owls?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Buying a Used Truck Part Two - The Man Called Sonny Stubbs - The Saga of the Gold Tacoma

Last time I mentioned how Marv had called us back with a truck. Before I get to that, let me tell you about the Big Two lot in Mesa. After leaving Tempe Honda without the Jeep, we headed to a couple other dealership in the Tempe Autoplex. A nice man at the Hyundai place told us we should check out a used lot in Mesa run by a friend of his. He even tried calling ahead. We did check that lot out, but there was nothing there of interest for us that day.

Across the street from that dealership was the Big Two used lot. Big Two is the name of several big dealerships in the East Valley (all this is taking place around Phoenix, AZ, F.Y.I.). This used lot was ridiculous. There were a bunch of overpriced cars and nothing we wanted. However, we did meet Sonny Stubbs, car salesman extraordinaire. This dude was dressed like cowboy, only he was an African American dude, and he told me that I looked like Mack Truck driver. Obviously, he was kidding, but it was kind of weird. He then tried to sell us on a 1998 Ford Ranger with 120,000 miles for $13,000. We pretty much knew it was over at that point. However, we went inside with Mr. Stubbs anyways because he was so damn amusing.

First he told us that if we want a cheap car we should look in the obituaries. At first I thought he meant Craigslist, but he meant the real obituaries. Again, I'm pretty sure he was kidding, but the concept of check the obits, he explained, is that widows don't know how much their dead husbands' cars are worth so you can get them cheap. Moments later he said he knew where we lived and that he was coming over. Creepy. He does not know where we live. I made a joke that he should bring the beer. I laughed at this considerably.

Throughout our conversation, Sonny kept saying, "Hey, I have just the truck for you" or "I know what truck you'd like," every time he was referring to the overpriced Ford Ranger. He must have done that 5 or 6 times. He was a real character. We both kind of liked him because he was funny and didn't take his job too seriously.

Well, over the phone Marv told me that he had a "nice little truck" for me. We set an appointment for noon on Saturday.

That Saturday Marv called early and encouraged us to go down before our noontime appointment as other people were interested in the truck. We hit horrible traffic on the highway, so even though we left early, we still arrived there at noon. Not surprisingly, the truck was still there.

The truck was pretty nice. It was gold. It was a Toyota Tacoma TRD Prerunner extended cab. It had 91,000 miles and no price sticker. Marv greeted us in his usual laid back manner and we test drove the truck.

The truck drove pretty well, but there was some sort of weird rattling sound coming from the dashboard. Additionally, there was some damage to the driver's side rear quarter panel that extended onto the gate and the tires were bald.

Since our last visit to Tempe Honda, we had read this great article on called "Confessions of Car Salesman" Our friend Damien recommended that article to us. The article is about a writer who goes undercover as a cars salesman and learns the tricks of the trade. Very illuminating.

Armed with the information from the Edmunds article and years of experience in the insurance industry handling negotiations (mostly Erin's experience), we sat down with Marv to negotiate on the gold Tacoma.

The first price Marv gave us was $13,999. We had previously told him we wanted monthly payments of $130, which is a loan of roughly $6500 at 7% interest. We agreed that we would say that we were willing to put $1000 down. Like any used cars salesman, Marv's manager had given him the numbers. He put the paper down in front of us. I just gave him a ridiculous smile and without us saying anything Marv got up, went to the manager's desk and came back with $12,999, a monthly payment of $249.

I guess I understand that there are some people who don't want to pay a lot for a vehicle, but when faced with a vehicle they want they are willing to pay over $100 more than what they originally intended. We are not those people. Not to condemn anyone, but you'd have to be an idiot to get suckered into that. I hate haggling over prices, but sometimes you have to try.

We began taking apart the price of the vehicle. First off, the price sheet had no interest rate on it. Marv told us he thought it was 10%. This was ridiculous, because there was a sign on the table that said that people with 700+ credit scores would be approved to 8.49. As our credit is in that excellent range, that was the interest rate we expected. We also gently reminded Marv that we were totally unwilling to pay more than $130/month so anything above that was wasting everyone's time.

Marv returned with his manager, Robert. Marv clearly hated haggling even more than us. Marv likes to talk about his family, tell anecdotes about him and his wife, talk about his RV, stuff like that, but not haggle about money. Robert assured us that they were "no-pressure" in a very high-pressure way. Erin says that the "No Pressure" tactic is very passive aggressive. You're intended to interpret their pressure as your own fear of pressure that's not really there. Unfortunately for them, we were not falling for that. Pressure is pressure, even when you call that pressure "no pressure."

Very quickly we had our 8.49 interest rate. Robert sucked up to us and praised our great credit. He pretended to intimate things about the cars sales business to us that we already knew, like how they can jack up the interest rate above what the bank approves you for.

Side note: If you're buying a vehicle and they run your credit and the bank approves your for, say, 8% interest, the car dealership financing can charge you 10% interest and keep the difference. It's totally legal, but really shitty.

Back to Marv and Robert. While Marv looked out the window, Robert came down another $1000. We remained stalwartly unwilling to budge, but we talked sympathetically and played along with the haggling game. Now, with our new interest rate, the vehicle at $230.00. Still ridiculous. Marv got us a Carfax report, which was useless because nothing had been reported in two years and 30,000 miles. That meant the 1/3 of the life of the truck was unaccounted for.

We continued to haggle. Robert told us that the suggested retail value of the truck was $13,295 according to Kelly Blue Book. We countered that we knew NADA to be lower, but Robert said that the West Coast uses Kelly Blue Book and the East Coast uses NADA. I have since fact checked this and found out that he was telling the truth. Still, this truck was a 2001 (7-8 years old) with nearly 100,000 miles, body damage, and bad tires. Not to mention that you shouldn't show people who want to spend $130/month something that costs $230/month because that's not what they want.

Citing the ridiculousness of getting us all the way down there to the dealership for something we can't afford and the damage to the truck we worked the price down to $10,750 and then down to $10,250. We also learned that in certain circumstances the dealership can opt to finance you through a credit union or other bank for a lower interest rate. Our interest rate was now at 7.49%. Robert said that was the best we could do anywhere. We have since disproved that, but I don't think he was intentionally lying. In the course of about 1 hour, we had talked the truck down nearly $4000 and 2.5% interest. Not bad, but the price was still $204/month. Unacceptable. In a last ditch effort to show good faith, we asked to have it calculated if we put $1000 more down, $2000 total, which took us to $185/month. While this is still not doable in our budget, it was more reasonable. Unfortunately, we wasted about 1 hour of our life trying to get to something reasonable. I understand that's how buying a used car works, but I resent having my time wasted all the same.

When it became evident that we weren't going to get the truck, Robert tried to sell us some sort of Ford Explorer thing. Marv gave us a ride over and chatted. I think Marv was glad to be away from the nasty money table. The Explorer was still being cleaned up. It was not what we wanted. We got out and looked at it. Marv looked too and understood it was not what we wanted. Marv is really no pressure. He gave us a ride back to our car so we could go eat lunch. As he was telling us to have a nice lunch, Robert came out and tried to convince us that we were crazy for not buying the truck. He tried to say that we could make sacrifices, like skip Starbucks, to account for the $50 difference between the prices. It reminded me of the scheister at Courtesy Chevrolet who tried to sell us a giant, junky truck.

We shook our heads too, and we were off to get some lunch.

A few days later, Marv called about a Silver Tacoma. Our experiences surrounding that Toyota will constitute the next chapter of our story.

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Anonymous Jen + Kev said...

haha what a great story. I mean not that you wasted your time or that its frustrating ot buy a car but as a reader I was very entertained reading thru the last 2 posts and have a very clear picture of robert and Marv.
Good luck!

2:03 PM  

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