Friday, August 14, 2015

{7 QT 17} - Used Car Shopping...

So, I think we'll lead off with the good news:

We found a new-to-us car! Yay!

And it's not beige - YAY!

And now... the long, drawn out story, of how we got this car.

There is a term you need to know to understand how Daniel and I shop for just about everything that isn't groceries. We call it surgical strike shopping. It's very effective, and very fast. Daniel usually even helps me shop for things like shoes. He's surprisingly good at it - even for shoes.

Here's how it works (when we're shopping for shoes):
  1. I have a quick look around, and get a vague notion of whether the store has what I'm looking for. I'm also looking to see if there's anything I might want to try on that's outside of what I'm "really" looking for that day. Usually there isn't.
  2. I give him criteria. ("I'm looking for a black, strappy shoe, with a small heel - between one and two inches." OR "I'm looking for a tennis shoe with only a little padding on the heel that is mostly a neutral color, like white, gray, or black.")
  3.  Daniel knows my size, and so he goes and looks for things that fit that description - and he usually finds sales that I didn't see.
  4. I sit down and try on shoes while he he looks for things to try on. 

For cars, it was more like:
  1. Before we leave, we looked for target vehicles in the target price range. ("We're looking for a 4-door sedan, with less than 120K miles, for close to or less than the insurance check. We'd prefer a Camry, if we find a Camry, then in a model year later than 2007).") (Toyota redesigned the Camry on the '07 model, so we're concerned about difficulty finding parts for a repair.)
    The pickins' were slim. The insurance check was less than $10K, and dealerships want $11K or more for a used Camry.
  2. Get CARFAX reports.
  3. Decide what our initial offers and maximum prices on various vehicles are.

You would not believe the hassle we went through to find it, though.

On Tuesday, we went to one dealership. I won't publish the name of the dealership here, because we had a somewhat negative experience.

We arrived, thinking that the asking price on our primary target vehicle (a 2010 Camry) was $9,900.

We found out that that price was the special "internet ad" price, and that the real ask price was just shy of $11,000 - which was well above kelly blue book and also well above what the insurance company was willing to pay to replace our car.

So we arrived, expecting to be negotiating from $9,900 for a car that had been on the lot for five months - come to find out - it hadn't been on the lot for five months either. It had been on the lot for about ten days.

The part that really made me mad is that they weren't willing to negotiate at all from that price. (They came down like... maybe $200, and offered to do the moral equivalent of cleaning it or something in exchange.)

We were actually operating from a bit of a disadvantage because right before we arrived, the dealer got an offer on that Camry and the financing fell through, so we're pretty sure they had a magic number in mind that they weren't going to take less than.

They did show us another Camry (an 07 SE, with more than our target mileage, that had coffee stains all over it, the AC was partly disassembled, and the car had been keyed! - the damage to the door was so bad that it was rusting and DENTED!) - they offered to remediate it by painting it.Yes. Really.

The internet ask was $8,900 - the real ask was $9,900. So, again we were negotiating from a different number than we'd planned. But after we saw that the car had been keyed (and damaged to the point of rust and a dent), and all they were willing to do was paint it, we still only offered $7,500. - and our maximum was something like $8,200.

It was actually right around the time that we said no to this vehicle that we found out that that other Camry's financing fell through, and we started the dance again...

Compared with other places we went to afterward, we decided that their setup for selling was really lousy. The salesman didn't know what the asking price was on any of the vehicles he showed us (others had a list), and it seemed as though he wasn't at liberty to do any negotiating with us at all - only to take our offers to his manager and bring back what they believed to be "counter-offers".

We kind of felt like they were trying to hustle us, so we ended up walking on the 10 Camry for what they incredulously described as "$125".

The vehicles both had damage. This one smells funny, and it's got junk in it. You're going to charge us all kinds of fees on top of the price... and you're acting like cleaning the vehicle adds value to it. Riiiiight.....

You keep right on thinking the difference is $125.

So, we were back at square one. We went home and did more research. We kind of decided in the process of this that we really weren't interested in anything other than a Camry. It was something we knew and trusted, and it was the vehicle we had before.

After a few long talks (and a fixation on my part with a car that had a USB port for playing music and less than 100K miles), Daniel said something (that he'd said before) that kind of hit me a little differently. "We only expect this car to really last until a repair for the Impala becomes untenable. Then we'll buy an actually nice car, and this one will only need to get me to and from work."

Now, the Impala (a 2002) has one foot in the grave, and it's waving the other one around in the air! No radio, no AC - too costly to repair for a car that old.

I had been thinking that we put less than 10K miles on most of our cars in a year, which is less than industry average, and so 20K fewer miles was about three years of good use - which is a pretty good buy in my head. After that talk, I decided to look differently than I had been.

There are only... like... three used Toyota dealerships in the city. I searched at all of them, removing all of our other criteria, from our search, and told it, "I'm looking for 4-door sedans that are less than $10,000." That way, I could see things that were close to our criteria that didn't quite make it. I was even willing to consider a Corolla, even though it was a smaller vehicle than we wanted to get.

I found an '06 Camry, with 125K miles, for less than $10K, and a little less than the insurance check, too... and it had been on the lot for 3 months. I'm thinking, "This is great! The worst we could do is break even!"

Daniel was a little harder to convince - but eventually, he saw the reason in his own words, and we decided that this would be our primary target the next day. (but that car with the fancy USB port was on our list as a backup, and we'd researched it thoroughly!)

So the next day, we arrived on the car lot and said, "we'd like to see the '06 Camry."

The salesman we talked to pointed it out to us, and said, "let me go get the key." (He must have thought we were from Mars or something, because we showed up in an '14 Camry and asked to see the '06! - I know that's what I'd have been thinking!)

We walked around the car and noticed all the problems it didn't have that we'd seen the day before. No rust on the wheels. No keyed doors. No pitted paint on the hood. No massive stains all over creation. And best of all - it wasn't in a boring color. It was a nice maroon color. (Though, I'm pretty sure they described it as red - it was a dark red!)

When the guy came back, we looked under the hood. Daniel pulled on hoses and looked at the belts. Daniel mentioned our concerns about the redesign in 07, and the guy said, that really, mechanically, the parts haven't changed much except for the body, and you're not likely to change those unless you're in an accident. "When that happens," he said. "It's really your insurance company's responsibility to find the part, not yours."

Then we took it for a test drive. Daniel tried the radio. He tried the AC. He tried the heater (I growled at him a little. I know we needed to know it worked, but the temperature was 102 when we arrived!)

The more Daniel saw, the more he seemed to like the idea of buying this particular car.

The salesman was like, "I love customers like you guys. You come in. You know what you want. You've done your research. It makes my job so much easier!"

So we go back inside and start talking numbers.

After our first offer, he tells us he can't take that number to his manager. He explained that they'd just lowered the price on this car to get it to move. (On the lot three months, remember?) He tells us that he thinks he'll have a hard time getting the manager to move more than about four or five hundred.

I looked at Daniel and said, "The highest number we talked about is x."

He offers to give us a minute to talk, and while we were talking about a higher number, he was going to negotiate with his manager for a lower number.

He came back with a number that was lower than that "x" figure that I mentioned in front of him. :-)

So, we went home that night with a new-to-us used car. No fancy USB port, but that's a nicety anyway, and we've got another solution in the meantime.

The new car still has the "windshield paint" on it because the detail shop had closed before we could close. (Ha! I made a punny!)

Anyway, here's a picture of our awesome new car.

Glad the shopping part is finally over.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't the Lyceum! 

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