Confessions of a Motorcycle and ATV Dealer

There’s no doubt, there are plenty of swindlers and liars in sales positions across the country, but there are also many sales people that go about their day with total integrity and honesty. We found such a person. He’s a friend in the industry who also happens to be a sales person at a dealership in California. To make sure he answered as unbiased as possible we promised to conceal his identity and not mention the dealership he works for.

We asked him if he would reveal the secrets of getting the best deal when purchasing a new or used ATV. So here’s some valuable knowledge to prevent you from getting ripped off on your next quad.

Okay do you solemnly swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
[Laughing] I do.

How have sales been?
Pretty bad unfortunately. And to make matters worse they banned the sale of youth units for close to eight months. The ban came when the ATV youth market was hot. We were really relying on youth sales, so it hurt. Now that they took the ban away things are a little better, but it’s certainly not like it was a few years ago.

Do you see a comeback in the near future?
If the economy starts picking up and the banks loosen up their financing so consumers can get qualified easier, absolutely. The big thing hurting our industry is the fact that banks aren’t loaning money right now. That stimulus package is a joke it was suppose to help the consumer get a loan easier, but just made the banks richer.

What should a consumer be asking themselves when looking to buy a new or used ATV?
Just three questions actually. Is the model they want the right one for their needs, is the rider old enough to ride the ATV and does it fit their budget?

What does a consumer look for when buying NEW?
There is no feeling like getting a new bike and being the first person to take it out for a ride. Another big reason a lot of people buy new is because a new machine comes with a warranty. Also when buying new over used you get a better interest rate on a new unit compared to used. Some brands also have good rebates on new units. And I think a lot of people like purchasing new because when you buy used you just don’t know how well the machine was cared for.

ImageWhat does a consumer look for in buying USED?
I would have to say the price. People that buy used quads usually pay cash. The banks don’t offer financing on used units and if they do it is at a high interest rate. If you’re smart you’ll avoid high interest rates on any purchase and buy with cash. It is a buyer’s market right now, especially on used bikes and quads. The economy has played a big factor on the used market. There are some outstanding deals out there. People are willing to sell their toys for cheap in order to pay their bills.

Is the extended warranty on a new machine really worth it?
In my opinion, yes. You’re buying a machine and you just don’t know if the machine will break or not. If it does you’ll feel a lot better knowing you have purchased an extended warranty. If you had to sell the bike the extended warranty is transferable and that always makes it easier to sell. Usually when something fails the average bill is $1000 and up. The average warranty price is from $300-$700 depending on the size of the bike. Most of the warranties are for four years. The factory only offers six months to a year on a warranty. There’s typically no warranties available for used machines.

What approach should a consumer use for getting the best deal?
Buyers need to do their homework and know what the machine is currently being sold for. Right now is the best time for the consumer when it comes to buying a bike because of our shaky economy. I would have to say persistence is the nest way to get the best deal. Sales people have a lot going on and to have a customer constantly calling pushes us to give them a great deal.

Are there tricks to make the buyer spend more?
I suppose some dealers might do some sneaky things to get people to spend more money. A good sales person treats all their customers like they’re family. In this they will eventually spend more money at that dealership. It’s all about building trust not slipping tricks past buyers.


Are most dealerships honest?
Hard to say, I think a lot of dealers are like car dealerships. They tell you what you want to hear, but when it comes down to the final deal it always changes in finance. A lot of dealers use a 4-square as the foundation to their sales program. They make it look like you’re getting a good deal with a cheap base price but then tack on a huge set up fee and a lot of other hidden fees. Be careful not to get ripped off when a sales person breaks out a 4-qquare.

What’s a “4-square”
A 4-square is something that came over from the car business. It’s basically a sneaky way to find out what a buyer has available as a down payment and how much they are willing to pay for a payment each month. With this info they try to get you close to your desired payment by tweaking financing so much that you end up paying way too much for the machine in the long run. Basically, the reason a lot of dealers break out a 4-square piece of paper is because it allows them an easy way to disguise a lot of hidden fees.

What’s the best way to negotiate the price?
I would say you need to know what other dealers are selling the same machine for. Right now there are a lot of really aggressive prices going on. It’s definitely a buyer’s market. You should politely tell the dealer of a better deal and see if they can beat it. Be careful, a lot of shops advertise a really cheap base price, but later nail you with a bunch of hidden fees. You really need to know ahead of time your true out the door price before you try to tell the dealer of a better deal somewhere else.

What time of the month do you have your best chance at getting the best deal possible when you buy a new or used quad from a dealership?
A lot of people think off season months are the best time to purchase, but that’s not true. In California, the best time to get your best deal is during good riding months since that’s typically when manufacturers seem to offer their best rebates of the year.

Which manufacturer offers the best incentives?
Every month rebates and incentives change, but all in all over the years Kawasaki has offered the best rebates and incentives by far.

ImageDo motorcycle and ATV dealers get into price wars with one another?
Absolutely. There are a lot of shops out there fighting tooth and nail right now to survive. The way our economy is right now dealers are doing whatever they can to get people in their showrooms.

What’s the best resource to see what new and used bikes and quads are worth?
Use  It’s the most accurate guide available.

What are the correct prices on additional fees? Should a customer have to pay freight and prep? Are these negotiable items?
Freight can be anywhere form $200 to $700 depending on the unit. Usually a dealer will charge $25 for prep, but I’ve seen dealers mark prep up to as much as $600 so pay attention to what they’re charging for prep. Typically the freight costs are not negotiable but depending on the dealer, prep is.

Are there any models that don’t require any set up at all? $25 isn’t much, but if there’s nothing to be put together, paying any amount for someone to wheel it from the crate to the showroom seems unnecessary.
Now days units do come more ready to sell than they have in the past, however every unit that I’ve seen still does indeed require the dealership to bolt a few things to the bike in order to get it ready for the customer.

Do you know of any secrets on avoiding or lowering tax? Will a dealer show a lower price on the invoice to help the customer pay less tax?
You would need to have a bill of lading saying the bike is being shipped out of the state or if you live in a state different than the one you’re buying the bike from you may be able to avoid paying sales tax, but 99% of the time you will need to pay sales tax. I have never heard of a dealer showing a lower price on the invoice to help a customer pay less tax. This is against the law. A dealer can get into very big trouble for doing something like this. The DMV does a sales tax audit once a year and they’ll discover sneaky stuff like this, I don’t think there’s a dealer out there that would even consider such a thing.

Is there a certain way to get a dealer to throw in a helmet on a quad purchase?
Actually this is done quite often. I know we always try to sweeten the pot by including a helmet, but if there’s no room for profit in the sale it’s not going to happen.

ImageWhat kind of price reduction is typical on a demo unit?
The demo days are pretty much gone because everyone is so lawsuit happy now days. There are a few dealers that still allow you to ride the quad behind the building but from what I’ve seen it’s rare to get a deal on a brand new demo.

What are the chances of an average rider getting a dealer sponsorship. What’s a typical sponsorship entail?
It all depends on the rider, their racing experience, their skill level and of course the particular dealer’s involvement in racing. We tend to sponsor a lot of people. We start them at a 10% off discount and depending on what level they are at it can go up to 25% off.

How do you get your best deal with a trade in?
You need to make sure the bike is as clean as you can possibly get it and do all the maintenance on it before it comes in on trade. That’s the best way to get the most money out of your trade in. In our experience the customer usually brings in a dirty trade. We see this a lot, and it does hurt the value of their trade.

Thanks for the great tips. Any last words?
No problem. I would say you’ll get the best deal possible if you do your homework and know exactly what you’re buying and what it costs before you walk into a dealership. Also be pleasant, polite and respectful that goes a long way in a positive buying experience.

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    One Comment

    1. chawness

      June 18, 2010 at 9:00 am

      The best thing to know about buying anything from a dealer is, DONT DO IT!

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