Our new ride

Well, instead of that “new car smell”, it has that “dealer detailed” smell which isn’t as good but still represents a level of clean that this car will probably never see again!

Here’s the update to my post about needing to get a new car before the hamster-driven Chevy Tracker finally gave up the ghost. I went into the dreaded car buying experience trying to make clear choices. I knew I wanted to stay with Toyota because, recent issues aside, they have a fantastic track record. I also like the local dealership and service department. I was hoping they would be willing to deal because I am already a Toyota owner (see my “eggmobile” Yaris in the photo) and because Toyota has offered great deals lately.

Even so, I did my research and found to no great surprise that Toyota’s SUV’s are top-rated vehicles both in safety and customer satisfaction. They’re larger than the Tracker, so Hubby will have no problem toting his gear from gig to gig. I also kept my eye out in the blogosphere for good car-buying tips, and wasn’t disappointed. WiseBread is a great resource.

We headed out to the dealer not sure if we were going to buy or just look, but I did bring our down payment and the Tracker’s title with me, just in case. We had already checked with our financial advisor who agreed that if we didn’t want to refi the house (we don’t, not yet), then taking $5000 out of our savings for a down payment would be a wise move.

After looking at a few different models including the Sienna (too big), we decided on the Rav 4. Of course our friendly salesperson (who latched onto us within 5 minutes of parking) thought we should drive the 2010 Limited version. Aaahhh… new car smell, plus it was loaded: bluetooth, seat warmers, cruise control, built-in Sirius radio, sunroof. It was sweet and the emotional pull of a brand-spankin’ new car was very strong. They also had a 2009 that was just turned in with only 10,000 miles on it. Lots of the same features as the 2010 and very clean, so we head inside to talk.

We discuss various discounts and financing available and have them run the numbers on both. The monthly payments were within $100 of each other, and totally out of the range I want to pay. Emotional pull or not, I had to be firm and let go of those butt-warmer seats. Now Mr. Owner comes by to see if he can help. We talk about how these two cars are too much, maybe we need a base model. Hmmm… he’s not sure he has anything on the lot. In the course of conversation he finds out that Hubby does work for the local minor league baseball team. Well his dealership is their major sponsor, doncha know, so they know the same people. Whoa! Well, now that’s another story! We’re all buddies now!  And wouldn’t you know it, there is a red Rav 4 parked just outside the window that he thinks will work for us!

It’s a 2007, 25,000 miles with some nice features and it drives well. A couple of  chips and a little wear inside; it’s listed for $19,500ish. Mr. Owner brings us to his office to finish the deal. Because we’re now pals and loyal Toyota owners, we get the price down to $17,900ish. Maybe a wheeler-dealer could do better, but I’m pretty satisfied with that.

As an aside, I find it hilarious all the things car salesmen happen to have in common with the people who buy their cars. In the course of the three hours it took to buy this car, topics of conversation included: Howard Stern/Artie Lange/Sirius satellite radio, the NY Mets/Yankees/Giants, baseball in general, football in general, hockey in general, Frank Sinatra, famous people we have met, New Jersey politics, the state of the US car industry, Toyota’s recent issues, living in Florida, working in Vegas, spouses, cell phones, dumb bank rules, the weather, kids, and how fascinating our jobs are (to them).

I try to push back on some of the things I don’t think we should have to pay for, such as that window-etching thing and extras like door trim, and I’m told that they’ll drop the charge (door trim) or it’s mandatory for this dealership (window etching – I probably should have pushed harder). We also got a huge push from Mr. Finance on the extended service contract which I turned down flat-out without even asking how much it cost. Apparently this surprised him. I’ll gamble that I won’t have a major repair issue within 5 years/75,000 miles, isn’t that why I’m buying a Toyota? Don’t you make really great cars? Plus, I think it’s a ripoff to tell me its a 7 year/100,000 mile warranty when that warranty started the day the very first owner drove it off the lot.

The bummer is with all the taxes, fees, and mandatory add-ons, we end up having to finance about $15,000. With my really good credit rating (thanks to our financial advisor!), I get good interest rates even for longer-term loans, so we go with 71 months at 5.99%. This gives me the smallest hit to my monthly budget knowing that we will work to get that paid off early, penalty-free.

I think we did well, and with both cars being 2007 models, I’m hoping we don’t have to do this again for a looong time!