Saturday, April 6, 2013

Anyone Ever Had a "Terrific" Car-Buying Experience?

Consumer Reports has dedicated entire issues to telling people how to buy cars. From reading several of those articles, here’s the gist of the CR way to buy a car.

Conduct no less than eight hours of research to ascertain what sort of interest rate you qualify for, how big a monthly payment you can swing and what your trade-in is worth.

With that “basic” research out of the way, you may now begin narrowing your choices. Start by reading the annual car issue and paying special attention to the recommended models. Now, go test drive all of the models in your price range, taking careful notes along the way. Be sure to list positives and negatives.

Take a week to ruminate on those test drive results. At the end of that week, host a live debate with your spouse in front of friends and family where you each argue for your top choice. Be sure to serve cookies and punch at said debate.

At this point, you are ready to speak with a salesman. Negotiate the purchase price of the car. Once a mason has chiseled the agreed-upon price into stone, bring up the fact that you have a car to trade in. Under no circumstances should you negotiate both at the same time.

We bought a Subaru Forester from Ballwin's Dean Team on Manchester. If you go, ask for Keith Strickland. Our vehicle was a victim of "lot damage" (someone backed it into a building). Keith got it repaired and knocked a chunk off the price for the inconvenience. We also appreciated his low-pressure, candid demeanor.
Once you’ve agreed upon the terms of the trade-in, which should be triple checked with Kelley Blue Book, you may submit the three independent financing offers you obtained nearly a month ago. Now, let the dealership compete for your financing business.

If everything is in order, you may sign the papers. Be sure to maintain a scowl during the signing process, or else risk being fast talked into an extended warranty.

The Reality

Here’s how we bought our first car.

Me: I don’t know that our Jeep is reliable anymore.
Tiffany: Maybe we should look for a new car.
Me: There’s a Nissan dealer.
Tiffany: I do like that black one up front.

Boom! We bought a black Nissan Sentra, which we still own to this day. In all honesty, we lucked out. It’s been a reliable car, albeit with a few minor problems.

The best part of the new car -- LATCH anchors! Our last car didn't have these. They make car seat installation much easier and more secure. 
I resolved to avoid an impulse buy with our next automobile. We did, sort of.

Again, we came to the conclusion that one of our current cars was less than reliable. Here’s what we did right.
  1. We got pre-approved for a loan prior to looking at any cars.
  2. We did the research and concluded we wanted a small crossover SUV: specifically a Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester or Honda CR-V.
  3. We looked up our trade-in’s value before going to the dealer. We also negotiated the car’s purchase price separate from the trade-in’s value.
  4. At the end of the day, we were well within our monthly payment limits, while keeping the loan terms favorable.
Still, I feel we could have done some things better. Find me one man who claims to be completely satisfied with a past car-buying experience and I’ll introduce you to a huge liar.
  1. A little more research revealed a model we should have given a serious look – Mazda’s CX-5.
  2. We should have insisted upon connecting one of our phones to the car’s audio system via Bluetooth. Hands-free was a big item on our list. I think the system could be more user-friendly.
  3. We ended up buying the car the same day we test drove it. While a week might be a bit much, I think waiting a day or two to think it over is a pretty good idea. Judging by the amount of follow-up calls I've received from the dealerships we didn't buy the car from, I'm betting the price might drop if you "sleep on it."
Well, there’s always next time. In the meantime, the new Subaru has told me it would prefer I stop washing my hair and start wearing Teva sandals year round. I also need to save up for a kayak and bicycle.

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