Just for Fun 52

If you’re waiting for a sign, here it is. Get your car inspected before you buy so you don’t overpay. TireKickers!


How Hot Was It?


While the pictures tell the tale of just how hot it’s been, there is a serious side to this. Animals and children who get locked in a car are at serious risk of permanent brain damage or even death.


picture found Fun Cage

According to AVMA.org when the outside temperature is 90 the air inside your car can climb to 119 degrees in as little as 20 minutes. If it’s 95 it could climb to 140 degrees after an hour. Please make sure your children and animals are not left unattended in this summer heat wave we’re having.

Signs-Its-Too-Hot-Outside-009.jpgThis message is brought to you by Tire Kickers. Make sure the car you buy has working power locks.


Employing Veterans

The Kicker planned a quick update last memorial day, just to give a nod to the courageous men and women who serve us in uniform. We spoke recently with Duane Moore of Tire Kickers. Duane spearheads Tire Kickers plans to hire 20,000 veterans. The Kicker has previously talked about the plan to hire 18,000 veterans in this post.

For the plan to work two things need to happen. First Tire Kickers would need to go nation-wide. Tire Kickers is in the process of expanding it’s operation in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, California and Virginia. The need for ride share vehicle inspections has spurred a ton of growth for Tire Kickers. Duane anticipates the rate of growth to increase.

The second thing that would allow the plan to execute quickly, is for state and federal government to mandate car inspection when used cars are sold. Right now many dealerships voluntarily inspect the vehicles they intend to sell, which helps them not be personally responsible for the sale of unsafe vehicles. Where it falls short is when failing cars are resold at auction where less reputable dealer does sell the car. The other issue with allowing dealers to perform there own inspections is the inherent conflict of interest for any inspection employed by a dealer. It simply is not the final responsibility of a seller to verify the condition of a vehicle. It’s the buyers right and responsibility.

If all fifty states were to enact laws that required buyers to have a vehicle independently inspected, then lenders would begin to absorb that cost in the vehicle financing, and unsafe cars would be screened out of the market. From a consumer standpoint, car buyers would enjoy the benefit of full disclosure. Problems with a vehicle would come out, pre-purchase and the cost and responsibility of repair could be negotiated during purchase.

The awesome side effect of these laws would be that companies like Tire Kickers could employ returning veterans at a living wage, by the thousands. It’s time for America to do all that can be done to improve things for returning veterans. Or, as President Obama wrote to Duane, “As a country, we have the best-led, best-trained, and best-equipped military in the world. We must devote just as much energy and passion to making sure we have the best-cared for, best-treated, and best-respected veterans in the world. We all benefit from their efforts to build a stronger America and a brighter future for our kids–our commitment to them must match their service and sacrifice.”

President Obama completed his email with, “There’s more to do, and we’re going to have to work even harder. As Commander in Chief, I will keep striving to ensure we serve our veterans and their families as well as they served us.”

At The Kicker, we’ll be holding you to that, Mr. President.

You can learn more about current developments in Veteran Affairs at www.whitehouse.gov/Veterans, www,JoinForces.gov, and www.VA.gov, or by calling 1-800-827-1000.

A Car Buying Odyssey: part 5

From the editor’s desk of the Kicker

What Car buying can be like—the better way.

At the Kicker, we’re still reeling from the car shopping experience of K and her husband. They are an intelligent, likeable couple who did their best to buy a reliable car at a fair price, and reading over our own posts about their experience we can’t help but get emotional. Why was that process so difficult and stressful?

We invited K and her husband back to sit down with our staff for a follow up interview. We were amazed by their reflections on their experience and we know you’ll agree.

Editor: Obviously you’d needed car with more room for a car seat for quite some time, so what motivated you to buy a car write right now?

Hus: We took a simple trip to the beach for the weekend. We decided to drive K’s car for the fuel economy but when we loaded it with enough bags for the three of us and then installed the baby seat, there wasn’t enough room for the two of us to sit. I had to drive and I hated every mile all the way out and back. We take trips to Northern California a couple times a year and always end up barrowing a car and…it’s all just a big pain. We realized we needed to pull the trigger on a larger vehicle.

Editor: So would it be fair to say that you were emotional right out of the gate?

K: Yes, very much. That’s the first and only car I ever bought new, and we recently changed to a larger car seat. That was a factor also. But mainly that trip made it clear we needed a change.

Editor: So you’re first move was to go to your bank?

K: Pretty much. That’s where I went first and he went to a dealership to sit in cars.

Husband: I can screen out most cars just by sitting in them. I’m only tall from the waste up and I know most cars won’t fit me. Plus I hate the way car seats creep in tighter and tighter. If I have to ride in the passenger seat that’s a big deal for me.

Editor: So that’s why you didn’t start online?

K: Right, I wasn’t interested in searching online at all, even though; ironically I hate the idea of dealing with car salesmen.

Editor: Do you feel that your anxiety about interacting with dealership personal has gone up, down or about the same as a result of this experience?

K: It’s about the same. I mean I really like the woman we bought from, and none of the other salesmen really did anything I can point to, but I’d say that it was a rough, pressure filled experience. I don’t feel any better.

Husband: I’d say mine has gone up and down.

Editor: Okay? Follow up on that.

Husband: Well. I mean I’m burned from just having worked so hard to get the car we did, but I feel like now that it’s all over I kind of know what I should have done. It’s sort of a shame that we aren’t in the market for another car because I would do it way differently.

K: Are you kidding me. I’m glad it’s been more than a decade since I bought a car and I hope it’s another decade before I buy another. Unless I can buy a new 2015 Acura RDX. I’d do that if we suddenly had the money.

(Everyone laughed)

Editor: I can certainly understand that. But that’s an interesting point. Really that’s at the heart of the issue. Right? I mean I’ll wager that most people who go to buy a car are completely new to it and by the time they buy their next car they will have forgotten everything they learned.

K: Or it will have changed, I mean, when I bought my Honda they didn’t have “Internet prices” or craigslist and such.

Editor: Its interesting, K, that you should mention the 2015 RDX because the car finder service found you more than one of those.

K: Shut up! Seriously, I already wish we had paid more attention to those.

Husband: Yeah I really blew that. All of a sudden I was getting emails about cars from craigslist and I thought it was spam or something I’d set during my searches. So I deleted quite a few of them before I realized what it was. Then I thought people only posted private sales on Craigslist.

Editor: Actually most dealers have business accounts that allow them to advertise most of their inventory there.

Husband: Well I know that now. I ended up chatting with someone from the car finder and the reason they send directly from craigslist is to screen out spam and ads that almost everyone else uses. But I actually found out they’d sent me a car that was the same make and model as we ended up buying only it only with half the mileage and almost the same price. I mean, I think we did okay, but I missed a potential deal.

K: Well I hadn’t heard about that particular fact. (Looking at her husband)

Husband: Really? I feel like I must have mentioned it.

Editor: So you mentioned having learned from this experience, is that your biggest take away? “Use a car finder…”

Husband: Actually no. I mean that’s one of the big lessons, sure, but my main one would be do all your research before you go to the car lot. Figure it all out in advance. I hardly looked up anything. I mean I wish I’d googled, “how to negotiate,” I mean, SOMETHING. Anything.

K: Mine would be, “stick to the plan.” We agreed that we wouldn’t buy a used car without an independent inspection and we did. We got it in for an inspection the next day, and I think if it failed we’d have found a way out of the contract.

Editor: It’s pretty rare to get out of an as is contract, you might have had a rough time of that.

Husband: Oh, I’d have called the lender and showed them the car inspection. I bet if they refuse to pay for the car the dealership would take their car back.

Editor: Sometimes a hail marry works…

K: I can be pretty convincing when I need to be. But the reason I should have stuck to the plan is because I barely slept that whole night. I could wait to find out if we’d bought a lemon or over paid or something.

Editor: Not to mention that you can use the report to justify a lower price. If you feel the condition doesn’t warrant the full price you’d have documentation to back it up.

K: On that topic, you’re a car person, uh, the reason we bought that car without a prior inspection is because they told us the price wasn’t good unless we did the deal that night. They made it seem like it was their financing or something. Was that just a ploy to make us buy right then, or is possibly true?

Editor: Hmm. Well it’s possible. However, I’d be more inclined to believe they were motivated like that if it was the end of the month, especially the last quarter of the year. That’s when there’s a big push to move inventory and earn out their dealer cash.

Husband: So you figure it was a tactic?

Editor: We talk to a lot of dealerships and I’ll tell you what we’ve found. Many are more honest than you’d think they are, but the system leans in their favor and they know it. They could be a part of the solution, but a lot of people make a lot of money running like it is. Just think of the experience level difference in this case. The average American buys a car every five years, they move multiple cars a day. Nine out of ten people who leave a car lot aren’t coming back. There is 90% chance if they don’t sell you something right then you’ll buy from someone else. They know that and they train specifically to overcome your objections. There’s going to be a lot of pressure to get you in a car—period.

Husband: So that’s why they all advertise that they have acres and acres of cars. So it seems likely that your dream car is there someplace.

K: But in the end they will fit you in a car whether it’s right for you or not.

Editor: Well some will, some won’t. That parts not some great conspiracy. Psychologically if they get close to right car for you, you’ll defend your decision to buy to avoid feelings of failure.

Husband: Ouch!

Editor: I’m not trying to say that’s what happened here. It’s very possible that the process of searching for a car refined and changed what you were looking for. However, you did start out looking for a cross-over and buy a sedan.

K: In shopping though we didn’t find a cross-over with fuel economy that was easy to get in and out of. Well, we found one. I’m not 100% sure why we didn’t just wait until one of those came along used for the right price.

Editor: Or you could have tried a dealership in Portland.

Husband: Well that was a function of our limited time to look. I don’t want to waste time fighting rush hour traffic just to find out the car they had online sold that morning or something.

Editor: So then why not send an inspector? I noticed you always brought the cars to your inspector, but the service you use will travel to any car in 75 miles.

K: I think we went about the search wrong from the beginning.

Husband: It’s starting to look like it.

Editor: Well that’s why we at the Kicker were sort of disappointed in your experience. We had in mind that we could chronical a car shopping experience that went so well, it would encourage others to shop with confidence. We hear a lot of horror stories which we’ve discounted as probably the exception. We followed your experience, which wasn’t horrible, I mean you folks found and bought a great car for a fair price in less than ten days. It’s certainly not aweful.

K: No.

Husband: I just feel like it could have been easier. Walk into any other retail place and say, “My bank says I can spend $20,000 with you today,” and they’re going to treat you like a king. That’s not how I’d describe any of the car lots we visited.

Editor: (chuckling) Right. I hear you. The experience should be entirely different. So what is the take away here?

Husband: Let’s brainstorm how someone should go about buying a car.

K: It doesn’t exist. You’d have to change the entire industry. You’d need a dealer with an enormous selection that you could look though online…

Editor: There is one of those. Advertises a lot. I won’t mention the name but it rhymes with Starmax…

K: They don’t allow prepurchase inspections.

Editor: Really?

Husband: No that’s one thing I’ll say about the local dealerships. Some hadn’t heard of it, but none of them said, no.

Editor: Yeah, in our experience when someone is willing to shell out the money for inspection they are pretty serious about buying. Inspectors we’ve spoken with have told us that an inspection nearly always leads to a sale.

Husband: That’s surprising.

Editor: It really just reduces the grey area about the value of the car. Dealers are ready to haggle a little over price, so if a buyer says, “give it a break job and new tires and I’ll buy it,” that’s pretty easy concession.

K: Back to the idea of what could someone do differently, I’d like to say that we did do somethings right. I think we were right to start at the bank. Otherwise I’d have had to take their word on what loan I’d qualify for. I mean in our negotiation the car price moved less than the interest rate.

Husband: Yeah I think I was so focused on choosing the right type of car that I went to the dealership too early in the process. Knowing now, how hard it is to get away from a lot, I wish there was a way to go there at the end of the process.

K: But we learned a lot by doing it.

Editor: One of the things I’d like to see is more competition between dealerships and private party sales. I’m really disappointed that your bank limited you to a dealership car. With third party inspection, a lender should feel comfortable making a loan on any car.

K: Well and they told me the reason was that they need that inspection packet from the dealership that shows that the car is worth buying.

Husband: That’s ridiculous. The reason we insisted on our own inspectors was because they (the dealership) do that inspection for themselves. They have to screen out the cars they take in to see if they can make money on the vehicle, but then they turn around and act like they’ve done me this favor. Look at all the cars we didn’t try to sell you. Big whoop. I don’t care about those cars I care about this one. The tires passed your inspection. Okay, can you tell me the criteria by which you determined that? No, you can’t.

Editor: That’s true. Well, we’ve taken up enough of your time. I think we can safely say that there’s a lot that goes into having the optimum car shopping experience. I don’t know that anyone does it “right,” so I certainly don’t want you two to feel like you messed up. Just, in talking it over with our writers we thought, there’s got to be a better way.

K: I still say that the ideal way doesn’t exist. I mean, really. Let’s talk about it. I want to be able to go to one place one the internet and do it all. I’d put in my financials and while the lenders are competing for who’s going to give me the best terms I enter my current car in and they start determining if I should trade it in or sell it private party. Then I schedule an inspection and if my “trade in” passes then the site helps me sell it, while I figure out what I want to replace it with. I should be able to scan the inventory of every dealer and private sale in a 50 mile radius or something. Then I could have it inspected. I mean I shouldn’t have to set foot on the lot until I’m going to buy the car.

Husband: I still think I’s need to go sit in cars in order to narrow down what I want.

K: Well you are better at telling them, “I’m not going to buy, I’m leaving.”

Husband: Well I thought so, but they got me. All they had to do was say, we’ll give you what you want if you buy tonight and they next thing you know we’re buying a car without even an inspection. I’m just glad it turned out okay. It could have gone very wrong.

Editor: So you’d actually recommend starting with getting your current car inspected to establish the value?

K: Yes.

Husband: Absolutely. Then the bank, and to be fair we did a lot of shopping for the car but we didn’t personally look around for the best interest rate. We just went through our usual bank.

Editor So step two is the bank. Then what?

K: Then you need to narrow it down to what car is really going to work for you, and then shop around online for the right deal. We were more willing to compromise on what car we wanted than on our total price.

Husband: Actually, step 0.5, before any of that is to go shopping when you aren’t desperate for a car and the dealers are motivated to sell. Like you said, the end of the month when you’re not desperate.

K: Definitely send the inspector around to whatever car is a serious contender. And another thing we did well was negotiate a bulk rate with our inspection service. We ultimately got a discount on all the inspections after the first one. That really helped.

Editor: Well, I think that’s some pretty good advice. I just hope people take it seriously.

A Car Buying Odyssey: part 4


K and her husband needed to buy a new car that fit their young family. After 6 long days, 5 dealerships, 7 car lots and two close calls they finally bought a car from a dealership. The negotiations look long into the night and couple felt they one every major point they wanted. The car had higher mileage than desired and no navigation or backup camera, but met all the other criteria they were looking for. They got the interest rate they wanted, the price they wanted, the trade in for their vehicle they wanted, and the monthly payment they needed. However, they felt that they’d compromised by agreeing to buy under the pressure of time constraint and because they didn’t have time to get it inspected.

Because they were taking a big gamble they couple is now awaiting the result of their inspection.

Part 1 link

Part 2 link

Part 3 link

Part 4 link

The fallout:

The next morning, K’s husband flexed his schedule to allow him to take the car for inspection. He enjoyed the drive over, but sat nervously in the inspector’s office while they went through the car from top to bottom.

The inspector noted evidence that the car had been a fender bender of some kind. The repairs made it difficult to spot which made it not a real concern. There was condensation in the mirror lights indicating the seals had dried out. There wasn’t any way to know how if that was an easy fix or not, but that wasn’t a really big deal to the couple. The engine, interior, and performance testing came back with very good scores.

The vehicle history made no mention of an accident, but the inspector indicated that accidents go unreported often. The only prior owner of the car had been a rental company which is why the car had such high mileage. The inspector echoed what K and her husband had been told by several people in the auto industry, that rental agencies maintain their fleets well and that shouldn’t really detract from the overall value of the car.

The inspector did find a one inch cut in the sidewall of a tire, which may or may not be a safety concern. Because the depth of the gouge was uncertain that impacted the value estimate by the cost of one tire. However, the car checked out great and received a “Very Good” rating.

Final analysis:

When K received the news via text from her husband she was visibly relieved. They value range on the car was somewhere between $17,600 and $18,300. Since the couple had negotiated the price to $17,999 and gotten the trade-in value and financing they wanted, they felt like they’d received a fair deal.

Taken as a whole they rated their experience as an A for results, and an F for experience. In short, they were exhausted and stressed. Getting a Sedan was a second choice since it didn’t have the amount of cargo space and baby seat room they hoped for, but it did have great fuel economy. All and all the couple felt they’d learned a lot about what to do next time, but they still wanted a better way to car shop.

From the staff here at the Kicker, we agree. We took on following this couple’s car shopping experience with the stated goal of taking the mystery and worry out of car shopping. Instead we found validation for the typical car shopper’s anxiety. Especially if you compare car shopping to house shopping.

If you’re thinking about buying a car soon, here’s some tips (inspired by ABCnews.go.com) to help you succeed.

  1. Never, ever, buy a used car without an inspection. Most private party sellers don’t really know if there’s something going mechanically wrong with their car and car dealerships inspect cars upon intake to determine if they want to sell the car at their lot or wholesale it at an auction. The vehicle history is often out of date. You need the current condition verified by someone who works for you.
  2. Calculate what you can afford to spend on a car including payment, insurance, gas and maintenance. It should be less than 20% of your total monthly spending.
  3. The age old debate between buying new and used is harder to call than in the past. After cash for clunkers, used cars have been running high and auto makers have reduced cost to compete for the increased need. Used cars still give more bang for your buck, but new cars have better warranty and can have lower interest.
  4. Don’t start at the dealership, research the cars you might want online. Pay attention to reviews, as well as features, and use MSRP as the price until you’ve settled on the car you want.
  5. Take the monthly amount you can spend and subtract 5%, then multiply by 60 or 72 to figure out what you can afford. When you’ve narrowed down the list use a site like Edmonds.com to establish the maintenance cost of that type of vehicle, and factor that in. You can also get more accurate numbers by figuring miles you already drive a week and calling your insurance agent for a quote.
  6. com offers calculators to help you figure interest. Shop around for the best interest rate so that you have something to compare a dealership off against. A dealership will consider your trade-in value or down payment, the interest rate on their financing and the final price of the car fluidly, so you can reduce the number of variables you’re dealing with at the time of purchase by arranging for your own financing in advance. Credit unions most often beat banks when financing cars.
  7. Use an interest rate vs rebate calculator to help you decide which option is best in your situation. A Trick to be on guard for is a dealership that offers a great interest rate (if approved) only to come back with a higher interest rate claiming you didn’t qualify for the lower rate.
  8. The prices to have in hand when shopping are Invoice price and MSRP on new cars, and wholesale price and dealer’s asking price on used vehicles. Begin negotiation by establishing the price for the vehicle you want before any discounts or rebates are applied. The dealer needs to make money, but both parties should be able to agree on the fair price for that car in that condition.
  9. Ask the dealer if you are eligible for military, student, or credit union membership discounts. KBB.com or Edmonds may have information about Dealer incentives manufacturers are offering dealers on the new car you’ve selected you can ask the dealer to split that incentive with you. Another place dealerships make money is selling you a service contract. The minimum markup on a service contract is $1,000 dollars and some dealerships don’t know that they can force that number lower. Refuse to pay the full price for a service contract. You don’t need to pay interest on $1,500 of pure profit for the dealer.
  10. Be very wary of “Internet” prices when researching. These are loss leader prices that dealerships use to get you onto the lot. The price in the window will be a couple thousand dollars more. If you found the car advertised for less—that’s the price of the car.
  11. Car dealerships will start talking about your trade in right away, especially if you drive it into the lot. After establishing the price of the new car, and all rebates, you can talk about your trade in. Do your research in advance and know what your car is worth. Don’t settle for a wholesale price on your trade in, KBB and Edmonds will help you establish your trade-ins value. You should also consider having your current car inspected to verify the current condition. It may be better to private sale your car and use cash for a down payment.
  12. Say no to any extras your dealership offers. You can research them online, apart from the pressure of car buying, and then go back later. Most dealerships are happy to let you buy things afterward.
  13. Plan on keeping your car for at least 5 years. K and her husband lugged their baby seat with them to all six days of shopping because it needed to fit into the back seat of any car they considered. They also installed it several times, as some cars are difficult to install.

However, the Kicker would like to challenge the automotive industry, which hasn’t really revolutionized car shopping since Henry Ford used the assembly line to make car affordable. We challenge you to come up with a better experience for your customers. We’re not talking about friendlier sales people, or letting customers take cars home for a day. We’re talking about something radical, like paperwork that can be finished in 15 minutes or complete customization even on used cars. Who knows what you could come up with if you really thought about customer experience instead of pushing sales. That’s our challenge to the automotive industry. We can do better.