Are You Being Taken For A Ride?

African American buyers spend more than anyone for new or used cars. Why are we getting "shafted"? Here's how to fight back.

Chicago survey found that dealers were more likely to volunteer information about the real price of a car to white males because they believed they already knew.

But African American consumers share some of the blame. Oscar Smith, a former car salesman in Nashville, says that “psychologically, it’s easier to sell a car to someone who is easily convinced that the monthly payments should be the basis of the buying decision. Most black customers are very forthcoming and want a car to drive home that day. Based on this, a key negotiating edge has been compromised within minutes.”

“Dealers are not used to African Americans coming in knowing what the car buying process is. The fact is we don’t do as much research as we should, or would, if we were buying something else, like a house,” says Randi Payton, publisher and editor-in-chief of African Americans On Wheels, an automotive magazine. “Buying a car is an emotional experience,” he adds.

Race aside, buying a car must involve consumer strategy and preparedness. The “mind game” played by hustling, fast-talking salespeople is not the only way to buy a car these days. Now consumers can access a barrage of information, from guidebooks to Internet Web sites. And there are a host of ways to buy a car, from auto brokers to wholesale buying clubs to matching services that pair dealers with customers looking for a fair price.

Traditionally, May, June and August are the best months for car sales; February, the slowest month. But that too may be shifting as buyers no longer exclusively go to the dealer to shop for or buy a car. Now you can shop online by logging onto Internet buying services, where you can check out models and prices and make purchases from subscribing dealers.

Auto-By-Tel (http://www.autobytel. com), an automotive purchase-lease site on the Internet, reports that over 30,000 potential buyers fill out a form in order to be contracted by subscribing dealers each month. According to a spokesperson Cassandra Cavanah, about 60% follow through and buy a car. “They’re not your typical car buyer, however. They don’t want to deal with the hassle of looking for a car, and they don’t want the headache of haggling,” she explains.

While dealers pay an annual and monthly fee to Auto-By-Tel to be a part of its dealer network, consumers pay nothing for the service. When a browser fills out the online purchase request form, one of the 1,400 dealers in the company’s nationwide network–usually within that area-follows up with a price within 48 hours. Meanwhile, you might also try your local warehouse buying club, like Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club or PriceCostco Inc.’s Price Club, for referrals to cut-rate dealers. Buoyed by the thousands of members in their areas, these warehouse clubs have enlisted local car dealers to offer club members price breaks on new and used cars, from Chevys to Mercedes.

Even if you don’t belong to membership purchasing clubs, you can seek out research organizations for pricing information. Traditional

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