The Jeep Geek

The Jeep Geek's Blog
Feb 2011

How to Buy a Jeep

The Jeep Geek has seen a number of customers who come in to buy a Jeep, but are completely unprepared to do so. Not a problem if they encounter The Jeep Geek, however most do not and their unpreparedness costs them money and grief.

Many of the principles that The Jeep Geek will discuss below, will apply to the purchase of any “big ticket” item. Research, prepare, deal openly and honestly, look for outstanding service...these will help you get long term satisfaction from a large purchase as well as a reasonable price.

First, research the product. A good source is
www.jeep.com. (It goes without saying that the site you are currently reading is also a good source.) At the Jeep website you can determine which models and options are important to you...this will guide you in deciding what to test drive later as well as help you to understand how the price for the particular vehicle you are interested in is built. What each option package is worth is different to different people...only you can do the math. Is a Hard Top for a Wrangler worth $700? Is the dual Top option worth $1500? This exercise will likely generate questions that you can ask the salesman. Write these down.

After the Jeep website, go to some third party websites and see what they say about the product. The Jeep Geek is not a fan of Consumer Reports as they tend to develop a hatred for certain brands and their bias shows through everything that they rate, but Edmonds, and some of the off-road magazines’ websites will give you an unvarnished view of the product that is fair and balanced...they have no axe to grind.

The goal of your research is to narrow down the field to a few vehicles to test drive.

Now test drive the vehicles you are interested in. Don’t skimp on this step, a particular vehicle might look good, but drive poorly, or a highly rated vehicle might be comfortable to one person, and not fit a different body type. Is this vehicle right for you?

The test drive should be more than 4 right turns around the lot. You need to see the vehicle on the highway, up mountain roads, on sweeping turns on country roads, in city traffic...basically you need to drive it in the type of conditions you tend to drive in your life. If the salesmen won’t let you take a long test drive, run, don’t walk, away from that store.

As well as determining the length of the route, you need to pay attention to how the vehicle is driving. Is it quiet on the highway, how does it handle turns...will it hold the line at higher speeds? Test the maneuverability, for example, spin some donuts on the car lot (you can and should do this slowly...don’t light up the tires) this will give you a sense of how easy it will be to maneuver in tight traffic and how easy it will be to drive...some SUVs are car-like in their handling and some drive like dump trucks. Check acceleration and braking on the test drive... do you like the way this works...is acceleration smooth and quiet, or does it sound like the vehicle is coming apart? Braking should also be smooth and rapid, without pulling in any direction.

Do not succumb to a salesman’s pressure to purchase his vehicle before you have finished test driving all the vehicles you are considering. If you are being pressured, leave...that salesman is a jerk...unfortunately there are plenty of those out there.

Once the test drive is complete, the next step is to pick a dealership that you want to build a relationship with. It’s fine to contact several in the area to get price quotes, but resist the temptation to buy from the lowest price dealer...use the low price to improve the price at the dealer where you want to have your Jeep serviced. This is the point where you ask your friends and neighbors what their experience has been with a particular dealer. If you find one that is close and has a great reputation for service, then contact their sales department.

Finally, interview the salesman you encounter. Does this person know a lot about the product? Are they treating you with respect? Do they listen to you? If you feel that the salesman is professional, then great, if not, request a different salesman...don’t experience the brain damage of dealing with an idiot...these exist at almost every store and should be avoided.

A good salesman will not only help you get exactly the Jeep you want, but they will be helpful throughout the time you own the vehicle. They can answer questions that come up, they can help with service, they can make recommendations on modifications you are interested in, they can give you tips on driving off-road or in special situations. A good salesman will be proactive, looking for problems before they become noticeable to you. If they are not adding value to the whole purchase and post-sales experience then they are not worth referring your friends and co-workers to. If a salesman doesn’t understand this, they need to be starved out of the business.

Once you know the vehicle you want to purchase, you have selected a preferred dealership, selected a salesman you are ready to work on price.

Every dealership has the same tools for pricing as all the others for any given brand. They have the same rebates, incentives, invoice prices, marketing support and the same desire to make a deal. What might be different is inventory, availability, and the passion of the salesman. Take your best email price quote to your salesman and let him get you their best price...if they are close to the best price, and this is the store (and salesman) you want to build a business relationship with, buy the vehicle. Saving a couple of hundred dollars by purchasing out of town will come back to haunt you when you need or want just a bit more support from the better, closer store or more knowledgeable salesman. The Jeep Geek spends a lot of time each week supporting his customers, but does not offer any support to people who bought elsewhere. It is economics, he has so many hours in the week, it is impossible to service his existing customers, sell Jeeps to new customers and support people who have purchased their vehicles elsewhere. His customers deserve his undiluted attention.

If you don’t do your research, or don’t test drive, or if you accept a dull salesman or poor dealership, your ownership experience will be diminished. A car that doesn’t fit, can’t be adjusted afterwards, a poor salesman won’t be able to help you down the road, a store with a sloppy service department will only be a source of frustration...do the work up front and your experience will actually be pleasant.

The whole process can be accomplished in a few afternoons (depending on the number of competitive brands you are considering).

The Jeep Geek would like to dispel some popular car buying myths.

  • The end of the month is the best time to get a good price since the salesman and the store will be desperate to meet quota. This is patently false...every salesman wants to sell a car every day...every store will do the same deal every day of the month. If you wait until the end of the month, then you are likely to be part of a large crowd that doesn’t get the best attention of the salesman...we are pretty busy during the last few days.
  • Cash is king...by offering to purchase a Jeep for cash, you will get a better price. This is also false. Most stores want to place a loan with a lender and get a fee to do so, by offering cash, you are reducing the amount of money the store can make. This won’t get you a better price. (The Jeep Geek actually had a customer dump a pile of cash on his desk as part of a negotiating tactic. He guesses that the mere sight of a pile of cash was supposed to so overwhelm his mind such that he would cave and lose money on the transaction...not!)
  • By being abusive to the salesman, you will show him who is boss and who will be setting the price. The Jeep Geek doesn’t work with such people...he turns them over to the dumbest salesman on staff. The Jeep Geek wants to make money on every transaction, but also get a good price for his customers...if both parts aren’t there, a deal will not be had. The Jeep Geek likes people and wants to get to know them and help them. He doesn’t like mean people and would prefer to have nothing to do with them.

Prepare for your next big ticket purchase and you might actually enjoy the experience...at least you will get a better deal.

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