Our car buying story...

We finally bought a car!

Our old car broke down last Thursday, and by Sunday night we pretty much knew what we wanted to buy and how much we could spend for it. On Monday we test drove a few cars, but none of them really hit the spot. Then we found out that this dealer in the neighboring town has some spectacular deals. On certified pre-owned vehicles no less! And there was one car that we really liked. It was a perfect fit - both in terms of what we were looking for and budget. There were two others that we thought could be our backup, but we would have to stretch our budget quite a bit to fit them in. After some discussion and thought, we decided to go look.

After a 3 hour drive we walked into a big showroom that was designed to dazzle. We walked right past the new snazzy cars to the pre-owned section and met our sales person. He was a nice affable guy. But when we hit the lot to test drive our dream car we were in for a rude shock. The car had a cracked wind shield and chipped paint! The odometer read 15K miles *more* than what was listed on the website. And, of course it was not certified. We feared that this was a classic bait and switch, but the sales person apologized profusely and went to find the second car on our list.

After being AWOL for about 30 minutes, he returned back saying that the other car had just been sold. Either there was something really fishy going on here or we were having the worst possible day. We asked the sales person to find us our third choice. It took him a bit of time to locate that car since we had not told him on the phone that we were interested in this one. By the time he got back, we were ready to leave. But we are glad we stayed back though, because when we saw the car, it was love at first sight. It was a beautiful car. Even though we knew it was a bit beyond our budget, we knew we had to take it out for a spin. And boy, did the car live up to the promise! It drove well and handled well. Whoever owned it before had taken very good care of it and it almost felt like we were driving a new car. I swear, if I tried hard enough, I could smell the new car smell :)

Back into the lot, we were transported back to the nightmarish reality of the dealership. The little sticker on the window showed that the price was almost $2K more than that listed on the website. We decided that our short fling with that car was over. No way could we afford it. We told the sales person that we were here for car number 1 which was totally mis-represented and he was supposed to call us and let us know if car number 2 sold, but he never did (and this third one was a reserve we never mentioned to him), so we said we would make an offer on this car and he could take it or leave it.

Even though this was our reserve car, we had done our research and knew the KBB and Edmunds value for the car (Edmunds gives an estimate of the CPO value in addition to the retail value). We made an offer that was well below the listed retail price on both the sites and on par with the private party value for the car in outstanding condition. Our asking price was roughly $4K lower than what was listed on the window and around $2K less than what was listed on their website. The sales person thought we were joking and said there was no way he could do it. So we got up to leave. We were a little sad for not being able to buy that car, but what we had offered was well beyond our original budget anyway.

He insisted that we sit down and listen him out. His first line of attack was to try the financing story - "Tell me where you want to be in terms of monthly payments, and maybe we can figure something out". We said it did not matter and we could pay cash if he likes. His face visibly fell! Then he listed all the options in the car and how great it was blah blah. We said we loved the options, but we did not come to his showroom to buy the options and so would not pay extra for it. After about 30 -45 minutes of this song and dance, his offer stood at somewhere midway between our original offer and his original asking price, and ours had not budged. So called in the manager.

The only reason we were in the dealership so long was that the sales person was a young, affable chap. The manager, on the other hand was a cocky ass and it took us the whole of 5 minutes to really despise him. So we told him to cut to the chase, and make a final offer - either we accept it or leave. And he make an offer which as about $800 more than our asking price. We got up and walked out. When we reached the car, both the better half and I were very disappointed. We really had fallen in love with that car, and letting go of it for just $800 seemed like a silly thing to do. But we were already quite over extended, and with the manager heading the talks, it had turned into some sort of a sordid power game. As we sat there, quiet, neither of us wanting to talk about it yet, going over the map to figure out how to get back on the highway, the sales person came looking for us. The final offer stood at $650 above our asking, would we please consider it?

We followed him in and accepted the offer.

Now if the story had ended at that it would have been a beautiful story. But...

(Yes, when you buy a car there is almost always a "but")

We were both quite high on finally having bought our dream car. Including TTL + taxes + fess, it was in our extended budget. We had extended it quite a bit, but we knew we could afford it and justified that it was worth it. Add to that the fact that by now it was past 3:30 pm and we had still not had lunch, and you might treat what happened next with some understanding sympathy.

We walked in to the finance guys office to seal the deal. We were in there for only 40 minutes or so. I have no idea what happened in there. It all seems like a whirl wind. When we walked out, we had signed up for about $4K of additional maintenance packages, optional warranties, gap insurance etc. etc. That was $4K over our extended, extended budget!

All in all we walked out with a car we love and a loan we hate!

Currently, we are justifying it by saying that we got a good deal on the car, but got talked into pre-paying for the possible future maintenance costs. Based on what we have purchased, we should not have any out of pocket expenses for the car other than gas for the next 4 years. Every thing from oil changes to tires to windshield to every nut and bolt in that car is covered by some insurance or warranty for at least the next 4 years. I have no idea how much of that coverage we will actually use and how bad our letting the guard down will cost us in the long run, but it is kinda justifiable I guess.

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Clever Dude said...

What model did you end up getting?

As savvy as I thought we were, we also ended up walking out of the dealership 3 times (3 cars) with all the extras: warranty, fabric protection, paint protection, wheel warranty (my truck), etc. At the time, I didn't think we would have the cash 3 years down the road when the warranty ran out to buy the extended warranty, but now I know we do.

Congrats on the car!

Anonymous said...

So sad to hear you got stuck with extras.

I love reading your site about being frugal, but this kind of stuff makes me wonder. Car dealers are the worst place to get a used car. The one thing that would make me go there would be the certified option, but it sounds like the car you bought didn't have that and so you had to buy the "extra" warranty.

Personally, I have bought my previous 3 cars from private parties and 2 of 3 were good to me. (Learned on 2nd purchase to be even more diligent in examining car). It takes some legwork, but the savings are great and I don't have to deal with those sharks. (89 Honda Accord, 89 MR2, 97 Ford Explorer)

Anyways, I like reading your site.

ispf said...

Clever dude: That is our car in picture :)

Hmmmm... we don't have fabric and paint protection - I don't believe we missed some :) What we ended up buying was maintenance package, wheel and tire road hazard warranty, windshield protection, some VIN etching that is supposed to help catch the thieves if the car is stolen and gap insurance. The extended maintenance was the most expensive. Extended warranty was already included since it was a CPO vehicle, and just for the extended maintenance we paid quite a bit. The good thing though is, it is manufacturer provided, and will run through 100K miles (or 4 years from now) and will pay for all the scheduled maintenance such as 40K/60K/80K service, brake jobs, oil changes etc. as well as any dealer suggested repairs. I think in the long run it will pay for itself, and we just ended up pre-paying for our future maintenance jobs now itself. Tire/windshield - I am not so sure if it is needed - I don't know if we will ever use it. The gap insurance was a total con and ticked me off the most! I found out that we can get gap insurance for 1/3rd of what they charged us :( Fortunately, we can cancel it any point and get pro-rated refund. I am considering refinancing the vehicle from our local bank and get the less expensive gap insurance. Too much hassle but the effort will be worth it!

golbguru said...
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ispf said...

Anonymous: This was undeniably one of the most non-frugal purchase we ever made! That said, we did plan to get a good car - a pre-owned one, but a good one. We have been saving up towards it, but every time we had enough money we invested it elsewhere and continued to drive our old car until it finally died.

It is a certified pre-owned car and came with extended warranty that will carry on through 2011. The extras we purchased were extended maintenance, warranty for tires/windshield that is not included in the extended warranty and gap insurance. I think pre-purchasing the maintenance might be worth it in the long run, but not so sure about the additional warranties :( And the gap insurance was surely a rip-off which I plan to cancel and get a less expensive option as soon as I get my loan papers in hand and refinance the loan.

ispf said...

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Kevin said...

Financing a depreciating asset was not a good idea. It is just a car.

ispf said...

Kevin: Agreed!

That said, we are only human. And even though we would like to think we have come a long way from the day we got into debt because of a car purchase (that story here), the truth is we still have a long way to go. This time around we can afford the purchase without digging ourselves into debt since we can pay the monthly installments without impacting our 401K contributions, or the extra payments towards mortgage etc. We have been saving towards the car purchase but instead of leaving it in a bank account, it is invested in different places and we do not want to break the investments and so went for financing.

That said, we certainly could have gone for a less expensive car, and continued to invest the equivalent of car payments. I will write a detailed post about it someday soon as soon as I get my thoughts organized. It will probably be nothing more than justification, but I need to do it for clearing my thoughts too...

Anonymous said...

I have that car in the 2003 model. It is worth every penny. Enjoy! Life is too short not to get what you love. Thanks for sharing.