Saturday, December 6, 2014
My first brand new car
I've been driving cars for 34 years, but before today I had never owned one that was brand new. The nearest I ever came to owning a new car was in the early 80s when I bought a 3-year-old Ford Capri to replace the Ford Escort my grandfather had given me (affectionately known as the banana due to the hideous yellow color).
Growing up in England conditioned me to believing that new cars were a terrible waste of money. That was partly due to the cost of living and also because of the reliability factor. Moving to Canada has meant that prices are much more reasonable, and technology has improved vastly over the past three decades.
When I arrived in Canada in 2005 with a quarter of a million dollars in my account, my ingrained instincts about cars never left me. I paid $3,750 for a 1999 Ford Taurus and have driven it over the past 10 years. As you can see, I have been loyal to Ford up until now. My last English car was a Ford Mondeo.
Something in the back of my mind prompted me to consider a new car, and I have been researching the possibilities for about a month. I'm not sure whether I was ready to ditch the Taurus, or drive it into the ground, but recent events made my decision for me. Last Wednesday, it overheated on the way home. I hoped that I had just been careless and had allowed the coolant level to drop, but it was more serious than that. I checked with my local garage and they informed me that a couple of steel hoses would have to be replaced. With the labor costs factored in, I was looking at a $400 repair bill.
I was lucky enough to get a ride to and from work the following day from two friends that I work with, but I knew the time had come to do something drastic. If you have ever been without a car for even a day, you'll probably understand how the loss affects your independence. Even simple tasks such as shopping become more annoying because you have to get your purchases home. The price of my weekly pizza would rise $6 because I wouldn't be able to make the 2-minute drive to pick it up.
After explaining the situation to my bosses at work, it was agreed that I could take Friday as an unplanned vacation day to test drive cars.
I mentioned that I had been researching for a while, so I already had my choices down to a Volkswagen Jetta, Toyota Corolla, or a Honda Civic. However, the mechanic who gave me the bad news about my Taurus made me consider another option. He has always been loyal to Honda, but after working on all kinds of cars over the years, his family will be buying a Hyundai the next time they change vehicles. The reason being that he believes they are built just as well as the more popular cars such as Honda and Toyota, but at a much more reasonable price. I added Hyundai to my final shortlist. Thursday night's research looked promising, so I called my local Hyundai dealer in Whitby.
The phone was answered by Phil McLean and I explained that I would like to test drive the Accent and Elantra as soon as possible. The hope was that it could be arranged for the following day in order to take full advantage of my day off, beat the weekend rush, and perhaps get a new car by the middle of the following week if I liked either of my choices. I was expecting to take two buses to the dealership, but Phil arranged to collect me from home at 9:30 the following morning and bring me home after the test drives. I was certainly not expecting anything like that.
So I met Phil Friday morning and he talked to me about what I was looking for. The Accent was ready and waiting and he told me to take my time and drive around as long as I wanted. Apart from the necessity of replacing my Taurus, the reason I had already been looking at options might sound rather childish; the Taurus was equipped with a cassette deck. While that might have been relevant 15 years ago, it had become extremely inconvenient in recent years. Try buying your favorite music on tape these days and see how far you get. I own all of my favorite music on CD and have about 1,500, so I bought a cheap boom box to record my favorites onto tape so that I had a better choice while driving.
You should understand that music is a massive passion of mine. If you have read any of the concert reviews or my Modest Mouse series on this site, you might begin to understand that this is an important thing to me. The lure of being able to plug in a USB and have access to 200 of my favorite albums was particularly strong. It was part of my decision-making process during the search. Ideally, I wanted the ability to play music from a USB as a standard feature. I told you my reasoning might sound childish.
The Accent was better than I had hoped for. After selecting Modest Mouse's The Lonesome Crowded West from the USB stick I bought with me, I began the test drive. After driving 10 yards I learned that the brakes on a new car were significantly more efficient than those on my Taurus. It took me a while to adjust, but the car was already starting to feel familiar by the time I got onto the highway. The acceleration was effortless and I noticed how quiet the car was compared the one I had driven for 10 years. Within a few minutes, I knew that there was no point in driving the Elantra. The 138-horsepower Accent had everything I needed and quite a few things I didn't need. I'm one of the few people on the planet without a cell phone, so the Bluetooth technology won't be fully utilized unless I decide to get one.
During the drive to the dealership, I was open to the idea of buying a manual car without air conditioning, if it would save me $4,000-$5,000. By the time I drove the Accent GL, I knew that I wanted automatic transmission and air conditioning. If I was going to make the unlikely decision to spend a fortune on a new car, I didn't want to regret not having certain features a few months from now. So the only thing left to do was negotiate the price and see how good my credit was.
One great thing about Hyundai is the financing terms. On a 2014 Accent, you can finance over 84 months at 0%. On the 2015 version, the 0% offer drops to 72 months, but that's excellent when compared to competitors who typically won't offer 0% beyond 48 months. As you might expect, I felt the need to haggle at least a little bit because of the large nature of the purchase. The ultimate resolution involved my Taurus, and $700 was removed from the cost of the Accent. The biggest challenge would be getting it there without vanishing in clouds of steam as it overheated.
I should say at this point that I don't generally like salespeople. They are often aggressive and fail to listen properly. I really hate the forced laughter which is so obviously fake. The majority of salespeople insult my intelligence by trying to force me to buy things I don't need at a price I am not willing to pay.
Phil McLean is not one of those people.
He was friendly, attentive, and came across as sincere and passionate about what he was selling. I understand that it's a business and that a salesperson's job is to make you spend more than you planned on things you might not have considered. Phil patiently answered all of my questions and presented the true cost of the features I asked about. Everything was completely transparent and he gave me the impression that he valued my business and respected my intelligence and my right to negotiate.
After four hours, my decision was made and my financing secured at the promised 0%. Phil arranged for me to be driven home and even dropped off some paperwork that evening on his way home. My ailing Taurus limped to the dealership Saturday morning and the car was ready for me just 24 hours after I signed the agreement. My independence and peace of mind are assured for the foreseeable future.
Buying a car is a serious decision and can cause a lot of stress. However, my experience was nothing like that. Hyundai Whitby understands that a few low-cost courtesies can make all the difference. A few cups of coffee and a shuttle to and from the dealership helped put me in the right frame of mind, but that was just the beginning. For me to even consider spending more than $20,000 on something that I had always considered a waste of money, Phil had to have the right approach. He made me feel valued the whole time and even sealed the deal as I picked up the car by giving me a golf umbrella and attaching the plates from my old Taurus. The picture at the top of this post was the ultimate finishing touch. I'll never forget the day I drove home my first new car. It still has less than 20km on the clock.
I know that my first call will be to Hyundai if I ever decided to change cars again. Not only that, the treatment I received from Phil, Dan and Alan will not be soon forgotten. If you live in the Durham area and have any interest in a Hyundai, it's well worth a visit. At least check out the vehicles in your price range and compare it to the others on your shortlist. You might be pleasantly surprised to see the features that come as standard.
If you do visit the Whitby dealership, feel free to call Phil and mention my name. He'll give you $20 for calling ahead if you are interested in a new vehicle. I'm not a salesman or an expert, but I would say that it's worth your time if you are serious about buying. Here's his card:
When watching a great movie, I usually don't mind being manipulated if the outcome is to my liking. My car-buying experience gave me a similar feeling. Now all I have to do is agonize over the various albums and playlists to include on my USB, and read the manual so I can figure out how all the controls work. Turning on the headlights will be my first challenge.
I've just made the biggest purchase of my life, with the exception of my house. Right now, I feel pretty good about it. Thanks for reading.
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