Storm victims band together for new-car discounts

FILE -In this Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, file photo, cars are submerged at the entrance to a parking garage in New York's Financial District in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. Alarming claims that hundreds of thousands of flood-damaged cars from Superstorm Sandy will inundate the used car market aren Richard Drew

(MoneyWatch) When Superstorm Sandy sent the Atlantic surging into the community of Long Beach, N.Y., residents lost their cars and much more. Now they are banding together to get volume discounts on replacements for those cars.

The plan is the idea of Patrick Quinn, a transplanted native of the Long Island community who from his home in Southern California started a Facebook page and shared Google pages to help Long Beach residents. About 12,000 people eventually checked on the page.

"People who had no power could check in if they could get their smart phones charged," Quinn explained. "They could get advice on finding roofers and clean-up crews and share other information."

Quinn, a 36-year-old copy writer whose parents and siblings still live in Long Beach, learned that family members collectively lost five cars. Reasoning that volume buying would help get a better deal, he set up a sign-up sheet for those who already had received insurance payments or were otherwise able to buy cars to sign up under the brand of car they sought. About 150 people did sign up.

The strategy looks like it can work at least with some dealers. "I can guarantee for anyone coming in with five cars or more to give them all $100 over invoice," said salesman Keith Altimari of Honda City in nearby Levittown, N.Y. The invoice price is the stated dealer cost. For a 2013 Honda Accord LX sedan with a list price of $22,470, the savings with the $20,956 price would be $1,514.

Volume buying is a good strategy, says Philip Reed, consumer advice editor of Edmunds.com. "The savings will depend on the car and the availability," he notes. "And because of Sandy inventories will be tight, which usually drives up prices."

For Long Beach residents interested in replacing their cars with a Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep, one dealership is giving an automatic discount to storm victims. Alex Gomez, general sales manager of the Garden City dealership says anyone demonstrating loss of a car in the storm will get a price 2.5 percent below the invoice price. That takes out part of the dealer's profit margin known as the holdback. For instance on a Jeep Wrangler with a base price of $23,190, the price would be $22,052 minus an additional $500 storm rebate being given by Chrysler Group. That is a savings of $1,638. Savings would be bigger on models that also include regular rebates.

Even in situations not involving storm damage, Edmunds analyst Reed says that even just two buyers banded together might negotiate a better price. He suggests contacting the fleet or Internet manager at a dealership and making it clear you are buying more than one car.

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    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.

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