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Featured Merchants August 9th, 2007


by Peter W. Robinson

photo"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

In the car business, you may safely remove the "probably" from this cliché. The search for the "ridiculous" car deal is ongoing, but there is little hope that we will ever actually see one.

Great car deals are available to those with time, experience, research and perseverance, but buying a legitimate car for many thousands less than the lowest prices out there must be rare indeed. Only dealers ever see miraculous deals, and they come from their own customers as trade-ins.

Often dealers can be overheard saying "we stole the trade" to describe a deal where they acquired the traded vehicle for far less than fair market value. Of course, this could also be called "winning the negotiation," since the fact that the deal is known to be negotiable should produce an educated and capable consumer. For whatever reasons (and there may be many) the customer has decided to trade in the vehicle rather than sell it himself, he certainly understands that he is losing a lot of money this way. Still, he can expect to be startled by how much it really is.

The dealer's job is to win the negotiation by as large a margin as he can. There is often more profit in the trade-in vehicle than in the sold one, particularly in a new car deal. This is one of the main reasons that you can routinely find customers wandering the halls of the dealership looking like extras from a George Romero film. Contemplating the sheer enormity of the beating they just received can occasionally jar a wire loose.

When you see a private advertisement for a car that appears to be several thousand dollars behind market value, invariably this car has a salvage title or is actually on fire. When someone sells a salvage-titled car, there are several disclosures that must be made. At least, that is how the LAW reads. By far the biggest abusers of this situation-selling a salvage-titled car-are not dealers, it is private parties. It is often necessary to pry the info out of them by threatening to actually come and buy the thing. It seems to be particularly helpful in the search for truth to be Caucasian, or at least to speak English without an accent.

"Does it have a clean title" should be the first and last thing you ask about any vehicle. There are situations where it is a great idea to look for a car with that special 'salvage title pricing', but realize that it is really worth about 40% of any similar clean-titled car and plan your purchase accordingly.
As for the White Whale: There is a story about a woman who became ... perturbed ... upon discovering that her husband was not on a business trip as he had claimed, but was actually soaking up the cultural richness of Vegas with his young secretary. She listed his Maybach for sale for $3500, and it was promptly sold to a recent immigrant who was so unfamiliar with the ways of his new country that he actually called her and purchased the vehicle. Everyone else had simply assumed that the advertisement was a misprint!

So ... maybe I'll call that guy with the 2004 Accord for sale. Like new. Must see. First $4800 takes it.

Hey, it could happen ...

Peter W. Robinson is the founder of Movinmetal, a family-owned car buying and consulting service in Escondido, CA., located just north of San Diego. He has spent many years working in the car business, and is convinced that there is a better way to complete car deals. He can be contacted at 760-688-6398 or at the website







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