I don't have the greatest luck when it comes to shopping for cars. The very first car I bought was a rental return Chevy Corsica. The shopping experience was relatively painless and my dad helped me. A couple years after I had it paid off, I totaled it and had to shop for a new car. This was a time when I had just changed career directions and was making a lot less money than I used to. I bought a used Toyota Corolla and it was kind of an emotional experience, mostly because I didn't want to buy a car.
The Corolla is what brought me to Arizona five years ago. (Five years and one three days, actually. Wow - time flies). In August of 2004, a month after Tim and I started dating, I had to take my Corolla in for service and it turns out it needed a lot of work. I didn't have the couple thousand dollars to repair it, so we decided to trade it in. My credit wasn't great at the time and I wasn't making a ton of money, so it was tough. Tim thought I should get a Nissan Sentra.
We went to Midway Nissan and had quite an experience. We explained to the salesman that we had nothing to put down and I was upside down on my Corolla. I had already gotten a loan through the credit union where I used to work. We test drove a Sentra and thought it was okay. So back into the office for some haggling. That's when things got ugly. The salesman went over some numbers with us, but they just weren't working out. At one point during this, he asked me for a credit card. I asked why they needed my credit card and he said it was so we wouldn't leave. At this point, we should have left. So we didn't give him a credit card, and the manager came in and started running numbers with us too. He asked if I was making a down payment and I said no. He shouted at us, "SO, YOU HAVE NOTHING TO CONTRIBUTE TO THIS PROCESS? NOTHING AT ALL?" and I very calmly said "no". At this point, we should have left. So after about 3 hours of talking and talking, we got the deal I wanted and basically got the car for about half of what they wanted for it. So into the finance guy's office for more abuse. I said I wanted gap insurance and he kind of gave me a hard time about it. After spending about 6 hours there, we finally left with the car. About three days later, I get a call from the dealership saying that they screwed up some of the paperwork and I had to go back and re-sign some stuff. So, against my better judgment, I went back. I told the receptionist we were there because they called us about some paperwork and she sent us to someone's office to wait. And wait and wait and wait. We were there for at least an hour and a half before anyone even talked to us. At this point, we should have left. Finally, someone comes in and explains that they calculated the numbers wrong and the cost of the car was more than I was qualified for. They explained it was because of the gap insurance. Then the guy says "wait, you're buying the car for less than MSRP, anyway, so you don't need gap insurance. You're just being cheap, that's all." At this point, I was ready to leave. I put the keys to the car on the desk and demanded that they go and get my old car. I'd had enough. After waiting and waiting and waiting some more, they said they couldn't find my old car and they "worked on the numbers" until they came out the way they were supposed to.
I had the Nissan for one year and two months. About three months after I got it, I was at Tim's apartment overnight and someone shot out the back window with a bb or something. About 11 months after I got it, we were rear-ended on our way to Tucson for my family reunion. The bumper was slightly damaged, but nothing serious. Two months later, I was rear-ended while stopped at a red light. That was a bad one. I still have some back and neck problems from that accident and the car was crumpled. It was at the body shop for about a month and a half. About a week before they called to say it was ready to pick up, I got a letter from the other guy's insurance company saying that they were using "recycled parts" on what was essentially a brand new car. When I got the car back from the body shop, they had basically straightened out the crumples and painted over the rest. It was pretty pathetic and the day I got it back, I couldn't even open the trunk. I drove the car to our house, picked up Tim, and we went to the Toyota dealer to trade it in.
We had done our research on Auto Trader and picked out a Toyota Camry. We went to the dealer, showed the salesperson the printout from the internet and said we wanted to buy that one. We drove it and it was great, so we worked out the numbers. Despite being horribly upside-down on my Nissan, it was pretty stress-free.
I've had the Camry ever since and it's been a great car. Last night, we were driving home from dinner and I said "let's go buy a car tomorrow." It's something I've been rolling around in my head for a while and it was kind of a whim.
We did a little looking this morning and figured we could get about $9000 for my car and I owe about $13,000. Our first stop was a Honda dealer near my work. We wanted to look at the Accords there. Tim said the new model is coming out in a couple of weeks so they're probably going to have some good deals on the older models. Not to mention we're reaching the end of the month and the end of the "car year". We got to the dealer and were greeted by a very young salesman who I immediately disliked. He took us inside and asked me questions about the Camry, and said he was going to have someone look at it and go get the keys for the Accord we had discussed. An incredible 40 minutes later, he came back. He couldn't find the keys for the car he wanted to show us. Apparently the one car like it that they had in stock. He said he was going to try and check for the key again and said he'd be right back. About 20 minutes later, we were getting ready to leave, but the guy had the keys to my car so they could look at it. We were just about to tell the receptionist to page him and give us our keys back so we could leave and he drove up in a car. The car he had wasn't the model I wanted and had all kinds of features I didn't want. He said we could look at it and get "an idea" of what the other car would be like. The other car was near, but he didn't have the keys. So we decided to leave. The salesman said he was going to go get his business card and we started walking toward the car. We got in the car and got ready to leave and he came back, but with his manager. By this point, we just wanted to get the hell out of there, so we were a bit rude and just left.
On to the Toyota dealer next door. We looked around a little, but no one even approached us, and I still kind of had my heart set on a Honda, so we left. We progressed to the next Honda dealer. This dealership was freakishly small. They had what appeared to be a tiny fleet and a tiny lot. We walked the whole front lot, through the showroom, and the whole back lot, and no one, again, even approached us.
We drove across town to another Honda dealer. We had a very friendly salesman this time, even though he talked a lot. We drove an Accord and really liked it. We tried to work out the numbers, but they just weren't going to work. They said they would give me $7000 for my car, which I thought was crap. I have a payment of $400 a month right now and that's really all I can afford. Maybe in a few months when one of my other loans is paid off, I could handle a little more, but not right now. So the sales manager proceeds to explain to me that with my credit score and having $0 down, it's hard to get the payment I want, etc. Yes, I know. I'm in the mortgage business. I am well aware that if you don't have wonderful credit and $0 down, you're going to have a higher payment, but thank you for explaining that to me as if I were stupid. The other thing that bugged me is that when I explained to the salesman what I wanted my payment to be, he took a piece of paper and wrote "I will take this car home if I can have a $450 a month payment." and asked me to sign it. When I refused to sign it, they basically decided they didn't want to work with me. And that was the end of that.
Here's the thing, though. If they really wanted to make the deal, they would have made it. I would have been more than willing to look at some certified pre-owned cars. They could have lowered the price of the car. Hell, when I bought the Nissan, they practically gave it to me. So there were a thousand ways they could have worked it out, but they didn't want to. That's fine. I'm not unhappy with my current car in any way at all, and I'm not being forced into buying a new car. They needed to sell me that car more than I needed to buy it.
What is up with car salesmen? Give me your credit card so you can't leave? Sign a piece of paper saying I'll buy the car before you've even run my credit? Give me a break! What is wrong with people? Hell, I work for a MORTGAGE BROKER and we don't use sneaky tactics like that! I'll shop for a car again when the Toyota dies. I have 78,000 miles on it right now, so I figure I have about another 100,000 miles left on it. At least it's a Toyota.