Monday, July 21, 2008

Our New Ride

You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run!

Disclaimer: If you don’t like buying things and feeling you got a great deal, this might not be the post for you.

So our 2000 Grand Caravan with the Christian fishy never came back. Our insurance agent finally decided to settle and sent over an offer on Thursday. We were expecting to have to negotiate the settlement offer, but when we saw it, we were ready to sign, and I went into a car search frenzy. (* For those interested in my search process, see below)

By the time Friday night came, we had not seen any minivans yet, but we had a document with minivans that hit our criteria (<$8000, 2003-2005, <90k>

But snap out of it, we were not there for a Beamer, we were there for a Minivan that hopefully would cost as much as a Z4’s lease down payment. After a while, a 20-something Internet sales advisor named Matt appeared. I have to admit that he did not try to sell the car too much, and he didn’t try to sell me a BMW, or the Porsche Cayenne parked next to the Grand Caravan. It looked good, and it performed well when we took it for a test drive. But we needed to look at the other minivans. So when we got back, Monica returned the keys while I called the next guy on the list. Soon Monica emerged from the dealership with his offer to sell it to us “If we do it today” for $6500.

Pleasant surprise, but we went on to the next car, a 2005 Town and Country with 85K miles for $7990. Someone else was test driving it, and we had to wait until they came back. Then we realized it was the shorter version (like the Dodge Caravan), so we drove on. Unfortunately, the guy who we were going to see next, who had a 2003 Ford Windstar with 67K miles and an extended warranty listed for $7350 (and leather seats!), was upset that we had been delayed so long, and said that he had to re-schedule for Monday. What a bummer! I was really excited about the leather seats, and if it didn’t look good, I was ready to go back and negotiate over the Grand Caravan at Luxurylandia because the price was already pretty good.

So this was a little bit of a crisis since we had a pretty great "limited time" offer that might not be there in a few days (it was already below blue book trade-in), but had not really been able to compare it to our next best option. This is the point at which you need to rely on your friends, but the friends who you count on saying things like, "There are plenty of cars out there," “These salemen are trained in psychology. They know all the tricks. Do not feel sorry for them” and “Salesman are a different species.” So we returned home to student housing and went to get our kids from Mazhar and Ina Islam. Mazhar is from Bangladesh and he loves to barter. That’s the kind of friend you need to talk to when you buy a car. We rehearsed the whole story to them. Monica did the same by cell phone to her friend Roxane Hawton (quite a haggler in her own right).

Then Matt called again! He told Monica that he could drop the price to $6800 with taxes, title, and all fees (that would be about $6300 without the fees). Monica was getting excited, and Mazhar’s instincts kicked in. He said, “Tell them you’ll take it for $6200, with all the fees. Then you'll get it for $6500). I was thinking $6300, but I thought I’d trust in his experience, so this time I called Matt back. I made sure that we could have it checked out by a mechanic on Monday and still bring it back, and then said, "I'm wondering if you can sell it for $6200. I have another Ford Windstar with leather seats that I really felt like I should at least drive on Monday, unless I can get the price lower." "Well, we've already cut almost all of the fat out of the deal. I can't go that low." Doh! Long pause. "Okay. I understand. I guess I'll go see the other minivan on Monday, and we'll just risk you selling it on Sunday because I don’t do business on Sunday. I guess we’ll probably call on Monday."

I resigned myself to the defeat, but then as we were talking more with Mazhar and Ina, I realized that maybe Monica could broker the deal, since she had been the Sacajawea-ish the go-between the whole time. And since she didn’t want to go driving around more on Monday anyway, she could honestly say that she’d rather go for the Grand Caravan and get the deal done on Saturday. She didn’t want to call though. She kept saying, “Are you kidding?” “Do I have to do it?” Of course she had to do it! This was Matt's way to declare a win too(in addition to making another sale). Matt could save face in Beamer borough by saying that he was trying to prevent any damage to our relationship by getting the car sold at a price I was happy with, and with the speed Monica was happy with.

So back to the cell phone Monica went, pacing in the Islam’s kitchen. “Hi Matt, it’s Monica again. Hans and I have been talking, and if we don’t get the deal done today, Hans wants to go see this other minivan on Monday, but I’m happy with this one. I think it’s a good deal, but Hans doesn’t want to buy it unless he can get it down to $6500 total.”

“Well, I have to go with what my manager says, and I don’t think we can come that low. We’ve already taken it down pretty low. I guess we’ll just have to see you on Monday.” Long pause again. So after this emotional rollercoaster, we still had no car, and neither of us really looked forward to spending another 4-8 hours on this on Monday. But, c’est la vie! You win some, you lose some.

Then, at 5:55 pm (5 minutes before closing), Monica was at Roxane’s house telling the whole story and she gets a phone call. She jokes, “Maybe that’s Matt. Eeeeeh. It is Matt!” “Hi Monica. So your husband would put down a deposit today if we sold it for $6500 total.” “Of course.” “I guess a couple of hundred dollars is not that big of a deal. If you will put up a deposit over the phone, we can make the deal.” W00T.

Since we had not had the minivan checked out, I didn’t let myself get totally excited yet, but Monday morning we went to the BMW dealership and met Matt. He was pretty much all business, although Monica did get out of him that he drives a Z4 and his wife drives a Z3. The paperwork was pretty fast (One perk of buying through a dealership is that it saves the time at the DMV with transferring the title). He didn’t try to pull any fast ones. He even had the car totally detailed and the tank filled with gas! The price of the car ended up being $6004, and $6500 with all the transfer fees, just as he promised (which I really value).

As we were feeling great about this purchase and were signing away, Monica said, “Is that Kenny Rogers?” Sure enough, as we were signing, we heard the sage advice, “You’ve got to, know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run…” How fitting!

So after paying for the car, we went straight to our mechanic, who checked out the vehicle and said that it was in really good shape and that it looked like it had been serviced at the dealership (someone trading up to a BMW would likely have a little more to spend on maintenance then most, I guess. “A little higher on the food chain” our mechanic said). Then we could celebrate. And to top it off, when I got home, I checked my e-mail and found out that I had passed my written preliminary examinations, so I will be able to go on to the dissertation stage and finish my PhD. That was a pretty good day!

Small sidenote to the story:

Monica was driving Conrad to cubscout day camp on Friday (four days after buying the minivan), and 3’x 3’ sheets of steel started falling out of an oncoming semi-trailer. They hit our minivan, bent in the front driver-side wheel, and damaged the front quarter-panel and door. Monica and Conrad were okay, but the car is now in the shop, and we are driving a rental, once again. Today, the shop called with the repair estimate: $6000!

* But signing meant that we only had 72 hours left of our rental car coverage, so I started looking online, which kept half of Thursday, all Friday, and most of Saturday. I looked on,, ebay, and craigslist (I still like it the best). We even called our dealer friends in Las Vegas and looked into that. I was looking to get the best minivan for $8000 or less. The research ended up to be useful because I was able to feel comfortable with which prices were good. I eliminated the Kia Sedona (which often comes with leather seats (one experience I’d like, but have never had) because they get poorer gas mileage) with the help of the motortrend comparison function. I used carfax ($35 for unlimited car history reports) for the first time too, which helped to avoid the cars that had been salvaged, etc.


Tana & Braden said...

sweet ride! Congrats.

Farnsworth Family said...

Whew! I'm exhausted just hearing about it, but am glad to hear things worked out in the end (minus the accident). Glad things worked out and I'm glad you are ok!