My experiences with auto parts stores of late are well documented on this blog and if you believe the title of this post, think again. After finding out the compressor for our AC had a hole in it and the repair would be a lofty $630, my wife and I opted not to fix our car and to instead put that money toward the purchase of a newer car.
The very next weekend we shipped our kids off to the in-laws and prepared ourselves for an exhilarating weekend of car shopping! Mind you, I haven’t shopped for a car in about six years. After a day of car shopping, I found that some parts of the experience were pleasant surprises and some were exactly as I remembered. Without boring you with too many details, I wanted to share a few of my observations and hope they are of use to you the next time you purchase a car.
Stop #1- The Bank Used Car Sale- Our first stop was at a used car event at a local credit union. We were immediately greeted not by a pushy salesman but by someone who presented himself a “not a sales man” who would take us around and show us what they had. He lived up to his word and showed us all of the SUVs with three rows we could ever want to see. We totally fell in love with the Mazda CX 9 but didn’t seriously look at this event because we would have to take out a loan with this credit union. They were up front about that fact when we walked in so no worries in that regard.
Stop #2- Carmax- After seeing billions of commercials for Carmax we figured they were worth a shot. We actually called and made an appointment with a sales associate, Trevor. He was extremely friendly and didn’t once present himself as a salesman. He made it clear he was there to show us around, answer questions and set us up with a test drive. We saw another CX 9 and he took us for a drive. Carmax really doesn’t haggle at all. Trevor gave us the out the door price on the car. It seemed a little high but it was nice to have that and know that wouldn’t change if we wanted to shop around a bit more. He even gave us his cell number if we wanted to call him back and ask him more questions.
Stop #3- Mazda Dealership 1- At this point we’re really into the Mazda CX 9 and saw the local Mazda dealership had a good used one. When we arrived, we were greeted by a friendly but more typical car salesman. They didn’t end up having the car we wanted any more and he was surprised it was still showing up online. We learned our lesson that we should have called before going to the dealer. He wasn’t pushy at all when we agreed they didn’t have what we were looking for.
Stop #4- Used Car Dealership With A Trailer For An Office– We took to Craigslist and found a great price on a 2011 CX 9. Too good to be true? We called and got some details and the person on the phone said “Yes it has leather and Yes it has 40,000 miles.” Our reply was “That’s perfect! We’re on our way.” Upon arrival and seeing the lot, we got that “maybe we should just keep driving” feeling. I shoved that feeling deep down in hopes that we had struck gold. Upon arrival, we met Eduardo who was every bit the slick, pushy salesman. He showed us the car which indeed did NOT have leather and DID have 57,000 miles. Ouch! As a customer it’s hard to overcome two bits of wrong information. The best part of that experience was that he immediately knocked $1000 off the asking price to try to keep us from walking away but in the end, that was too much to overcome.
Stop #5- Another Mazda Dealership- We saw another Mazda dealership had a Mazda CX 9 and confirmed that with a phone call. While we were worn out, we wanted to take another shot at a love connection. Upon arrival, we met Royal who was definitely a sale man but extremely easy to work with. After a test drive we went through all of the paces and even sat down at the desk and haggled for a bit. Ultimately it ended with the sales manager saying, “We just can’t go any lower” but their price was still much higher than Carmax; ultimately because of the Mazda Certified and they were unwilling to remove that label and lower the price. Royal did send us a very kind follow up email and even responded when I wrote him back.
Stop #6- The Internet- After a day of car shopping and no car, we were worn out. I then took to the Internet and called a few other dealerships that had Mazda CX 9s. I didn’t realize you could do this but they will give you a better out the door price over the phone than they will if you walk up to the lot. I called with the price I wanted and ultimately found a dealer that beat Carmax by a few hundred dollars on a car with 10,000 fewer miles. The next day, we went to the dealer, drove the car and signed the paperwork. I should also say that Nadir at the Nissan dealership also sent a nice follow up email to check in on us an thank us for our business.
So the moral of this story is that the next time I am car shopping, here’s the process I will take:
1. Go to enough dealers only to find the car that I want and get an idea for pricing.
2. Don’t stop at dealers that my gut tells me not to stop at.
3. Appreciate the sales people that send nice follow up to potential customers.
4. Use the power of the internet to call around and get the best price.
As a consumer, had I understood that process, the car buying may have only taken a half day instead of one and a half days. Overall it was a draining experience but we are happy with our almost new CX 9. My oldest son loves having his own back row!