Hassle free new car shopping with a personal car shopper
Imagine walking into a car dealership and driving off with a new car in under an hour—and not having to talk to the sales person, the closer or the finance manager. Hello car shoppers for hire, a service business that saves significant time and usually a lot of money for the buyer.
New car buyers, car concierges, personal car shoppers and car negotiators smooth the way for buyers—particularly women—who avoid the time-grinding dance that is car buying. Answer the question, “how much do I want to participate in the deal?” That’s what’s going to dictate your expectations and the type of services you’ll want to buy when buying a new car.
For me, I didn’t have the time to go from dealer-to-dealer and dicker. There were some who said I had to surrender macho credentials. In my situation, I wanted to pick out the car and drive home. Cheryl from Scottsdale, AZ told me, “I expected personal service, someone who would be in my corner when it came to talking to the dealer.”
We both used a personal shopper. In most cases, it means someone local who has relationships with multiple dealers. “For each model I have specific managers with whom I work at dealerships,” explains Brian Sinuk, chief carsultant and owner of Car-sultants.com in Scottsdale, AZ. “When a client tells me they want a Honda, for example, I’ll call my contacts, and they know I represent an easy sale. They’ll do what it takes to make that deal.”
Brian’s fee is paid by clients—and can be built into the financing. As a personal shopper, he does everything in person—meeting with the client, being present for the test drive and handling everything at the closing. Car-sultants.com works much like a real estate buyer’s agent. Although most of his work is in Arizona, he can arrange for delivery to other locales.
LeeAnn Shattuck, CEO of TheCarChick.com, Fort Mill, S.C., and host of America’s Garage radio show, functions in a manner similar to those who call themselves a “car concierge.” LeeAnn helps her clients get through the selection process. She works in most states—some do not permit the business model—and works with clients by phone. LeeAnn leverages her lengthy experience to set up the deals and prices for clients. She has worked with dealers who even deliver the car to the buyer’s home or work. “I can set up the deal so my client never sets foot in a dealership,” she explains. “Or, if they do, it’s for a no-pressure, no-hassle test drive.”
Another style of representative for car buying is the car negotiator. Mike Rabkin, president of From Car to Finish, Rockville, Md., is a negotiator. Buyers from across the country pick out the car they want from the mixes and matches on his website. Mike circulates a bid sheet to a number of dealers in the buyer’s market area. He makes calls to dealers working with fleet managers not sales reps.
“Fleet managers are paid on the number of vehicles moved, not the profit per deal,” he says. “When they get a bid request from me, they know there’s a ready buyer, and they are motivated to make a good deal.”
Car shoppers and negotiators are different than car brokers and affinity clubs. These essentially represent the dealer side of the sale. A broker is a “dealer without a dealership.” Affinity clubs offer car discounts, and I bought my previous two cars this way. Costco, credit unions and other organizations offer this service—pay dealer invoice plus $150 to $500. The problem, points out Rabkin, is that the dealer invoice is not what the dealer pays for the car. We’d be getting a deal, just not the best deal for the money.
“Your car shopper has to know all the tricks,” says Sinuk. “I keep up with dozens of dealer incentive programs and manufacturer-to-dealer kickbacks to know what the car actually costs the dealer. I make sure that my client and the dealer are both getting a good deal.”