A New Car – On Our Terms
A few years back, we knew it was time to get a new car. Melissa’s car was on it’s last legs, at least in my opinion. Melissa disagrees, saying I didn’t understand the delicate workings of a supercharged muscle car. All I know is if it was raining outside, the car’s electronics would stop working. It was pretty bad.
Repairing the car was kind of out of the question. Melissa had a lot of custom work done on the car so the repair would have had to be performed by a specialty mechanic, and it was looking like it was going to be very, very pricey. Besides, it was a 2 door sports car, so we decided it was time for a new (larger) car.
Knowing what we know now, we probably would have considered a used car for a lot less money, but back then, we were looking only at new cars. We didn’t want to spend too much on a car, but we had some requirements in mind that didn’t make it cheap. We wanted a larger car, that was safer, with room enough for us to pack things in. The other car was a Honda Accord, so it didn’t have a lot of room if we decided we wanted to move some furniture. We wanted something that would last us (through potential children for instance).
We took some time and checked out cars that met our criteria. We weren’t serious yet, and just wanted to test drive. We went to one dealership and told the salespeople we were just looking, but they didn’t really want to hear that. In fact, one place, after prodding over and over again, asked us to put an offer in on the car. We were tired of them asking, so we made a lowball offer, but nothing out of the realm of possibility. The manager came over and literally told us that if we were serious we needed to “get the hell out”. We were shocked. Even though the offer was low he wasn’t willing to negotiate at all. We left, and ruled out that car (and dealership) forever.
We finally figured out what we wanted – the Honda Pilot. It had everything we were looking for and we really liked the car.
We didn’t want to spend a lot of money, and we wanted to get the best deal we could. Even though we weren’t frugal at the time, and we weren’t watching our money closely, we simply refused to get screwed on this deal. I had never negotiated on a car, but Melissa has always said “I feel like I have to get a good deal”.
We went to Kelly Blue Book and got details on how much the trade-in was worth. Then we went to Edmunds and got the details on how much we should pay for the car. We figured out our gameplan from there, and went in to get ourselves a deal we could live with.
We sat down, after taking another test drive, and Melissa opened up “the folder”. We had printed every piece of information we could find on the car. The sales guy looked at the folder and said something like “oh, you guys look like you did your homework – you do realize not everything you read on the internet is correct however”. We just smiled, and proceeded to tell him how much we would pay for the Pilot we wanted, and how much we would accpet for the trade-in. He smirked, and started with his sales routine:
Well, how much do you want to pay per month?
We weren’t prepared for this question exactly, but it didn’t phase us. In fact, hearing him say that made me realize that’s how they can really screw people over. It wasn’t something I’d thought about before then. They can make virtually any number they want through a variety of techniques – balloon payments, leasing, longer terms on the loans, any number of tricks.
Well, maybe not any number, but we didn’t want to fall into this trap. We didn’t want to pay too much per month, but we had used calculators online and figured out payments at interest rates we knew were achievable (we were also pre-approved by our bank) for the term we wanted. We knew we could always fall back on the pre-approval from the bank if they wouldn’t work with us on a decent payment plan.
We aren’t focused on what the monthly payments will be. We want to get the deal we are asking for.
After a little more back and forth on the monthly cost thing, we didn’t budge, so he went to his manager. He said they couldn’t get us as much as we wanted for the trade-in. We said that was unacceptable, pulled out the KBB information (which he said was “unreliable”) and told him it was required for him to make a sale. Again, after some back and forth, they gave in.
In the end, we got what we wanted, and it was fair to both of us, but it took us standing our ground and being fully prepared. We even got them to give us a better interest rate than our bank – by a decent amount! So we paid even less than we were planning per month!
I remember this as one of our first financial victories, especially as a couple. We were young and had never negotiated for a car. We felt like we got a good deal, and that made a big difference for us. Even 3 years later, we’re still happy with our purchase and are happy with the deal we got. It certainly changed how we thought about car buying, although next time I think we’ll buy used (with a warranty) and save up to pay in cash.
Image by merfam.
This post was written as a part of the group writing project for Get Rich Slowly.