Best Deal or "Shell Game" - How to Actually Get the Best Deal on a Car, Truck, or SUV

By: Kirt Prete   |   12 May 2020
silver ford truck outside a farm

The love affair with the automobile is alive and well. We love our vehicles and we depend on them as an important part of our lives. In fact, the number one reason that anyone buys a vehicle is because they like the style of it. There are certainly other reasons why we buy vehicles, but one that really stands out and that we make a lot of noise about is the pricing.

Pricing on Vehicles

Price is 7th on the list of reasons why we buy vehicles, but we usually know what we like, want, and need, so this often becomes the main talking point. This is likely even more prevalent with access to information that we currently enjoy because of the internet. We can compare options, equipment, capabilities, reviews and we can see the styling in the many videos and photos that are posted.

Other than driving the unit to see how it feels, we have access to all of the info: until it gets to pricing. Vehicle pricing is incredibly confusing, and I would say downright painful. These things are expensive, and we certainly can not afford to overpay. How did this get so complicated? 

The marketplace is extremely competitive, and despite the fact that the prices are high, the dealer margins are thin, so every trick in the book is used to try to convince you, the consumer, that a particular deal is the “best deal”.

It starts with the manufacturer, as most of the discounts come from them. The problem is that the manufacturer uses several different methods to discount the vehicle and it is often different for each model and changes regularly. Just when you think you have it figured out, they go and change it on you. Considering that there are several manufacturers all with a different perspective you can see how this could get confusing quickly, and we haven’t even talked about thousands of independently owned dealerships that have their own views.

Dealerships Can Help or Hinder the Pricing Process

Dealers in their infinite wisdom often complicate the process by being scared to tell the truth to the consumer and end up playing “the shell game”; moving numbers around until they find ones that are agreeable to the customer. This is extremely hard to follow as there are more than the typical 3 “shells”.

There is one method that I absolutely think is the most laughable, as a dealership owner; why does the price of the vehicle go back to full retail without a discount or rebates applied when a customer is trading a vehicle in? This makes no sense, but they do it because they do not want to tell the truth about the actual trade value.
Ever wonder how the same dealership has the highest trade-in value but also has the lowest prices on their used vehicles? Interesting, right? The manufacturers want you as the consumer to receive all the rebates and the incentives that they provide. You should receive all of those first, plus the dealer discount and after all of that apply the trade value.

This may appear to have the lowest trade value, but it removes some “shells” that you must follow.  The good news is that car deals rely on math. This means that if you focus on the right numbers you can avoid the confusion and know what the best deal is.

How to Easily Compare Vehicle Pricing

  • The options of the vehicle.

  • The down payment.

  • The monthly payment.

  • The term.

That is all! If you have a full disclosure from the dealer and you have that information, you can ignore all the other shells, or points of consideration. Multiply the payment by the term and add the down payment, nothing more. Use the options list to make sure you are comparing “apples to apples” and you, my friends, have just beat the most complicated shell game you will ever play. Work with a dealership that is upfront and clear with their pricing, on both new and used vehicles, with dealer-level discounts and manufacturer rebates.

How PineRidge Offers No Smoke, No Mirrors Pricing

We offer the following with every vehicle as part of our No Smoke, No Mirrors approach:

  • A full disclosure statement

  • Fair pricing and trade valuations

  • A bill of sale: you know what we've paid compared to what you're paying

  • Clear, transparent pricing

  • Vehicle documentation

  • A vehicle report card on all used vehicles, as well as a CarFax report and applicable Completed Work Orders





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