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A Car for Isabelle

I woke up to a text message on Tuesday morning from Isabelle:

Going to the credit union and then test driving today…u wanna go with me?

Isabelle’s Pontiac had been dying a slow death for a couple of years at least, so neither one of us was too surprised when it started having more problems at the end of last week.  Also, I worked for a car dealership software company from 2005 through 2011, seeing the deals from the inside, so I know what can be negotiated (hint – everything).  Now, I absolutely love car shopping.  I just couldn’t pass it up.  :-)

Our Car Shopping Day

Mr. BFS, Isabelle, and I met for lunch and Isabelle and I headed off from there.  She already knew that she was looking for an affordable, used car with low mileage that would make great miles to the gallon since she drives 60-80 miles roundtrip for work every day.  She narrowed those choices down to wanting a Honda Civic or a VW Jetta.  She already test drove a Civic, so we were heading out to find a Jetta to try out.  But first we had to go downtown to her credit union so she could get pre-approved for a loan.

That took a little longer than anticipated since we both suck when it comes to navigating downtown Houston, but she ended up being pre-approved at 1.99% for 60 months for a car that would be 5 years old or younger and less than $20,o00 total!  Cool beans.  That more than covered what we were looking at.

The Jetta

We used her smart phone to find a VW dealership close to the credit union and once again used our poor navigating skills to find it.  There were a lot of wrong turns and some good-natured cussing, but we did find the dealership and test drove a 2012 Jetta with 8,000 miles on it.

Isabelle just didn’t enjoy it as much as the Civic she tried before, and it was right around the same price.  So we headed off to a Honda dealership closer to my house.

The Bad Experience

They let me down.  Our car shopping could have been done and they let me down…

So, we pulled into the dealership, were greeted by a sales guy as usual, and perused the 2011-2012 Certified Pre-Owned Civics that they had on their lot.  And we found a gem.  A 2012 Honda Civic with only 4000 miles on it for $17,450.  It was almost exactly what Isabelle wanted except for the color, but we of course kept all of this to ourselves.

We went inside, they laid out the numbers, and everything looked good EXCEPT for the trade-in amount that they offered for her Pontiac.  The first Honda dealership of the day offered her $4000 for her trade, but this one only offered $2000.  The end result would make this deal about $18,400 overall.  That wasn’t a problem, except we knew her car was worth more.  So we asked for a higher trade-in value.

The sales manager actually came over to our table, didn’t sit down, and told us in a very condescending tone while standing over us that our trade-in wasn’t worth more than $2000 and that the other dealership only made that offer to get their car sold.  Hmmm.  So I brought up the Kelley Blue Book Value of $4700-$5200, and he told me that KBB wasn’t worth anything.  It was a “Californian pricing system that had nothing to do with this deal”.  He also pointed out what a great deal he had placed on his car.  He wasn’t budging.

So I let him know that he was being a condescending douche the best I could without using the word “douche” (I was actually very polite and told him that he may not want to treat his female customers like they were stupid), asked for his business card, and we left.  The actual sales guy looked so sad…

Happy Ending

We left pissed.  And I was a little hurt because I didn’t help Isabelle get the car that she wanted.  So we drove back to the dealership that she had visited that morning.  She liked the car she test drove that morning, but it had 40,000 miles on it which was higher than what she needed or wanted.

So when the same polite sales guy was available to talk to us, and we quickly figured out that he just didn’t have the selection we needed, Isabelle had a great idea.  She asked if they could get a car delivered from somewhere else like the dealership we just left.  They couldn’t use that exact dealership since it wasn’t in their organization, but Mr. H did start pulling up all 2011-2012 Certified Pre-Owned Honda Civics that they would have access to…

And there was Isabelle’s baby…a 2012 Civic with 6000 miles that was also in the gray color that she had wanted all along.  We talked quickly on the side and came to the conclusion that she wanted that car, and she would be really happy to get the same deal that she was able to get from the douche dude.  The numbers on this one were a tiny bit higher than the last Civic, and there would be a $500 delivery fee to get the car brought down from Oklahoma, but the trade in was still being offered at $4000.  They agreed at a soft quote of $18,400 to walk out the door, and would talk Wednesday morning once they knew if the car was still available or not.

Civic

Papers Signed

Isabelle was able to sign the Retail Installment Contract today.  With taxes and fees and everything, it came to $18,500.  Her Pontiac is now someone else’s problem, her new-to-her car should be arriving later today or tomorrow morning, and the best part is that Kelley Blue Book says the exact car that she is buying would be valued at $19,400 (seriously – that was for a car with the same options and mileage).  If you don’t take her trade payoff into account, she only paid $15,500.  Overall, Isabelle is a happy woman.  Plus, she successfully stuck to her guns with the Finance and Insurance manager when that paperwork was completed, so she wasn’t swindled for a super expensive tinted window package or anything like that.

How to Make a Good Deal

We only were able to make a good deal by knowing our numbers in advance.  We already looked up the value of her trade-in.  We already looked up the general used prices of Civics and Jettas.  She already was pre-approved at an excellent rate.  And Isabelle downloaded a KBB app on her smart phone so we could look up the values of the vehicles we were test driving.  Overall, we knew what she could afford, we knew what she wanted, and we knew what it should cost.  Knowledge is power in car sales just as with all negotiations.  Know your numbers before you start haggling and you’ll end up way happier.

Do you have any happy or bitter car buying experiences that you’d like to share?

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15 comments to A Car for Isabelle

  • Glad it worked out. Good thinking on having the search expanded from another dealer. I wonder if that cut into their profit margin, and maybe that’s why they don’t come up with that idea themselves. They probably have to split the profit or something with the other dealer. Only thing I would have changed is I would have gotten an American made car (the quality gap has been closed from days past) but I know that’s not everybody’s cup of tea (though I am from Detroit area, if that clears it up *lol*)

  • Great job! I despise how car dealerships treat women. But good for you for not taking the low offer from the douchey guy! A lot of people would have given in because he had the car they wanted.

  • Adam

    She already owned an american car (pontiac) that was giving her problems. Why would she want to get another one? Good choice on the civic, she should have plenty of trouble-free years.

  • Nice. When we bought our last car we printed out info on two cars that were about half an hour away from one another and were basically the same except for price and color. (Which to me were the two things that mattered most!) But since mileage, model year, etc… was all the same, we were able to have great leverage to get the one in the color I wanted (and from the not at all sleazy dealer) for the price of the one in the wrong color from the shady guy with a tiny lot across town. Mr. PoP is a super negotiator!

  • Meghan

    Oh how I hate buying cars! I even sold them for a summer when I was 18. I made a killing but am still not great on the other side of the table!

  • Two things: I’m glad you got the Civic rather than the VW. VWs tend to eat parts as they get older, as much as I love the company. We were relieved to finally sell my husband’s 2001 Jetta a couple of years ago because it needed SOMETHING about every other month. J is an automotive engineer and did the work himself, which lowered our costs, but parts were still expensive and the repair would eat up his entire weekend every time.

    I have an extremely high standard for good car sales because of my very first experience with it. When I was 17, my very generous grandmother bought me a new car. (Our family philosophy on car buying is that you buy new and drive it for as close to two decades as possible.) We looked at three cars: Honda Civic, Toyota Tercel, and Chevy Cavalier. I knew I wanted a manual transmission, even though I hadn’t yet mastered driving stick shift. We first went to the Chevy dealership, where the wonderful saleswoman actually gave me a lesson on driving a manual in a BRAND NEW CAVALIER. She was kind and very understanding about my nerves, and shrugged off my couple of false starts and bunnyhopping as I got used to the stick shift. The only time I refused anything during the test drive/driving lesson was when she encouraged me to attempt backing into a parking space between two other brand new cars. The idea of possibly destroying three new cars was enough for me to say “No WAY!”

    Both Honda and Toyota, on the other hand, took one look at me, a 17-year-old girl, and refused to even let me sit in the car. We went back and bought the Cavalier, which was a great car for 7 years until it was brutally rear-ended by a negligent driver. Since it had depreciated like a rock, the damage meant it was totaled.

    I still think back fondly on that wonderful saleswoman, and I hope she has had a long and lucrative career in car sales. She definitely deserves it.

  • That is a great deal! especially if she is planning to drive the car to the ground :)

    I have a 2007 Honda Civic. I bought it used last summer for $12,500 plus $600 in taxes and fees. I bought from a private owner not a dealership.

  • this is an awesome post! so happy for Isabelle.

    WIth your experience and background, Could you write a post on how to negotiate for a car? I know I got screwed with my last car (I was young when I bought it) but we’re looking to buy a new (or used) car within the next two years and just thinking about the experience makes me dread it.

  • It’s a shame that the man at the first car dealership had to have such a negative attitude towards women buying a car. It amazes me how some men have a tough time respecting women when it comes to cars, tools and other traditionally “male” enterprises. I’m glad you didn’t cave into his silly arguments about KBB being a “California” standard, and I’m glad that you didn’t buy from him.

  • Congratulations on the great deal!

  • retired

    Well, we had the opposite happen last time we went to buy a new vehicle. The sales guy was a douche and the manager made the deal. The sales guy kept walking off when my husband would tell him he was RAISING the sales price of the vehicles. These vehicles had been on their parking lot, new, for a year and a half. It was a Ford dealership, so it was American, and they had both paper and internet sales going on the same vehicles for 3 months. And the sales guy actually raised the prices. We walked out furious at having wasted 4 hours of our time, when the manager ran out, asked what the problem was, and offered us the same deal as the internet, but nothing for our trade. It was a 13 year old MPV with 150 K miles and had an code on it; but still, nothing? Finally I got him to show us a lower priced van that I liked better and got $2000 trade; basically convinced him to write the loss off on the trade. I mean the vans were just sitting there getting dirty. Took 6 hours start to finish, including 2 test drives. We love our new van, took out some of the racks they had in it and sold them for $400. We are converting it to a small RV. But the sales guy was so …and we were a couple, with a fierce looking hubby. I think we should have never waited when the sales guy would take off “to help someone else” or look up more information. Thing is, we had walked out of two dealerships already. We were pre-qualified and ready to deal. I have to say, the sales department was much easier to work with, we got out in 15 minutes. Maybe dealerships think they have a monopoly on us or something?

  • I’m so happy that you guys decided on the Honda! VWs tend to have bad transmission problems in the long run, and they can be expensive to fix. Civics are great cars, we have one and we couldn’t be happier. Glad you got a good deal.

  • Great job standing your ground – glad it all worked out! I personally would be super wary of any European cars – not sure what the equivalent of a Jetta in NZ is but I know a lot of people with Polos.

  • Michelle

    My husband bought a new car last year and since he gets the GM discount (his grandfather retired from GM)he went in knowing exactly what car he wanted and since the GM discount is a set price there was no negotiating. We were in and out in 2 hours (test drive included).

    Since I was a 25 year old grad student when I bought my certified pre owned Hyundai Santa Fe I was ready for a “fight” . But there was no fight to be had. I actually felt like I got the better end of the deal because they gave me a great price on my trade (it was great because they didn’t know the AC was broken and the brakes were leaking…gotta love the fact that you don’t have to disclose that kinda information to dealerships). I am happy to report that a few months later we saw my traded in Blazer back on the road again (after everything was fixed and the cosmetic rust was removed from the under carriage….it spent alot of winters in the north).

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