Monday, January 14, 2008

I just want to record the adventure I had buying a new car.

I. Background
Before I go too much further I have to mention that I don’t buy cars often. My last purchase was a used 1984 RX-7 (which I still have) and my last new car purchase was a 1996 Ford Ranger. I have also worked for a subprime auto loan lender. So not only do I know auto finance well I also know how dealerships work and how slimy their sales tactics are.

I am one of those people who studies in detail the objects that I want to purchase. For months I have been poring over the car guides from Consumers Report and Road and Track along with watching episodes of MotoWeek. Generally, I am a car nut (I am one of those crazies that gets up at stupid hours to watch Formula One races) so I pretty much know all the details about what I want to purchase. After several months I came up with these cars as candidates for purchase:

Honda Pilot
Honda CRV
Toyota Highlander
Toyota Rav4
Hyundai Sante Fe
Suburu Forrester
Mitsubishi SUV

The timing was good all around. The truck was getting tired and we just moved to Denver. I started working downtown which requires a good car for the commute. We also needed a car that has four wheel drive for the snow and enough seats so we could pick up relatives from the airport.

II. The Dealers
First, I want to cover the dealers I visited because I think this represents a large part of buying a car. I know from experience that dealers can be crooks. That is a bold statement to make but it is a fact of life. Dealers exist on the edges of civility when it comes to the legality of buying and selling cars. They generally have the same legitimacy as street vendors selling fake Rolexes.

I live in Westminster which means I started looking at cars on 104th street. The first dealer was the Honda One dealer off of Federal Boulevard. First let me state that it was a nice place. The cars were displayed well and the wife and I were met within a few minutes down in the used car area. We entered the new car area and were greeted by another sales person. This guy showed us the cars and answered our questions without being pushy. Generally, I liked the place because it felt like we could look at the cars without being pushed into a purchase.

The next place was the Toyota dealer off of highway 25 and route 36. We drove up to the showroom and found somewhere between 5 and 10 sales people skulking outside the tall windows. My wife mentioned that they looked like a bunch of vultures. The young guy who stepped up and greeted us was nice but did not know much about the cars. He led us to a highlander and then a Rav4. I will note later why I did not like these cars but will briefly mention that the interiors looked cheap and the prices high. After looking at a RAV4, we went inside. The dealer did not have any brochures for either car and the sales managers astounding recommendation (which he wrote down on the back of his business card) was to visit Wow. I can’t imagine what the look on my face was but I can imagine that it was one of disbelief that someone could be so pathetically unhelpful. In short, we felt hounded by the sales vultures and I felt like the dealer was not willing to deal. We walked out with the feeling that we were escaping a sleazy cheap operation.

The next dealer was the Suburu place on 104th. After driving up we were greeting in a few minutes by a salesman. He asked a few questions and starting showing us what we were interested in. The best part was he let us look around without trying to put us in a car we did not like. He opened up a car and sat in it with us to show all the amenities. When we wanted to look at another car he ran off to get the keys. All in all I liked the sales guy because he let the cars sell themselves and did not push too hard. I probably would have purchased a car from this dealer if not for the small size of the cars and the expense of the Tribeca.

That was it for my wife. She was tired so we went home and discussed what we had seen.

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