Buying a car right now is insane

My oldest son started driving earlier this year. We have been looking on and off for a car for him. With back to school and he being a senior in high school, his desire to get a car increased dramatically. So, we started the process. It’s not surprising to learn that, in this car market, used cars are selling for insane prices. My daily driver, a 2017 Honda Accord Sport with 33k miles is now, according to, worth a several thousand more than what I paid for it new.

Here are several observations we made over the last two months of looking for a used car. Some of these places were so bad that it is a public service to mention them by name.

  • Dealerships showrooms are empty of new cars. We went to a Toyota dealership that had just one brand new car on the whole lot. We were looking for used but it was very weird to walk into an empty car showroom.
  • Sales staff are at the bare minimum. When we pulled up at Old Saybrook Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM dealership, through the window, the showroom was entirely empty of cars. In the front window was a salesman sound asleep in his office chair. When we went in, there was no one to greet us. All we got was a yell over a cubicle wall. No one even got up.

The sales tactics are worse than ever –

  • Some places won’t quote you an “out the door” price unless you come into the showroom. This is no matter how hard you work to get them to reveal the actual price and fees that you will face. What they are trying to hide is sometimes hard to believe.
  • One place had pretty decent prices advertised online. But, after talking with them, the fine print was pointed out. “Please note that the Special Price reflects a $1,250 Bertera Subaru of Hartford Loyalty Rebate which requires a trade-in of a previously purchased Bertera Subaru of Hartford vehicle”. Apparently, they don’t want their customers to have more than one vehicle purchased from them. Don’t tell their service department!
  • Many advertised prices require dealer financing and there is an up-charge for paying cash.
  • Other advertised prices assume a down payment is made in addition to the quoted price. I was seeing this as high as $2,000. Obviously done to game the car search sites and get on the radar of those searching by price. And, who isn’t?
  • My state (CT) allows a “dealer conveyance fee” to cover the costs of selling the car including paperwork, etc. This is traditionally very difficult and often impossible to negotiate under any car market conditions. It is printed on many sales contracts. The average fee is just over $400 but many dealers charge $500 to $700 for this. I’ve found that the only recourse is to have them discount the purchase price for the amount of the dealer conveyance fee. But, in this difficult used car market, it is not easy to get any discount from the asking price.
  • Some places automatically add on VIN etching and other “services” as non-negotiable extras.

This is probably the best/worst example of what we were seeing –

This includes the “dealer conveyance fee” of $698.72 (the highest we saw anywhere) and, on top of that, a Government Fee of $490.00 (a new registration in CT is only $177.00. I have no idea what the rest of this is). Plus they added the dreaded VIN ETCHing. And, that $750 Total Savings? It’s not valid for cash sales or those with outside financing.

Worst of all was Road Ready Used Cars which required all cars it sold to have rust proofing added. This was on top of the same problems as the previous dealership; a high conveyance fee, VIN etching add-on and an up-charge for paying cash.

Vehicle pricing includes all offers. Tax, Title and Registration not included in vehicle prices shown and must be paid by the purchaser. Prices do not reflect our $698 conveyance fee, $199 Vin Etch, and Rust Proofing starting at $799. Vehicles not applicable for rust proofing have paint protection added for $799.  All prices reflect a 5% finance savings.

I accepted that I would have to pay the conveyance fee and the VIN etching but they simply would not budge on the rust proofing requirement and only (kind of) flexed on it once I threatened to stop the conversation. This place was so darn proud of their rust proofing! I was informed that they have a dedicated person trained to do it. Luckily for us, they have a full page detailing it on their web site and it’s everything we’d hope to allow us to deep dive into what ? this is. This is so absurd I can’t help but dissecting this.

Watching the video, we hear that the application process requires the use of hazmat suits. Obviously, this is due to the aerosol nature of the application. It goes everywhere. Yet, there is no apparent masking done to any part of the vehicle in the video. This is more than obvious if we check out the ‘after’ pictures where we can see the body of the vehicle being rustproofed. There is lots of overspray directly on the rockers.

The product they are using, KS500 Sprayable Bitumen Underbody Protection, has a tech sheet which states “DO NOT spray on engine parts, the transmission, brakes, or exhaust system pipes”. Clearly though, they are coating the brakes. We see the rustproofing on the caliper and even on the face and edge of the rotor! Again, no masking looks to have been attempted even on parts that are not supposed to be coated. Even if they plan to come back in and clean the rotor, I really think that the next brake job on this vehicle is going to be extra painful to do.

The last thing we’ll highlight here is something we see in the below before and after comparison. That is the rust proofing of the spare tire with material applied to both the the wheel AND the tire.

This is just lazy. A spare tire is pretty easy to remove by design. Wouldn’t you be better to rust proof with the spare tire off of the vehicle and protect the body above the tire? Maybe they did this but, based on what I am seeing in the other pictures, I doubt it. Remember that this is the vehicle that they chose to feature as an example of how good their process is.

So, here we had a used car purchase which required rustproofing that’s applied for a cost starting at $799 and done so haphazardly that any benefits of it are offset by the overspray both directly and indirectly on your new-to-you car’s body, on the brakes and on other things you probably don’t want rustproofed. For me, even though the car I was looking at there was probably a great car and a great value, this requirement alone made me look elsewhere.

And, looking elsewhere is what we did. We ended up buying a Honda at Weeks Pre-owned in Danbury, CT where we paid a $499 dealer conveyance fee, $250 for registration and DMV fees, no additional cost for paying cash, the list price on the web site is what we paid (actually, we paid less as we even got a small reduction off the list price) and no VIN etching requirement (in reality, the car already had it done and it was never even mentioned).