On Buying a Car, a Better Way
May 14, 2005

Buying cars can be a big headache. They take time and money, and often you are searching when you don't have a car. However, the major purchase of a new vehicle can be quite nice, if done properly. I can hear you say it now, "Wait! He's dirt poor, living with is in-laws and going to school! How did he afford a new car?" Yes, yes, we are poor, but student loans and some smart shopping have came through for us. It helped that I did a lot of searching and researching on the web. Also, we recently got our tax refund, which helped the cause greatly. But before the good, we had to go through some bad, or less positive might be a nicer way to say it.

We looked about a month and a half ago at a mid-size dealership and were not impressed. The salesman was someone we knew, and a very nice guy, but he was new to auto sales and was pushed by his manager to try and sell us something we didn't want, a Ford. Now, this auto lot had several Ford minivans, and I'm sure they are very nice cars, if you can stand the American-made refuse. However, it was after some bad experiences in our past that Kari and I decided we would never feed the monster known as Ford. First was the experience with Kari's old Ford Escort (complete engine death and $3000 worth of fixings). For that problem, we also have bitter feelings toward Pep Boys. Do yourself a favor and hit a brick wall going 80 before giving any business to Pep Boys. The second problem was when one of Kari's friends died in a Ford Explorer, oddly enough after it was hit by a minivan. You would think the Explorer would win that contest, but apparently, Ford hasn't figured out how to improve their crash test ratings. Don't sneeze too hard when you are around a Ford.

So, anyway, there was no way we were going to buy their quickly-devalued, gas-guzzling hunks of plastic and minimal metal. After getting frustrated, we walked away from the first dealership. This was no reflection on our friend who worked there. I really think the people who ran that place steered him wrong and we chose not to do business with them. However, all was not lost.

Kari and I checked online for the type of cars we wanted and found a little place in the area that had what we wanted. My mother-in-law said she knew someone who had purchased from there and had a good experience. So, we decided to go take a look. Elijah was taking a nap (Grandma and Grandpa stayed to watch him) and we went with Ally to take a test drive. Turns out the car we saw online wasn't there, but a better one just came in. It was newer, had less miles and was in great condition. We drove it around and loved it. This place, LA Auto, was very nice. They didn't try to push us in any particular direction. Apparently, they buy all their cars from a place in Mesa, Arizona, so none of these cars had ever seen much (if any) snow. And they only bought nice cars. Sadly, that meant there were very few American-made cars on the lot. But that is the reality of the auto world right now.

The saleswoman we spoke with told us she could sell it for as low as $8950, because she got a good deal on it, which turned out to be from $1000 to $2000 less than what I found it to be worth when I checked online. Her candor surprised us. There was no haggling, there was no "Let me check with my boss and see what he thinks of your offer." She said she could sell it for a certain price, which has lower than what was on the window sticker, even, and it was a very fair price.We did a check on the VIN number and it had a clean history. After some debate, Kari and her dad took it in to get a 30 point inspection (I wanted the inspection, Kari didn't). Well, it had some minor things, but the actual car itself is in very good condition. Much to her chagrin, Kari's dad kind of rubbed it in that I was right, the car did need an inspection, and the inspection did indicate we needed a new timing belt. After gathering all the info we could, we prayed about it and decided to take the plunge.

Friday evening, after picking it up from the auto shop that inspected the van, we drove over to the dealership. We had worked hard to get Elijah pumped up for the "New Car!" because we knew he does not take to change very well. Well, we told them what the auto shop said needed work and they said we could pick it up in the morning. We worked out a plan where we put a large sum of money as a down payment, and pay off the rest of it with student loans this fall. We signed a bunch of forms, and filled out loan apps, and were told they would fix some things (windshield, brake pads, timing belt, etc.) Saturday morning. It would be ready for pickup at noon.

Next day, of course, it wasn't done. That was actually OK, because we were still able to take the minivan home with us. The loan applications all went through. Both Kari's and my credit ratings are very high. Yes, getting and using a credit card responsibly can make a huge difference. Before, I had no credit history. Kari's has been high for a long time, even though she hasn't worked in ages. Actually, Stephanie, the saleswoman, was surprised how high our scores were. That was additional news I was happy to hear. Anyway, they said, "Come back next Wednesday morning and we'll take care of everything." True to their word, they did.

Now, this is not the first car Kari and I purchased together. The last one was the Honda Accord we bought in Tucson after Kari totaled the Escort. Our salesman was a nice guy and a Latter Day Saint, but I still felt like I was being sold something. Here at LA Auto, we sold ourselves on the car after we researched it out and did a test drive. The saleswoman told us for how much she would sell it, and there was no false haggling on price. Yes, false. Most larger dealerships seem to want you to think you are getting a good deal when they were "talked down," taking a risk that they would "anger the boss" with such a low price. This woman, Stephanie, was the boss. She bought the cars. Her husband and sons worked on the cars. The cars they bought were always nicer cars, driven only in Arizona (no concern for rust). This is the way I prefer to buy a car, on my terms, with no pressure, and time enough to think about what I'm doing.

As a side note, speaking of rust, the poor Honda has rust on the muffler, now. Darn that Utah winter. Here are both cars, pictured below. Obviously, the Accord is not the focus of this picture. Anyone who wants to know which sites I used for research is welcome to ask. I may post some links in the future. Then again, I might not. Who knows what I will do on this wild and crazy site?

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