Yep, I did it. I’m officially a minivan owner.

There was a time, not too long ago, where the words came out of my mouth - “I will never drive a minivan.” Here I am, however, driving around the Chicago suburbs in a minivan. All I’m missing is that stupid family sticker on the back window.


Unfortunately, minivans are just too freakin convenient. The turning point came on our vacation to Maui a few months back. We rented a minivan, and I was surprised at just how much easier it was to get around. The thing is, it wasn’t just a little bit easier, it was an order of magnitude easier. A 10x improvement over the SUV. It’s obvious why the minivan has a near monopoly on the transporting-a-bunch-of-kids market. So I had no choice. The minivan it is.

Anyways, the purpose of the post is to rant about how horrible the car buying experience still is. With all of the advancements in technology (namely, this thing called the Internet), you’d think that this process would have become more streamlined. Here’s how my car buying process went down. From research to keys in hand:

I did my research on Consumer Reports, which told me that the Honda Odyssey EX-L was the car to get. My wife gave the thumbs up, so within two minutes we had the make, model and trim picked out. Done.

Next I pull the TrueCar estimate, and a dealership in Chicago quotes me $31,481 for this exact car. Great. So far so good.

I send the quote for $31,481 to the neighborhood Honda dealership, who responds:
“I did get your email with the true car certificate. We are able to beat that price.”


I tell them I’d like to purchase the car, and ask if there is anything I can do to expedite the process once I’m there. I’m told, no, and just to show up and we’ll take care of it.

So I take the kids on a field trip to the friendly neighborhood Honda dealership. I give them instructions to start crying if they hear the words “Let me go talk to my manager in the back” from the nice guy across the table.

Here’s us playing in the trunk of our car waiting for the sales guy to come back.

A couple hours later - literally more than two hours later - he comes back with a quote that is higher than the price he told me they can beat. What the hell. This was incredibly frustrating. Another hour passes before we finally get the price negotiated to a few hundred dollars over what I was initially quoted. Finally, one last hour signing paper work.

Could somebody please explain to me why it takes four hours, in person at the dealership, to purchase a car? This is insane.

I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit thinking about this.

Today people research purchases online, long before stepping into the dealership. Mckinsey says that buyers narrow it down to an average of 2.2 cars before ever stepping foot into the dealership. I can’t help but to believe that I’m not the only one that makes a decision on the exact make, model, and trim solely from the internet.

My hunch is that dealerships are stuck with the paradigm that people begin their decision making process when they walk through the doors of the dealership. Just getting people into the dealership is their marketing department’s goal. This, I think, is backward.

This is the marketing department’s goal because they assume that they still need to “sell” to the buyer. But this is not always the case. I don’t want to be sold to. I already made my decision to purchase. Now I have to sit through their dog and pony show when I just want to buy the car!

Here is what I wish happened.

  1. I chat with a real-live sales person online.
  2. I tell the salesperson the exact car I wanted to buy, and what I was willing to pay.
  3. We negotiate via email over the next couple of days to agree on a price. (Really, I wish we could just get rid of all negotiations, but I’m trying to be realistic).
  4. I send all necessary information over to the salesman via the Internet before I walk into the dealership.
  5. I walk into the dealership. I sign a few papers. Or better yet - I sign an iPad. (It’s absolutely ridiculous how much paper is used.)
  6. I walk out the door twenty minutes later.

If a dealership would begin facilitating this type of process,they would have a huge edge on the market.

As I vented to the nice salesman helping me, he boasts that at least they don’t have a physical manual,as he points to a CD. I respond: “My computer no longer has a CD-ROM drive.”


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