Why Does It Take So Long To Buy A Car?

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You read the magazines, you read the online car reviews, you compare prices on the car configurators. You know what you want before you step into the showroom. So why does it take hours to buy a new car?

This question came up today when we discussed how Google Cars could turn the car-buying game on its head. Reader F1_nothing_else_matters chimed in with some advice on how to get a good deal, saying he's been working in car sales for no less than 17 years. You can read his whole discussion right here.

When he pointed out that you should never come into a dealership right before closing time, however, reader LoganSix wondered why for chissakes it takes so long to sell a car anyway.

"what would you say if your boss asked you to work 3 hours past close"

Well, I'm salaried, so I would have to go along with it.

However, why in the hell does it take a dealership 4 hours to sell me a car when I know exactly what car I wanted when I walked in? Talk about wasting time


F1_nothing_else_matters replied, explaining just what goes on in a dealership that takes so much goddamn time.

Most of the larger transactions I make with my commercial customers take less than 30 minutes. They're usually 10-20 times higher than a "car deal". Typically if it takes that long it's because someone is being a moron. Here's the price, here's the paperwork. Shake my hand and let's go.

It's the process of this - We didn't make much on the vehicle. What we'll do next is send the customer through the meat grinder. Turn them over to the "aftermarket guy" hopefully he'll sell them some bullshit product. Then while he's working his deal the finance department is busy shopping your rate so they can either make a couple of points on the interest and then squeeze a warranty upsell into that $450-$495 payment you reluctantly agreed on that is actually $425 a month at a lower term than what you agreed to. This way it looks like a great value when they show you that for just a little more you can have all these products that you really don't need. It does take time to finish paperwork, there's a lot of data to be entered into the loan application and at times you have to call the lender to work them for a lower rate. Most banks have what they call a rate matrix based off of where your FICO score falls. Based on your score the dealership can actually do what they call a "spot delivery" where they don't even send the info to the bank until the next day. If you're below about a 675 FICO they may have issues doing this. If you're paying cash, the process should take no longer than 45 minutes.

Where I work, there are no aftermarket guys, the salespeople do the transaction from start to finish. We don't have to ask our boss for anything regarding the price. We know how much margin we need and if we can't get it we move on. We do have a business manager, but he does much more than sell crap, and we use him for just about everything. There's an easy way to do business and most dealerships prefer the hard way because they're too scared to try anything else.


We welcome anyone else with experience working in a car dealership to chime in as well. For the rest of us, what's the longest you've had to sit and work through buying a car?

Photo Credit: Alden Jewell