Thursday, May 5, 2011

Our Purchase.

I use this blog to post information about our little family so that our friends and family can see what we are up to and so that I have a record, almost a journal, of this part of our lives.  We see that Olive changes each time we blink.  One day I will scan through these pages and savor the moments of her infancy and our early years of marriage. 

I've been on a hosting drought lately, but a lot has happened!  I'll try to catch up in bits ... first ...

After many months and huge swings in our established car purchase criteria (big car or small car, new car or used car, pricey car or even pricier car), we bought a car!

We settled on a new VW Golf with 4-doors and a gasoline engine.  (It isn't the Beetle of my dreams or the GTI of Kyle's, but it will definitely meet our needs.)

As far as car buying goes, I am very pleased with the experience.  We learned a lot in the process and I'm writing it down for next time when my memory is soft .

1. Research, research, research.  Online, in print, in person.  Consumer Reports, in-print and online.  Manufacturers' websites, dealers' websites,, and  My favorites were Edmunds and Truecar because they clearly spelled out MSRP, invoice and recent average sales prices for cars.  We collected information and then went out to kick a few tires.  (It was difficult to resist a few pushy salespeople, but we managed to extract ourselves without much harm from each research mission.)

2.  Advice.  We narrowed our search to two very similar cars.  But our resources didn't end up knocking either option out.  Then we asked a car expert (talk radio host) here in town.  He gave us great advice.

3.  Price Shop.  When we finally settled on one vehicle, we started soliciting offers.  All in all we conversed/emailed/met with 5 different salespeople (each at a different dealership).  The one recommended by the Car Pro, the one who went along on our test drive, and three from an 'get a quote'/'find a dealer' inquiry.

4.  Apples to Apples.  We learned along the way that while some people wanted to sell the car at MSRP, many were willing to give us an "Up Front" price somewhat discounted from the MSRP.  We learned that some dealerships add on 'extras' that we didn't need or want (and sometimes charge 'extra' for them) and some dealerships have add-on fees, etc. that impact the bottom line after you have otherwise agreed on the 'price of the car'.  We started asking for 'drive-away' prices, including tax, title and license.  Four salespeople provided us with 'drive-away' prices.

5.  Writing.  Hello, I am a lawyer.  We got each drive-away price in writing.  By email, yes, but in writing.

6.  Pick.  We selected the best price overall (drive-away plus financing) - also the one that was willing to find our preferred color rather than sell us our second choice color that was on the lot - and signed a bunch of papers.

7.  Flexibility.  So, we wanted a white car (ok, I wanted white) but didn't want to pay a premium for it.  We clearly communicated to the dealers that white was our preference, but we were also willing to consider other colors.  (Not black, it is Houston, and the summer is coming!)  We were also flexible with our time - in two ways.  While we did visit one dealership, I conducted most of the negotiating and information gathering by email and brief phone calls.  I didn't want to waste our time or theirs.  Also, we were ready to make our purchase but willing to wait for the right circumstance. 

8.  Friendly and Professional.  After we narrowed our field to the three closest competitors,  I contacted the other two to say thank you, but no thank you.  After we drove away in our new car, I contacted the remaining two salespeople and let them know that we went another way.  In all of our actions, we tried to be friendly but firm, to treat this as a business transaction rather than an emotional purchase and to treat each of the salespeople with respect for the time they gave and the services they provided. 

Maybe our next car purchase will go even more smoothly.  (Not that we are anticipating that purchase any time in the near future!)

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