How I Saved $4,200 Buying a Car by Email

Check out the alternatives

I was interested in the Honda Accord Hybrid.  I went to a nearby dealer to check it out and I liked the car.  They told me that the car was very in-demand and quoted it for $1200 over MSRP (sticker price).  I was unimpressed.  I also looked into buying services, but they weren't interested in dealing cars that were in high demand.  I'd heard of sending faxes to area fleet managers to get a good deal so I decided to try something similar.

Cast the net

First I decided on the exact options and color I wanted.  This was prety easy for the Accord Hybrid - there are only 4 colors and one option!  I was willing to drive up to 3 hours to get the deal I liked, so I identified all the dealers within this range.  Next I sent an email to the internet sales manager at each of these dealers.  I simply described the car I wanted, stated that I was ready to buy, and asked for their best price.  Honda made this easy - their website enabled me to list their dealers by distance then submit a request for quote from each online.

Timing is everything

Sales quotas are usually measured at month-end, quarter-end, and year-end, so I thought these would be good times to buy.  I wanted to buy the car on the last Saturday of the month, so on the preceding Sunday I sent out 40 requests that would be in the internet managers' inboxes Monday morning. 

Dealer responses

By Monday night I received 22 quotes, the highest of which was MSRP.  I created a spreadsheet with columns for dealer, internet manager name, and price, then simply sorted them by price.  The best offer was $4000 below MSRP, so I sent an email back and said I'd take his offer.

Too good to be true?

On Wednesday the internet manager replied "oops" - the price he quoted me was without options so his real price would be $2000 below MSRP.  This was too close to bait-and-switch for my taste.  Back to the spreadsheet.  On Monday one internet manager had quoted $1700 below MSRP and when he didn't hear back from me, re-quoted at  $3000 below MSRP ($200 over dealer invoice).  Seemed kinda devious. 

The deal

But another internet manager quoted $3000 below MSRP straight out.  I liked that, so on Wednesday I replied to his email and asked him to give me the rest of the price details (in California sales tax depends on the county of residence).  He confirmed the details so I phoned him Thursday.  I made an appointment for Saturday, drove 2 hours,  and picked up the car.

How you can do it

  1. Decide on the car and options you want
  2. Find the email addresses of the internet managers
  3. Send emails to each and tabulate their responses
  4. Pick the deal you like and confirm it with the internet manager
  5. Pick up your car