I'm not a big fan of shopping. Some purchases are much more difficult than others, which is why I'm a big fan of online shopping. My wife and I recently had to buy a car after hers was totaled, and the experience left me wondering why the process is so difficult.
I know there are services such as Carvana, which delivers a new car to your door with a seven-day, no-questions return policy.
I may give such as service a try some day, but for now I'm old fashioned and figure if we're going to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on a car, I'd prefer to take it on a test drive before buying.
Before I get to the tale of woe and offer ideas for making the chance to buy a car easier, I should explain two things:
1. We only decided to buy a new car after doing plenty of research that showed that a new Toyota Prius was only about $4,000 more than a used one. My normal inclination is to always buy a car used because a new car's value depreciates 9 percent when you drive off the lot.
2. I don't consider myself an expert in car price negotiations — mainly because I've only bought one new car — so before buying the Prius I hired a car broker to buy a used car. The broker not only saved me money, but it took a lot less time and I'm sure less hassle than I would have had at an auto dealer. Eventually, we went with a broker to buy a car for my wife.
Start with a price report
To get a feel for our local market to buy car, I got a free TrueCar report for its estimate of how much the car would cost. I then used a link from my Consumer Reports magazine subscription that allowed three area car dealers to send us price quotes through email.
The offers were all reasonable, based on the prices we found online. But one offer was about $2,500 less than the others. That kind of set off a red light for me, but I called the salesman anyway to make sure the price was accurate and that it included any out-the-door fees, taxes and anything costs they planned to charge me.
He assured me it was, and sent me an email confirming the price as the final price. This is where things started to fall apart. ...continue reading