Sitting in my garage is the first Wrangler Unlimited in the county. When I first got wind of this Scrambler reissue, I called the local dealer to put my name on the list. A few weeks later, the manager called me and told me that my Unlimited would be delivered in a week to 10 days.
As soon as I heard that, I stripped out the XM radio, GPS, seat covers, and roof rack off the old Wrangler, dropped it off at the dealership and headed out of town. Upon my return, I picked up my very own Unlimited and reinstalled my goodies.
While I paid sticker for the Jeep, I got a smoking deal on the trade-in. Since you only pay sales tax on the difference between the trade-in value and the selling price in Colorado, I was happy with the spread.
After figuring out that we could get three coolers behind the rear seat, my friends started ragging me that I could have saved some bucks buying online, or at least going to the big, high-volume dealer in the next state.
That's all well and good if you live in one of those places where you never bothered to learn what your neighbor's name is or your community involvement is covered through a United Way payroll deduction.
Consider this: got a kid in Little League or soccer? Ask the cyber-salesperson if they'll pony up some team sponsorship money or buy a case of stale candy bars. Also, note the youth team sponsorship appreciation awards on the walls of the dealership across the state line and see if you recognize any of the kids in the photos. The owner of the dealership where I buy my Jeeps knows that I'll put the bite on him to take care of the newsletter mailing of my favorite charity. And he does so gladly. Try that ploy with your favorite cyberdealer.
One of my favorite stories about buying vehicles online happened when Chevrolet had leftover '00 model trucks and "new" '00 pickups on the same lot. A friend of mine got a price on a "new" '00 Chevy truck from the local dealer. This particular dealer had sold out his inventory of "old" '00-model trucks and had only "new" models in stock. My friend's son got online and found an '00 Chevy truck for $5,000 less than the local dealer's quote for a similarly equipped truck. Convinced that they would save 10 large by buying a pair of pickups from a dealer 300 miles away, my friend and his son wired the money and did the deal over the Web. Needless to say, they didn't exactly get the '00 model-year trucks that they had envisioned.
When it comes to warranty work and routine service, customers who bought their vehicles from the local dealerships always have an edge. I know it's not suppose to be that way, but it is.
I'm not naive; I know that there are dealerships that are ethically challenged, especially in large metro areas. In a small town, the dealer lives on repeat purchases, so it isn't in his best interests to screw a local or pack the sticker price. If I were forced to live in a big city and I needed to buy a new 4x4, I'd check out the showrooms and trade with the dealer who had the most community appreciation and thank-you plaques on the walls. If a dealer cares about serving the community, chances are he really cares about doing right by the customer. Besides, how can you play head games with a salesman if you're not sitting across from him at your local dealership?