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.
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…
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.
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?