Posts Tagged: car shopping

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When I first set out to find a new car, I did not imagine that I would be writing a down payment check 8 days later. I fully planned to take my time, consider all of my options, go for multiple test drives, read reviews, do the math to anticipate financing scenarios, and everything else that goes into making a completely rational decision.

That clearly didn’t happen the way I thought it would.

On the eighth day of my car shopping mission, I visited Crown MINI of Richmond. I had no real intention of buying a MINI because I thought it would be too expensive, but I figured why not take a test drive just for fun?

When I walked through the lot scanning the inventory, I tried my best to look only moderately interested, playing hard to get if you will.  What happened next was essentially love at first sight, followed by an irrational impulse to leave together immediately. I spotted a 2012 Hot Chocolate Cooper Hardtop, no racing stripes, black roof, minimal as far as design goes, but it was the manifestation of everything I wanted in a car. Different, but not obnoxious. Premium, but not extravagant. Small, but not impractical. And to my pleasant surprise, affordable, but certainly not cheap. 

I handed over my info for a credit check, and less than 12 hours later MINI cobe and I were driving back to Raleigh.

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On the Eighth day of car shopping, the car gods gave to me:

Eight (ish) seconds to accelerate

Seven inch center speed-o

Six air bags for safety

FIVE. HOURS. OF. Paperwoooooork

Four cylinders

Three cup holders

Two doors with a hatchback

and one MINI with great fuel economyyyyyyy!

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After spending hours online researching cars, I’ve narrowed down my “short” list to the following vehicles:

Honda Fit
Mini Cooper
Kia Rio
Toyota Yaris Hatchback
Mazda 2
Mazda 3
Subaru Impreza
Volkswagen Golf
Ford Focus

Now, it’s time to get serious.

In the last 3 days, I’ve visited over 8 car dealerships, test driving each of the above cars. With the exception of the Kia and the Subaru, because those dealerships didn’t have the cars on the lot…. pretty dumb move on their end. How do you expect to sell cars if you don’t have them for people to test drive! Idiots.

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Not gonna lie, kind of tempted to get a Kia Soul just so I can buy a pet hamster to ride shotgun with me at all times.

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Let me just say that I kind of hate car manufacturer websites.

I’ve been to every website of almost every make of car I think I might consider. And I can’t remember which ones I like and which ones I don’t, so I have to go back to the website to figure out what were the pros and cons of each.

Almost all of them seem to have some type of comparison tool, but of course they are different on every site and they suck on every site. It’s like they try to cram every little detail, even the ones that make no sense and are probably on every car that exists and all I want to know is whether or not there’s an audio input for my mp3 player.

I wish there were car personal shoppers that would do all the work for you that you don’t have to pay (like travel agents).

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Day two: Creating my consideration set.

To help me narrow down my list, there are few things I have determined to be mandatory and not at all mandatory for my perfect car.

Things I’m looking for:

-Hatchback (had to start somewhere, and I like the way they look.)
-Automatic transmission (I’d love to drive a manual for the cool-factor of knowing how to drive a manual, but unfortunately car salesmen really don’t want to take the time to show you how it’s done.)
-Power windows and locks (this should be a given these days.)
-Cruise Control (I am shocked at how many cars don’t include cruise control as a standard feature. I loveeee using cruise control and I’d rather not pay $1,000 extra to have it)
-Volume controls on the steering wheel (this won’t make or break my decision, but it’s nice when a car has them. I consider this to be a “safety feature.”)
-Good gas mileage (“good” is negotiable)
-Center console or armrest (I just like it)

And I want all of this at or around the $20-$25K price point (No Audi’s, BMWs, or Mercedes for me)

Things I don’t care about:

-Sunroof/moonroof (Doesn’t really make a difference to me one way or the other. This seems to me like a place where I can save some cash by opting out of one.)
-Navigation system (I have a GPS system - that is a piece of crap - but I’ve heard that the in-dash systems aren’t that reliable anyway. Again, another added cost that I’d like to avoid.)
-Rims (Don’t even get me started.)
-Heated seats (I bet these are nice in the winter, but I’ve never had them before and I’m pretty sure I could live without them.)
-Floor mats (why does every car dealer try to throw in fancy floor mats for hundreds of extra dollars? My car is going to get dirty, especially on the floor. I can deal with that.)
-Satellite radio (I am conditioned to listen to my iPod so I don’t mess around with satellite radio.)
-4-wheel or all-wheel drive (if it’s snowing outside, I’m not leaving my house, therefore, I do not need all-wheel drive or all-terrain tires or cold weather tread, etc.)
-Automatic rain sensing windshield wipers (I CAN SEE WITH MY OWN EYEBALLS IF IT’S RAINING OUTSIDE. YOU’RE OFFENDING ME.)

Next step: Finding cars that fit these criteria.

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Day one of my car shopping experience started with a phone call to the always trustworthy and reliable Mamacobe and Papacobe.

I think it’s a universal rule that parents know more about everything than their children, especially when it comes to cars. And I had absolutely no idea where to start.

Here’s a summary of the questions floating through my mind:

What’s the advantage of buying a car versus leasing a car?

Should I get a new car or a used car?

What can I afford?

What color should I get?

Should I get a hybrid?

How many cars should I test drive?

Do I want bluetooth in my car?

What are the best shoes to wear for a test drive?

What kind of tires will last the longest?

How many airbags do I need?

And so on and so forth.

Welp, let me just say my parent’s helped me narrow down my consideration set from EVERYTHING, to everything that’s new, rather than used.

Making some progress…

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Like I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve decided that the time has come to start getting serious about buying a new car.

Let me preface this by saying that I have zero experience in purchasing a vehicle.

The original Cobe Car was bought by my lovely parents, Mamacobe and Papacobe, in 2002 when I was 17 years old.  It was a used car, but was in excellent condition and had very few miles on it. My parents had a budget they wanted to stick to, but other than that they welcomed my input on the type of vehicle I wanted to drive.

From what I can recall, I pretty much just wanted a 4-door automatic with airbags, air conditioning, power windows and locks, and a CD player. For a seventeen year old girl, I was pretty practical-minded. I was never the type of teenager who wanted a “cool” car (however, in the early 2000’s in Chesterfield Virginia, “cool” basically meant a Ford Mustang.)

Now, let’s jump back to present day.

In my experience working in the advertising industry, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a few different assignments related to the car category, and the shopping experience has been one of the areas that I am responsible for dissecting and understanding.

In other words, part of my job is to empathize with those who are actively shopping for a car, understand what makes them attracted to some car brands over others, and how they make decisions throughout the car buying process.

Yet, when it comes time for me to buy a car myself, I have absolutely no idea what kind of car I want or where I should start.

Ironic, isn’t it?

Finding the next Cobe Car is going to be a serious endeavor, not to mention a huge slice of my savings account, so I want to be extremely confident about the car I choose.

There’s about a month and a half left in 2011, and my goal is to have my new car by 2012. This does not give me much time to research, test drive, and figure out financing, but I think it can be done.

Let’s just hope Cobe Car version 1.0 can make it through Christmas.
Wish me luck.