A Car Buying Odyssey: part 3

Recap so far:

K and her husband needed a car that accommodated their child safety seat and stroller better. They don’t want to take on two car payments so they need to replace just K’s vehicle, a small “paid off” Honda, with something roomier that both of them are comfortable driving. K wants leather interior and navigation, her husband wants a sun roof and good fuel economy.

Thus far the couple has spent 3 days shopping hit 3 dealerships, 4 car lots, and eliminated all but one SUV, which turned out to have extensive corrosion throughout the car.

Shopping Day 4:

Returning to the sales lady they liked the most, K and her husband expanded their search to include larger sedans and wagons. After test driving several cars, they found a Subaru with low mileage that drove nicely but at a price over what they wanted to spend. K’s husband suggested that if they were going to go a few thousand over budget they should reconsider getting a new car.

The dealership had a wider selection of new cars, and the idea of getting a bumper to bumper warranty attracted the couple. The dealership also believed they could beat Ks’ bank’s interest rate (3%). So the couple quickly settled on a new car they loved that fit their needs. And that’s when things went sideways again.

The couple settled in for the long negotiation, with possible changing negotiators and high pressure. That didn’t happen. They were actually able to work with the same sales person all the way through. She did have to run the deal past a superior, which is where things went wrong.

K had already noticed that when she located a car online they listed an “internet price.” The MSRP appeared on the car window, several thousand dollars more, but there was a sale price that more closely matched the internet price. The explanation for the reduced price was manufacturer incentives that changed periodically. This seemed reasonable to the couple, but they were shocked when the paperwork came back…
* based on the MSRP
* reflecting only some of the incentives
* gave a small amount for her trade in
* showed a $5,000 additional cash down payment
* and had a much higher interest rate quoted (5.99%)

The couple had stated that they knew what their trade in was worth and if the dealership couldn’t offer that, they’d sell the car themselves and provide a $5,000 down payment. The dealership’s explanation was that you either got the lower price or the low interest rate. The dealership improved their initial value of the trade in, but the couple was out of time and rather than make a rushed decision or prolonged negotiation they walked away from the deal.

Exhausted and frustrated, the busy couple went home to talk over their options. They found several new and used vehicles of the same make and model they’d loved, with a better price and at that same dealership. They simply ran out of time and energy before they really explored their options once they widened their search to include larger sedans.

Day 5:

K’s anxiety over the purchase process had returned though. Her husband didn’t share her concern and felt they should state their conditions and if they dealership could meet them then they’d buy—if not they’d walk away again.

The couple revisited the first dealership and located a cross over version of the car the “under water” car. It was larger, nicer and both of them fit behind the wheel. However, K’s husband saw the fuel economy (15 city, 20 highway) and ruled it out. One of the big limiting factors of their new car was that it needed to be a daily driver for K.

K’s husband began searching online and also enlisted the services of a “free car finder.” The online search yielded some great possibilities but it turned out that K’s bank would only loan on a car through a dealership. In the Kicker’s opinion the bank simply needed to require a third party inspection to verify the current value of the vehicle, but…

The Next Step:

Being open to sedans provided a whole new set of options and being restricted to dealerships required the couple to come up with some improved way to search for cars. They decided K would search for cars online but at dealerships on her breaks from work and her husband would take long lunches to visit cars she found and screen them out.

Recap of cars tested and rejected by the couple:

(The couple ruled out all truck and small cars because they didn’t feel they fit their needs.)

(K’s husband ruled out all GMC because he used to own stock in the company.)

(K’s husband ruled out all minivans because he refuses to drive one.)

(K ruled out any red car, because she hates the color.)


Escape – K’s Husband didn’t fit

Edge – K didn’t fit

Transit Connect – Too expensive

Flex – too expensive

Explorer – too expensive


Tucson – K’s Husband didn’t fit

Santa Fe – K’s Husband didn’t fit


Outlander – K didn’t fit

Outlander sport – K’s Husband didn’t fit


Xterra – terrible fuel economy

Armada – terrible fuel economy

Murano – all around okay, but a little too expensive, not great fuel economy, not really comfortable to drive

Maxima – too expensive but would have to find the right used one

Altima – too expensive but would have to find the right used one


Forester – too expensive but would love to find the right used one


MDX – Terrible fuel economy

RDX – expensive but would love to find the right used one


Rav4 – all around okay, but a little too expensive, not great fuel economy, not really comfortable to drive

Venza – Sat in but didn’t test drive, may have worked but would have to find the right used one

* all results are the opinions of two ordinary car buyers and reflect only their experience

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