The Oracle of Apollo Snippets from the life of Apollo Lee

May 11, 2008 - 21:05

Life, Personal, Technology

Car Shopping Short List

Today, I went around to a few dealerships, some of which I’ve been to already. Since I was not feeling that motivated to drive all over the place in a car that lacks working turn signals after my trip to Palo Alto, I visited a few places in Sunnyvale, where I live.

After test driving a few cars, I thought it would behoove me to put together a short list of cars I’m considering to replace my purple hooptie. Today, I test drove a brand new Scion, got an annoying hard sell from a Pontiac monger that personally drives a late 80s Honda Prelude that might even be worth less than my Z24, and wandered around a Dodge dealership gawking at their used inventory.

The Contenders

  1. 2006 – 2008 Pontiac Vibe
    • Pro: Very fuel efficient (26 c/32 h), back seats and front passenger seat fold down flat, based on the highly lauded Toyota Corolla platform, attractive. Comes with an exceptional warranty.
    • Con: Car dealers in the Silicon Valley consistently overprice the Vibe. The hard sell in Sunnyvale has the 2008 stickered higher than the 2009 sitting right next to it. It also has no built-in aux jack for my iPod, and everyone seems also only to carry it in silver.
  2. 2005 – 2009 Toyota Matrix
    • Pro: Same car as the Pontiac Vibe, although I like the Pontiac’s look a little better. Attractive vehicle, highly rated, by a company that has done nothing so well as show American car companies what success looks like. The 2009 is much more sexy than its Pontiac counterpart.
    • Con: It’s also overpriced nearly everywhere I’ve looked. Until 2009, iPod aux jack didn’t come standard. It also seems to be ubiquitously in silver or grey.
  3. 2008 – 2009 Scion xD
    • Pro: The price is really low. Fuel efficient (26 c/32 h). Back seats fold flat. There are stereo controls on the steering wheel. The fully loaded model NEW is a few thousand cheaper than all of the used Vibes I’ve looked at recently. The redesign is much more attractive than the xA was. The iPod connector displays current track information on the console. The vehicle is zippy off the line and accelerates aggressively on the freeway.
    • Con: There’s no arm rest in the center. The warranty is less impressive than other manufacturers. The ride felt a little stiff, although I didn’t drive it very far. The cargo space is limited compared with the previous two.
  4. 2007 – 2008 Pontiac G5
    • Pro: This car is really sexy. The mileage is better than the Vibe/Matrix (25 c / 35 h) in a 5 speed, but about the same in the automatic. It looks roomy and I’d love to test drive one next weekend when I get out of Sunnyvale to go look around at some places where they want to earn my business. The warranty on the Pontiacs is really impressive.
    • Con: I’m more interested in a four-door hatchback than a coupe (my current ride is a coupe). The cargo area is fairly small. I can’t say much more about this since the local Pontiac dealer always keeps all their cars locked, even during business hours.
  5. 2007 – 2008 Honda Fit
    • Pro: The automatic is very fuel efficient (27 c/34 h). It’s highly sought after, enough that most dealerships won’t even let you say its name without trying for the hard sell. It comes in some interesting colors, include purple (whose color is named “Blackberry Pearl”).
    • Con: Dealers cannot keep this vehicle in stock for very long, since all the tuner kids want one desperately. The warranty isn’t that impressive. The car feels confined, although I haven’t driven it. The cargo area is smaller than the Vibe/Matrix. Due to its popularity, I have heard that the incidence of theft, both of the car itself and of its logos and other visual treatments, is high.

Vehicles I’ve eliminated from my list include the Nissan Versa (which looks goofy to me and the back seats don’t fold flat) and the Dodge Caliber (which looks tough as a drill sergeant, but doesn’t even get 30 mpg on the highway).

I’m still compiling a list and narrowing, so this list will change, especially when I rent a car on Friday and drive out to somewhere where the fucking salesmen aren’t lazy as shit. The very first thing you should do when I step on the lot is GET ME BEHIND THE WHEEL.

Also, if your dealership is open and any of the cars on the lot are locked (at least any of the cars without a Ferrari or Lamborghini logo on the hood), I am not buying my car at your dealership. You don’t want me to poke my nose in and get to know your vehicles? Then, I’ll hand my money to someone else.

If you are trying to sell me a car, you don’t have to have a brand new top-of-the-line roadster from your company. But, if I see you climb into a car worth less than $1,000, I’m never going to take you seriously, especially if it’s not a classic and it’s not from the marque you sell.

Finally, if you follow up “I’m not ready to buy today, I’m just looking” with a whiny “Oh, man, why? Come on, man. I can only give you a special price today!”, you have permanently lost my business. Respect my timeline.


Posted by
May 12, 2008 - 15:05

Have you checked out yet? As I said in my comment on your last post, I always like to go to a dealership fully prepared. Edmunds is a good site – not only can you get all the technical details about the cars, but you can also get dealer invoice as well as what Edmunds calls TMV (True Market Value), which is supposedly based on what others are paying for the same car with options in your area. If nothing else, it’s a good starting point for negotiating.

Also – personally, I’d choose the Honda. However, I’d also look at a Civic because they get even better (highway) gas milage than a Fit and you can probably find a 2-year old one (the current model started in 2006) for a decent price. I talked my parents into getting a Civic Hybrid a little over a year ago and they absolute love it. My next car with either be a Civic Hybrid or Prius (unless Honda winds up making a hybrid CR-V by then).

Posted by
May 12, 2008 - 15:05

On second thought, have you searched for a used Honda S2000? I owned one, but had to give it up when Spencer was born. However, it was the single best car I have ever had, and the second Spencer is big enough to ride in one, I will buy another. A used 2001 model (which is the year that I had) goes for between $12-14K. 26 mpg for a 240hp race car is about as respectable as you can get. And as for sexy – I used to get Porche drivers stare at me and drool on themselves as I cruised through Malibu on PCH with the top down.

Posted by
May 13, 2008 - 19:05

I have never had a dealer refuse to allow me to test drive a vehicle, ever. That included my Honda S2000, several Mercedes, BMWs, Lexuses, Audis, etc. When I walk onto a lot, I simply tell them I am looking to get a new car, I am considering models X, Y, and Z, and I am only here to test drive those models right now as part of my decision making process. They take my license, go into the office, and return with the keys. Perhaps it is the sight of your current automobile that is creating the apprehension on their part.

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