How wireless Internet can save you big bucks while car shopping.

People use the Internet all the time to find deals. Just about any time I am researching a purchase I check Google Shopping Search, eBay and Amazon to see if I can save a few bucks. What follows are a couple of real life examples of how I recently saved quite a few bucks while shopping for a new car, thanks to Google and my iPhone.

It all started with a couple of friends who had just purchased a 2008 Jeep Wrangler. They got what I considered to be an excellent deal, and with one more 2008 at the dealer they talked to the salesman and he was willing to give me the same price without enduring the three hours of haggling that my friend Jeri put him through.

When we started doing the paperwork he said he was giving me the same price as Jeri, except for the wheels on the Jeep. Seems a few weeks back someone stole all the spares off the Jeeps on the lot, and rather than buy factory spares they pulled all the tires off one Jeep to use as spares, and bought that Jeep shiny rims and new tires. I asked him what the difference would be, and while he was talking to the general manager I went out to the Jeep to Google the specs and prices of the tires they bought as replacements. He came back and told me the difference would be two grand; and I asked less or more. He laughed and said more of course, since this was an 'upgrade'. I told him no-go and showed him my math:

  $600 - new factory rim (a guestimate from a previous repair)
  $250 - new bf goodrich P255/75R17 tire (what the dealer charges for this tire)
------
  $850 - per replaced tire
 $3400 - x4 tires

  $148 - Ultra Motorsports rim
  $142 - Nitto P265/75R17 tire
-----
  $290 - per replaced tire
 $1160 - x4 tires

The 'upgrade' costs $2240 _less_ than the factory rims and tires, and I'd prefer BF 
Goodrich over a tire manufacturer who I was unaware of until that day and which I 
could put on my Jeep for a LOT less _and_ still get to keep my factory tires to sell 
on craigslist.

Faced with facts, and that I wasn't going to accept this 'upgrade' unless they took several thousand dollars off the price, they agreed to swap my tires for the ones on a 2009 Jeep sitting on the lot. Just because the dealer says it is an 'upgrade' doesn't mean it is worth more money.

Next up was an alarm system 'upgrade'. The Echo-2 is a 2-way radio module that alerts you when your car alarm is activated. I was offered this upgrade 'at cost' of $740; but only right then and there if I rolled it into the loan. I passed, and did some googling. The Echo-2 module from Omega alarms costs $79 on eBay. According to the manufacturer's manual, it connects with three cables to existing ports on the alarm, and looks like it takes all of 15 minutes to install and configure. Yup, 'at cost'...

My single most important piece of advice to any car buyer is to not be afraid to challenge what the dealer says. Secondly, don't be afraid to google the real answers right in front of them; since they will be less likely to spew bullshit if they already know you are going to research and confront. Don't mistake the confidence they exude with being right, and you need to stand up to them when they are bullshitting you.

Oh, and if the dealership tried to talk you out of changing your own oil with synthetic Mobil-1 so they can sell you their regular maintenance package, and they say "using synthetic will void your warranty", just tell them you want that in writing so you can send it to Mobil's legal department. I use Mobil-1 and I get really annoyed when dealers try to tell me this will void my warranty. To me, this is a long term investment. I owned a Geo Storm that I fed nothing but Mobil-1 and decent gas, and in the 14 years I had it I got a consistent 30 MPG and had no engine related issues. My personal belief is that car dealerships want to change your oil so they can use crap oil that reduces the overall lifespan of your vehicle. It really isn't in the best interest of your dealership to help you get 14+ years of hard life out of your vehicle. Same thing for my mom's car: same diet, and currently at 13 years with no engine problems.

-Chris

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