Six Cylinders in Fresno

So the last several times Lucie and I have gone down to Fresno we’ve had to rent a vehicle, since our beloved Leasa is getting on years and distance (over ten years and 136K miles) and just isn’t up for a long road trip. The last time we tried, we had to turn back before we were halfway there because smoke started pouring out from under the hood, which as it turns out is not as good for the engine as I hoped it was. Note to self: ribs are better when smoked; turkey is better when smoked; vehicles not so much.

At any rate, we’d been thinking about getting a second vehicle for when one of us has to work late and has some advance notice. Being a one-vehicle couple does have its benefits, but its drawbacks as well. For the money saved on fuel and insurance, there’s the necessary disruption to both schedules when only one need be skewed.

Long story slightly less long, while we’re in Fresno we decide to go looking at vehicles. One benefit of having driven lots and lots of rental vehicles is that we tried to rent as wide a variety as possible to see how we lived driving the different styles. One of the vehicles we liked most was the Hyundai Sonata, so we stop by the Hyundai dealership to poke around.

We get into a couple of different models in addition to the Sonata, and during the drive around the lot we see a couple of used (excuse me, “Certified Pre-Owned”) Sonatas on sale. We stop and take a look, and find a teal 2006 6-cylinder Sonata that really stands out to us. It’s got a sun roof, which Lucie loves; it’s a rental return that only has 11,000 miles, which I love; and it’s one of two used cars on sale for $15,900, which both of us like a whole lot. It’s still more than we want to spend, but that’s what the bargaining part is for.

We take it out for a test drive, I end up driving further than any of us really wanted (stupid confusing freeway exits that dump you right back onto the freeway going the same direction – and Lucie says San Jose is bad), and we decide to have a sit down and see what we can work out.

Now, Hyundai and Kia are slightly different than most other auto makers in that their initial prices are lower than their competitors’ – the South Korean auto makers (sister companies since Hyundai bought out Kia a few years back) lose a little bit of the overhead in order to offer a more attractive face price to their customers. According to a few people with whom we spoke, this means that there simply isn’t much haggle space when you buy one of these cars – what you see is pretty much what you should expect to pay. We decide to test this theory, and hard.

Privately, Lucie says she doesn’t want to spend more than $14,500 on a car. We opt to start at $14,000 even just to see how they react, and work from there. Now, I’ll admit I don’t know all that much about poker faces, but when the salesman chokes on his own tongue while laughing like a braying donkey at our offer, that says something. I may not know exactly what it says, but it says something.

He counters with $15,500, saying what is mentioned above, that they don’t have all that much haggling room on that car, especially since it’s already on a pretty good sale (one of only two cars, remember – most other similar ones were around $18,000.) We go up to our desired $14,500, and settle in for what looks to be a long bargaining session. We go back and forth for what seems like two hours but is actually only about 120 minutes, haggling over the financing (our credit isn’t exactly outstanding, but it’s not as bad as I’d thought either; we’ve mostly recovered from my 25-month unemployment financial devastation) as well as the initial cost.

They bring up the fact that the sale price for the vehicle is in and of itself lower than the Kelley Blue Book price, and that we’re getting it for almost a thousand bucks less than that. We bring up the fact that they’re fairly desperate to make a sale, since it’s end of month as well as end of quarter for them, and they’ve already mentioned that they have a quota they need to hit. They bring up the fact that as a Certified Pre-Owned car, it’s still got 50,000 miles or 6 years left on the original warranty. We bring up the fact that since we’re buying in Fresno but live in San Jose, odds are pretty damn high that their dealership won’t have to incur any of the potential repair costs if we should need any work done while it’s under said warranty.

The finance guy comes in several times, backing up the salesman’s comments and begrudgingly lowering the cost down to $15,300, then down to $15,200, then back up to $15,300 (which he swears is a typo, honest), until we finally work out a deal for $15,000 at just a hair under 7% financing. He gives us the CarFax printout when Lucie asks for it, showing it’s a rental return with no accidents or issues.

Now, this is a good deal. We like it. But Lucie thinks we might be able to do better. We’re also just a little afraid to commit to a new long-term debt, since we’ve just about paid off Hawaii and have no major debts otherwise. So, we ask if they can hold that price for us for a while, we’ll go back home and talk about it, and let them know about our decision in a few days, and if we decide to buy we’ll be back down next weekend.

Finally, the finance guys comes in and slaps down a new piece of paper, saying that he’s sick of this back and forth, and he just wants to get this over with. He’s red in the face, and actually does sound pretty grumpy; he’s certainly not as friendly and nice as he was when he came in the first time. The new piece of paper says $14,500, at the agreed-upon financing rate. Kelley Blue Book listing for this vehicle: $18,500. Score!

We sign the papers, and during the finalization process we agree to an upgraded warranty plan (which we were going to get anyway) which brings us full and complete coverage for 100,000 miles from current status (i.e., good for ten years or until 111,090 miles) and we end up with an even lower finance rate, coming in at a mere tad over 6%.

Since she’s nice and big and fast and powerful, and teal in color (like the Sharks!), Lucie names our new vehicle Meg.

Welcome to the family, Meg.


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