Buying a new car is not something that I was looking forward to doing; however, the 22 year old daughter finally decided that depending on others to get her around town was not working. As I told the wife many years ago, “As long as mommy will drop everything to taxi her daughter around, she will not be interested in getting a license. Only when she is inconvenienced enough will she be motivated to learn to drive.” Well that day is finally upon us. The daughter is paying a professional instructor to learn to drive. The target for her to get the license was mid-September. I had told the children that they can have my Jeep Liberty whenever they get their license. It is clear the day was at hand so a week and a half before Labor Day, I set out to get a new vehicle for myself. I had not planned to blog on this but I think others can learn from my experiences.
I spent much of my time on the Kelly Blue Book http://www.kbb.com/ website. I also utilized J.D. Powers and YouTube for supplemental information.
My initial parameters were: a price near $22 K and better mileage than the Liberty which gets 13 City & 17 Highway. In addition I wanted something like my wife’s Ford Sync and navigation.
From my research I compiled the following list of vehicles to look at:
Once I had a list, I began to test drive various vehicles. This is where things began to get strange. I am listing my experiences in chronological order.
Elk Grove Ford (Wednesday)
I like my wife’s Ford C-Max both for its mileage and technology. The Ford Sync system is really great. I started at the Ford dealer where we had purchased the C-Max about a year before. I walked on the lot about 90 percent ready to buy a Fiesta or Focus with the Titanium options package. (This is the high end option package and the only one offering both Sync and navigation.) The sales guy that I got was new. You can tell by how he acted and the fact that he was on the lot a 7 p.m. on a weekday which was when I arrived. He could not locate the vehicle that I has seen online prior to visiting their lot—this occurred many times during my visits at various dealerships. The lot was poorly lit and the vehicle that I finally was allowed to sit in had no lock cylinder in the steering column; thus it was not drivable. I left the lot without ever test driving anything. The sales guy said that they had “loss leaders” in the Saturday paper so check there and I might get lucky. Had he shown me what I wanted to see and then let me drive it, I probably would have purchased it that night. I went home and spoke with my wife about the experience and that is when the above list was created.
Elk Grove Kia (Thursday)
The following day after work I went to Elk Grove Kia. The salesman there was nice and knew his product much better than the Ford guys. The test drive was good and the inside was roomy. The Kia Soul also had the options that I was looking for without having to buy their highest end options package. My wife arrived after work and was able to go on a second test drive in the vehicle. Later we looked up the J.D. Powers rating and a video review on the Internet, this car was moved to the top of my list.
Sacramento Hyundai (Friday)
The day after completing the Kia test drive we went to look at the Hyundai Veloster. But first we had to find the dealership. The map on their website was their old location—which they had left about three years ago; however, the physical address was correct and about three miles away. The fact that they couldn’t even update their website was a harbinger of things to come. On paper the Veloster vehicle looked unique and sporty. The three door feature and overall exterior seemed like it was worth a look. The Hyundai is one of several vehicles that I had trouble getting into. When seated behind the wheel, my head hit the roof. I’m only 5’ 10” and this was never an issue in the past. (It was several times during my vehicle search.) The interior dimensions were incredibly small. The manufacturing materials and design quality were poor. The car felt cheaply done. The drive was by far the worst of any vehicle. I’ve run lawnmowers with more horsepower than this car. I had trouble getting the car up to the 45 mph speed limit of the road in front of the dealership. The other turn-off we found out about Hyundai is that their navigation system is not free; it is one of several subscription services that you must have to keep things working. They have a service comparable to GM’s OnStar which also requires a subscription.
Elk Grove Honda
We fled the Hyundai dealer for another trip to the Elk Grove Auto Mall. We then visited the Honda dealership. The Fit was much smaller than Kia’s Soul. It also had a small engine and noticeably less power. Once seated in this car, I also hit my head on the roof of the car. A seat adjustment was able to correct this somewhat but one would think the sale folks would stage the car so this is not even an issue for buyers. The sales guy did a good job of demonstrating the various configurations of storage in the Fit; however, the part about the passenger seat lying flat so you could sleep in the car was a feature only unsupervised teenagers would enjoy to the fullest. (To do this the headrest was not attached but laying behind the seat.) The Honda dealer was the first of several that we encountered that would not sell us the vehicle at the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. On a separate piece of paper right next to the factory label was another label with options added by the dealership. We were told that all vehicles sold by the dealer included these options. The options were not necessary and added several thousand dollars to the sales price. The entertainment/navigation system was very Apple centric and the video display was very small. The salesman was nice but their business model of additional mark-ups and Apple centric cars were a turnoff.
Elk Grove Nissan
Again, going to a dealership after sunset proved to be a surreal experience. This time my wife and I were greeted by the Wonder Twins. We were interested in seeing the Nissan Juke. We were greeted by a female who asked if we wanted sales or service. We were directed to a male sales person. The young girl that had greeted us was also trying to help us. We told them what we were interested in which was 2014 with rebate, navigation, etc. We were directed to a 2013 model Juke; there were no 2014s on the lot and 2015 models had not arrived yet. We test drove this vehicle only to find out afterwards that it was not even a front-wheel drive—which is what we asked for—but an all-wheel drive. So after doing all the research online and telling the sales folks what we were wanting to see, we were shown the wrong model year, with the wrong transmission and the wrong features. As we were experiencing this Nissan dealership, I kept whispering to my wife that this was the automobile equivalent of Hotel Hell. These folks could use the intervention of Gordon Ramsey or Mike Holmes to turn this place around. Dysfunction Junction should be the address of this dealership.
Roseville Auto Maul (Saturday)
On Saturday morning, my wife got up about 6 A.M. and for the first time in our eleven year marriage; she bought a copy of the Sacramento Bee…just to see the auto ads. Elk Grove Ford did have some “loss leader” cars as I was told, with a few offered with “one at this price” disclaimer, but none had the features that I was looking for. We decided to see what we could find at the Roseville Auto Mall. We ate breakfast and piled into the car with our nine year old and drove up to Roseville. We found the Kia dealer on the car’s map; however, trying to get into the auto mall was our first challenge. We headed down Lead Hill Rd and ended-up doing a complete circle around the whole area before finding the entrance—there is only one way in and out of the Mall.
Roseville Mitsubishi Kia
We went first to the Kia dealership to see a Soul with the features were looking for; namely, an Exclaim with sun roof and upgraded stereo package with navigation but NO leather seats. We actually test drove two different Souls. The cars on the Kia lot however were not for sale at the manufacturer’s suggested retail (sticker) price because once again there was an additional sticker next to the factory one. The additional sticker said, “Dealer markup” and added almost three thousand dollars to the vehicle price. We asked about the sticker and were told it was for rent, sales commissions and advertising. The implication was Kia was leaving them penniless without the additional money garnered from this markup which by the way Elk Grove Kia does not have on their cars.
We next went to the Nissan dealer to see the Sentra. I actually sat in three different cars at the dealership. The cars on the lot were so packed together that the first ones I looked at were not able to get to the street for a test drive. Like the Hyundai, these were cheap looking and the interiors were not well constructed. All three cars had visible defects in the plastic parts of the interior. The cars were cramped. If I recall correctly my head was hitting the roof or close to doing so. This was not my recollection of my 1980 Sentra that got 48 mpg Highway. As for features, I could duct tape my cell phone to the dash and have a better navigation experience—including screen size—than that offered by Nissan. I was disappointed.
Next we went to the Ford dealer at the Roseville Auto Mall. By the time it was over, this was by far the most miserable experience and biggest waste of time of the entire car shopping adventure. Our visit was in two parts separated by a very nice lunch at the Squeeze Inn in Roseville.
Visit #1 we had a nice sales person who was probably in his 50’s. We initially asked to look at the Focus that I had been denied test driving in Elk Grove several days before. After further examination, the sales guy had us talked into looking at a Fusion. We took the Fusion for a test drive and wow. This car had the best acceleration and smoothest ride of any car I drove. The interior was roomy to boot. It was not equipped as we wanted and did not come with the rebates we had hoped for since it was a 2015 and not a 2014. I had decided my list had been reduced to a Fusion or Soul. Since by now it was lunch time, we agreed to meet after we took a lunch break. When in Roseville, we typically eat at the Squeeze Inn; mostly because they have good food and also because they are right down the street from Fry’s Electronics.
Visit #2 started an hour and a half later with us meeting up with our salesman only to find he was with another customer that had previously made an appointment with him. He briefed another sales guy and handed us off to him. This new sales guy was a kid in his mid-20’s. All this kid had to do was find a 2014 with the features that we wanted and tell us about the great rebates that we knew Ford was offering for the Labor Day holiday and he stood a 95 percent chance of closing the sale. As we talked with him, we learned that he had played football at San Jose State. As badly as he dropped the ball on this sale, I can see why he is no longer playing football. He wandered aimlessly around the lot looking at stickers to find us a 2014 with the features that we asked for. Not once did he consult another sales person or a computer to check inventory. Previously we learned that in addition to this lot they had another one nearby with another 500 cars on it. Not finding the car we wanted, he led us inside the dealership and he and this other guy tried to flip us into considering a used car. In the course of this discussion, they asked us for a twelve thousand dollar down payment knowing full well that we had no car to trade because the old one was going to our college aged daughter. We were repeated insulted and finally walked out. Once they saw us get up to leave, they continued to ignore what we had asked for and offer us other vehicles we were not interested in. Never once did the offer us a 2014 with the features we wanted and furthermore they never offered us any rebates when I know for a fact that the rebates available totaled over $4,500. These guys were abusive and rude. If Yelp does car sales I would give them a zero.
On the way out of Roseville, we called our Kia salesman in Elk Grove. Much to our surprise and delight—in the few days since we has been there—they had received a new car shipment that included a Soul with the Exclaim package and no leather seats. We headed over to the dealer and took it for a test drive. We began filling out papers for purchasing the car. At 5 pm, our credit union’s loan approval folks were all gone and we could not get approved for 2.9 percent as we were promised. The dealer wanted us to complete paperwork for 4.9 percent with the promise that once we were approved we could have the lower rate of 2.9. We rejected the idea of completing the paperwork at the higher interest rate and said we would wait for the credit union’s approval. Shortly after 10 A.M. on Sunday, we got the call that our loan was approved at the 2.9 percent rate. That afternoon we returned to the Kia dealership and finished the paperwork. Finally, on Sunday evening I was able to drive home in a new 2015 Kia Soul.
The Kia Soul is a wonderful vehicle and fun to drive. I have yet to see anything close to the 31 mpg Highway that the EPA puts on the sticker. I’m getting about 24 mpg with the ECO feature on. Oh, Kia did give me a discount for being a veteran—something no one else ever offered me.
I hope that some readers of this blog might learn from my experience.
• Don’t pay more than the sticker price on any new car
• Know when to walk away
• Don’t be pressured or bullied by sales people or their “closers”
• Stick to your budget
• Know what interest rate that you can finance before shopping