SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks

{June 24, 2013}   Adventures in Car Shopping (Or How I Wasted My Monday!)


Sale (Photo credit: Gerard Stolk (vers l’Été ))


I posted back in December some tips and tricks with car-buying, as well as my experiences so far with my 2007 Camry LE.  If you don’t remember, here is a snippet:


Following are some things I have learned about cars and car-buying:


  • Educate yourself ahead of time.
  • Get pre-approved if you can.  It really increases your bargaining power. And saves you from potential embarrassment.
  • Shop around!  Do not plan to go home with something that day.  Look at different dealerships and test drive a variety of cars in the size and price range you want/need.  I love a Camry but I won’t rule out an Altima or Malibu if I can find a better price and the car is comfy for a household of Sasquatches.  I might even extend my search to a small SUV (um, no, not really!), but I really like the gas mileage in a car.
  • Find a salesman who isn’t a jackhole.  You don’t have to be their best friend, but you will be dealing with him/her for at least a few hours, and that time should be tolerable.  When we were on our GM streak, I dealt with one salesman.  I would haggle him to death, but we both came out winners every time.  The blue lemon?  Not so much.
  • Ask for a lot more than you want for your trade.  It doesn’t always work, but I ended up with $1,850 for an ’87 Bronco II that had a bad transmission one time.  I had expected about $3-500.  Be sure to find the Blue Book value of your trade before you go shopping.
  • Try to have some kind of down payment.  It needn’t be much, but more companies are willing to finance your loan if you’re actually putting down some cash. When I bought the blue lemon, I had about 2 years left on my note for Grizzly’s truck.  That note was paid on time, with extra, every month, but that company that held the lien on the truck would not finance the lemon without a down payment.
  • If you’re buying used, look at the extended warranty that is offered.  I’ve never believed in them, or even needed them, until this car.  You definitely want to have something in place at least while you’re paying the note on the car.  Apart from the Bronco, this is the only used vehicle that has given me so much trouble.
  • Check out the service department.  Talk to people who have used the service department.  One set of my parental units purchases their vehicles at one Toyota dealer and goes to another across town for parts and service.  I like the guy with whom I deal at my dealership, even though I am often frustrated with the service.  He’s given me enough breaks that I’ll continue our business relationship a little longer.


So a new car has been on my list for a minute.  And I never get rid of a car before it’s paid off.  NEVER.  A few weeks ago, I realized how ridiculous it is that I pay so much money each month for a vehicle I hate to drive.  Because I didn’t want to run into financing issues again, I called my credit union last week and did a loan application by phone.  The 2014 models are beginning to come out, there have been some great ads lately, and my credit union is offering fabulous interest rates this month.  My request was approved and the words from the girl in the loan department were “Go shop.”


I posted on Facebook that I was looking at cars and was contacted by a guy from my graduating class in high school who is now a salesperson for a Ford dealership in Stonewall.  Being business owners ourselves, Grizzly and I like to do business with folks we know.  Grizz, after our Camry experience, is concerned about warranties (Ford and Nissan offer the same one!)  I need a mid-size sedan and the Fusion sounded like a good car.  In fact, I was all set to drive down there last Friday to pick one out.


Until Mechanic Man told me about aaaaaalllllll of the problems he sees in Ford Fusions.  He recommended I check out the Chevy Malibu instead.


Please note:  I know James would have done everything in his power to make the numbers work for me.  He’s a great guy and people who didn’t attend school with us told me to go see him!  The way things are going, I probably will go see him and try on a Fusion.


I realized at that point that I had skipped several tips along the way.  I was having to re-think my plan.  Granny-at-the-Farm told me to use the weekend to “do my homework” and start looking Monday.


That’s what I did.  Mechanic Man sent me several notes about service update on a bunch of cars. Granny-at-the-Farm loan me her Consumer Reports.  I valued my car on several different websites to get some ballpark figures in mind, such as Kelley Blue Book, USA Black Book,, and NADA – max value is still a little less than I owe.  I also started Googling (surprise!) to find out what problems owners of the different 2013 mid-size sedan models are having.  I requested information through websites on each of the cars I was shopping.


I had a 9am appointment today at the local Nissan dealership.  The sales rep was a really nice guy, finally got the numbers where I wanted, and I was quite pleased – till I sat with the finance manager.  Apparently the out-the-door price?  Well, it sent me out the door in my old car.  They added the upside down portion of the Camry to the “out-the-door” number, which put my payments too high again.  The greasy finance guy apparently doesn’t speak English (I don’t need to apply for credit because my bank pre-approved me!) and he tried to bully me into a loan I can’t afford.


I kind of liked that doggoned Altima.  I could see where it would be fun to drive.


So I took my purchasing team to lunch to regroup and went to the Toyota place in Shreveport.  I’d been emailing with a sales rep there about the new Camry.  Not as many bells and whistles as the Altima, and the interior is ugly as sin, but it’s an acceptable car.   I test-drove one and it’s kind of like a security blanket – I’m used to driving a Camry. (I also tried on a Prius – negative!! Backseat is roomy but the front area is CRAMPED!)  But again, the numbers weren’t working.  I left because of around $3,000.


To say I’m disappointed is an understatement.  I really hoped to get this particular project knocked out today.  My top two car choices aren’t working out, due to numbers. And if either dealership had come off the darned sticker price, we’d be done.  I felt really badly for the guy at Nissan – he’d gassed and cleaned the car already.


If this adventure is anything like those in the past, I will actually hear from these sales guys by the end of the week.  It happens to be the end of the month and the 2014 models are already rolling in.  And the Realest Chick I know is having a poop fit because she’s away now and she loves to wheel and deal, she has a Nissan guy, and I’ve not gone to see him yet.  I’m being offered a decent number on my trade, so it’s doable.  I’ve also spoken to a Hyundai salesman and I have a Chevrolet guy to talk to.  Who knows, I may end up going to see James about that Fusion yet.


Everything comes in time.  Just not always when or how we want.


How was your last car-buying experience?


~ Katie





katiebman says:

True. I was complimented today for keeping this one in great shape.

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