Conventional wisdom, unconventional advice

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News

I deal with reputable carmakers, retailers and auto lenders nearly all the time, so sometimes what passes for "conventional wisdom" about car dealerships and auto finance comes as a shock.

While I was researching a story recently, somebody who ought to know better told me the conventional wisdom is "you should never get financing at the dealership."

Really? Nearly 80 percent of U.S. car buyers get an indirect loan or a lease at the dealership, J.D. Power and Associates says. So the conventional wisdom so far appears to be circulating only among the 20 percent or so of buyers who pay cash or get a direct loan.

Maybe the 20 percent know what they're doing when they skip 0.0, 1.9 or 2.9 percent subvented loans from the factory. It takes all kinds, and I can accept that some people like shopping around on their own at different lenders to find a deal instead of having an F&I manager do it for them.

Of course, there are a few bad apples among dealerships who get themselves in legal trouble, and over the years I've written about them, too. So I guess that makes me part of the reputation problem for dealerships.

But when consumers ask my advice, I tell them that indirect financing at a dealership is usually the best deal -- even though, yes, the dealership makes money on it. Some people accept that, but some people look at me like I have two heads.

The next thing you know, somebody's going to tell me people don't trust reporters, either.

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