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More Car Shoppers Using Text Messages To Negotiate

By Aaron Crowe

Putting a “For sale” sign in a car’s window and leaving it near a busy intersection for a weekend may be the easiest way to sell a used car.

Social media negotiations such as text messages, however, are quickly gaining ground.

Swapalease.com, a middleman between sellers and buyers of car leases, has found that about 25% of its customers use text messages to negotiate their deals, up from about 5% in 2010.

Text messages are a quick way to negotiate factors such as financial incentives offered by sellers, how the buyer will get the car, if the car’s still available and current mileage, for example.

Texts are usually responded to quicker than phone calls, says Brad Rogers, a Swapalease customer in Ohio who sold a car lease.

“Everyone checks their texts and emails all day long, so we communicated very well,” Rogers says of the 10 or so texts and emails he and a buyer sent to each other during the process.

With 82% of people using smartphones to browse the Internet, according to Nielsen’s 2013 Mobile Consumer Report, text messages are a natural way to negotiate a deal, says Scot Hall, executive vice president of operations at Swapalease. One in five digital auto buyers used their tablets or smartphones to research their vehicle purchase, according to a J.D. Power study.

“Texting is just another form of email” that’s quick and easy, Hall says.

People want out of car leases for all kinds of reasons, he says, including lifestyle changes such as moving or having children, or not be able to afford the car anymore. After a virtual handshake on a deal online, buyers must undergo a credit check and sign paperwork from the leasing company.

While face-to-face or at least phone conversations may be best for both sides, they’re not always possible, Hall says. With text and emails, negotiators should be wary of being scammed as they would with anything else online.

“With any type of online transaction you have to have your guard up,” he says.

Rogers, the car lease seller, says it was something he thought of. “That’s always in the back of your mind,” he says. “Is this a legitimate person, can they afford this car?”

The chance to negotiate with someone in person isn’t going away, but it’s slowly becoming less common.

“As people become more and more accustomed to doing things in an online environment, that does take out some of the personal side of that, and I’m not sure if that’s good or bad,” Hall says.

For Ron Stern, who sold a truck lease in Michigan, texting is part of his daily worklife as a contractor, and is as natural as any other way of working with people.

“I’m used to texting for business every day,” Stern says. “It’s just sort of natural for how I do business.”

At a time when the Internet is changing jobs and how people communicate, text messages can be the most modern way to get a deal done.

“With today’s technology it’s par for the course. It’s a part of doing business,” he says.

Aaron Crowe is a journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area who covers the auto industry for CheapCarInsurance.net.