Have you ever bought a new car?

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Jeremy and I spent yesterday comparing cars, pricing new ones, and going to the lot to look around. We keep coming back to the same car we always come back to, the Honda Civic EX Coupe. (This isn't our going-to-the-mountains car we talked about before; this is a replacement for my Buick.) Not very exciting, but a lot nicer than they used to be back in the 70's, when my parents had two of them.

Anyway -- we're not really looking for advice; I'd just like to hear your car-buying horror stories. I've never bought a car. I've never had a car payment. Until the Buick, I never had a car that was younger than I am. I've never had a car that my father didn't pick out.

So tell us about the first time you bought a car, or the worst time you bought a car. Also, have you ever used a broker or a buying service? I've heard great things about those services.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000


Oops. I meant to include this link:

See our likely new car.

It's not very exciting, but it's very practical. Outrageously practical. And definitely cuter than a 1988 Buick.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

I bought a brand new jeep wrangler right after graduating from college...and I wish I never had. Owning a new car is no deal -not only will you probably have car payments, but you will also have to carry full insurance to cover the loan company's ass, plus your vehicle registration fees are probably higher than you can imagine. I estimated that it cost me over $450 per month just to have the jeep sit in my driveway, and than wasn't including gas and registration ($380/year!). After a year I realized that devoting my life to car payments wasn't what I was into, so I unloaded the thing and bought a nice used Subaru (which I still have). Another thing you may want to consider: If you get a home equity loan to pay for the car the interest is tax deductable! Beth, buy used. If you don't believe me, ask the experts:

Advice from Tom and Ray

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

Oh yeah, and do you know the theft rate of Honda's in our neighborhood? Two were swipped from my block within a week of each other....Am I helping? :-)

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

Buying used is good advice for most cars, Eric, but not Hondas. Hondas hold their value like crazy. Look at the prices if you don't believe me -- the sticker prices on two year old Hondas are barely a thousand dollars under the price of a new one.

When you factor in the lower interest rates offered for new car purchases (both by dealers and Jeremy's credit union), a used Honda is a very bad deal. If we wanted a different car, we would definitely buy used. But we'll buy a new Honda.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

Yes, the last car I bought was new ... (Hopefully it will remain the 'last car' as well.) But I also had a Honda Civic, it was a fantastically reliable car, even though when I got it, it was very well used up. The car just would not die despite that everything not absolutely necessary fell off. You'll be very happy with the Honda, my only complaint is that everyone knows they're good so Hondas are slightly more expensive than another comparable car. But they keep their value as used cars, too.

But my opinion on "new" cars is that buying "new" isn't worth it. They depreciate like mad the moment you buy them, and you are reminded for the next 'N' years about it on every payment. If I have to get another car again I'm looking for a one or two year old car. But if you've never bought a 'new' car before and would really like to have a 'new car' for once, don't let me stop you. (I really wanted a new one, now I've had one, and I'm over it) The difference in cost between a one-year-old car and a new one isn't going to make THAT big a difference in your life if having a new car is what you're interested in. And you could do a LOT worse than Honda.

(That beat up old Civic I had was responsible for a lot of my friends buying Hondas. I suppose we all had ten year old beat up cars, but theirs were American cars, and would semi-monthly spit up a few hundred dollars' worth of maintenance headaches. My Honda just kept humming)

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

Just so you all know: I've been researching this Honda purchase since 1996, when the new Civic body style was released and I fell in love with it. (Jeremy fell in love with the VTEC engine.) I wanted to buy one then, but I decided to wait and buy a used one in a couple of years.

I was warned at the time that Hondas take forever to lose their value, but I didn't really believe it. In fact, we were toying with the idea of buying a 1997 or 1996 instead of a new one, since that was the model year we originally fell in love with (they haven't changed much, though).

Surprise ... you can occasionally find a 1996 Civic EX in the paper in the $8-9K range. They are almost always very high mileage. Most of the 1996's are still over $10K, and the 1997's and 1998's are still in the $11K-$13K range. I don't really want a four year old car; if I were buying something other than a Honda and looking at used cars, I'd want one that was one or two years old. For a one or two year old Honda, I'm looking at about $1,500 off the sticker price for a new one, at a higher interest rate. I'd just as soon have a new one.

Please note that I'm not trying to convince anyone else to buy a new car ... if you're buying a Toyota, or a Mazda, or anything else, a two or three year old car is a much better deal. It's a weird sales glitch with Hondas. They are a pretty good value as a new car, but not such a hot value as a used car.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

I bought a "new" Saturn in 1996 -- it had been run as a loaner to a charitable organization, so it had 3,000 miles on it. I think Saturn gave me $300 credit.

New Saturns, whether or not they have a history like mine did, are just plain overpriced. In 1996, they had no dealer financing, so you paid bank rates for a Saturn. I could have gotten a Ford Contour for a slightly lower sticker price, and the financing would have been nearly free. Now, my four-year-old car has depreciated from $16,000 to under $10,000 -- well under, if you're talking trade-in value.

I regret not buying a four-year-old car in 1996. I could probably have paid about $10,000 for a nicer car, like a Buick, that would still have only depreciated about $6,000, and my interest wouldn't have been much higher. All in all, my next car will likely be a two-year-old (minivan, oy) coming off lease, or if I buy new it will only be during 0.9% financing week.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

I bought my Nissan with autobytel.com 2 years ago. Dealing with them through the dealership was a *million* times easier than what I went through by myself on the lot.

My uncle took me to 'car dealership row' before I bought my car and had me drive every car in the Altima's class. He took notes as I critiqued each car's features, feel, and my ability to see comfortably out the windshield without sitting on top of the steering wheel (I'm short.) One car right after the other - took like 4 hours, but was by far the best 4 hours I ever spent! I was exhausted at the end of the day, but I was certain of my decision & much more aware of the pros & cons for future purchases. (My least fav - cross between 3 cylinder Cavalier & the Saturn. Favs were a cross between the Altima & the Civic. Altima had stronger a/c system, so I went with it because I live in *HOT, HOT, HOT* Texas.)

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

I bought a Honda Civic in 1993, and drove it around for 7 months before totaling it (in rush hour traffic on I-270 in Maryland). I bought it new and loved it, BUT: I spent 5 hours at the dealership, in the scorpion dance. Grrr. And, the driver's seat was really uncomfortable after 30 minutes. I lived in DC: it takes 30 minutes to go anywhere in that traffic.

When I had to buy a new car, I still thought a new one was the way to go, but this time, I test-drove a few models in my price range (low!). I tried Geo Prisms, Ford Escorts, Saturns, brand-new Dodge Neons. I went with the Saturn SL1, and I love it. It took me an hour to drive it off the lot (no negotiation! God bless America!) and has given me no trouble at all in 6 years. I've replaced the alternator, and replaced the batteries and the tires at 100K miles. It's at 143K now, and I just replaced the headlight bulbs. So I'm one of those rabid Saturn owners.

By the way, Beth, take a close look at the Honda's sticker. Honda often puts an item on there with an acronym like AMV (I can't recall the exact one I saw on mine), which stands for Automatic Markup Value or something. (How lame! Well, it has been six years.) Anyway, the point is that Honda likes to charge extra for Hondas in markets where they are in high demand, so make sure you don't pay it!

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

I first bought new in 97 - it was the best thing I ever did. Practically no maintenance and service costs were really low. I changed again this year as I wanted a '00' reg - our car regs have the year on them. But it made sense finanacially as well - I'm driving a nicer car for the same amount of money.

I'd definately recommend it.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

I bought a new Mazda 323 in 1991 and it was great. (At the time it was as highly rated as the civic only cheaper.) I maintained it very well. I drove it for 145,000 miles and only had to replace a radiator besides regular maintenaince. I just sold it for $2000 to a friend, and he's happy to have it. Again, I bought a new car, a Volvo V40, and I love it. Hopefully, I can drive this car for at least 10 years.I know that people say a used car is a better deal. But it's great to have one that's supposedly perfect at the start, and then take good care of it.By the way, check out edmunds.com. They tell you the inside scoop about car buying.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

Oh, yes, Edmunds is great. I wouldn't buy a car without it.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

I have worked as a Gold Certified Professional for one of the top Chrysler/Jeep dealers in the US for 4 years. If anyone wants the real lowdown on how to purchase a new car, just email me. And by the way Edmunds is wrong on some assumptions. I will get back to you with individual responses. Car buying should be fun, not a chore. Or if you live in the Eastern Penn or New Jersey area, call me 610-253-3521 and I quote you a firm price right over the phone.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

I've only purchased (actually leased, probably gonna buy it at the end of the lease) one car. It's a Honda Accord SE. I *LOVE* the car. I went and test drove the new Honda's, and aside from the fact I could get a V-6, the models haven't changed enough to make me want to give my car up. They don't even have the color I want anymore. Explain to me how buying a car in '97 in a color and then having the color listed in the 2000 as VINTAGE, and not available. What's that all about?

I've never been to a bad Honda dealership, either... Now my husband.. that's a whole different story.

He got his first "big paying" valley job when he was 19. He didn't have any bills, so he wanted a big truck. He ended up going to a Dodge dealer and getting a 1995 Dodge Ram. It was all that testosterone could ever ask for. We're talking V-10, jacked up, 2500.. lots of good stuff. He drove it off the lot. He was pretty much pleased with himself.

The dealer called him a week later and said that in order to go through with the loan he'd have to hike up the interest rate to 13%. That's just not a good deal. He ended up taking the truck out and trying to get it stuck in the mud. It's rather hard to do that when the body is 3 feet up in the air.

He was pretty depressed about returning it. The dealership ended up talking him into a loaded Ford F150. Boy, that was a sorry truck. It rode nice, but it was only getting 10 miles to the gallon. Sticker on the truck said it should be getting 20. They swore up and down that everything was working just fine. We turned that badboy in when the lease was up. We got a Lexus.. and thus begins the next bad car saga.

I've never heard of this happening to a person, but this would be number 2 for my husband. A few days after we got the Lexus we got a call from the dealer finance person. He was talking in hushed voice. He told me that "if" the bank called, to tell them that the number of years my husband had his job, and how long we'd live in our house were just a mistake. I was taken by surprise and asked what he was talking about. Apparently, he went ahead and added a one to both of our numbers. His current job, in the same field for 4 years, was only at 6 months and so was our current residence.

I was pissed. There are no words to describe what I was feeling. I wanted the dude to hang. Isn't it illegal to do that kinda crap?

What a surprise! The bank didn't want to loan us money. Isn't that a shocker? Would you loan money to liars? Man, I wanted to wring that guys neck. He changed the applicaton after we signed it.

If we hadn't contacted our Credit Union, and gotten a 7% loan for the car, I think I'd have pressed charges or something. In the long run we got a better percentage rate, but I didn't appreciate how we had to get it. Grrrrr.... Angie http://www.falling.com/xanadu/cgi-bin/cal.cgi

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

Actually, I'd like to ask for some advice. It looks like I'm going to sell my '94 Saturn SL2 -- I just inherited my mother's GEO Prizm and it has half the miles of my car, otherwise I'd be just fine keeping the Saturn. I've had two hand-me-down cars and the Saturn is the only car I ever bought. (New, had my friend the car dealer come with me, but shut up. Saturn treated me well, gave me a good deal on my trade-in, possibly assuming they'd make it up in financing, but I paid cash in full.) So, I've never sold a car or gone through the classified, etc.

My query -- sell it myself via classifieds? via "side of the road"? through a car dealership -- new or used?

Thanks for any enligh

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

We bought a 1996 Honda Civic EX coupe in 1998 and we like it very well. We wouldn't have bought it new though. Even with the low depreciation on Hondas it wasn't worth the extra cost of new car smell. Because the people who owned the car before us purchased an extended warranty, we've had it pretty easy with this car (our mechanic said it wasn't worth our trouble taking it to him to check it out).

Our credit union (like many in California) offers the same rates on car loans for new and used cars; while we had the money on hand to buy it, we chose to get a loan for cash flow reasons. We paid it off in about nine months, though. That's been one of the smartest things we've done. Be careful about the change in insurance rates though; even a two year old car knocked our insurance rates through the roof. Thank god we didn't buy it new.

The one thing I'd change, which I knew would irritate me even when we bought the car, is that I would much prefer that the car had four doors instead of two. Still, when my sister's co-worker said that they were leaving for Africa in two weeks and they just had to sell their immaculate Civic even for a price far below blue book, I didn't sweat the details. It's a great car.

One of my professors had great luck buying a new Volvo through Costco's fleet service, which doesn't involve using a salesperson. We had the most luck, obviously, waiting for a graduate student to leave the country for dissertation research overseas. I've seen that strategy work again and again and again.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

Before I bought the New Beetle, my TWO previous cars were Honda Civic CR-X's, and the only thing that prevented me from buying another (besides the fact that I was in love with the Bug) was the fact that the CR-X is nolonger produced in this country, although it may still be in Japan. (A lot of good that does me...)

Both Hondas had years of life left in them, even at over 130,000 miles each. When I was signing the paperwork for the Bug, a couple was already outside trying to buy my Honda, which hadn't even been cleaned up yet.

Start with a new Honda, and get one that you won't get tired of, because you most likely have it for a very long time...

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

That's exactly what we plan to do, Rob. Both sets of parents have had multiple Hondas. My parents each had a Civic in the 70's, and my mom had an Accord in the 80's and a CRX in the 90's. (We really should have bought that car from her, but she gave it to my nephew.) Jeremy's parents are on their second Accord; the first one (a 1990) is still a great car. In fact, we're borrowing it right now since Jeremy can't drive a stick shift with his bad knee.

We have considered a lot of cars over the past four years, and we keep coming back to this Civic. It's the only we independently and unequivocally agree on.

We haven't completely ruled out a used car if we can find a great deal on one, of course, but it would have to be a 1996-1999.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

I'm actually in the process of buying a new car right now. I'm being all spoiled like with this one and i have to have *everything* I want on it...so they are actually having to get it from the factory. The *only* reason I did not go with a Honda Civic is because of their high theft rate here (Boston) and the fact that on any given moment you will see at least 5-10 around you. It seems that everyone has them.

I too went with the Autobytel.com experience and it's been pretty good. There's also another website, carbuyingtips.com that gives good advice on negotiating.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

I bought a new Hyundai Excel in 1991. I really really liked having the warranty, especially when, 2 years into it, the transmission failed catastrophically and repeatedly due to a misaligned whatsit in the transmission housing that was only ever fixed by getting a complete new transmission. Other than that, it was a very reliable car for 8 years, and, for only $6300, quite a deal even with finance charges.

In October '99, I bought a new green VW Bug because I had to have it. I went for a test drive and left with a car. I did not pay more for the car than I should have--checked out MSRPs and prices of options on the Web before I went shopping, and knew about what I was going to have to pay.

I love the car, but the payments are rather extravagant. I plan to pay the car off more quickly than my loan demands, and keep it for a lot longer than the term of the loan. Still, it's definitely the Cindy equivalent of a fur coat in July, and now that I've made my one whimsical car purchase I've probably got it out of my system. Wanting a particular car for aesthetic reasons is a dangerous thing.

But I like having a new car. I'm not the kind of person who is going to get a new car every four years. I'm going to get a new car and drive it until it's totally used up, so it's kind of nice to have those first few worry-free, under-warranty years, and to know the entire history of the car when it starts getting old.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

Response to Ann: Go to your local library, and get the NADA Blue Book for the section of the country you live. There are 3 values for your Saturn: Wholesale, Tradein and Retail. Your best bet (unless you are trading this car in) is to ask for slightly above the TRADEIN value. Full retail, sold privately raises flags, because you can not offer a warranty like a dealer to product the buyer's investment. DO NOT call your credit: (1) they have no idea what a car is worth, and (2) invariably will give you retail (which they don't finance in the first place.) Sell it through the Classifieds, you will auto oriented ones in any WAWA or 711. Good luck, go with the tradein value, that will be your best bet to privately sell your car.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

Response to Ann: Go to your local library, and get the NADA Blue Book for the section of the country you live. There are 3 values for your Saturn: Wholesale, Tradein and Retail. Your best bet (unless you are trading this car in) is to ask for slightly above the TRADEIN value. Full retail, sold privately raises flags, because you can not offer a warranty like a dealer to protect the buyer's investment. DO NOT call your credit union: (1) they have no idea what a car is worth, and (2) invariably will give you retail (which they don't finance in the first place.) Sell it through the Classifieds, you will auto oriented ones in any WAWA or 711. Good luck, go with the tradein value, that will be your best bet to privately sell your car.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

Here is a fairly arbitrary but still useful formula I came up with to help us decide on new vs. used, and if used, how used. I figured that we would want to keep this car until it is 12 years old. My current car is 12 years old, most people I know with Hondas keep them for about 12 years (people who are as frugal as I am, anyway), 12 years just seemed like a good number. So I took the prices for a car from five model years -- 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000 -- and divided them by the remaining life of the car to come up with a rough price per year. I took the prices from a price guide that seemed to be at least somewhat close to prices I was seeing in the paper. I didn't include increased registration and taxes and insurance, which adds to the price of a brand new car.

What I came up with: a 1999 Civic is the worst choice unless it really is brand new off the lot (and thus can be expected to last a full 12 years); its price per year is about a hundred bucks more than a brand new one. There is a six dollar price-per-year difference between a 1996 and 2000 Civic. The best values are the 1997 and the 1998, but only by about $30-60/year.

As I said, it's fairly abitrary. Dealer incentives are better for new cars. There is still a $5,000 difference between a 1996 and 2000 Civic, and that $5,000 could be invested. Or it could be used to buy another new car five years earlier than I would otherwise need one, further indicating that there just isn't as much difference as you might think. And as I mentioned before, there's tax, insurance, registration, vs. the better selection and customization you get when you buy a new car.

Again -- this isn't true for all cars. Hondas really hold their value. We might take another look at the 1997's or 1998's, but I'll probably not buy a 1996.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

I inherited my first car from my dad - a paid off, two year old Chevy Sprint. But it eventually died.

I bought a new Honda DX (I think it is) a couple of years ago. I wanted to buy a used one but didn't for the reasons you list, Beth - there just aren't many around, and the ones that are either are really expensive or have serious problems.

We purchased it this way: I knew I either wanted this car or a couple of other similar cars - Geo Metro, Ford Aptiva etc. We sent faxes to all the dealerships we'd be willing to drive to, saying that we are looking for such and such a car with these features - what can you do for us? A few dealers sent back faxes asking us to call them or didn't reply - threw them out. The rest sent faxes back saying what they had and what their prices were. So we knew what the going rate was for all these cars and which dealers we felt like dealing with.

Then I ended up getting the actual car through autobytel.com. Because we'd done the fax thing we knew the price range and could judge the price the dealer offered who called us. They were about 40 miles away but it wasn't a big deal. We went out and got it the Friday after thanksgiving.

I got my loan through my credit union and it still feels like a lot of money, but at least I don't worry about things going wrong.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

I bought a 1998 Honda Civic EX brand-spanking new. To date, it is the best car I ever owned (my previous, Spy Hunter, was a silver 1988 Subaru GL-10 and then before that, the Dreaded Pontiac LeMans-aka LeBomb)....I live in NW Louisiana and we only have one Honda Dealership which basically translates into the dealership driving prices through the roof because they have no competition. I shopped online through three dealerships in Dallas and haggled over options, etc. with the salesman online. Once we had agreed upon options, prices, etc., I essentially just drove to Dallas, picked out a color and interior that was available on the lot, and drove back home. I got the highest model for four thousand cheaper than the lowest model sold for here at home. I highly recommend telling those dealers you're talking to other Honda people and they drop prices and throw options at you like crazy. Haggling online might not sound like a lot of fun but it's better than haggling at the dealership. I also bought an optional warranty on the interior/exterior...it covers any paint defects (such as rust,etc.) on the paint and anything the interior upholstery for five years. They replace it or fix it for free. It's a little chunk o' change but it's worth it.

The Honda is (as previously stated) currently the best car I've ever owned. It's a little over two years old now and I've never had a single problem with it. There are some wierd Honda characteristics that you should be aware of: they are creaky cars. After about a year, I noticed my car was a little creaky and asked my other Honda- owning friends if their cars did the same thing. It's not loud, it's not distracting, it can just make you think that something is up with your car when it's fine. Also, turning on the A/C will SERIOUSLY affect your acceleration (I guess you could get around this if you buy the better motor on the coupe, mine is a four-door) so no attempts to dart out in traffic if you are using your a/c or heater. Also, if you live in a hilly area, watch out. These babies do not like hills. I was driving in Austin and I thought the poor thing (only about five months old at this time) was going to have a vehicular heart attack before I made it through some of those climbs (motor thing again, probably, i'm not mechanically inclined to know these things). All of my Honda friends have commented that their cars are the same way as well.

Just something to think about. For all of the little downsides of the car, it will get me through grad school (if ever accepted!) and far beyond. It's a very worthwhile investment.


-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

Don't worry Beth, I won't lecture you on The Evils OF New Car Purchasing. But below is what I learned the hard way, over the years. So it is unsolicted advice - but the horror stories themselves are too long to tell.

I have bought a few cars, and the best advice I have is find out what the blue book value of the car is, first. They are online (!) at kbb.com. Do this before you ever visit a dealership, and then when you do go see the saleman ask them 2 things. What is the sticker price, and what is the blue book value of the car? When you get an honest answer back, you have found your salesman.

Get a detailed list of every single thing you are paying for, in writing. Make sure the tax charged works out as well, and isn't padded by a hidden 'handling charge'. Handling charges that are spelt out tend to be lower than those that are just called 'handling charges'. ...so make sure they detail what is included in a handling charge, or you could end up paying an extra $50 for them to wash it before they give it to you. And when you are dickering the price, and you finally get to one you agree on, say yes...long pause...and then tell them to waive the handling fees. Works every time, I swear. No one should ever pay $150 to have them process the paperwork to make money off of you. That is just wrong.

Buy in the Fall, and not now. New car prices are lowest then, because the car lot has to get them off the lot to make way for the next model year, which starts shipping in August. If you can hold out that long, you can save a few grand, at least.

Oh, and from experience, if the salesman is only talking to the boy, and not to you, don't give him or her your commission by dealing with them.

Other tricks that have worked include spending a huge amount of time with the salesman, haggling the price, and then walking away for a few days, and telling that if they decide to come down to your price, they should call you. This works really well if you car shop near the beginning of the month, because near the end of the month, a salesman who hasn't met his 'draw' for the month is going to be all over you, begging you to buy, at your price.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

Well, I've owned 4 Hondas. I'm not sure if I need to say more than that, except none were sold for their faults (except being older than a new one).

Well, my prelude was hit by by a horse drawn wagon while it was parked in Adana, Turkey (which took most of the left side of it off.) That, the rough roads, floods, and 130,000+ miles prompted me to sell it finally.

One think I hated each time was buying the car. I hate those f**king dealerships.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

Erin: if you are having serious accelleration problems when you run the A/C or heater, you should really get your A/C checked out, because it might need to be serviced. It could just be a glitch with the car, but I've known a lot of Hondas, and I've never noticed serious accelleration problems like you describe, unless there was something wrong with the A/C.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

Two Responses: To Erin: Please visit me when you purchase your next car - I would be happy to add those interior and exterior packages for you. Cost $10 for both. what did you pay?

To Kristen: End of the month, end of the year. Doesn't matter. Particularly with my dealership. We sell over 4000 cars / year. Our best deal is the deal of day. Waiting doesn't matter. (And, by the way, we are ranked #1 in the country out of 5200 dealers in customer surveys. Those surveys which allow each and every salesperson to get extra incentives and bonuses.) And by the way, no salesperson, should quote you a price on the lot, trade, etc. etc.

The best deal is the deal that the customer wants. Period.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

Eric: Why SHOULDN'T the salesperson quote you the price on the lot?

Are you saying then, that the price of a car *changes* from person to person?

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

BTW, a friend once concluded after exhaustive personal empirical study, "All Hondas are equipped with factory-installed leaves in the vents." :)

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

my personal experience with buying a new car.

1. There is a price, but there is also an "out the door price" which may show up later, and always seems to be higher than what you remembered. (now when buying, I always keep returning to "so that's the out the door price?" when in discussion)

2. Question asked: What can you afford to pay? Which translates as far as I can tell to, "how much can we squeeze out of you and still afford 3 square meals, not cancel medical insurance, but maybe have to give up your dental plan." I'm not sure why it would be smart to ever answer this question. My attitude is: I think I can afford this car and how much do you want for it? And that should be good enough.

3. When trying to haggle the deal. "I'll go talk to my manager." (or whatever they call them). This usually means you're going to sit around waiting for quite awhile only to find out they'll save you another hundred dollars out of several thousand.

4. Extended warranties, additional amenities, seemingly high installation charges of amenities, -- all ways to squeeze a higher price. (IMO) (For instance I had a mainly decorative OEM wing added to my car at purchase -- no way, could I figure out how cost and installation added up to almost $800 especially when I started checking pricing later)

5. If you have a trade-in, negotiate the trade in value before you buy your new car. This may seem obvious, but will be really obvious if you thought you had all your final costs figured out finally.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

Just bought my first car ever: a Honda Insight (the new gas/electric hybrid vehicle). (I used to live in Manhattan, so never needed a car before.)

It's a two-seater, and very cute in a "love child of a honda civic/old citroen/alien spaceship" kind of way. I use it primarily to commute back and forth to work.

Am very happy with the fact that I can now identify my car in a parking lot without a styrofoam ball on the antenna. Oh, and the gas mileage isn't bad either (EPA estimates 61 city / 70 hwy).

If you're interested, read about why I bought an Insight instead of a '69 Camaro or Audi TT.

There are some pictures of it on the Honda site: http://www.honda2000.com/models/insight/visuals/index.html

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

I bought a new Saturn in 1996. The experience was fun and painless - I walked onto the lot, picked out the car I wanted, drove it around, filled out the financing paperwork (I got a loan through my credit union, so I had a great interest rate), then drove the car home.

I know plenty of folks feel as though Saturn rips you off because you can't negotiate price, but frankly, the pain I saved myself is worth it, especially when I hear other folks' horror stories about car shopping. I rationalize the extra money by telling myself it all goes to the congenial and thorough customer service I've gotten every time I've had to take the car to the dealer (two window break-ins and your standard service every 3000 miles).

Plus my Saturn dealer feeds me homemade lasagna and salad on Saturdays while I'm waiting for the car. I'm sure taking the difference between what I paid for my Saturn relative to any of the four other cars Consumer Reports listed as Best Buys for 1996, and dividing it by the number of times I've had a free meal on Saturn will prove that I'm eating overpriced lasagna. But I really don't care. ------------------------------------------------

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

To Erin: It's a small world! I know of *that* Honda dealership in NW Louisiana, and let me tell you, Hell will freeze over before I spend sixteen grand on a two door Honda Civic that doesn't even have power windows. Really. I was insulted.

-- Anonymous, April 18, 2000

Buy a Honda and you will not be sorry. I switched to buying nothing but Honda years ago. I just decided I did not want to deal with car problems so I would pay more up front for a Honda.

I have put over 100K on my minivan (yes I said the word) and consider it just broken in. I have had two other 100K plus models that I donated to charity in order to get a newer "safer" model (you do those things when you have kids). I even have friends that have passed the 400K mark. You abuse them and they just keep going. Put them in the shop every 60K for $200 service and buy tires every 50K and that is it.

I am about to buy a third car and it will probably be a new (Honda) van. A co-worker helped put these commetns in perspective the other day. He asked if I knew of a good mechanic/garage. I replied quickly "I buy Honda's so I don;t have to put them in the shop". It occurred to me later just how true my statement was. I had no clue where a good place to get repairs is, I never have to go.

-- Anonymous, April 19, 2000

Oh, Jeremy and I are so funny. This is ... let's see, the third time? fourth time? ... in four years that we've decided we are absolutely going to buy that Civic. And we still plan to, but now we've decided to postpone it. See, the goal is to eventually have two cars again (we have two cars now, but we may get rid of both of them as part of this purchase arrangement). We want the Honda and some sort of truck/SUV/4wd wagon arrangement for camping and hauling junk around. We have a truck now, but it's too small to fit the two of us plus the dog.

We were going to trade the truck in for the Honda, but then I realized that it makes more sense to buy a new truck first and have that be our only car for a while. We're still planning on building a garage (that was supposed to be this summer, but I don't know if we can do that with Jeremy's knee), and (a) it will be a lot easier to haul construction materials around in a truck than in a Civic, and (b) we'd like to have the garage in place before we buy the Civic. (That was the original plan; the various factors delaying the garage just happened to clash with the imminent demise of the Buick.)

And we will buy a used truck. There are tons of used Toyota Tacomas in the paper right now. We'll probably buy in the fall, and once that is paid off (we'll make a big downpayment so it won't take too long), we'll buy the Honda. Ta-da.

-- Anonymous, April 19, 2000

The "fax first" method comes highly recommended by the Motley Fool guys as well as everyone I know who's tried it. Here's the whole method, should you choose to stick with fax/email/whetever instead of going to autobytel or another such place.

1. Decide what you want - to the detail - and how much you want to pay. 2. Arrange for financing, if necessary, ANYWHERE other than through the dealer (who will think nothing of trying to get you to sign off on a 21% APR loan). 3. Fax 5-7 dealers (or more, if you'd like) a quote request containing all of the details you decide above. DO NOT include your desired price, obviously. 4. After 24 hours (or a full business day), pitch any "please call" or "please come in" responses. Cross those and the "no reply" dealers off of your list. 5. Look at the lowest quote. Compare it to your desired price. If you've done your research, you should be pretty close. 6. Fax a response to each of the dealers still on your list *except* the lowest. Give them that lowest number and ask if they'll beat it. (Don't tell them where that number is from.) 7. If you get back lower prices, go with the lowest. Otherwise, go with the lowest from step 5, above.

Call the winning dealer, introduce yourself, and make an appointment to pick up your new car. Works like a charm.

-- Anonymous, April 19, 2000

I bought a new Ford Explorer Sport in February. My brother and a friend had just bought cars from carorder.com with no problems at all, so I tried to do that. Unfortunately, I live in Texas, the only state where its illegal to buy a car online.

What I did was print out the carorder.com and carsdirect.com prices and tell the dealer that was what I was going to pay. Two dealers refused, but one agreed and that's how I got my car.

I also provide three cars for my three women: an Altima, a Sentra, and a Tercel, all three are former rental cars, and all three have been good performers. I like Nissan because their engines don't have rubber timing belts and thus don't cost you $600 at 60,000 miles.

I used to own an Accord, but found that used Honda prices are just ridiculous and their quality isn't any better than Toyota or Nissan. I agree with the poster who suggested that if you want a Honda then you might as well buy a new one. They certainly hold their value better than anything else.

If you are interested in how I like my Sport, go to http://www.epinions.com/auto-review-143-A11160-38ACE6C4-prod1

-- Anonymous, April 19, 2000

Our 1993 Saturn SL 1 we bought after checking out many cars of that size. I was tempted because of the low price and also because of what I had read previously that General Motors were building a factory to produce car and have a cooperative relationship with labor.

At that time, it was, you order it and we will build it for you. We did, they did and we loved it. We would still be driving it, but in 1997 it rolled and flipped and got totalled - - - no fault of the Saturn's and we feel that the construction of the car saved our lives. We bought a new 1996 Saturn, left over from a no show sale to someone else and was out back somewhere while the new models were moving fast. A decent price was agreed on, my credit union did the financing on the portion the insurance didn't reimburse us for. The second new car for us in our lifetime.

In the past we had some "nearly new" cars for decent prices which gave us good service.

-- Anonymous, April 19, 2000

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