Al Jacobs has a system for smoothing the bumps when buying a new car.
"Every indication is that my system is the wave of the future for dealerships," Jacobs syas. "There's got to be a new way to sell cars."
Jacobs is founder and president of Automotive Search Inc., a new consulting company that helps new-car buyers by giving them the information the need to avoid making costly mistakes.
"So often people buy vehicles and afterwards are unhappy with them," he said."We give them peace of mind."
Jacobs, who has worked as a wholesale automotive broker and as a consultant to area dealers and leasing firms, says that without professional advice it is easy for the buyer, either an individual or a company, to be taken.
"People feel intimidated by commissioned sales people, they feel pressured," he said.
So for $150, Jacobs will find the right car for the right price. Not only does the system save time and worry, but it may also save money, Jacobs claims.
It usually takes two or three days from the time clients walk into Jacobs' Bethesda office to the time they drive out of a showroom in the car of their dreams.
The first steop is to find out what type of car the client needs and whether buying or leasing is advisable.
During an informal, unpressured interview, Jacobs collects pertinent information on clients' driving habits -- how many miles are driven each year, whether it's local or long-distance driving, how much they are prepared to spend, how big a family they have and how long they usually keep a car.
During the first meeting, the client is shown films or videotapes of various vehicles available, as well as literature from the manufacturers and independent research.
"I project cost figures four or five years down the road and also check the trends in the industry to see that the car you have won't be obsolete in a few years," he said.
"I guide them toward different cars within their needs," Jacobs said. "I like to let them make the decision."
Once the decision has been made, Jacobs does all the legwork, visiting area dealerships and, if the client wishes, negotiating the deal. "With gas prices so high, it's expensive to go shopping from dealer to dealer," Jacobs said.
"What happens is that people go into a dealership and walk out with a car they didn't want because the salesman did a job on them. We minimize that.
"I have had contact with most of the area's dealers at one time or another. I carry some clout. I've got the edge over the average person," he said.
The only contact the client has with the dealership is for the demonstration ride and to pick up the new car. Jacobs will even test-drive the car to make sure all the bugs are out and it matches the customer's specifications.
Sometimes a leasing arrangement is preferable to buying to car, in which case, Jacobs will shop around for the best rates. And sometimes, buying or leasing a new car is no the answer. "If they shouldn't buy a new car, I'll advise them not to and tell them how to get the most out of their old car," said Jacobs.
Jacobs, who is a licensed used car dealer, also will research the market for used cars and try to get the most money for a trade-in vehicle.
The most common mistake by people making a new car purchase is in underestimating their needs, Jacobs said. "They often buy small compacts for the mileage only to find out they can't carry enough luggage," he said.
Jacobs admits that he is pro-American and will show people American cars first before imported models.
"I think we have a lot to offer," he said. "The cost of owning an American car, in most cases, is cheaper in the long run. I see the need for buying economical cars, and I encourage it, but I show them alternatives."
Jacobs' service is also available to corporations who are in need of a car or a fleet of cars. In the case of corporate vehicles, looks are very important as they "have to reflect the image" of the company, Jacobs said. "It's important to try to dress them up a bit to help the resale value and protect the car," he said.
Area auto dealerships are "bending over backwards to help me," Jacobs said. He is not affiliated with any auto dealers. He describes himself as "a noncommissioned salesman."
"It's all plus business to them," he said.