Basic buying rules from a former car salesman

Steve Pescatore told an assembled crowd of about 30 middle-aged car drivers and buyers that car salespeople are not to blame for trying to make a sale.

“You don’t get mad at a fox for eating chickens,” said Pescatore, managing partner for the consulting group Auto Advisors and a former car salesman.

The power of the consumer, he said, is in choosing to resist such frivolous add-ons as the power ashtray.

Pescatore was the guest speaker at a seminar at the USF Credit Union Wednesday evening.

The No. 1 piece of advice Pescatore shared with the crowd was to never lease a car.

“You’re not buying a car,” he said. “You’re buying a payment.”And, buy a used car whenever possible, he said.

Pescatore told the audience he bought a 1999 GMC Yukon for nearly half-price. The vehicle, he said, was two years old and the odometer read 40,000. It was originally priced at $38,000 but Pescatore drove it away for $19,000.

But Pescatore warned that car buyers are misled by used cars with low mileage.

“I live on a boat,” he said. “I saw people that would leave their cars at the marina for months, and when they got back, the cars were junk.” Over time, Pescatore said, cars that are not driven regularly develop problems and are often less reliable than a car that has 100,000 or more miles.

Above all else, Pescatore said, always finance through a credit union. Credit unions work for their customers, always looking out for their best interest, he said.

Pescatore admitted that college students are often swept away by the beauty of a new car or truck. His suggestion for young, inexperienced car buyers is to call a woman by the name of Felice Lee, an auto advisor at the USF Credit Union.

“(She) can hand carry you through (the car buying experience),” he said.

Lee said even if a deal has already been made, the USF Credit Union can often refinance a car loan, achieving a lower interest rate for the customer.

“It really is simply the lack of experience that makes students and other young people particularly vulnerable at a car dealership,” Lee said.

The sales process, Pescatore said, is planned from the moment a potential customer arrives on the lot to the very second they drive away.

“It’s called, ‘A Road to a Sale’,” he said of the process that is well taught to dealership employees.

The first step is the initial meeting when the car salesperson strikes up a conversation, sometimes based on a bumper sticker he or she sees on the customer’s original car. The conversation will inevitably lead to two pieces of information: what the customer does for a living and whether another person, a spouse or parent will be involved in the sale.

“They don’t care where you work,” Pescatore said. “They only care that you are gainfully employed.”

The car salesperson then chooses a car, nothing too overwhelming, and takes the customer for a test drive, usually a pre-determined course.

If a customer has a trade-in, an appraisal process must be endured.

“They’re going to ask questions that will degrade the used car,” Pescatore said.

What happens next is often the most intimidating time for the customer.

“Would you get into a boxing ring with Mike Tyson?” Pescatore asked. “That’s what a meeting with a business manager is like.” The business manager may make a customer feel great, complimenting their hard-nosed negotiating, but may persuade the customer into agreeing to pay more for warranties and other incidentals.

In the end, Pescatore said, customers should remember his three basic points of advice: never lease, buy used when possible and always finance through a credit union. Also, he said, customers should never choose low APR above a rebate and stay away from Korean cars such as Daewoo and Kia, because the Korean government is unstable and these models loose their value quickly.

For more information, visit the Auto Advisors Web site at .

  • Contact Rachel Pleasantat