A retired car salesman hits the road with advice for buyers

  • Article by: JEFF STRICKLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 14, 2014 - 2:44 PM

A tried-to-be-retired car salesman softens the hard sell by acting as an ally for car buyers.

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Ted Weinberg, right, recently chatted with client Harry Maron at a car dealership in Golden Valley.

Photo: RENEE JONES SCHNEIDER, Star Tribune

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Harry Maron is in the market for a new pickup truck, a deal he hopes to close by the end of the month. All he has to do is decide on the color.

Really, that’s all he has to do.

Everything else is being overseen by Ted Weinberg, a low-key teddy bear of a man who starts every new conversation with a firm handshake and the words: “I’m Ted Weinberg. And you are … ?”

After spending five decades in the car business, Weinberg has launched Auto Buying Service, where he helps prospective car buyers save money — for free.

Doesn’t that mean that sometimes he’s talking them out of buying the very things he used to try to talk them into buying?

“Yes,” he admitted, “but I’m playing for the other team now.”

Weinberg, 81, semiretired a few years ago, after returning to sales from being a manager so that he and his wife could go south for the winters. He retired for good last year, but quickly realized that he didn’t want to walk away from the business entirely.

He missed the social interaction. He liked keeping abreast of the new models and innovative features. And he discovered that he loved haggling over prices.

“And, if I do say so myself, I’m pretty good at it,” he said.

He also knew that lots of people aren’t very good at it, don’t like to do it or don’t have the time. People often use an agent to help them buy a house, he figured, so why not have one to help buy a car?

“After all, it is the second-biggest purchase a person makes in their lifetime after a house,” he said.

Weinberg estimated that he saves clients between $1,000 and $2,000 by keeping them from being talked into extras that add cost but little value. “Like undercoating,” he said. “That comes standard on most vehicles. It’s not something you should pay extra for.”

Sometimes he accompanies would-be buyers when they shop. Other times, as with Maron, he does all the shopping, and the buyer just shows up to sign the paperwork.

“I don’t have the time to go around to a lot of car dealers,” said Maron, of Big Lake. “I’m a single dad with two busy kids — a junior and a freshman in high school. I coach baseball, and I volunteer a lot. Plus, I’m not very good at [car-buying]. I let my emotions get in the way and end up buying things I don’t need.

“With Ted doing all the work, my job is just to figure out what color I want.”

Helping, protecting

There are fee-based car brokerage services, but Weinberg is adamant about offering his expertise for free. Clients often try to pay him, he said, but he declines. And if someone offers to buy him a beer after they close a deal?

“Well,” he chuckled, “that I would probably take.”

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