I knew nothing about FJ Cruisers until my friend, who has been in love with the truck for many years, decided to buy one. Since then I’ve been discovering more about FJs and latched onto him like a leach, going with him wherever he went to find an FJ. I love tagging along on car-buying trips because I get to test drive cars without having to deal with any of the hassles—like talking to sales people.

It became obvious pretty quickly during the search that FJ owners who put their vehicles up for sale weren’t willing to negotiate much on their asking price. Even the ones who had wrecked their FJs and fixed them up. People like these trucks so much and they’re in such high demand that sellers are perfectly fine sticking to what they’re asking because they know that someone will pay them exactly what they want.

This unwillingess to budge from the asking price became a common theme until one day we saw a promising one at a Toyota dealer in San Antonio listed for almost $30K: a 2013 FJ with 77K miles on it with a certified warranty. Surely, the dealer, unlike an individual owner, would be open to negotiating—all dealers must deal, right? Nope—not all.

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The Toyota dealer was worse than the Craigslist private sellers and had zero interest in lowering the price even by a dollar. Apparently, “five other people were coming in” to look at that same FJ, which meant that one other person had called the dealer asking about their hours of operation.

That’s fine. They could tend to these imaginary people who were supposedly interested in the FJ. There was no desperation on our part so we moved on. My friend found another FJ in a small town called McKinney, Texas with a population of 150,000. This time, it was a 2014 FJ Cruiser with 45K miles listed at $33,500. That was quite a bit higher than the San Antonio one, but that didn’t stop my friend from giving them a lowball offer of $29,500.

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As I expected, they immediately responded back saying: “Are you crazy? That’s lower than what we paid to buy that truck!” Their distaste in that offer was evident in their tone.

A few hours back, they called back: “How about $30,500?”

Hah!

Maybe there is something to this lowballing business. I had no idea that a dealer would counter an offer that was $4K lower than the asking price. After my friend said “$29,500, take it or leave it”, they finally agreed to a price of $29,700. The McKinney dealer must have really wanted to get rid of that FJ Cruiser because that price was lower than what you might get with a private seller. I was stunned. Perhaps in a place like McKinney where nobody wants anything other than an F350 or the Dodge Ram 3500, it’s easy to haggle over an FJ.

Besides my friend landing that great deal, there was also something unique that happened with buying the FJ that both of us were previously unaware of. Bear with me while I explain what happened.

He had a 2015 Subaru Legacy that he wanted to trade in but the McKinney dealer and most other dealers were only offering him $19K. The only one offering him the highest value of $21,750 was the Austin Subaru dealer because they really wanted the car. In Texas, if you trade in a vehicle you only pay taxes on the difference in the value of what you’re selling vs. what you’re buying. So, if he was going to buy the FJ from McKinney and sell the car in Austin, he wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the trade-in tax advantage.

But the Subaru buyer said that they could buy the Subaru from McKinney by doing a “dealer swap” and this way they would avoid having to pay taxes on the Legacy. They do this all the time with new cars, but apparently they do so with used cars as well. The McKinney dealer agreed to buy the Legacy and sell it to Subaru in Austin, so my friend was able to take advantage of the trade-in and pay taxes on the difference which was only $8K. The Subaru dealer paid no tax on the Legacy and the McKinney dealer got rid of the truck they loathed. Everybody won!

If you got tired of reading of the above in the same way I fell asleep trying to write it all down, take a look at the whiteboard diagram where I attempt to illustrate what happened.

Dealers are taking their creativity to new heights!

After witnessing how all this worked, I have a new appreciation for not just dealer swaps but also lowballing. Go as low as you want—especially with dealers. When they say things like, “Where do you come up with your numbers?”, “Were you serious about doing this deal when you came in?”, “You smell.” ignore them. The dealers are probably making way more money than you think and in the case of the FJ deal, they likely made $2K.

As far as that Toyota dealer who wouldn’t move on the price? Apparently none of those “five people” wanted the truck since he still gets a call from them every other day.


Torque Affair is about exploring my fascination with cars. I’m always on the lookout for things that interest me in the car world.

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