I’ve done my best to keep this blog tightly focused on writing. Obviously, by the title and that introductory sentence, you know that I’m not going to follow that stricture today. Hey, two off topic posts in 121 isn’t too bad, right?
When I shopped for my car, I searched a lot for what I should pay for it and found it hard to find actual prices people paid. I’m hoping that chronicling my experience in this post will help someone out there. If it does, please let me know.
I bought a 2013 Mazda5 Grand Touring, MSRP $25,285, and paid $22,388 + TTL at 1.94% for 60 months. Also, I had probably the best experience I’ve ever had at a car dealer at Tustin Mazda. Either these guys are much more honest than the average dealership or much better at bypassing my BS meter.
A quick word about the Mazda5: It’s literally the only vehicle in its class. It drives like a car, isn’t much bigger than my Jeep Cherokee, has a set of rear captain’s chairs, seats 6, and has the minivan sliding doors. At ten grand less than a traditional minivan, I don’t know why more people don’t at least explore this option. Seriously, if you’re in the market for a minivan, check this one out to see if it meets your needs.
One thing that I wished I had known when I started the process: The manufacturer offers an incentive of 0% financing for 36 months or .9% for 60 months. I assumed there was no advantage to the dealer to not give me this deal. In fact, the dealer will sell you the car for less if you don’t take this financing arrangement. I eventually got that figured out, but it led to some confusion and extra time spent.
I’m pretty sure that I got a really good deal. Here’s how I went about it:
My first step was to go to Edmunds.com. There, I requested quotes from dealers and got the True Market Value (TMV) of the vehicle, $23,698. Since the first quote that I got was $22,788, I assumed that the TMV of the vehicle was way too high. Now that the process is over, I think that the TMV is actually not bad assuming that it includes the manufacturer financing.
My first lesson learned is that dealers do not want to give you a number in writing. Out of the first round of requests through the Edmunds site, only one sent an actual value. It’s important, however, to get that one value. Once I did, I personally submitted to each dealer a request for a quote. In the request, I basically said, “I’ve got a number from a dealership. If you don’t give me a number, I’m going to that dealership to purchase my vehicle.” By the way, don’t worry about color or availability of options at this point; just get a number for a vehicle.
That got me more numbers. I kept an email exchange going with several dealerships that basically went like this:
Me: Another dealer beat your price. Sorry.
Them: Come on in. We’ll beat any price by $100 (or $200 depending on the dealership).
Me: Well, then, you obviously didn’t give me your lowest price. Send me a new number.
Make them send you a number. Once you get there, they are not just going to take the other dealer’s number and lower it by $100. They’re going to tell you it can’t be done and that the other dealer was lying to you.
Next lesson, once you get a number, make the dealer do the following:
1. Confirm that the quote is for the exact car make and model you want (for me, the 2013 Mazda5 Grand Touring).
2. Confirm that no additional incentives that you may not be eligible for are included in the price.
3. Confirm that the price includes the special manufacturer incentive financing. Ideally, get two prices — one for with the special financing and one without.
Once you have a low price, search online inventories or call around to find a dealership with the color/options you want. Hopefully, that’s your low bid dealership, but, if not, you can still make it work.
If it is the low bidder, go in and stick to your guns. Make them give it to you at the bid price regardless of anything they throw at you. Remember that your best weapon is to get up and walk out.
If it’s a different dealership, I found writing the following on a sheet of paper helpful:
1. The make and model of vehicle I wanted – 2013 Mazda5 Grand Touring
2. The quote from the other dealer with the special financing.
3. The quote from the other dealer without the special financing.
4. Confirmation that the quote includes no other incentives.
5. The MSRP of the car in question.
Writing down this information both avoids potential confusion and lets them know that you understand what you’re doing.
Tell the dealer that you are perfectly willing to take the color that the other dealership has in stock but that you prefer the color that they have in stock. Be willing to walk out the door to go to the other dealer.
A couple of notes on Mazda dealerships in the LA area:
Browning Mazda in Cerritos seems to have the lowest prices, but they like to play games. Make sure you get a quote from them but watch out for shenanigans.
The Mazda dealership in Temecula ticked me off. You should see the email exchange: Please give me a quote for a 2013… The reply was simply a number that was lower than the other quotes by a couple hundred dollars. I headed down there to buy the vehicle, and, when I got there, they said the quote was for a 2012 and that they didn’t even have any 2013s in stock. Really? For a 2013, their price was low. For a 2012, it was THOUSANDS high. When I told them I had prices for each, they didn’t even try to make the sale. They were a complete waste of time. At best, they’re incompetent.
I felt that the sales guy in Riverside acted quite unprofessionally. To begin with, he told us he definitely could get us the blue one with a light interior — a product that Mazda doesn’t even make. Then, when I walked out the door because his price was too high, he shouted at me and told me not to come back. Don’t worry, guy, I didn’t, and I won’t.