Car buying sucks, continued

2009/03/03 at 10:06

After relating one of my car buying horror stories yesterday, I should offer some advice to help others from getting screwed. Here’s a detailed Consumerist entry on how the four-square sales method works and how to get around it.
Whether or not the salesman uses the four-square method, his goal is to mix together the several different transactions you’re undertaking (buying a car, selling a car, getting a loan): by lumping those together, the salesman makes it harder for the consumer to spot that he’s getting screwed in any individual transaction (though in the story that I linked to in my last post, the dealers tried to screw this inexperienced car buyer on just the one transaction).
The best thing to do is to eliminate as many of those combined transactions as possible ahead of time: get pre-approved financing from your bank or credit union before you walk into the dealership, sell your old car yourself. But if you have to do two or more of those transactions at the dealership, undertake each one separately and make sure you understand the terms of each one: this is the amount I’m being given for my trade-in; this is the amount I’m paying for the car I’m buying, and these are the terms of the loan: interest rate, period, amount financed, etc.