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Former car salesman, now an “auto consultant,” wants to help you purchase a vehicle

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For nearly four decades, Ronald E. Ring sold cars. Now he’s sold on making sure car buyers don’t get ripped off.

“The only thing I’ve ever known is the car business,” he said. “That’s what I was meant to do.”

And, like the good salesman he once was, he is luring his new customers with a promise: “There’s no doubt in my mind that I can save them a lot of money,” he said. “If they feel that I don’t save them enough money, I’ll give them their money back.”

Mr. Ring is advertising his services as an “auto consultant.”

“As far as I know I am the only person in the north country to offer this service,” he said. “So many people are making some bad decisions.”

Mr. Ring will guide consumers around potential land mines when purchasing or leasing a vehicle. Throughout his 38-year career, he’s been a salesman, sales manager, lease manager and finance manager.

That Mr. Ring is also a people person is evident when he arrives for his interview with a three-ring binder full of sales receipts covering about five years beginning in 1987. He has about 20 similar binders stored at his Riverglade Drive home. As a salesman, he would flip through the binders and contact the customers recorded in them to see how their vehicle was and if they were interested in a new one.

“I’ve been well respected and very successful over the years,” he said. “There’s not a lot of us around who have been in the car business for 38 years.”

Mr. Ring, 69, who drives a 2010 Toyota Matrix, retired full-time from the car business this summer after operating RKR Auto Sales in Croghan for five years. His first auto sales job, in 1975, was with Parkview Auto Sales on outer Washington Street, now the home of Fucillo Imports.

“That was a brand-new facility that Renald Dembs opened,” Mr. Ring said. “He hired me. It was selling Datsuns. Back then, you could buy a four-door Datsun B210 for $2,995.”

Mr. Ring then went to work for Barry Waite in Adams, selling Toyotas and Chryslers. He also has worked at State Street Body Works and for dealer Gerald A. Nortz in Lowville.

He estimates he has sold approximately 3,400 vehicles in his career.

“I had a customer satisfaction rating over the years of over 95 percent,” Mr. Ring said. “When I retired, I had a few families with three generations I sold cars to. I was very proud of that.”

mistakes and tips

When he was selling cars, Mr. Ring said, he saw many common mistakes buyers made.

“I’ve sold to doctors, lawyers and state troopers,” he said. “And it was amazing to me — they really didn’t know what they were doing. But then, there were some people who were very sharp. But so many people don’t have that.”

Mr. Ring said he’s done about a dozen deals as an auto consultant. Depending on where the customer lives and how far he has to travel, he charges between $150 and $200 per deal.

He said once he is contacted by a customer, he finds out what type of vehicle the person is interested in, obtains a credit score and gets trade-in information if the customer will be trading. Mr. Ring said he has years of experience attending car auctions and can tell what a vehicle’s trade-in value is.

“If all that falls into place, I would meet the customer where the two of us could talk a little before we go to the dealership,” he said. “I want to make sure the customer wants to buy a car when I do this. When I go with them to make a deal at the dealership, I’m not going to do all this negotiating and then have the person say, ‘Well, I’m not sure what I want to do.’”

When asked what is the most common mistake car buyers make, Mr. Ring, chuckling, said, “I don’t want to give away all my secrets.”

But he did share a few of those mistakes.

“I think the biggest is not having any idea of the value of their car they’ll be trading in, and the proper way of negotiating with a new or used car dealer.”

Another mistake: telling a sales consultant the monthly payment you have in mind to match your budget.

“If you say, for example, you can’t go over $350 a month, you are letting everything go as far as a good deal goes, because you are at that $350 a month,” Mr. Ring said. “They could sell you a car at full retail price and add stuff to it to get it up to $350 a month.”

Mr. Ring said a lot of money can be saved once the deal reaches the dealer’s finance and insurance department.

“They may tell you the bank may require you take an extra-care warranty or to buy rustproofing or to get the fabric care,” Mr. Ring said. “You don’t have to do that. That’s where they make the money. When I go with a customer, they aren’t going to pull the wool over my eyes.”

Mr. Ring said car buyers should be aware of very low-interest, or zero-interest-rate deals these days, quite a change from when he was selling cars in the 1970s when interest rates for vehicles were 18 and 19 percent.

“Say you have a 2008 Hyundai Accent and still owe $5,000 on it and want to trade it in,” he said. “Back in 2008, you probably paid 4 or 5 percent interest. If you trade that car in, there’s zero-percent financing out there.” In effect, “you can refinance your $5,000 at zero-percent interest.”

Mr. Ring said even if a dealer’s interest rate seems good, a customer with a good credit score may be able to get an even better rate at a bank.

If his client is buying a used car, Mr. Ring said that after driving it away from the dealer for a few miles in a test drive, he will ask the client to park it alongside the road and they will give it a good visual inspection. He then takes out his portable Actron automotive scanner and plugs it into the car’s computer system.

“I’m able to tell from that if it has emission issues, transmission issues or engine issues,” Mr. Ring said. “We’re trying to avoid any expense when they go to buy a used car and to make sure it’s road ready.”

“If everything meets my qualifications, we’d sit down with the dealer and try to negotiate the best price,” he said. “Because I know what these guys pay for cars and I know what they retail for.”

The best time to buy, he said, is at the end of the month.

“They have sales goals they’re trying to meet,” he said. “If they haven’t met them at the end of the month, you might get a better deal than you would at the beginning of the month.”

leasing

For some people, Mr. Ring said, it may make better sense to lease a vehicle.

“The advantage of leasing is, hopefully, you’re only in the car for three years, and you can turn around and get another vehicle with the manufacturer’s warranty and continue to upgrade every three years, if that’s what you want to do,” he said.

Lease deals are being heavily advertised now, Mr. Ring said.

“But you want to make sure how many miles a year you’re going to drive the car, because you’re limited to what you agreed to drive it,” Mr. Ring said. “If you drive over 36,000 miles on a 12,000 miles-a-year lease, you’re responsible for that extra mileage, at probably 15 cents a mile.”

But he added there are lease options where the advertised yearly mileage limits can be expanded.

“You can build the extra mileage into your lease,” Mr. Ring said.

The low advertised lease rates, Mr. Ring said, can be deceiving. Usually, a person would have to put $1,000 or $2,000 down to get the advertised monthly rate.

“That can be a problem for a lot of people,” he said. “You don’t have to put any money down on a lease if you don’t want to. You can put a penny down. But the less money you put down, the higher your payment will be. That’s what we try to work out.”

loyalty obsolete

Today’s car-buying atmosphere, Mr. Ring said, is vastly different from when he was in his salad days of selling.

“Loyalty is out the window,” he said, eyeing his binder. “Right now, it’s who can give you the best deal. It’s tough.”

It’s a competitive world that Mr. Ring misses.

“I enjoyed every minute of it, and I’ve got to know some great people,” he said.

He also liked the challenge of it.

“You never know, week to week, what your paycheck is going to be,” he said.

But on the day of his interview, raw and with a cold, wind-driven rain, Mr. Ring had a flashback that reminded him there’s one thing he doesn’t miss about his car-selling days: brushing snow off rows and rows of cars.

“I remember one particular December,” he said. “We did that every day for the whole month. It’s a tough business, especially in the wintertime.”

Mr. Ring can be contacted at 783-3730 or at e24ring@yahoo.com. The Army National Guard veteran said he will offer his services for free to any member of the military.

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