After a quick mention on Twitter, a number of people have asked how we managed to buy a car without visiting the dealership we bought it from. The answer is pretty simple: email.
With Kate’s old car, a 2002 Volvo S60, having crossed the 210,000 mile mark with a relatively expensive exhaust system repair looming, we’ve been in the market for some time. My efforts at convincing her to replace it with a pickup truck having failed miserably, another Volvo was the default choice. We’ve both been very happy with the reliability and maintenance record of our Volvos, and this is the second in a row for Kate that’s eclipsed 200,000 miles.
So we headed to our local dealership to test drive two models with a little more space than her S60 (new baby, new priorities): the XC60 and XC70. Kate had no real preference, so I went to work finding the best deal we could on either.
Step one was tracking down every Volvo dealership within a reasonable driving distance: 110 miles or so. I would have stretched it further to include Boston-area dealerships, but with a new baby time is at a premium. Interestingly, Google Maps was less than helpful for this exercise, including as it did a host of service stations that weren’t relevant for this search. Volvo’s website gave me a list, however, and I emailed five dealerships in New Hampshire and Maine with basic information: the two models we were considering, the lease terms we expected, the details of our trade-in, and so on. I (eventually) got five replies.
From there, I simply negotiated over email, taking the best offers and seeing whether or not other dealers would match or beat them. It took a couple of rounds of this, because a few of the dealerships were more traditional and wanted to do things over the phone or in person, but eventually one of them (Portland Volvo) was willing to go the extra mile and give us a higher end model at our price target and we were done.
Even better for us, Portland Volvo has a drop off delivery option. The first time I spoke to anyone on the phone was the day before Christmas Eve to put down a deposit. Three days later, I called their finance department to provide the necessary information for the credit application and the car was dropped off at our house an hour later. The driver brought all the necessary paperwork, which we signed and then he drove back to the dealership in our trade-in.
All in all, that’s about as painless a buying process as you’ll find, with the possible exception of Tesla. Not every dealership will drop off the vehicle, of course, but there’s no reason apart from test drives at this point to visit a dealership to talk price. It’s much more efficient to stick to email, engage a number of dealerships and let them compete with one another. If you’re working with one that has an internet sales department, as well, expect them to be much more efficient.
So that’s how we leased our new car without setting foot in the dealership.