Car Shopping Saga

Trying to buy a used car has been such a pain in the neck. I knew what I wanted and that there were many cars available that fit my criteria. I searched online at and other sites for my new ride.

  • Preferred models: Chevy Aveo, Nissan Versa, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Ford Focus
  • 4 Door hatchback 
  • Automatic
  • Less than 7 years old
  • Around $10,000
  • Less than 100,000 miles
  • less than 25 miles away

 My most preferred colors would be dark red or bright blue. Something pretty that would stand out without being too flashy. I didn't want white. I'd rather not have silver or gray since here in the PNW so many months out of the year the sky is gray, the roads are gray, the buildings are gray... I feel like it makes me a little harder to see if some dipshit isn't paying attention. I didn't want bright flashy red since that just screams "I'm speeding pull me over!!!" even though I drive pretty conservatively.

I had finally saved enough for my down payment. I secured financing with USAA at a good rate. However, my pre-approval runs out 11/11/12. So there's a time limit. The hunt is on but I don't have a lot of time to go out and sit at a dealership for hours on end.

I made a call inquiring about a Ford Focus I saw online. I got an email saying the car had been sold but they had another Focus in stock. This one wasn't a hatchback and had more miles than I wanted. I emailed back and said "No thanks". Immediately a sales woman called me back and left a message. Then she called again. Then she continued to call and email me throughout the weekend. Then her manager emailed and called me. I was so annoyed at this point I didn't care what they were selling I was having none of it.

Ira and I finally had a Sunday afternoon off together. It was a bright beautiful day and I had a HUGE stack of potential cars to look at that I printed off. Most of the used car dealerships were all within a few miles of each other about 35 minutes north of where we lived. We planned our route to try and hit them all most effectively. I looked official with my folder and pen and paperclips to keep business cards we collected together and in plain view on the outside of the folder to other dealers. I had done my research online so I knew a few things. I knew not to let them steer me towards talking about monthly payments. I had a budget already in mind and I wasn't planning on doing financing with them anyways. I knew not to fall in love with anything and leave the lot first before coming back and making a final decision. I knew that if they tried to play the game with me about "going to talk to their manager" too many times or if they kept me waiting for too long to just walk away.

The first place we stopped an older man greeted us. He walked us all up and down his lot looking for the Chevy Aveo they had advertised. He went back into his office to look up where it went. He took us to another side lot to look for it while showing us other hatchbacks that didn't fit any of my criteria. We stayed at this first lot far too long. After he went back inside again to see if the vehicle was perhaps in their shop we decided an hour wasted with this guy was already too much and left.

The next lot we took our time checking around before allowing a sales person to approach us. We showed him the sheet and he said the Nissan was down the street at their over flow lot but he'd run down and get it. We waited a few minutes and after what felt like too long he returned with a different Nissan. This one wasn't a hatchback and more than we wanted to spend. They had sold the other one already. It was nice to sit in a Nissan but again not what I wanted. He took us around the lot to try and show us more hatchbacks but after he pointed at the Mini Coopers and the PT Cruiser I told him we had other lots to check out. Took his card and went on our way.

The next lot our guy was a lot more laid back. Again they had already sold the car we wanted to look at. He took us for a quick look around and there was a VW Jetta for about half of what I was looking to spend. It was a little older and had a few more miles on it but looked good. Ira told me it was a bad idea and we should keep looking. I agreed with him. We found our salesman, nabbed his card and after thanking him we soldiered on.

Finally we stopped at a place where they actually had the car we wanted to see. It was only a two door but it was a dark red Ford Focus hatchback. $6k, low miles, automatic. It had a few scratches here and there. There was a cubby thing inside that when I tried to open it, the door fell off. We decided to give it a test drive. We had been at this half the day already and hadn't driven anything yet! We took it for a quick spin but I was unfamiliar with the area and afraid of getting lost. It had more power than my past 2 cars. Good turning radius. The engine sounded good. I didn't love it but I could see myself in something like that. I didn't like that the gas cap was not secured in any way. We had an entire tank of gas stolen this Spring when parked downtown. We took the guys card and made some notes.

I was getting pretty tired. We stopped for lunch and decided to stop and look at some other car lots we had pass on the way. I didn't want to continue traveling further North at this point. Other cars we looked at were way out of my budget. The last car on our list we were excited to find on the lot but the dealership had already closed for the afternoon. It was an adorable Nissan Versa with all of the bells and whistles plus a rack on top. It was black with keyless entry, bluetooth, XM radio, nice looking interior, very clean outside and totally in my budget. I made some notes and decided to call the dealership later to schedule a test drive. At this point I was worn out.

I continued to look online for cars. Even considered buying from private owners on Craigslist. Nothing that I wanted seemed to be right in my area. Everything that looks perfect is 40-60 minutes drive away. Not easy to manage with my limited spare time. Then I got busy. After that I got sick. Time has been running out and I just haven't had the time to go and look at anything.

I emailed a few dealerships about cars down in Tacoma and Puyallup. Neither of those places are close to me but maybe in the next week or so I could make some time IF the cars are still actually available. I think I've learned my lesson about printing something off online and then driving there. I found a bright red Chevy Aveo with everything I want plus fog lights and super cool looking seats and power windows, etc. I would consider making time to drive down to check it out if I had time...

I have been calling my mom continuously through this process and she kept telling me I should check out Hertz car sales. I thought about it and did some online research. Most people claimed to have a great experience. Other people say they would never buy a rental car because most people are so mean to them. Maybe they are... The few times I've rented a car they were in pretty good condition and I treated them better than my own because I don't want to be charged for any damage! There are probably at least a few people who think like me.

I decided to find something I like and schedule a test drive. I found a beautiful dark red 2011 Nissan Versa. 4 Door hatchback. 39k miles. Automatic. Power windows. CD player with AUX input. Air Conditioning. Remote trunk release. Secured gas cap. Rear defrost. $10,800. A little more than I wanted to spend but I can manage it. I got excited. Really excited.

I've scheduled the 3 day test drive to begin Tuesday evening around 7pm. I'll pick up the car at SeaTac. They warned me on the website not to go to the lot until someone has called to tell me the car is there and ready. I've received a couple of phone calls already to have the program entirely explained for me. It sounds pretty hassle free.

Immediately after scheduling it I found a bright red 2011 Chevy Aveo for $10,100 that also had everything I wanted plus fog lights, car alarm and keyless entry. Ohhh... maybe I want that one?? But the Nissan has a slightly bigger engine, better safety rating and they still make Versas. The Aveo was discontinued in 2011. I feel like I made a good decision. I get 2 hours to try the car for free. I get 3 days to test drive it as much as I want. If I choose not to buy, I just return the car and whoopity-doo, I just rented a car for 3 days. No biggie. It will give me time to take the car to the Greg's Japanese Auto across the street for a thorough once over. It will give me a chance to really get to know if I want to buy it. I get to sleep on it.

They called me again while writing this post to let me know that the vehicle was due back today, after receiving it they'll prep it but not to show up before they call me to let me know it's actually ready. That's the third time someone has told me that, plus I read it on the website. This must be a huge problem for them. For me, it's getting annoying being reminded so much.

The good (and bad I suppose) part about going with Hertz is that there is no haggling on the price. It is what it is.I've gotten tired of the games the dealers play. It's priced one way on line. I email them about it and they give me another price. Or I see something priced one way on the lot and then go online and it has a lower price. Then you're supposed to haggle over it. I hate haggling. I'm not a good negotiator sometimes. I just don't like the pressure. I don't like sales people. You have a tendency to feel like they're going to pull one over on your unless you really bargain with them. It's a big long game that I don't care to play.

As it was explained to me over the phone, after I pick up the car I get 2 hours to try it out totally for free. If I decide I don't like it right away, I can return it for no charge. If I take it home then the rental period begins. If I choose to buy, all rental fees are waived. If I decide I like it, I go into the online account I made and click purchase. I enter my payment information. Once it goes through they FedEx me the title and license plates. I FedEx back the rental plate. The car is MINE. I don't even have to leave my house. I get a 60 day-2,000 mile warranty with Hertz plus the manufacturers 5 year-60,000 warranty is transferred to me.

Yes, it has quite a few miles on it for only being a year old. Yes, being a previous rental my insurance rates may be a little higher. It probably has some wear and tear on it. But also being in a rental fleet it has probably had the fluids, belts and brakes looked after closer than some other schmoe. I can still get a Car Fax report on it if I choose. I will be taking it to a mechanic for a once over. I'll get a chance to comfortably examine every nook and cranny at my leisure.

The vehicle I've been driving for the past 6 years has had no paint on the hood and roof. A crack running right across the windshield. A horrible whine in the engine from bearings being out on the front belt. Torn CV boots on both right front wheels, making a horrible screeching sound whenever I have the wheel cranked too hard one way or another. Interior lights that haven't functioned in years. AC that goes out when I'm sitting in traffic. No backup lights. Mostly broken cup holder. Medium function on the interior cabin fan is out and the knob that controls the fan is in the ashtray. The seatbelt doesn't always retract like it should. There's a panel held on by tape. It had most of these problems when I took ownership of the car already. I've replaced the radiator, water pump, e-brake and tires. Lately it's had a bad fuel injector leak so it doesn't start right away and you can smell gas in the cabin. It's a 4 Runner but I never take it off road and don't use the 4-wheel drive option very often. It has over 280,000 miles on it. My mom leased it brand new in 1994 and eventually bought it. It gets about 15 mpgs and has been getting worse. I'm so tired of sitting an hour a day in traffic pumping a clutch. My mom gave it to me back in 2006 to drive after my Geo Metro got totaled. She gave me a little money and I'll be giving it back to her. My step-dad wants to put a new engine in it, repaint it and make it nice again. I've kept the interior upholstery in fantastic condition. I don't let Ira smoke in it.The registration is up at the end of the month and it needs to be smogged this year. If I get my new car in the next week or so I'm not going to bother with all of that since it'll be leaving the state and need to get new plates down there.

The point of all that is the car I've had is a hunk of junk and I still love it. I am so happy it's staying in the family and I don't have to sell it to some stranger. I'm not picky. A few scratches here and there, a belt that needs to be replaced or tightened is no biggie to me. I won't be completely draining my savings account so I can still get the brakes replaced or put new tires on it if I have to. Maybe get the windows tinted. I probably won't but there's wiggle room if I'm so inclined. It has the Hertz warranty and the manufacture's warranty. As long as there isn't something hugely mechanically wrong with it I have a feeling I will love this car. It will be just what I've been longing for these past couple of years living in Seattle.

The process so far dealing with Hertz has been very pleasant. I will make another update once I finally settle on my new car just to let you all know how it went. This has definitely been a long and exhausting ordeal. So happy it's coming to a close.

Heaven on a Plate

I  made this Friday night and I have to say I'm exceptionally proud. The duck egg was fried to medium perfection, the potatoes and red bell peppers were creamy and crispy, the asparagus was steamed to perfection and the shredded asiago just melted onto everything in a salty dream.