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Buying a Car
  • Captain_Obvious October 22, 2013 - 11:20 am #92072 Reply

    I’m in the market for a new or slightly used car.  We’re a family of 4 now, but that could increase sometime in the future.  So we’re currently thinking of a compact/crossover SUV, midsize SUV, or a station wagon like a Suburu.  Mini-vans are out of the question…no chance.

    Are there any places in Arlington where people have had good luck or do I need to go to Carmax or other big dealerships around the area?

    Also, car recommendations and car buying tips…?

    ARLwahoo October 22, 2013 - 11:45 am #92076 Reply

    I’ve interacted with MINI of Passport in Alexandria and liked them and have heard good things about Passport in general.

    Have you looked into getting dealer-used/”executive” cars?  They’re the cars they use for dealer cars that they let sit on the lot/use for either under a year or under certain mileage, then have to dump quickly and cheaply to avoid tax penalties.  I looked into two of these and they were super low mileage (5-7k a year, max) and while they weren’t priced way down in used price territory, they were eager to deal with me.  Turns out that folks often look over them because they consider them used/beaters, but in reality they’re well maintained slightly-used cars with full warranty that can be negotiated down pretty well because the dealer doesn’t want to incur the penalty costs.

    As for tips, just go in well-researched, know invoice/MSRP, haggle, and don’t be afraid to walk away.  Use Costco’s price guarantee as a starting place and work down towards invoice.  I bet you could get a sweet deal on a leftover 2013 right now, especially at the end of a month when they need a sale and right before holidays when folks are saving cash.  Go do test drives at a place you will likely not buy from, pick out what you want, and go somewhere else to negotiate. Lastly, remember: you don’t need them, they need you.  Find out what you want to pay and stick to your guns and be ready to walk out.  There’s tons of places to buy and tons of cars in the DC area, you can get any deal you want, but it’s them who need the sale to make quotas.  Walk, don’t run, out the door and let them chase you.

    Captain_Obvious October 22, 2013 - 11:49 am #92080 Reply

    Go do test drives at a place you will likely not buy from, pick out what you want, and go somewhere else to negotiate.

    Why not buy from where I test drive?

    Thanks for the info.

    esmith69 October 22, 2013 - 12:13 pm #92085 Reply

    Check out Consumer Reports.  They have excellent used car reliability ratings, as well as lots of “used cars to avoid” and “best used cars” lists.

    newty25 October 22, 2013 - 12:21 pm #92087 Reply

    I like looking at Edmunds. They have a load of good information on that site. I own a small car (and always have), so no input on make or model. Though the American cars have seemed to really come on in the last few years and I wouldn’t be scared about buying American in your instance.

    Also, you should really consider buying from an individual if you can find the right car. With the maintenance, service, and warranties they give on new cars these days and assuming you could find a car that’s fully covered, you may be able to get a much better deal than you could from car lot. The only thing you’d need to look out for is the tires. Any problems with the car and you can get it fully fixed by the dealership for free. Don’t forget to check the carfax.

    Loads of banks have leased cars for sale. At mine, you need to be a member to be able to buy their cars off of lease. You might look into that as well.

    Enterprise has rental cars for sale.  That might be another avenue for you.

    ARLwahoo October 22, 2013 - 12:21 pm #92088 Reply

    This all sounds harsh, I’m sure, but you don’t want to give the impression that you’re underprepared.  By test driving elsewhere you aren’t showing them that they can upsell you to something else. You can walk in, say “I want this car and this is how much I’m going to pay for it” and be done with it.  Some people say they like to remain loyal to those who helped them out during a test drive, but again, is that worth thousands of dollars? Up to you

    Captain_Obvious October 22, 2013 - 12:38 pm #92097 Reply

    Thanks wahoo…and I am definitely unprepared at the moment.  I’m trying to get all the info I can before going on test drives.

    parttimesupergirl October 22, 2013 - 1:25 pm #92106 Reply

    @captain I had a great experience with Arlington Rosenthal Mazda. There is a sales guy there named Tony King who specializes in used cars (he can get any make/model, they have buyers who will go to auction and find something if they don’t have what you want at your price point. ) I’ve referred two friends over there already, because the used cars also come with the  extended warranty.  Okay, now tips for car buying. Figure out your bottom line price you are willing to pay– never reveal that number. If ask your goal price take your number and add to it. (Say your bottom line is $9,000 tell them $8,000 or $7,500 you can go up a bit for a significantly better car, but hold out until the very, very end stages of negotiation.) remember, it never hurt to ask for lower prices, added bonuses (install heated seats, etc.) the worst they can say is no.

    one of the things I liked about Tony, we went to the dealership a couple times before we bought. He wasn’t pushy, and was happy to answer questions and discuss the differences/benefits between various makes/models values. I ended up buying a Mazda (what I thought I wanted, and have been really happy with it. got a leftover 2013. Told my husband when we have kids I want to upgrade to the mazda cx 5, cx 7, or cx 9. I LOVED my Subaru, but the gas mileage just couldn’t compete with Mazda.

    parttimesupergirl October 22, 2013 - 1:26 pm #92107 Reply

    Sorry for all the typos/grammar. I’m having problems with the cursor on my tablet, and couldn’t go back to make any edits.

    ballstoncmyk October 22, 2013 - 1:27 pm #92108 Reply

    i bought a new car just over a year ago, my first car-buying experience. if you’re still in the research phase, i’d definitely check in with your insurance company. some have their own webtools for research / breaking down payment options / etc. USAA has a pretty nice one. between that and Edmunds, i felt pretty well covered by the time i walked into any dealership. USAA’s site even had functionality to plug in the specifics on the car i wanted, and emailed local dealerships on my behalf. within 30 minutes i had several emails telling me they had my car on the lot and wanting to set up appointments. of course, most of them did NOT have the exact car i wanted on the lot, but that wasn’t surprising.


    i ended up doing a few test drives of 4-6 different mid-size SUVs (Jeep Compass, Subaru Forester, Ford Escape, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Honda CR-V). once i whittled to the Ford, i set up 3 appointments in one day at different Ford dealerships. Dealer #1 gave me a reasonable offer on a base model i was considering, but i insisted on keeping my other two appointments, just to see. turned out well for me: the next two dealers didn’t have base models, but each matched or beat whatever number the previous guy gave me. in the end, i got the car i wanted with a lot of the “nice to have” bells and whistles… but for the base model price the first dealer quoted.


    my main three tips:

    1) absolutely be willing to walk

    2) end of month / quarter / year, you’ll get better deals. if you have that luxury of time, take it.

    3) check and see when the next year’s model will roll out. closer to roll out = better chance of a deal on last year’s (new!) cars.


    good luck!

    newty25 October 22, 2013 - 1:50 pm #92113 Reply

    If you do end up buying a new car, make sure you understand the holdbacks and incentives from the manufacturer.

    There’s a negotiation tactic of showing you the dealer invoice and asking you to pay a few hundred dollars over the invoice… what they don’t tell you is that they are receiving thousands of dollars in holdbacks and incentives on the car. You should always assume they exist, even if they aren’t published somewhere.

    Also, if you’re getting financing, don’t take the first rate they offer you. Negotiate with them and check with your bank to see if you can get a better rate. I’ve negotiating some really great financing rates before.

    The best buying experience I’ve ever had was at BMW Sterling. I bought a 330 from them through their Costco rep. It was no hassle and really straight forward.

    If you do end up buying a European car new, many of them have programs where you can pick the car up overseas and take ownership of it to save the excise taxes on it. Most of the time, those taxes will pay for your trip… so you get a brand new car and a European vacation for the cost of what the car would have cost to receive it locally. I think BMW, Audi, and Volvo do it for sure. Here’s the one from BMW:




    ARLwahoo October 22, 2013 - 2:06 pm #92115 Reply

    I too used BMW of Sterling and liked them.  Their service dept is another story, but the buying part at least was worth it.

    One tip I found out the hard way: Don’t give out your cell phone number to any of the salesmen/women after a test drive. Just don’t.  I don’t care if they swear they’ll work on a deal for you, give them your email then.  I had a particular dealership call me endlessly at all times of the day and leave voicemails. Even after I finally picked up and told them to stop calling me, then continued to hassle me to the point I finally had to threaten legal action for harassment.

    Arlingtoon October 22, 2013 - 3:09 pm #92132 Reply

    Several years ago we were in the market for a minivan.  I had done a fair amount of research and had a pretty good idea what my trade-in was worth, and what to expect in terms of a good price on the minivan.

    There was a Dodge dealership across the street from a Chrysler dealership.  A fully loaded Dodge was (at the time) pretty much the same as the Chrysler.   The Chrysler dealership had a new one, but from the preceeding model year.  So I could either buy the “prestige” of the Chrysler, or the newer model year from Dodge.  I didn’t care one way or the other.

    I wrote out two checks, one to each dealership, and knocked $2500 off of what I figured was the best price I could get on either car, less a fair price for my trade-in.  Then we went into the Dodge dealership, talked with the salesman, and I asked him which one did he want me to sign?  He was perfectly courteous, told me that we were in the ballpark.  So we went across the street to the Chrysler dealership, and asked them the same question.

    They stared at the checks, and then went nuts.  The manager pulled the salesman off of us so he could negotiate directly.  I don’t know if they were hyper-competitive, or what.  But needless to say I signed the check to them and got the car at my price, including the shipping and handling (which I had forgotten about).

    If nothing else, it was the most fun I’ve had buying a car, either before or since.

    ARLwahoo October 22, 2013 - 3:48 pm #92148 Reply

    My parents, quite a long time ago, were trying to buy a car and took my older sister, 2 or 3 or so at the time, with them. They had been there for hours upon hours negotiating (this was back before the five Ford dealers within 20mi of each other like there is now) and my dad was not very happy overspending by a few thousand.  They were apparently down to the last $1-2k when my sister had a bathroom accident..right in the manager’s chair. My dad said they were out of there 30min later with more than what he was asking off, as well as a $500 check with “incidentals” in the memo line.

    He swears that it was the best deal he ever got (minus the peed-in-the-pants toddler he drove home)

    JonBoy October 22, 2013 - 4:31 pm #92160 Reply


    Had that problem too with an area dealership (the calling, not the peeing in the manager’s chair).  12 messages and 10 e-mails over 2 days.  The magic words are, “I already bought a car, sorry.”  You’ll never hear from them again.

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