I'm car-shopping. Do dealers compete, or cooperate?

Stopped at the local Honda dealership yesterday, got a quote on a new CRV. Planning to visit two or three other dealerships tomorrow to get competing quotes. I am intending a sealed-bid scenario, in which none of the dealerships would know the price any of the other dealerships are quoting me.

This morning I remembered that the salesman at the local dealership punched my name/address into his computer, and now I’m wondering whether that info will stay with the local dealership, or whether it’s gone into some regional/national database and will pop up (along with the local dealer’s quote) when I ask those other dealerships to quote me their price.

Is there any kind of behind-the-scenes cooperation between dealerships of the same marque in order to avoid being pitted against each other by a customer? Or are dealerships completely independent business entities (despite being of the same marque), with collusion between them being illegal?

Some dealers have a salesman that just deals with internet business. You can deal with these guys by email, and they know that you have access to the dealer price and all the other dealerships, so they don’t try to mess with you. My friend recently bought a Toyota this way, and not only did he get a good deal (much less than the salesman had quoted), but he avoided most of the bullshit.

Dealerships are all independently owned and operated, unless of course someone owns more than one. For example, Larry H. Miller owns a lot of car dealerships, so they may all have access to their own database of cars, but they won’t know the inventory of Harry’s Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man Emporium Kwality Kars down the street.

When I traded in the Opel before the web was in wide use, the trade in price was less with each dealer I went to. I wondered if they shared information somehow.
Now I never ask for a trade in until I’ve decided which dealer to buy from.

If they are sharing information, wouldn’t that be price fixing? (aka a crime)

Well, yes, but they are salesmen. :slight_smile:

If it didn’t happen, there wouldn’t be a phrase for it.

Like I tell to everyone buying a car: Use the Costco Auto Buying service. You get a FIXED price at or very close to invoice cost. You deal with the Lease guy, not a salesman. There is no bargaining needed, and there is reduced upselling of useless add-ons.

I have used this service for every car I’ve purchased over the last 20 years.


I just bought a car last weekend. I didn’t get the impression that the different marques were sharing this information. Of course, this isn’t a definitive answer, just the impression I got.

In case this is helpful at all: When I bought my car last weekend, I knew without a doubt which car I wanted to buy. Of course, if the dealer knew this he would be able to use this information against me. So I just pretended that two other cars (different makes) were in the running, pointing out to him the ways that other dealerships were offering me a better deal. This techique worked for me.

If they all sell at the same price, it’s collusion.

If one sells lower, it’s dumping.

If they all sell at different prices, they’re dividing the market among themselves, which is a different form of collusion.

The fix is always in.