After 9 days of being down to a one car family (after I very unexpectedly and quickly sold my husband’s station wagon on Craigslist), we are finally now proud owners of a real mom-car – a “new-to-us” Honda Odyssey minivan! I won’t rehash all the stress that surrounded searching for this van, all the shopping around and test-drives with two little ones in tow, the stress of having 3 cars literally snatched away from us (one of them we missed by a mere 10 minutes!), but I want to record just a few points.
1. The used car market is incredibly tight these days. The time we missed 2009 Toyota Sienna in New York (100 miles away from us) was the most depressing time. Basically on Friday afternoon I called to inquire about a new minivan a dealership just listed on their website, asked him to hold it for us until we can get down there, then checked the carfax on it, checked KBB value, talked to my husband, and after 20 minutes (!!!) called back with my credit card in hand to put down a deposit. We have never even seen that car, it was way above our target price range, and we were ready to put down a deposit on it, as it seemed like a very good deal, being listed at about 30% below the book value. Imagine my surprise when the sales guy told me “Sorry, that car just sold 10 minutes ago”. I was so frustrated and angry! I couldn’t believe that making a multi-thousand dollar decision like that, site unseen, in a mere 20 minutes was TOO slow! But we moved on and kept looking…
2. Dealerships don’t haggle on the prices of their cars today. When we were buying our previous 2 cars about 5 years ago, this was a completely different story and we got an excellent deal on both. Now, with every car being listed online and sold in a matter of minutes (see point 1), they just list at their rock-bottom price to seem more competitive and do not negotiate down by a single dollar. Out of all the dealerships we visited, only two on the phone mentioned that “yes, we would work with you on the price” (whatever that means), but when we got there, they didn’t negotiate at all, which was really frustrating and a waste of everyone’s time.
3. Dealer’s conveyance fee is a complete rip-off and there’s nothing you can do about it! It’s pure profit to them, on top of all the other mark-up they are getting, except it’s not regulated at all. I checked my contract from 5 years ago, and on my Ford back then we paid a dealer fee of $179 (plus all the DMV fees and sales taxes), this time as we were looking I was surprised to see the fees listed all upwards of $400! The dealership we ended up getting the Honda from, actually charged $600!!! That seems like a lot of money for nothing, considering they already built in their profit into the price of the car, which they weren’t willing to negotiate on…
4. A lot of used cars today (at least a lot of the ones we happened to look at) have some sort of water damage. A lot came from the south (as I would see, after I checked the titles on them), but didn’t have flood damage or water damage listed on the titles. Clear titles and carfax, but when you look at them – it’s a different story. Some of them had wet carpets and even rust inside! So be careful, especially if you are buying online from someplace down south (or even from here, as a lot of cars were transported from the auctions down in the south up to New England).
5. Trying to stay on a tight budget while buying a used car is hard: we had to choose between getting a more reliable brand of a minivan, with nicer features, versus a basic model of any less reliable brand, but perhaps newer and fewer miles. After talking it over with quite a lot of people we went for Honda, because we kept hearing “Hondas or Toyotas last well past 200K miles” whereas in a lot of other vans you start dealing with issues like transmission and engine problems, sometimes even before they hit 100K miles.
Features that I like the most (and have come to really appreciate in a mere few days that we’ve had this car)
I bet you thought I’d be mentioning things like navigation system or rear-DVD players, but we don’t have either in this van. 🙂 It wasn’t essential to us (considering we have a GPS and and a portable DVD player, but kids rarely watch anything anyway).
1. Sliding power doors (nice-nice-nice to have when your kid wants to get into the car while you are still locking up the house, and it’s raining 🙂
2. Heated driver and passenger seats (I didn’t really care for leather in both of our previous cars, although I must say it was easier for cleaning up after kids. But it was always too cold to sit on in the winter, and too hot in the summer! Now at least the winter part is taken care of.)
3. All the space, especially when the third row is stowed in the floor. My little guy Connor loves to run around in all that space!
4. The fact that middle captain seats fold completely forward to let people get to the back row even with the car seats installed in the captain chairs.
5. Adjustable power seats are nice too 🙂
And a whole array of other nice little features that Honda thoughtfully implemented in their minivans.
Can you tell I like our new van? I know a lot of mothers dread getting a “mom-car”, but that wouldn’t be me 🙂 I like the way it drives, and all the space it gives 🙂