Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Negotiating, the Nicolosi way

The Honda Element is the third car I've bought new. The first time I bought a new car, I was 25 or so and didn't realize that people bargain before buying their car. I found out after paying and felt like a total idiot.

So when I bought my silver Jetta in 2003, I developed The Nicolosi System. This was back in the dawn of Internet car sales, and there were just a few internet sales guys. I emailed them all and negotiated for a few weeks between them all before buying. This time I added a few extra steps.

First, check the local dealers sites for their ridiculous starting price: At Lynwood Honda for example, they're offering the 2008 Element 4wd, Automatic, for $25,959.

Then, I found the Element owners board and got all the inside skinny on the car -- the shortcomings, the gossip about what people are paying and who the best dealers are.

I found out in some of the comments there that some dealers will sell for just $200 over invoice. You can find Invoice and MSRP amounts at, which lists the invoice on this car as $22,201. So there's a lot of wiggle room here -- a $3,000 to $4,000 difference between what they pay for the car, and what they try to sell it for.

So I went to, Autobytel and, and also did a Google search for Honda + Seattle. I found out who all the dealers are within 100 miles and sent them all an email: "I'm looking for someone to sell me this car for $200 above invoice."

A bunch of people wrote back to say they'd sell to me for $500 above invoice. One guy, Brad in Everett, wrote back "hell yes, let's do it!" A guy in Renton wrote back, sure I'll quote you a quote. But what other quote do you have? What ever you get I'll beat it."

So me and Brad get to talking. We talk LX (the version with no I-pod jack, fewer speakers, less stuff all around, mostly baubles) and EX. I tell him Lynwood Honda valued my Jetta at $8500 trade in value, and will they do the same. Brad says come on down, we'll check it out. (Acura down the street valued it at more like $6500. 2002 Jettas sell for $8,500 to $13,000 on Craigslist. Mine is missing a mirror and has a gash in the door from an unfortunate meeting with a garage column).

Any who, I get up to Brad's place, and we drive the car, and Man, the extra 10 horsepower they added to the Element in 2007 makes a HUGE difference. This baby really accelerates now. Drives like a car, space like a van. The seats are higher up than the Jetta, which my lumbago appreciates. Sweet free XM radio for 3 months. All around excellent road trip vehicle.

But Brad doesn't have an LX on the lot. He wants to sell me a car tonite, he says. Sure, I say, but The EX costs more than the LX. $2,000 more. Can we just go ahead and order an LX? And oh, by the way, what value did they put on the Jetta?

Brad doesn't know -- he goes to check, comes back: $8,500. A match of the Lynwood offer. (Predictable. Most dealerships will match or beat other dealer offers).

Well, I say. Sounds good. Let's order up the LX. When do you think it will be ready?

I want to sell you a car tonight, Brad says. What would it take?

Hmm, I say. I hem, I haw. Well, I say, value the Jetta at $9500 and you have a deal. He goes to check with the man, and comes back with $9,000. Hmm, I say. Well, still, thanks for checking. Let's just order the LX.

He leaves, and comes back with the manager, an affable guy with a big smile. Lissen, he says. And explains something about a tax break I'll get, and how the wholesalers won't give him more than $8500 for the Jetta, and he's taking a loss on that, and everything.

Sure I say, makes total sense. So like I say, let's order up the LX. I'll come back for it in a few days.

Hmm, he says. What say $9250?

Hmm, I say. Can I use your calculator here? I get up and punch the numbers. Now I'm paying about $1,000 more for the EX than the LX, though there's a $2000 price difference for them on the invoice.

Okay, that works for me, I say. And we sign, and the Jetta is gone, and I now drive what Brad calls "a box."

His compadre in the Internet department there says the internet guys don't work on commish like the floor guys. Here, he says, we're not trying to make the house payment off one sale. It's lower pressure. We work at much lower margins -- it's just a different way of doing it.

I heard the same thing from the VW guy who sold me my Jetta, and I personally think it's true: It's much easier to get the internet guys to jump way down on price faster. The floor sales guys get paid less in base salary, so they really can't jump down that way.

Anyways, I like big blue. I can't wait to buy a big fig tree, and slide it in there, no problem.


freda said...

very cool. way to go. what is the mpg?

Janice said...

It's a long way from the millinium falcon. Bet it has all its windows and the door work too.