Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Car Shopping

I must first start by saying that given that this is a blog dedicated to my endeavors in the visual journal, it may not be the the most appropriate place to write about what follows, but I need a place to share this.

I hate buying a new car, but after 13 and a half years, and 180,000 miles, I decided to get a new car. I gave up my much beloved Honda Civic (pictured above) for a new Honda Fit. Yes, I'm a Honda guy, and the new Fit is a very cool car. But despite loving my new car, I hated buying it. And I think that my pain boils down to one simple fact. Car dealerships are big businesses whose main concern is to make as much money as possible, and for me I do not have the patience for such mentality that places profits over people. Not only do they want your money, they want and waste your time all so that they can try to sell you additions, packages, and plans that you do not want or need. And in doing so, they keep you waiting and eat away at your time without ever going out of their way to expedite the situation. I simply want to go in and buy a car. I want the price to be the price - no extra fees, no extra options, and no games. Just tell me the price and don't try to tack on anything extra.

Over the last week and a half, my wife and I have spent nearly nine hours sitting in two different dealerships, and driving approximately 450 miles in 5 separate trips to the dealerships. I am not fond of car dealers in the least.

My wife and I began our car shopping about a week ago when her car was having its latest bout of issues solidifying its unreliability and signifying that it was time for her to get a new car. So after a little research, we drove to the Honda of Dulles. Let me say that again, Honda of Dulles. (I repeat it because I would not recommend anyone going there to buy a car.)

We spent about and hour and a half there test driving the Fit, completing the credit application, and getting a feel for pricing and such. The sales man and sales manager began to pressure us to leave that night with a new Fit even though we had mentioned several times that we wanted to do some more research and contact our preferred lender to see what they could do. All the while they kept pushing their finance rate incentive saying that we wouldn't have any problem qualifying, but never giving us a definitive yes that we did qualify. We left that night making an appointment for six days later stating that we knew we wanted the Fit, and had every intention of buying one.

Two days later, when my car began having its issues, we decided that it was time for me to get a new car as well. So, we called the dealer, and said that we had every intention of coming in at our scheduled appointment and leaving with TWO new Fits, and we let them know the colors and trim models we wanted. Not once was there a mention of the fact that they either did not have those colors in stock or that they had limited numbers. Also, when we asked for a quote, we weren't given one and were only left with an explanation for their reluctance. Despite these little things, we went to Honda of Dulles filled with excitement about our new cars. But that excitement began to ebb as we spent three more hours negotiating a price and having a preliminary meeting with a finance person only to find out that they had neither car in stock, and could only get them the next day from other dealers. So we went home that night without new cars.

The next day, we called up, and said that we were on a very tight schedule, and that we only had  certain amount of time, I was told to come in early and get the paperwork started and my wife could come in and basically sign the papers, and we'd be all done. Well, I basically sat around for 40 minutes waiting even though I said that I'd be there at 1 PM. My wife showed up just as I was meeting with the finance person, and we figured, OK sign some papers and we're out of here with our new cars. But incorrect information, computer glitches, basic confusion, and reprinting forms again and again because of mistakes led us to walk out even though we were almost done with the paperwork on the first car. Six hours of wasted time - well, actually 11 hours if add in the 5 hours of driving back and forth.

A phone call to Criswell Honda in Germantown, MD, another dealer even further away, got us a slightly better price and they had two Fits in stock that we liked, but only I could go that night. So I drove an hour, and had to go through all the same typical car buying stuff - credit application, trade-in appraisal, and financing. However, with the price already negotiated, Kellie of Criswell, expedited the process.

The only minor thing was when it came to signing all the forms. And this is a criticism of the car dealership business and not of Criswell Honda. Jessica the financing agent was great, pleasant, and moved through things quickly. I was patient knowing that she was required to inform me about these things. But I just don't appreciate car dealers in general trying to get me to buy all of this extra stuff - security systems, extended warranties, road hazard protection, and such - as I am trying to read, understand, and sign the fifteen documents I need to sign. I speculate that they get you in a small room after you have already invested a lot of time and are feeling a bit exhausted with it all, and try to hit you up knowing that many people will say yes to nearly anything if they are weary enough just to end it all the sooner.

But like I said, Jessica was great, and we got everything taken care of for my wife's car. I hope that Jessica didn't feel like I was upset with her or the dealership. I had a lot of residual anger, frustration, and fatigue from the other dealership, and just a lot of frustration with the nature of the process. But I left with my new car (below).


Joanne got her car the next day, but of course, it was a 2 hour round trip. But we quickly signed the papers, and were able to basically jump in her new car and go. So, I am thankful for Criswell Honda for a much better experience. But I still hate car buying.

Perhaps it could be more like computer buying. When buying a computer, you go in, you see the base price for the model that you want to buy and the list of prices for all the upgrades and added features. You have it all laid out for you so that you can quickly compare prices and features. Computer stores will also have some literature to take home or info on their website so that you can make an informed decision. But I guess that if car dealers gave you the information upfront, gave you time to think about it, and didn't fatigue you and pressure you, they wouldn't be able to make money.

So, I hate car shopping, but love my new car.

4 comments:

PamelaArtsinSF said...

Guess what? We bought our new car online...yup...online. We knew what we wanted and we just ordered the darn thing and they drove it to our front door and it was quite a lot cheaper than the dealership and it is has running perfectly now for eight years! I kid you not.....

Jenny Petricek said...

I can definitely relate to your frustration at the car-buying process. The only thing that's worse than going thru that process is going thru that process after having a car accident that totals your car...and dealing with all of the insurance bureaucracy on top of the dealership craziness! This happened to me after a rear-end collision eight years ago. What's worse...although neither driver was cited for fault at the scene of the accident, I was the target of a lawsuit three years later. Talk about nightmares...

JJ Sobey said...

I guess I was lucky with my car shopping (I too ended up with a Honda, both times). There are a TON of car dealerships in my area, including several Honda dealerships within the city. I shopped around at a lot of places, and the instant I felt pressured (or worse, talked down to because I was a woman), I left.

Love my Civic! Enjoy your new Fit!

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