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8 Tips for Haggling at a Dealership, According to Insiders

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Whether you're looking for a new or used car, when you visit a dealership, you better be prepared to haggle. Most of us know the basics—do your research, don’t be afraid to walk away—but negotiating can be a tricky business. We asked industry insiders to tell us what works best when haggling over the price of a car.

1. ALWAYS SELL OUTRIGHT.

If you’re trading in your old vehicle for a new one, you’ll typically get a better deal if you just sell it outright, says Anthony Curren, a manager at a New York car dealership. While most dealerships will low-ball the value of your trade-in, new dealerships are especially sneaky about it. New dealerships are notorious for this. Let's say you come to my lot and want to get $1500 from your trade in. I will tell you it's worth $300, for example. You go to a new dealership and tell them you want $1500. They give you $1500, but add $1200 somewhere on the back side. New dealerships have a lot more play in their numbers, and therefore can give you more perceived value,” Curren says.

In other words, they’ll give you what they want, but they sneak in the difference when they sell you the new vehicle—maybe they’ll charge excessive dealer fees or an unnecessary warranty with an even bigger price tag. Before you resort to trading in your car, Curren suggests trying to sell it yourself first. “Put your vehicle up on Craigslist for a few days before you come to buy the car, and if you don't get any bites, trade it for what you can.”

2. GET QUOTES BASED ON PROFIT MARGIN.

When you negotiate a better price, don’t just get a number for that specific vehicle, says Mike Rabkin, founder of From Car to Finish and a professional negotiator with over 23 years of experience. Instead, ask for the discount related to the suggested retail price or invoice price (the amount the dealer actually paid for the vehicle).

For example, let’s say you're buying a new Corolla. Instead of talking the dealer down to $16,000, you would instead ask for $1300 less than the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (which is approximately $17,300). “This way, you can use it for whatever vehicle is available that starts with that description,” Rabkin says.

This discourages dealers from sneaking in a higher price for a different make, model, or style of vehicle. Going back to the Corolla example, if you want to look at a totally different model or just a vehicle with different options, you can easily negotiate the same discount: $1300 off whatever the MSRP is, regardless of the vehicle. If the second car you're considering has more basic features, this could very well be less than the $16,000 you originally wanted to pay.

3. USE MILEAGE AS LEVERAGE.

Let’s say you’re buying a used car, and you score competing offers for the same model at different dealerships. In this case, you can use the car with the higher mileage to your advantage, says Curren. “I'll give you an easy example. The customer was down to my vehicle and a vehicle on another lot. We were the exact same on price, but mine had 100,000 [miles] and theirs had 160,000. The car they were trading in had 200,000. By the time the customer paid off the loan at the other guy's lot, they would be back in the same place [in terms of mileage]. On the other hand, they could drive the car at my lot for another 7 or 8 years, and then trade in. In the end, I got the sale because my car had less miles. My tip here is that if they were going to go with the other guy, they could have negotiated to pay less because they were getting more miles.”

4. EMAIL DEALERSHIPS FOR NEW CAR PRICES.

Many buyers will skip the negotiation process altogether and simply email local dealerships and ask for the best price. It sounds simple, but it works. Chris Abouraad, a former dealership owner and current Sales Team Manager at CarGurus.com, says, “For new car shoppers, sending emails to local dealerships that have the exact desired model and asking for the best price can result in getting the best price."

He adds, “It can also lead to an influx of phone calls and emails from dealerships, so one tip is to create a new email address just for this process.” However, Abouraad points out that this tactic rarely works well for used car shoppers, since each car is different.

5. ALWAYS DEAL WITH MANAGERS.

When asking for prices via email Rabkin says you should seek to finalize the deal with a manager. “They’re the ones who can decide price on the spot, and aren’t on commission,” he explains. “Managers have quotas to hit each month, so the end of the month is a good time to negotiate, as they may get a bonus for hitting their quota, and you’re the customer that puts them over the top, getting you a better deal.”

6. LEAVING THE LOT DOESN’T ALWAYS WORK.

The age-old tactic of leaving the lot in a huff? It’s outdated, says Abouraad. “Years ago, the dealership made sure to keep shoppers on their lot, but now that isn’t as common or as effective with an incredible amount of information available online. Plus, recent research has shown that 10 years ago, shoppers visited an average of five dealerships when buying a car and today they’re visiting one or two dealerships. This shows that salespeople, much like the car research process, are evolving over time.”

These days, shoppers already know what they want and have done a fair amount of research online. As a result, Abouraad says, fewer customers find the need to leave. Typically, both the customer and the dealership knows what’s reasonable, so there aren’t as many surprises.

7. GET PRE-APPROVED.

Beyond the price of the vehicle, you can negotiate your financing, too, and perhaps score a better rate. The key, Curren says, is getting pre-approved for your loan elsewhere. “Go to your bank, get pre-approved for an amount, then tell the dealer you want to get into a car, and can do no more than this," he says. "They will find a way to make it work for you, or they will lose the business. If you can gain control on this aspect of the sale, you gain the upper hand.”

Curren adds a word of warning: “Do not lie, because dealers will always call and double check the pre-approval amount.”

8. ASK FOR REBATES.

Rabkin adds that there are often unadvertised rebates you can score just by asking. There are often discounts for military personnel, senior citizens, college students, and first-time buyers. Sometimes, there are even loyalty rebates if you own the same brand of car already. “These aren’t from the dealer, and lower the price of the vehicle,” Rabkin says. “It’s up to you to ask the dealer what all the qualifying rebates at the time are, as they may not offer this information.”

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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Health
200 Health Experts Call for Ban on Two Antibacterial Chemicals
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In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on antibacterial soap and body wash. But a large collective of scientists and medical professionals says the agency should have done more to stop the spread of harmful chemicals into our bodies and environment, most notably the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban. They published their recommendations in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The 2016 report from the FDA concluded that 19 of the most commonly used antimicrobial ingredients are no more effective than ordinary soap and water, and forbade their use in soap and body wash.

"Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do," Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that these chemicals may actually do more harm than good. They don't keep us from getting sick, but they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. Triclosan and triclocarban can also damage our hormones and immune systems.

And while they may no longer be appearing on our bathroom sinks or shower shelves, they're still all around us. They've leached into the environment from years of use. They're also still being added to a staggering array of consumer products, as companies create "antibacterial" clothing, toys, yoga mats, paint, food storage containers, electronics, doorknobs, and countertops.

The authors of the new consensus statement say it's time for that to stop.

"We must develop better alternatives and prevent unneeded exposures to antimicrobial chemicals," Rolf Haden of the University of Arizona said in the statement. Haden researches where mass-produced chemicals wind up in the environment.

The statement notes that many manufacturers have simply replaced the banned chemicals with others. "I was happy that the FDA finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps," said Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse."

Blum, Haden, Schettler, and their colleagues "urge scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers" to avoid antimicrobial chemicals outside of medical settings. "Where antimicrobials are necessary," they write, we should "use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems."

They recommend that manufacturers label any products containing antimicrobial chemicals so that consumers can avoid them, and they call for further research into the impacts of these compounds on us and our planet.

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