But Maria Rojas and many others have discovered a fast and painless new way to buy cars without the hassle or haggle from a salesman.
Her brother Alex suggested she log onto the Internet, and connect to a Web site called 'Auto-by-tel,' a California-based car referral service.
"It was pretty straightforward. You type in the model, your options. It was very simple to go through each and every thing," said Rojas.
Serious buyers can do their research first on the Web, then ask an auto-referral service to find the lowest price. The request is funneled online to a nearby dealer who calls back within 24 hours with a firm quote.
"It was about a one-minute conversation. He said I could sell you the car, this is the price. He happened to come in right at the price I was trying to get," said Rojas.
Using the internet enabled Ms. Rojas to buy exactly the car she wanted - for only about $400 over dealer cost. She could have paid over $2000 more if she had haggled the old-fashioned way.
"If you are a hunter and really good at negotiating and like to spend a week knocking on dealers doors to get a good price, we feel you'll generally get that number coming through our system in about 5 or 10 minutes," said Peter Ellis of Auto-by-tel.
With predictions that half of all car buyers will use the Internet by the year 2000, carmakers are rushing to establish Web sites. And the industry is headed for a shakedown; experts say that up to 50 percent of the nation's dealers could close within 5 years.
Others see an Internet-led buyers market as the death of a car salesman, and an end to nagging doubts over who really got the better deal.
Reported by Frank Currier
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