SOUTH SHORE – Prior to the thrilling moment when a new car owner sits behind the wheel for the first time, there are anxious hours of car lot hopping, grueling negotiations and reams of paperwork.
“Everyone loves getting a new car but they don’t like all the time it takes to find (it),” said Valrico resident Shawn Spiegel. “They dread all the hassle that comes with buying a car.”
Spiegel said he’s the exception to the rule.
“I’m a negotiator and a finance guy at heart,” he said. “I really enjoy the process of buying a car: the hunt, the back and forth negotiation process and all the financial dickering.”
So, after helping a number of friends purchase cars, Spiegel decided to turn his knack for negotiation into a business.
A year and a half ago he became The Car Haggler, offering his services for anyone seeking their ideal new or used car.
From the day he purchased his first car at the age of 18, Spiegel said he’s been captivated by the car-buying process. As a result, he went on to a career in the auto finance industry until deciding to strike out on his own.
In the 18 months he’s been offering his services to car shoppers, Spiegel said he’s had no shortage of takers.
“I’ve really been shocked at the response I’ve received from both the public and the dealerships,” he said. “The average person spends three to four hours just filling out the paperwork necessary to purchase a car. That doesn’t include countless hours spent searching through car ads and visiting car lots. There are so many options out there. Some people don’t even know where to start their search. It can be very confusing and frustrating.”
But by developing personal relationships with the managers of major automobile dealerships throughout the area, Spiegel said he’s able to serve as the middle man for car buyers, handling the shopping and negotiating for them and ensuring they get the best deal possible.
For a flat fee of $250, Spiegel will seek out the new or used car the buyer is seeking and negotiate a price that suits the buyer’s budget.
“With my help, the car-buying process doesn’t have to be painful,” he said. “I spend five to 10 minutes talking with the buyer, getting information on what they’re looking for and what they’re willing to spend. And then the buyer sits back and relaxes while I do all the work. I find the car, negotiate the price, work through the financing and make sure the dealer has it ready for the buyer. The buyer simply comes in, signs the paperwork and drives away.”
Spiegel said his customers include senior citizens and single women concerned they’ll be taken advantage of, as well as busy professionals or parents who simply don’t have the time it takes to buy a car.
In addition to offering his car-buying services, Spiegel offers advice on choosing a make and model, which options to choose and which to avoid, the best time of the year to purchase a car and what a car buyer can reasonably expect to purchase within a specified budget.
“I generally deal with budgets starting at $8,000,” he said. “With that budget, you have a realistic chance of finding the car you want. Anything under $8,000 is a gamble, although I have managed to find some great deals for $6,000.”
Spiegel also will work within the buyer’s time frame for purchasing a new car.
His service has proven so popular, he said he’s planning to train and staff other “car hagglers” to handle the demand.
“It’s really been great,” he said. “I haven’t had a single dissatisfied customer. I’ve even had some people come back and ask me to help them buy a second vehicle.”
Alyson Choma of Riverview is one such customer.
“Working with Shawn made by car-buying experience quick and easy,” she said. “He was able to get me a price that was thousands of dollars lower than what I could find myself at the dealership. I was able to walk in, sign the paperwork and drive away in less than an hour.”
Jamie Jacobs of Lithia was equally pleased with Spiegel’s service.
“Buying a car from a dealership can be one of the most stressful things I have had to deal with in my life. I’ve done it before, thought I got a great deal and later found that not to be true,” he said. “Shawn is a natural numbers guy. After working his magic, we simply walked in, signed the paperwork and drove away happy and stress free.”
Freelance writer D’Ann Lawrence White can be reached at [email protected]