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New Car Sticker shock
Old 04-07-2013, 09:27 PM   #1
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New Car Sticker shock

My last new-to-me car was actually a new car. Now, almost 18 years later it is on it's last legs and I need to get a car to replace it. Needless to say, the models are all changed from 18 years ago when I bought that one.

I bought used cars before and never spent more than about 10% of my salary on one. For this current car, it was new when I got it and I planned to keep it a long time, so I spent under 20% of salary to buy it and don't regret it. But when I price new cars now, they seem so expensive. I guess they are about 25% or 30% of my (increased) salary, but when I deal with the actual dollar figure it seems so high.

Maybe my mental expectation of car prices is frozen 20 years ago? Maybe the inflation creep I see elsewhere doesn't seem as real to me when it's applied to cars? Maybe I'm that much closer to FI and find it harder to imagine spending that kind of money on a car (no matter how much needed) instead of putting it toward buying my freedom.

With some internet research, I found a few models I might like in the low $20,000 range. But when I went to the dealer, these were such low end models they didn't even have automatic transmission, which always seemed to come with the premium trim and electronics packages which quickly moved the car to the high 20's to mid-30's. Doesn't anyone want a basic car without all the bells and whistles, so the price stays down a bit? Apparently dealers think not. The "options" quickly added 50% or more to the price.

I would not consider myself so wealthy that I don't consider the price of things, but I'm affluent enough to be considering FIRE in a few years. If I balk at paying this much for a car, who is buying these things? I guess I know. The lot at work is full of young engineers with sporty full size $40K+ SUVs and Admin types with Lexus. And probably big car loans.

It looks like I'm in for a long project to narrow down possible models, then a lot of price shopping and haggling to get something I actually want for a price I think is fair. Or maybe I go back to used cars and just find something good enough for now. That was a whole different kind of fun as the used car lots I visited post no prices, so you have to ask a salesperson about each individual car you might be interested it. I remember big stickers on the windshields, so you could walk around and see what interested you. No more. I assume this is their way of discouraging looking for value and getting desperate shoppers to grab at the first workable option that they somehow stumble into.

Or maybe try for a sale outside of a dealer? I like the idea of a dealer standing behind the car - although everything I saw was posted "as is no warranty" They said that was because the warranty is from the manufacturer, not the dealer.

If I research this enough I'll figure out what to do, but looking for any suggestions if anyone has dealt with buying a new car recently.
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Old 04-07-2013, 09:51 PM   #2
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Don't forget to to include cost for fuel in the price of the vehicle.
Here is a helpful page to compare vehicles.
True Cost to Own (TCO) Calculator on Edmunds.com
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Old 04-07-2013, 09:57 PM   #3
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Why not buy a 2-3 year old car with all the bells and whistles? I'm sure there are plenty of those in the $20K range. If you keep a car for 18 years, just buy a two year old one and keep it for 16 years.
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Old 04-07-2013, 10:17 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by growing_older View Post
My last new-to-me car was actually a new car. Now, almost 18 years later it is on it's last legs and I need to get a car to replace it. Needless to say, the models are all changed from 18 years ago when I bought that one.

I bought used cars before and never spent more than about 10% of my salary on one. For this current car, it was new when I got it and I planned to keep it a long time, so I spent under 20% of salary to buy it and don't regret it. But when I price new cars now, they seem so expensive. I guess they are about 25% or 30% of my (increased) salary, but when I deal with the actual dollar figure it seems so high.

Maybe my mental expectation of car prices is frozen 20 years ago? Maybe the inflation creep I see elsewhere doesn't seem as real to me when it's applied to cars? Maybe I'm that much closer to FI and find it harder to imagine spending that kind of money on a car (no matter how much needed) instead of putting it toward buying my freedom.

With some internet research, I found a few models I might like in the low $20,000 range. But when I went to the dealer, these were such low end models they didn't even have automatic transmission, which always seemed to come with the premium trim and electronics packages which quickly moved the car to the high 20's to mid-30's. Doesn't anyone want a basic car without all the bells and whistles, so the price stays down a bit? Apparently dealers think not. The "options" quickly added 50% or more to the price.

I would not consider myself so wealthy that I don't consider the price of things, but I'm affluent enough to be considering FIRE in a few years. If I balk at paying this much for a car, who is buying these things? I guess I know. The lot at work is full of young engineers with sporty full size $40K+ SUVs and Admin types with Lexus. And probably big car loans.

It looks like I'm in for a long project to narrow down possible models, then a lot of price shopping and haggling to get something I actually want for a price I think is fair. Or maybe I go back to used cars and just find something good enough for now. That was a whole different kind of fun as the used car lots I visited post no prices, so you have to ask a salesperson about each individual car you might be interested it. I remember big stickers on the windshields, so you could walk around and see what interested you. No more. I assume this is their way of discouraging looking for value and getting desperate shoppers to grab at the first workable option that they somehow stumble into.

Or maybe try for a sale outside of a dealer? I like the idea of a dealer standing behind the car - although everything I saw was posted "as is no warranty" They said that was because the warranty is from the manufacturer, not the dealer.

If I research this enough I'll figure out what to do, but looking for any suggestions if anyone has dealt with buying a new car recently.
Bought a new Honda Fit Sport in December 2008 (2009 model). Absolutely no bells or whistles. Amazing gas mileage and excellent safety ratings. It is a standard transmission, and perfect for me. Plan to drive it for 18-20 years.

I paid under $20,000 for it at that time - not sure what they go for now. Good luck.
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Old 04-07-2013, 10:20 PM   #5
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You are my kind of frugal to keep a car for 18 years. My record is 17. Maybe you should consider this is the last car you are going to own so you should treat yourself!
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Old 04-07-2013, 10:27 PM   #6
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A hear and a half ago I bought a chevy cruze lt1 for about 20k. It had auto and pretty much everything except a sun roof and heated seats (heated seats are really needed in Tx its so cold here). Now it might be 22 or 23 now, since the automatic was unbundled. It depends on the size of car you are looking for. Actually pickups come in the same range again depending on the equipment you want. But note that compared to 18 years ago a/c and power windows now come standard on most models. And of course compared to an 18 year old vehicle which likely still had a carb, you will be amazed at what fuel injection does, no carb icing to begin with and it just starts with the turn of a key. So compared to a 1992 model things have improved greatly.
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Old 04-07-2013, 10:56 PM   #7
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My fav single source for reliable car info-
New Cars, Used Cars, Car Reviews & Car Prices | Edmunds.com
Their "True Market" cars prices seem realistic & can be quite helpful in bargaining with dealers. Do not hesitate to bargain hard & walk away. Don't let the salespeople pressure you into extras you do not want/need.

Clean solid used cars command a relatively high price these days, so I would carefully compare 2-3yr old used vs price of new (after discounts/rebates/etc.). In some cases the difference in price is so low (relatively) that buying new is the way to go. Particularly if you plan to keep for 15+yrs.

If you're looking for a mid-size sedan with some goodies for the price, the Chrysler 200 Touring is a bit dated in design but can be had new for ~$19k after $3500 rebate (but plus taxes/title/plates). That's roughly the price of a clean 2 yr old Honda Accord with ave mileage (20k). Accord is the "better" car, but some would opt for new vs 2yrs old for same $$.
Other ~$20k (new) cars to consider-
Chevy Cruise
Nissan Sentra
Honda Civic
Hyundai Elantra
Kia Forte
Mazda 3
Toyota Corolla
Others will chime in with alternatives I'm sure.

Good luck & drive a tough bargain
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Old 04-08-2013, 12:09 AM   #8
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Thanks for the great ideas. It sounds like I am not alone in wanting a suitable car for a lot less than the 35K and up dealers kept pushing me towards. I also found Costco has a car buying service. Don't know yet how that will workout, but maybe it's also an option.
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Old 04-08-2013, 02:49 AM   #9
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I'm replacing my 16 year old car this spring with a new Honda Fit. It's a fabulous car, auto transmission, and the base unit comes with every bell and whistle I could want.

Sticker price is 16,200.


In fact, my original plan was to buy used but they hold their value so well I couldn't justify the risk for the small price difference.
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Old 04-08-2013, 04:55 AM   #10
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You may also want to compare prices at truecar.com. I used the site when I purchased my new car 3 years ago and ended up getting my car for a price I felt VERY comfortable with.
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Old 04-08-2013, 06:36 AM   #11
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My 13 yr old car died recently and I bought a new one (Hyundai) for around $20k. I paid more than that for my last new car 13 years ago. The Hyundai is the base package - it has so many bells and whistles compared to my old car that I didn't even consider any up the upgrade packages. Very happy with it so far. It's a standard gas engine and I'm getting close to 40 mpg.
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Old 04-08-2013, 06:43 AM   #12
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Consumer Reports also has a car-buying service. I don't know how it compares to Costco's though. CR will also send you (for ~$10) the dealer's actual cost for a new car and the individual options so that puts you in a better bargaining position.

Like many here we also keep vehicles "forever" until either reliability or parts availability become issues. We've been stung in the past with used cars so we buy new when replacement time comes. The last time we bought new vehicles was 11 years ago and those replaced vehicles that were 18 and 14 years old.
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Old 04-08-2013, 07:52 AM   #13
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With some internet research, I found a few models I might like in the low $20,000 range. But when I went to the dealer, these were such low end models they didn't even have automatic transmission, which always seemed to come with the premium trim and electronics packages which quickly moved the car to the high 20's to mid-30's. Doesn't anyone want a basic car without all the bells and whistles, so the price stays down a bit? Apparently dealers think not. The "options" quickly added 50% or more to the price.
What type of car do you want, econo box or something larger ? For the economy class you can buy new about the same as used.

The car rental companies sell of their used cars at decent prices, you can check those... example from hertz Used Cars For Sale - Hertz Car Sales

Try searching carmax. Good buys can be found there depending on what you are looking for, BMW,BENZ, Lexus, Infiniti, Acura are good bets.

Also you can do a factory order and get what you want as far as options. Most popular options come as standard so that's what the dealer will have on the lot. Also use the manufactures inventory search on their web sites. You might find a car many miles away but the local dealer can get it from the other dealer ( I've done this ).
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Old 04-08-2013, 07:54 AM   #14
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We've been stung in the past with used cars so we buy new when replacement time comes.
I've been burned with new cars as well... but those were GM products ( never again )
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Old 04-08-2013, 08:33 AM   #15
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Just another nod to Consumer Reports for selecting models and to edmunds.com (and others) for internet pricing. Internet pricing makes the price negotiation much easier, you start lower than walking in cold and quickly get to the bottom line among local dealers. I have not bought a car without reviewing Consumer Reports reliability ratings AND first getting internet pricing from edmunds.com or autobytel.com (years ago) in at least 15 years. There are lots of outstanding cars for less than $35K. The Honda Fit, which was my second choice when I bought a car a year ago, can easily be had for $20K with all the bells and whistles.

I enjoy the car buying process, I've even helped friends & family buy cars because I enjoy it and get great prices for people who despise negotiating (it's all just a game once you know how it's played).
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Old 04-08-2013, 08:42 AM   #16
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[ Also use the manufactures inventory search on their web sites. You might find a car many miles away but the local dealer can get it from the other dealer ( I've done this ).[/QUOTE]

We always saved $ by buying my husband's company cars at wholesale prices when his co. was ready to get rid of them (when the cars were 2-3 years old). But, back in '04, he had a co. car that wasn't worth buying (and I needed a lower mileage car for commuting, plus it needed to be a safe sedan for DS's drivers training, and for him to drive to his high school activities). We saw that a local dealership was offering the "GM Employees" Discount to anyone shopping for a car. So, after shopping dealership websites for a basic Impala with few bells/whistles, I was able to locate the color and price I wanted.

Then went in, negotiated the price way down with the "employees' discount", saved $ by financing it (cash would have faised the purchase price---) Then paid it off a couple mo. later.

It was the first new car we'd bought in 17 yrs. It was nice to use the warranty for repairs. Plus, with regular maintenance, the Impala has been a family workhorse: it commuted 40 mi./day for my last 8 yrs of work and safely got our son through h.s. It now has 99,650 mi. on it, but is still running well. Though it's definitely not a "cool car," we love the lack of payments, the few repair bills, and now the challenge of seeing just how long we can make it last.

I thought maybe a couple more years; but after reading the posts here, maybe we should shoot for 8 or nine more! We have always enjoyed spending $ (or saving it) for other interests. 17-18 years without car payments (or spending a chunk of cash for a car) can finance a good deal of fun!

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Old 04-08-2013, 08:43 AM   #17
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Another factor is with the internet most dealerships have their inventory on line. You can then go to a dealer ship that has the vehicle you want and avoid visiting dealerships that do not.
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Another Typo
Old 04-08-2013, 08:44 AM   #18
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Another Typo

Not "Faised," but "raised the purchase price."

Sorry to waste another post with my corrections!
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Old 04-08-2013, 09:03 AM   #19
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Quote:
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Bought a new Honda Fit Sport in December 2008 (2009 model). Absolutely no bells or whistles. Amazing gas mileage and excellent safety ratings. It is a standard transmission, and perfect for me. Plan to drive it for 18-20 years.

I paid under $20,000 for it at that time - not sure what they go for now. Good luck.
In 2009, I also bought a fit. except I have the Sport model, which does have automatic transmission. And it has the little transmission paddles on the steering column for minor downshifting and upshifting while driving in the mountains. I get 35 mpg in mixed driving on my 120 round trip work commute.

Also, Fits are like clown cars, in that they hold a ton of stuff.
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Old 04-08-2013, 09:37 AM   #20
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find the specs you want on the model you want, and email or fax that criteria to the 9-10 closest dealers and ask for their best offer for a car (any car) that meets your criteria.

For example, mine might be 2013 Honda Civic with automatic transmission. Any color and any trim level.

Lowest price wins.
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