Current Affairs

Why buying a car sucks

Last month we re-mortgaged our house without a single phone call, without a trip to a bank or meeting with a broker, without even leaving our home. We found the mortgage rate we wanted online. I filled out the forms mostly on my phone. The appraiser came to our house.  We uploaded documents. The closing happened at our dining room table. Everything was so simple. Our way.

I buy groceries online. (well, sometimes.)

I buy insurance on my phone.

I buy and sell stocks on my phone.

I run payroll for my business on my phone.

I pay my bills with my phone.

With my iPhone I can do a whole lot of things.

From trivial things like picking a restaurant for dinner where I can look up suggested menu items, look at ratings, learn about nearby parking, and whether they accept credit cards.

To serious things like managing my IRA or refinancing my mortgage. I can do all of that on my phone.

But Not Cars

But I can’t buy a car with my phone. I can’t download the Ford app, pick out the make and model, customize the colors and accessories, pick a payment plan that works for me, and have it delivered to my driveway.

In 2017, you can’t do that.

Yes, there are apps like TrueCar or CarsDirect… but every one of those just does the same thing. You can select a car, research it, read expert reviews, watch videos about the car… but you can’t actually buy it. At the end of the day those apps are just lead generation forms for car dealers.

Fill out an interest form with your name, email, phone number and they’ll send you a quote.

They won’t send you a quote. I know this because I’ve spent the last several days trying to get quotes.

All they are going to do is pass your personal information off to a series of nearby dealerships where their “internet specialist” will send you form emails, text messages, and phone calls. Endless, non-stop phone calls. I’ve received more than 50 calls in 2 days. 

At the end of the day it’s the same old, same old. Some sleazy car salesmen glad hands you in the parking lot and wants to sell you a $495 clear coat you don’t want.

And I hate it. You hate it. Everyone in the world hates it.

And yet millions of people buy a car through a dealership every single year. Why? It sucks.

The Way It’s Always Been Done

I hate the phrase, “That’s how we’ve always done it.” That phrase locks you into failure.

We need to counter that notion with this: What we did got us here. To get where we want to go we need to learn, adapt, and get better. 

Just like that’s the truth for car dealerships fighting against the way people want to buy cars– it’s the truth with the problem you’re facing right now.

The skills you have today got you here. To get where you want to go you need to improve. 


By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

3 replies on “Why buying a car sucks”

Way late to the party but have you tried Only used, but seems to do exactly what your asking. Might be regional and not out your way yet.

My one thought towards the big picture is: I wonder if car dealership licensing agreements with manufacturers have the manufacturers locked in to an old model. Ford might be dying to do something new, but the local ford dealer is happy to keep the status quo because New cuts them out of the middle and they have a contract. I know a lot of sports streaming is locked up this way. Even if the sport is ready to stream direct, existing deals and contracts tie their hands.

I did my last refinance of my mortgage on the phone, email, fax, and snail mail. What a nightmare. It took me a year, literally, and then the mortgage company screwed up my credit report for the next 7 years. In some instances, I think I’d rather go out and sit across from a broker. Just sayin…

Very late to this, but the experience still applies. Even the short-ish answer has multiple parts: state franchise laws — which create mini monopolies for the dealers (; the auto manufacturers, who love having those mini-monopoly dealers to take their inventory off their hands; and the strength of the various auto lobbying groups, who make sure campaign funds go to legislators at the state and Federal levels who will not challenge this ridiculous status quo.

It’s all rooted in the Government wanting to “boost” the auto industry and minimize risk for the manufacturers. A Century, ago.

Leave a Reply