Truck-Buying Journey: Call, Email or Visit the Dealer?

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Which method offers the most leverage when negotiating a purchase? See what we’ve discovered.

As I shared with you earlier this week, I’m in the market for a new Ford truck — more specifically a new F-150. I’m planning on leasing and not buying, and I have a pretty good idea of which features I need, and which ones I don’t.

Right away I realized I had to face several hurdles. For example, for the last five years my wife and I have gotten our vehicles from the same guy at the same dealer. By opting to lease a Ford, I’ll have to deal with a new guy at a new dealer. The horror!

That may not sound like a terrible thing, but feeling at ease with the dealership’s staff can truly impact the shopping experience. So, I did what anyone wanting the best possible price on a vehicle would do: I got insider info.

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The Strategy

After five years and about three or four different cars, my sales guy and I have become friends, so I asked him straight up: “What’s the best strategy to negotiate my new lease on a truck?”

The answer was received loud and clear. Do not, by any chance, set foot in a dealership. Beginning the negotiating process in person, after a test drive, and being captive in their own little turf is the worst way to go about things.

This came as a bit of a shock, as I figured dealing with someone eye-to-eye was the way to go. Furthermore, I’m a very hands-on guy, so I typically like to kick tires and talk to folks.

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The Power of the Internet

According my source, the best strategy is to submit online inquiries, and use technology to my advantage. Most dealers nowadays feature their new and used inventories online, complete with window stickers, payment calculators, etc.

He advised me to browse the F-150 inventories of several local dealers, and submit inquiries to all of them on specific trucks I liked. So I did. I wrote to three different dealerships ranging from right around the corner, to 30 miles away.

Ready, Set, Fight!

All dealerships responded via automated emails within the hour. Because in the state of Indiana dealerships are mandated to close on Sundays, it wasn’t until Monday morning that I heard back from all three dealers’ online sales managers.

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As you can gather from the screenshot, the strategy was to inquire about availability, overall pricing, and an estimated lease price. Furthermore, I made it clear that I was also in contact with other area dealers.

Two dealers responded promptly. But the third one, which was just renovated, located on the corner of 96th Street and Keystone Avenue, in Carmel, Indiana  — didn’t. In fact, I never heard from them after the initial hello.

The Outcome

After sharing two or three emails with the two remaining dealers, it was evident that they were trying to be competitive. Right away a few quotes landed in my inbox, and I was pleased with their eagerness to negotiate via email.

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While one dealer attempted to work on the specific F-150 I inquired about (which I liked very much), the other quickly switched me into a more basic and less-equipped truck that fit my budget.

Regardless, negotiating and navigating inventories from the comfort of my home has proven to be much easier and enjoyable. But, will it pay off at the time of purchase?

Stay tuned…

Chime in with your thoughts on the forum. >>

Jerry Perez is a regular contributor to Ford Truck Enthusiasts, Corvette Forum, and 6SpeedOnline, among other auto sites.

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