How to Survive…The Most Dangerous Game (Part 1)

What is the most dangerous game? Richard Connell wrote a short story back in 1924 answering this question. In his fable, the main character, Sanger Rainsford, experiences what it’s like to make the transition from the hunter….to the hunted.

In this modern day and age, we rarely visit strange islands in search of big game. However, we DO every now and again find ourselves in a strange car dealership searching for our next vehicle. Although you were the one who initiated the hunt for your vehicle things may change rather quickly. Today Cars and Cranks is written to help you survive that which is the most dangerous game….Car Shopping. If you want to know how to prevent becoming the hunted; keep reading.

2nd most dangerous game…..dynamite grizzly bear tennis

So you’ve been riding your old tired horse Leeroy for a number of years and it’s time to look for some new horsepower. There’s a number of things to consider before the search even begins. Car shopping can be an arduous process if you’re not prepared for it. Today we’re going to go through the tricks of the trade and hopefully help give you some tips for staying in the drivers seat when you’re on your hunt. This is part one of a two part series. In the first part we’ll talk about preparation and what you can do to ready yourself for the hunt. Part two will talk more about actual negotiation tactics and what to do while you’re engaged in battle.


Define Value

Until you define what criteria your new car must meet you’ll be forever incapable of defining the vehicle itself. Quite simply put, figure out what you need and want this car to do. For example, last time I bought a car I wanted something that inconvenienced me the least amount and would allow me to do all the things I love including mountain biking, camping, speaker building…etc. I needed a vehicle that could aid in those activities and I NEEDED it to be reliable and under $30k. I WANTED it to be cool looking and fun to drive with decent gas mileage being a plus. So my shopping list ended up with a wide selection of vehicles that most people wouldn’t cross shop….Toyota Tacoma, Subaru Legacy GT,  Hyundai Genesis Coupe and a few others. See all of those cars had fold down rear seats and could fit a bike in the trunk, were under $30k, and were very reliable. The Subi and the Genesis were fun to drive fast but the Tacoma was fun to drive off-road.

In the end I went and drove all of them (and everything else in between) and decided the Tacoma was MOST right for me. It’s a decision I could have only made by experiencing all of the things on my list first hand. I thought the truck was uber cool (still do) to the extent that 19mpg was something I was prepared to deal with. I asserted that I’d be able to have more fun with a truck MORE OFTEN than I would in a really fast car. After I thought about it I realized I’d get more VALUE for my money if I bought the truck. So that’s what I did. Value is defined by the individual (you) who’s buying…remember that. Don’t let a salesperson tell you what something is worth. It’s only worth what someone will pay.


Do Your Homework

Now that we’ve figured out WHAT we’re looking for it’s time to do our homework. Not to sound daft, but knowledge really is power. The people who work at a car dealership sell cars for a living. It’s their job. They’ve been trained in the art and have studied the products they sell. If you plan to walk in completely uneducated you’ve got another thing coming….and it ends in butt hurt. is a great place to start. They have current pricing and info as well as information on previous model years of the same vehicle. Check the things that you care about such as gas mileage, horsepower, warranty, cargo room, and available options. It’s also a good idea to join an online forum for that specific vehicle or brand. Most online forums will have a general info section with an FAQ post at the top. This is a GOLDMINE for information. Common problems, quirks, and observations from thousands of owners who came before you. Sometimes you can even find some topics on what other people have paid for their cars recently. Leverage this information to help give you the upper hand later in your search.


Drive Everything

Before you decide on a vehicle you need to experience every vehicle. Metrics on a spec sheet only tell part of the story. Sometimes a certain vehicle might not work for you for a variety of reasons. Maybe your preferred seating position creates a large blind spot in a certain car. Or maybe the way the dash is set up isn’t conducive to the way you drive. And of course sometimes there’s just that “something” you can’t put your finger on that just bugs the crap out of you. It’s best to figure it out now before you own it.

Not only that, but some cars don’t seem that great on paper but are PHENOMENAL in person. One that comes to mind is the Subaru BRZ. A RWD sports car with only 200hp? That doesn’t sound like much fun but people are singing it’s praises saying it’s the BEST driver’s car of the year. So make sure you go out and drive everything that you’re even remotely considering. I’ll admit, I’ve test driven vehicles I had no intention of buying. In fact, I’ve test driven vehicles simply because I was bored. But having experienced numerous varieties helps give you different reference points for how “good” something is.


Answer These Questions

So often we’re asked a question that we’re not prepared to answer. Caught off guard we get flustered and fumble to give AN answer even though we’ve not thought through it enough to assert whether it’s the RIGHT answer. I’d encourage you to have the answers to the following questions in advance. It’s easier to answer them when you have access to your monthly budget and the internet for research. Again, getting this done in advance will keep you from compromising when you’re in the hot seat. 

  1. New or used? If used, maximum number of miles?
  2. Final price paid (bottom line expenditure)?
  3. Maximum monthly payment?
  4. How much can you put down in cash?
  5. How much do you NEED for your current car?
  6. How much do you WANT for your current car?
  7. What does your current car sell for in today’s market?

You’re Almost Ready

Assuming you’ve done most, if not all of the above, you’re ready to enter into battle. Check Cars and Cranks tomorrow morning for part 2 where we show you the negotiation tricks that will help you level the playing field. I’ll talk about the different incentives offered, equity, and financing. We’ll break everything down and make it look EASY! So stay tuned for part 2 and as always, we’d love your feedback.
What other things do YOU do when preparing for a vehicle search?

One Response to How to Survive…The Most Dangerous Game (Part 1)

  1. [...] in site with the enemy to make sure you get the most for your money. If you didn’t read yesterday’s article go back and read it before you proceed; you’ll thank us later. If not, you might end up [...]

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