Ess Ewe Vee: May I have “more than adequate”?
We on MM pride ourselves on enjoying driving. But what if real-world considerations impact your ability to pursue this pleasure? I’m not talking about having to work too much or having to spend your mod dollars on baby formula, but big problems, like not driving your performance vehicle on the occasions you do find yourself behind the wheel? Mediocre Steve drives a lowered, turbo, two-seater with race buckets so tight you barely need to wear a seatbelt. No chance of getting a car seat strapped in that (and in Steve’s case, this is a positive). For the family men like Alex and myself, it’s not so much the kids we have to satisfy as the wives. There is no right answer to “how is that going to work?” when you’re trying to convince her that you’re the first person to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a 951 is a practical car and the backseat was actually designed for children. So that brings us to the reasonable solution: a minivan.
Vinyl wood siding and wire wheel hubcaps. So much promised, so little delivered.
Fortunately, my wife does not like the idea of driving a minivan. I must be rubbing off on her (hehe). So we went the SUV route. Driving a German performance sedan, I knew better than to buy another German car, and American cars were out of the question, so that left the Japanese and Koreans. First we needed to sell the wife’s Jetta (another case against buying a German car), and we figured our family of four just needed a small SUV. At this point I wanted something she could get in and out of the garage with the mirrors attached and for as small of an outlay of cash as possible.
We started with the Honda CRV. This was an entirely adequate transportation appliance. It did exactly what it was supposed to, nothing more and nothing less. You want acceleration? We have 180 adequate horses to do that. You want interior electronics and accessories? We have what would be considered premium ten years ago as standard. Overall I thought it was the right car for us, because there was nothing on it that I would bother tinkering with. Then I was lured behind the curtain by Kia. They promised value, as in I could get more for my money. More-than-adequate is where I operate, so we test-drove a Sportage and a Sorento. The Sportage had the turbo, which was fun (much more than adequate torque), but the build-quality was questionable. Everything fit while the vehicle was in the showroom, but I nearly ripped the rear door off the car when I opened it. The hinges are attached to the stamped metal, not the b-pillar structure, so the whole thing twists when the door is swung open too far by the inattentive. Overall I liked that car better than the CRV, excluding the question of longevity (basically, it was turbo and turbo=good). Then I wanted to look at the Sorento. Third row seating! Wow; I never thought I would be interested in a spare row of seating that I had no use for, but knowing you could use it ties right into my more-than-adequate attitude. The Sorentos were bigger, but they were the same price as the turbo Sportage! Value! Wait a minute. The teaser BS you see on TV where the Kias are starting at $17,988 is not anywhere near what you will pay. Partly through disclosure and partly through the fact you want power window, you will price yourself above $30,000 for these cars. They had loaded Sorentos at $40,000! For a Kia! Fook that, we’re going to Japan.
Now I was hooked on the third-row seat “utility,” though so we went to Toyota to check out the RAV-4 and the Highlander. The former was now considered too small, but the latter was nice, so we started negotiation. We asked what they could give us on trade for our Jetta. This is where they pissed me off. They took the dealer trade-in value on the Jetta and then subtracted from that their costs to refurbish the car. Thanks. That’s not how Blue Book works, but I appreciate the insult. You must think I am A) desperate, B) an idiot, or C) required by my wife to buy this vehicle. Guessing C will not give you the right answer. I told them forget it and took the fam to McDonalds (in the Jetta).
I was sorry to see the Jetta go, but red just attracted too much attention.
The logical next step would be to sell the Jetta privately for as much as possible in order to establish our new vehicle purchase budget. So that’s what I did. I sold the Jetta in three days on Craig’s list for 2.75 times as much as I was offered on trade, and only $200 less than my asking price. With cash in hand, we were much more comfortable talking to dealers. I used a program through my credit union to “pre-negotiate” a deal with local dealers. Most “no hassle/no haggle” programs are actually advantageous to the dealer, because he has no risk in setting a price. You must understand two fundamentals in negotiation: 1) they are better at it than you are, because they do it all day every day and you have a real job, and 2) you should not negotiate with people who are better at it than you. We ended up selecting a dealer who had fair pricing but minimum dealer-installed accessories (which are big money-makers for the dealer) and went to visit. How do you know what “fair pricing” is? Do not look at MSRP, and you can ask for the dealer invoice, but unless you know how to read it, they will use it against you. You should bone up on this excellent site for tips and advice. http://carbuyingtips.com/ Know what you want before you go, in terms of price, options, etc., and avoid impulse or pressure deviations. If you feel like you’ve lost control of the negotiation or you aren’t getting what you want, walk away. We got a decent deal, and using the car buying tips’ real price spreadsheet, I think I overpaid by about $200, but they didn’t really take advantage of me.
So what did we end up with? A nice white SUV. The only dealer options were wheel locks (which they insisted cost $40 to install; see what I mean about them ripping you off?) and a trim kit that I could have done without but the wife was okay with. I installed the running boards myself and saved $500.
They see me rollin’; they ignore me.
This article is not me bragging. It’s really the story of how I got back to where I started (Honda), having explored other options, and opting for the “adequate” choice. See the front of the Pilot? No projector headlamps. See the engine? 3.5L six-cylinder with adequate mileage and just 250 hp. I have more than that at all four wheels in the Audi. Bottom line: you don’t get an ounce more than “adequate” with the Honda, but you do get what you need.
– Jeff, Jeff, Jeff of the Suburban Jungle