Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I love Cars

NOTE: I've moved. You can find this post here. You can also find my most recent car purchase here. There's even a video. Welcome, and see you over at Frankly My Dear.


I've been avoiding this post.

I'm a girl who likes girl things, so it's been hard to admit that I also like cars.

There. It's out.

I love cars with power. Where I live there's a street that goes up hill with curves. Beautiful curves where you can gas-it and feel the simple strength of horsepower owning the pavement. It's especially exhilarating when the sun is shining, the music is pumping and the wind is flowing.

When I got my license my parents let me drive our old, 2-door, chocolate, Cutlass Sierra - I think it was an Oldsmobile.

Then in college my parents brought me a big burgundy Chevy Lumina my sophomore year at BYU. They were worried about me walking in the snow to an from school early and late, and trying to get to internships in SLC. I named her Scarlett. She was like a giant boat on wheels. I loved her.

When I was poached from my first tech PR job to another agency, they gave me a bonus just for signing. So I leased my first vehicle, a gorgeous, burgundy, Infiniti I30t. I loved that car. I also named her Scarlett. I felt like the Infiniti was what my old Scarlett always aspired to be. I felt so powerful and sassy. I enjoyed driving it, and occasionally racing my husband, who was my boyfriend at the time. Warning: Kids don't do that at home.

I came from a home where my parents always bought the cars, sometimes used, sometimes new - but never leased. Leasing was a dirty word.

Then I met my husband, and the corruption was complete.

So I thought - we've learned a lot over the years with leasing, perhaps I'll share my experience with you. I am by no means an expert - but here's what we know, hope it helps you.

1. Don't be tied to any one car. When it comes to finding a good bargain, leave your emotions at the door.

2. Do the research. There's no excuse for lack of information, the Internet is at our fingertips. Check out Edmunds, CarsDirect, dealer sites, Consumer Reports, USNews Car Rankings, GOOGLE! Learn features, horsepower, invoice pricing, etc... make an excel sheet for heavens sake. (I sort of love excel spread sheets...)

3. Deal with the fleet manager, or the Internet managers, after you've narrowed your choices down. They are usually more motivated to move inventory, they know you've done the research, and that you mean business. Although, sometimes you may need to remind them. Don't let them waste your time. Your time is valuable. Own it.

4. It is okay to pit dealerships of the same brand against each other. It is okay to pit similar makes and models against each other. Ask for the deal YOU want, w/a little leeway. Ask for the best the fleet/Internet managers can give you - and if it's not good enough, say so. If your town is too small, check out nearby towns/cities. The Internet has made our world smaller and much more convenient. Be willing to walk away.

5. Don't believe it when they say they can't give you numbers unless you go into the dealership. That is a trap. They'll suck the life out of you, hours and hours of it, until you feel like you have to take the deal since you've wasted so much of your life there. Remember, your time is valuable.

6. What about a test drive? WAIT until you've gotten numbers close to what you want - and then go make an appointment to meet with the dealer you've been communicating with. I am assuming here you have a handful of different cars you want to test drive, and bargain for. When you test drive, make it clear you are looking at a variety of cars, and deals, squeeze them. If you aren't ready to buy yet, tell them. Be non-committal. You have options, if they want you, they need to make it happen. Then, go for the best deal - unless the next best deal is okay, if you get the car you really want. Sometimes, the stars align and you get the best deal and the car that excites you. That's car nirvana.

7. Timing - always pick the end of the month, the end of a quarter, or year. Thanksgiving is also a great time to shop as they want to get rid of that year's inventory for the new year. Sales guys operate on quotas, they have the pressure to sell big at the end of their sales cycles, use it to your advantage. If they aren't hungry enough to earn your business, you are not tied to them. Go elsewhere.

8. Pay attention to the fine print. The commercials are all polished and snazzy, but check the details. Those fancy lease deals often don't include tax, title, license fees. Sometimes they include a small monthly payment but a huge out of pocket for drive off. Sometimes the lease deals vary between 10-15k miles a year. Usually, the stellar deals are the base model. Work your magic, be ruthless in your deal-making. Once you find your car... relax, and enjoy the drive.

Leasing is for you if:
- you typically don't drive more than 10-15k miles a year.
- you like to have your car under warranty
- you like peace of mind
- you don't want to worry about instant depreciation
- you like the new car smell (I love it....mmmmm)
- you get bored easily, like to try on cars like clothes (ha! I kid, sort of)

With how rapidly technology improves, and how many chips are in cars, these days, not every grease monkey can fix a car. It's nice to have a car under warranty, and I am a tech geek, so I love having bluetooth all set up in the car I'm driving. Wearing an ear-piece would drive me batty.

If the car you leased is worth more than what the dealer estimates it will be at the end of your lease (known as the residual value), you can sell the car and pocket the change. Leasing won't work if you like to drive a car into the ground. In that case, buying a car is for you.

Note about my car taste - I don't even consider any of the American car companies. I know. It's like confessing I'm a bra-burning pot-head. I like the Japanese/German car companies. I like their design, their attention to detail, and how they finish off a car just so, not with cheap plastic parts, but with quality and care.

We did drive a mini-van for a few years. My opinion on mini-vans, if you have a lot of kids, it's the most convenient option. Don't even get me started on the ginormous suburban-type SUVs. I would never be able to park those monsters. I can barely... let's be honest, I can't parallel park to save my life (too stressful). So reasonable-sized cars are my cup of tea. I do think mini-vans could be improved w/some kind of AWD, and MORE horsepower. If you're driving a gaggle of kids, it is incredibly useful to blink and move while on a freeway, or elsewhere. I'm all about active safety measures, not just the passive ones.

My hubby likes to say I'm the one Asian woman that is an aggressive, good driver. I suck at parking, but dang, I know how to handle a car.

The car we have right now is an Acura MDX. We've had it since '08. We love it. It's my color of burgundy and... it has the power, the space and joy of driving for our family. I think it's one of the best mid-size luxury SUVs out there. Space for 7, easy to park, AWD, and all the doodads to make you comfortable. Given that as moms we spend so much of our time in and out of cars, driving all over the place, leasing provides me with security, safety, comfort and peace of mind.

What cars do you like? Are you a closet, or open car-lover?

ps. I find the mini coopers darling, nissan cubes funky-fun, acura's designs impeccable, jaguars powerful...don't have a current dream car... just like to try them on from time-to-time.


AzĂșcar said...

I have a friend who is also a leaser. I'm so tempted, but haven't been able to talk J into it. Instead, we're firmly in the drive it into the ground school (usually literally.)

I have an Infiniti I35, so a similar car to your old one. I lurve it. However, I've been contemplating a bigger car for our bigger family. Who knows when that will happen.

Cars I'm thinking about: RAV4, Highlander, Ford Flex, and the Honda Pilot.

AzĂșcar said...

p.s. I'm the car person in our family, J could not care less.

Mrs. Organic said...

You know what would be awesome? If there were headhunters for car buying. You know someone who worked for a finder's fee and did all the legwork for you. I am no good at bargaining even though I love a good deal.

Otherwise, we end up in the drive it into the ground category.

Queen Scarlett said...

Azucar - I remember your hole in the floor pictures. Maybe J can be convinced otherwise one day. ;-)

Mrs. Organic - that would be awesome...but then you'd have to pay the middle man.