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December 07, 2011

Replying to Your Comments Here



I tried to reply to comments on the initial car post but they are disabled after 30 days to prevent spam. I tried to go in through Disqus, my comment management system, to reply there but it didn't work. So I'll reply here, instead.

I value your comments and always read them. Apologies if it sometimes takes me a bit to reply -- but I've been looking forward to writing back!

Showing 9 comments

  • Always a good idea to believe your gut. Going against yourself, you'd have beat yourself up for sure.. Well done.
  • You are right to remain firm on your budget for a new car.  Aside from the purchase amount, there are other costs that need to be considered in maintaining a new car. In the long run, your finances can be affected by any unplanned expenditure.
  • Oh well, some negotiators are like that. They want to grab their customers the easiest way possible, and sometimes their methods are a bit harsh. But that's how business is. You have to be knowledgeable so you won't be fooled.
  • Anggiet
    My son was rear-ended and had to purchase another used car within a very short time period (he was loosing the rental car). I swear, I had the easiest car buying experience ever. I found cars he could afford from looking at dealer websites. He test drove many cars and decided on one. I contacted the dealer via email and said very simply, he will get $1900 from the settlement of the wrecked car and can qualify for a(nother) $10,000 loan. That's all the money he has, no more, no less. The car he likes must be $11,900 out the door. The asking price was $14,000 something.  The next email I got was, "We got permission for the car to go at $11,900 out the door."  I went with my son to look at the car and the paperwork was signed that day, and true to their word, it was $11,900 out the door! Wish all negotiations were that easy!
  • Thanks for writing!  I wonder how many people do buy cars under pressure. It was pretty hard to walk away, and I'm used to negotiating. Yikes. Something about car dealerships, I guess...
  • Bluemizloo
    Good Girl!  You go...and you went.  A car is transportation.  Paying for bells and whistles is just plain foolish, esp if you don't want the bells or the whistles..
  • Rikkidb
    Congratulations on walking away! I probably would have thought "well, it's not THAT much and they did come down a bunch" and then had buyers remorse the next day. Good for you for sticking to your guns! Especially since they could apparently come down $250 more.
  • JessB

    Woot! You go girl! I loved your response - if it was no big deal, why didn't he drop the price?

    Can't wait to read the next post with reflections, etc.
  • Marsha_calhoun
    Congratulations for sticking to your guns.  You were right.  There is no point in paying extra for something you don't really want, and the salesman was just trying to bully you.  Maybe next time he'll think twice.

Juho, Ivo, Rikkidb and Marsha, you're right that buyer's remorse for a car has got to be one of the worst ones out there. No return policy, usually, and big chunk of change. Thanks for reading and for encouraging me to stick to my guns.
Tyra, Thanks for your comment. You sound like you've done a lot of negotiating. Any tips about car buying you want to share with readers in comments or as a Q&A for a future post?
Anggiet, that is amazing. Total success story! You were his negotiation guardian angel.We could all use one. I hope your son is doing well after his accident, and thanks for sharing this happy ending
Loo, you're right, it's just transportation, but oh how I love bells and whistles! Like a good radio and steering wheel radio controls and soft beige leather seats. But yes, it's important to say no when a dealer is trying to sell me a feature I sort of want, let alone one I don't want. Next time, saying no will be even easier!
Jess, Thanks! Sorry the next posts took a long time, but I hope they're worth your patience. :)
Next up, back to The Car Quest.

THE CAR QUEST. Part 2. Have an Identity Crisis


I read the behind-the-scenes Edmunds series. I studied specs and reviews of dozens of cars. I talked to friends who drive my top candidates. I knew my budget. I knew what general features I most wanted (leather), what was optional (moonroof -- sigh.) and what I'd skip (spoilers, GPS).

I was ready.

Except for one thing.

Which car did I most want??

Which really translated into: WHO AM I??

source: Round About Show

For some people a car is wheels and a seat. They think it says nothing about them.

I say, that says something about them.

I'm the kind of person who gleans meaning from a hairstyle, the kind of cocktail someone orders, a person's ringtone or lack of one.

So am I a mid-career professional looking to impress someone, anyone, with her ride? For a while I started to think so, but then I realized there's no one to impress but myself (and my pocketbook), since I don't usually do business with image conscious types. Forget that.

Am a mother (not yet, but buying a car with that in mind) looking for a roomy backseat and a quiet cabin, perfect for sleeping triplets? (Hey, gotta be ready for anything!)

Or am I an ambitious young professional looking to maximize gas mileage, zip through traffic in a cute little thing and be comfortable along the way?

Do I love to pass people on the highway? A little too much.

Would I be comfortable driving something boring safe and slow, in exchange for a roomy interior and cruise control? Er, maybe!?

So there it was, an identity crisis -- sporty, stately, kid friendly, city friendly, all or none of the above?

Mr. A tried to help. He knows a ton about cars, and he knows a ton about me. :) He drives a Civic and has been very pleased with it. I asked him to help me narrow down which of the following cars packs the best balance of sexy features, comfortable drive, affordability and a solid repair track record.


Me: What do you think between the Mazda 3 or 6, the Hyundai Elantra, a VW, a Toyota, a Volvo, another Nissan, or, what else?

Him:  How about a Honda Civic?

Me: I tried one and didn't really like it. It was a 2012 model, and those are getting bad reviews.

Him: How about a 2011?

Me: No, I want something... different. More energetic, more alive.

Him: Like a Civic? It's super reliable. You'll never see them on the side of the road.

Me: I think I'm leaning toward the Elantra.

Him: Why don't you test drive a 2011 Civic and we'll go from there?

Me: Thanks, darling! I think we narrowed it down!

Next step: Unleashing the internet negotiation elves.

THE CAR QUEST. Part 1. Watch A Witty Video


It's been a month since I almost bought Toyota Camry, and I was hoping to kick off this series with good news about a new dark red sedan I bargained down to the price I was shooting for. Instead, my wizened white Nissan is still chugging along and I haven't yet found the right car for the right price. 

But I'm a lot closer!!

Here is my approach, so far.

Part 1. Research

source: Consumerist

I've spent months looking at cars, test driving, figuring out my needs and wants, and reading about how car sales work and how to negotiate.

Here are the three most useful shopping tools I've found.

1. suggests a car's price based on what people have actually paid and gets dealers in your area to offer a lower than MSRP price online. Not necessarily the lowest you can go, but definitely a better place to start.

2. In this video, Rob Gruhl teaches aspiring hagglers some car buying ninja tricks. Witty and informative. Worth every second.

3. And in this series of articles on Edmunds, "Confessions of a Car Salesman,"a reporter goes undercover to learn the insider tricks of car dealerships. For example, remember that worksheet they always bring out with four squares? Here's how dealers use it to squeeze you out of every cent you can pay:

The next step in my training involved the use of the "4-square work sheet." Michael told me the 4-square was my friend, it was the salesman's tool for getting "maximum gross profit." As the name implies, the sheet is divided into four sections. When you have a prospect "in the box" (in the sales cubicle) you pull out a 4-square and go to work. 
The process begins by asking the customer how much they want for a monthly payment. Usually, they say, about $300. "Then, you just say, '$300... up to?' And they'll say, 'Well, $350.' Now they've just bumped themselves $50 a month. That's huge." You then fill in $350 under the monthly payment box. 
Michael said you could use the "up to" trick with the down payment too. "If Mr. Customer says he wants to put down $2000, you say, "Up to?" And he'll probably bump himself up to $2500." Michael then wrote $2,500 in the down payment box of the 4-square worksheet.
I later found out this little phrase "Up to?" was a joke around the dealership. When salesmen or women passed each other in the hallways, they would say, "Up to?" and break out laughing. 
The final box on the 4-square was for the trade-in. This was where the most profit could be made. Buyers are so eager to get out of their old car and into a new one, they overlook the true value of the trade-in. The dealership is well aware of this weakness and exploits it. 
The opening numbers were now in place on the 4-square. At a glance, Michael said, you could see the significant numbers of this deal — purchase price of the car, trade-in, down payment and the monthly payments. As you negotiated you could move from box to box, making progress as you went. It allowed you to sell a car in different ways. For example, if the customer was determined to get full value for his trade-in, you could take extra profit elsewhere — in the purchase price or maybe even in financing. 
The first numbers that go on the 4-square come from the customer. The down payment and the monthly payment are only what they would like to pay. Now, it's time to get the numbers that the dealership would like the customer to pay. These numbers are called the "first pencil" and they come from a sales manager in the tower. Michael said that the first pencil was the dealership's starting position. "You have to hit them high," Michael explained. "You have to break them inside — make them understand that if they want our beautiful new car, they're going to have to pay for it." 
This reminded Michael of something and he laughed. "Here's another thing. Never give the customer even numbers. Then it looks like you just made them up. So don't say their monthly payment is going to be $400. Say it will be $427. Or, if you want to have some fun, say it will be $427.33."

The whole series takes a while to read through, and it was written 10 years ago, but it was a worthwhile education. (More on the Four Squares of Death at the Consumerist.)

So that was my basic training. Next step, deciding which car to buy.