Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's a New Car!

2012 Honda Odyssey
Last night, my wife and I did our civic duty to improve the economy by buying a new 2012 Honda Odyssey.  We had an...interesting...car buying experience and I wanted to share it here.  Before I delve into the story, I need to tell you that my wife is the negotiator in our family.  She's good with money, finances and figures, plus she doesn't take any shit from anyone.  I cave in negotiations at the first sign of a struggle.  Not to mention that if you add a dollar sign in front of a number it transforms somehow into an unintelligible figure for me.  I'm good with numbers, but not money.  Not a good thing.  Also, she's a really awesome negotiator.

Our experience started on Saturday while the kids were staying over at their grandma's house.  We knew that we wanted to get an Odyssey, so we headed on over to Walser Honda in Burnsville.  We walked in and were immediately greeted.  We were told that they are a best price dealership.  That means that they don't negotiate on price.  Okay, that's cool; we don't like high pressure sales pitches anyway.  So we saw a couple of Odyssey's and test drove one.  We were already sold on the idea of buying one, and we were trading in our 2004 Honda Accord.  We gave them the keys and they drove it and looked it over and came back with a very low offer.  Well, we thought that this was where the wiggle room was and my wife told them that we needed a certain amount to make this work.  They "reminded" us that they are a best price dealership and didn't negotiate.  Well, long story short, we left without buying the van.

We were a little disappointed by not having a new van, so later that day (with our kids in tow) we headed over to Inver Grove Heights Honda.  My mother-in-law bought her Civic Hybrid from there and we'd had our Accord serviced there a few times, so we thought it would go smoothly.  Ha!  It started out good enough.  The kids were behaving well and we saw a good Odyssey and the kids seemed to love it.  They literally climbed over every inch of the interior.  Next came the negotiation part.  The kids were starting to get restless, so I took them to the little kids area that they had there while my wife negotiated with the sales guy.  So, I wasn't there during the negotiations, but from what my wife tells me, the guy was forceful and conniving.  At one point, he made her initial a hand written note that she would accept a certain price so that he could bring it to his manager.  Guess what?  He came back with a price higher than that!  She called it quits then and he tried to rally with "one more attempt" to talk his manager down.  Well, guess what dude, you had your chance.

By now, we were frustrated with the whole process, not disappointed.  We talked it over on Sunday and decided that come Monday, we'd try one more time at Walser.  Monday came and my wife called them and asked them if they had a certain color Odyssey and they confirmed that they did.  After I came home from work, we went there (sans kids, thanks to grandma again).  We walked in and wanted to take a look at the van and the same sales guy we talked to on Saturday went to get the keys.  About ten minutes later he came back and said that they couldn't find the van.  Apparently, sometimes the computer gets updated to say that the car is on the lot even when it hasn't arrived yet.  How stupid is that?  They literally had no idea where the vehicle was or when they'd get it.  UPS can track packages and tell you within the hour that they'll arrive, but a car dealership can't tell where their $35,000 car is?  Well, after discussing the color options (which were not satisfactory), we asked if they would let us have a loaner for the weekend if the van hadn't arrived by then.  They said no.  No negotiating power at all.  What a waste of time.  We left as frustrated as before.

On the way home, my wife called the third dealership that's relatively close to our house and asked if they had the color we were looking for.  They didn't, but they told us that the Hopkins Honda had two.  We drove the ~20 miles to Hopkins.  My wife was on the phone with the sales guy so that he would have all the paperwork as ready as he could for when we got there.  We were hoping for a relatively quick process with no negotiations involved.  We had two prices for the van and trade-in and she told the guy upfront what they were and what we were expecting.

So far, we'd had two extremes.  We had Walser which wouldn't budge on anything price-wise.  We had the Inver Grove guy who was getting to the price we wanted, but only after jumping through hoop after hoop.  We got to Hopkins and found something in between.  They are also a "best price" dealership, but the guy wanted to sell us a car, so my wife did a little negotiation with him on price and we all agreed on a price and trade-in value in record time.  We had to wait on a finance person, so I unloaded the car seats and other stuff from the Accord and put them in our new Odyssey.  Once the finance guy was ready, we went in and signed everything and drove off in our new car just before the dealer closing time.

Overall, I'd say that we saw a wide range of strategies regarding negotiation.  We had Walser, on the far end of the spectrum with absolutely no negotiations.  Then we had the far other end of the spectrum with over-negotiations at Inver Grove.  Finally, we had a good mix at Hopkins Honda with limited negotiations in the middle of the spectrum.

When we bought our G6 two and a half years ago, the dealer had the same kind of strategy that they used in Hopkins.  We were in and out in a couple of hours and everyone was happy.  While we ended up with a good deal and a good van, the experiences that two of the dealerships gave us were anything but good.

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