As the clocks ticks down to less than two weeks before we jet off to the US to buy a car, I’ve had to start making contact with sellers in the USA to ask questions about cars, haggle over prices and the like.

You may remember that my wife and I are buying a car in LA, and then road tripping it for 8,000ks over 5 weeks across the US: LA to New York City, driving across the southern states like Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida and then up to New York city. We’ll be writing about the entire process in a book. USA2NZ: Buy It, Drive It, Ship It (www.usa2nz.co.nz) so hopefully others might do the same.

Part of this process has naturally included contacting car dealers in Los Angeles as that’s where we will be buying from. There doesn’t seem to be many private sales for the cars I have been looking at.

Let me tell you now; New Zealand car dealers are so not like American ones. If I used the word ‘pushy’ that would be incredibly nice way of describing them. Their buying process and lack of awareness of consumer satisfaction is incredible.

Let me paint the picture for you.

I find a nice 2012 Chevy Camaro on a dealer website, and try to click the button to get the details on the car. I say ‘try’, because while you are trying to click said button or link, almost exactly where you hover the mouse is a “Chat with us now!!!”  (yes, three exclamation points) box to try and pressure you into getting a hold of this dealer RIGHT NOW because hey it’s now 4am in the USA and you are probably desperate to buy this car on the spot, right?

The funny thing is it doesn’t matter what time of day it is in the USA, you can actually chat with someone live…they are that desperate for sales.

mmmmm Dodge Challenger
mmmmm Dodge Challenger

Once you can finally get to click the details button for said car, you move on to the page with the info and photos, and more often than not a video.

I love it when they have a video of a car you are interested in. Hear the car start up, listen to it and get a nice real-world view of this car you are interested in. But no. The video is simply a montage of the photos of the car, with some nice American girl (and she does sound nice) who speaks way too quickly, going over all the virtues of this very car – which you can read on the page anyway. So this isn’t what I was expecting at all.

So then when you go to another site for a dealer who uses the same manufacturer, it’s the same voice, the same text read out (if it’s the same model car) with just the photos changed. And they are the same photos you can see on the page anyway, so you aren’t gaining anything.

Those who have followed this series of articles will see my wife won. The bigger-than-a-Camaro-boot was needed, apparently.
Those who have followed this series of article will see my wife won. The bigger-than-a-Camaro-boot was needed.

Also, their websites are crap. It reminds me of websites of the mid 2000s where it was all busy, busy, busy with bright, garish colours and amateurish quality. They really, really suck.

If you spend more than 5 minutes on one dealer’s website, then expect the ‘Do you want to chat?” box to pop up again, and every five minutes after that. So freaking annoying. Don’t these dealers get just how frustrating an experience this is?

At last you find a nice looking Dodge Challenger and decide you’ll have to contact the dealer to get some dialogue going, just asking perhaps about a sharper price. You never pay retail in the USA, as you do in New Zealand. Anyway, you fill out the form, carefully using a fictitious local phone number, otherwise you can’t submit the form. You add into the comments (and yes, I do this): “please note the phone number above is not mine. I just want to work over email at this stage”.

Dodge-Challenger-2015-1600-c2

Then the spam starts.

Firstly the generic ‘welcome’ one, promising the earth, any time now.

Then you get one the next morning (our time). “Hi Fred, we called you on your number but it didn’t work. I’ve got a space here at 2pm for a test drive today and then we can do the paperwork to get you in your new car!!!” Note again, 3 exclamation points. I think they might be taught this in salesman school.

And then the email-reply-merry-go-round starts, and goes on and on, and on. I’m not talking about just one dealer here – this is my experience so far with 8 of them.

This is the general process, each one on a separate email. I’ve condensed it massively for you for ease of reading.

  1. What’s your best cash, no trade no finance no lease out the door price?
  2. When would you like to come and test drive?
  3. I’m don’t want to test drive yet, I just want to chat over email.
  4. When do you want to have a test drive?
  5. I’m in New Zealand.
  6. How about tomorrow then?
  7. No, I won’t be there for 2 weeks.
  8. We’ll have the car ready for you!
  9. I’m not ready to buy, I just want to discuss prices
  10. That’s fine, and then we’ll draw up the paperwork straight after!!!

Then I give up and decide it can wait until we get there.

Then there is the pricing they offer. One sales girl told me the price she was giving me was “absurdly special, and for me only”. I pointed out this special price is exactly the same as on their website. She says, “yes, but I’m throwing in a car wax. It’s insane!” I did not feel special anymore.

Dodge-Challenger-2015-1600-24

The words I am using in this article are not mine – these are real examples. I do wonder what these sales people are like at home or at parties.

Lately as time gets shorter, I’ve been looking at 2015 model years, but still brand new cars. Americans don’t like buying last year’s model, so there are bargains to be had. I asked one Dodge dealer for his best price, which he then emailed to me and said it was $100 above his cost price.  The thing was, it was the same price as the latest 2016 Dodge Challenger. I mentioned this to him, and never got a reply. I think I’m off his Christmas Card List now. Oh well, no love lost there.

I’ve told one LA dealer I’m only interested in V8 cars, as that’s all I can import and then apply for a LHD exemption. What does he do? Send me daily emails of V6 cars.

Then at the bottom of every email is the small print. Yes, it is small and it is lengthy! Here’s a sample:

Small print:

* MSRP is the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the vehicle. It does not include any taxes, fees or other charges. Pricing and availability may vary based on a variety of factors, including options, dealer, specials, fees, and financing qualifications. Consult your dealer for actual price and complete details. Vehicles shown may have optional equipment at additional cost.

* The estimated selling price that appears after calculating dealer offers is for informational purposes, only. You may not qualify for the offers, incentives, discounts, or financing. Offers, incentives, discounts, or financing are subject to expiration and other restrictions. See dealer for qualifications and complete details.

* Images, prices, and options shown, including vehicle color, trim, options, pricing and other specifications are subject to availability, incentive offerings, current pricing and credit worthiness.

* In transit means that vehicles have been built, but have not yet arrived at your dealer. Images shown may not necessarily represent identical vehicles in transit to your dealership. See your dealer for actual price, payments and complete details.

All vehicle specifications, prices and equipment are subject to change without notice. See above for information on purchase financing and lease program expiration dates. Prices and payments (including the amount down payment) do not include tax, titles, tags, documentation charges, emissions testing charges, or other fees required by law or lending organizations. The estimated payments may not include upfront finance charges that must be paid to be eligible for the purchase financing program used to estimate the APR and payments. Listed Annual Percentage Rates are provided for the selected purchase financing or lease programs available on the current date. Program expiration dates reflect currently announced program end dates, but these programs are subject to change at any time.

Lessees will be financially responsible for mileage beyond the elected quantity and for vehicle maintenance and repairs and excessive vehicle wear. Option to purchase at lease end for an amount may be determined at lease signing. Payments may be higher in some states. You may not be able to combine other incentives with the purchase financing or leasing programs presented above. Residency restrictions may apply. See dealer for details.

Listed APR, down payment, payments, incentives and other terms are estimates for example purposes only. Information provided is based on very well-qualified buyers or lessees. The payment information provided here is not a commitment by any organization to provide credit, leases or other programs. Some customers may not qualify for listed programs. Your terms may vary. Lessor must approve lease. Credit approval required.

So are we closer to choosing a car? Yes, and no. Nothing rock solid, but at this stage it will be a 2015 (but new) Dodge Challenger. That’s why this article is full of Dodge Challenger photos, just priming myself up.

Now, if only I can get a straight reply to my emails…

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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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