Monday, March 31, 2014

The Car Problem

Never in my life have I been so stressed out about a car purchase before!  The past couple weeks have been crazy in our house.  I have felt every emotion possible in the car search.  The first emotion was probably fear.  The trusty mazda6 that I LOVE was starting to fail me.  We were definitely at the point where we needed to either replace or repair the car because the shifting was acting up and since I already feel like I have to go through a few dangerous intersections in the mornings, they were getting pretty sketchy and I needed a huge gap in traffic to feel safe.  Otherwise it still looked great.  Here it is brand spanking new, fresh from a hand car wash in 2004.

The next problem was that I had an odd (well, maybe after reading this, you won't think its so odd, but I felt like people I didn't know thought it was odd, but people I knew well were more like, "of course you thought that" ) attachment to the car.  This was MY car.  I hand picked it, searching dealer inventory daily.  It was the perfect car.  Ryan and I test drove several different cars before confirming that we did want the mazda6.  Working for Ford at the time, we got a discount on Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Jaguar, Mazda, Volvo, and Land Rover (and Aston Martin).  We considered the Ford Focus, Volvo S4, Jaguar S type, and mazda6.  The mazda6 5 door sedan was my favorite, and so that is what we got.  Being car people, cost was a factor, but it wasn't the only factor.  We were trading in my Mercury Cougar, a 2 door hatchback, the first car I bought all by myself.  You'd think if I was going to have an odd attachment to a car, it would be the "super cougar", and not my aged mazda6.  However, it was a fully loaded car with ALL the bells and whistles.  There was not an option this car did not have, and its the highest 60 month car payment we've ever had.  But, I had a good job and I had my cougar to trade in and cash to put down, so it was all good.  I signed the papers for this car myself and paid for a good chunk of the payments with my income while I was working (before Keira was born).  So, it wasn't really my first car, but more my LAST car.  The LAST part of my prior life before kids when I could actually use my own money to buy what I wanted.  Whatever replaced it should be special. 

I got the car the week after my first marathon, in October of 2004.  It brought Keira and Soren home from the hospital, and it was the only car that they ever knew.  This car went back and forth between Ohio and MI when Keira was a newborn and toddler.  It took the kids everywhere.  I drove it home from Racing for Recovery 70.3, my first half ironman race- I had driven the truck there and Ryan met me, but I found sitting with my feet straight in front of me in the car was much easier than more upright in the truck.  I also took the mazda6 to Muncie, my first solo trip and race since the kids were born.  Put the bike in the back and packed up and went.  It had been a long time since I went anywhere new by myself, and this was before we had a smartphone or a GPS.  I also drove my bike to bike check in at Ironman.  Seeing it in the back was when it got real and I had a good excited "I'm living my dream" cry.  I could drive it with my knee banged up after my crash.  I could fit both my bikes in the trunk and the kids to race in MI.  I brought Soren to the BMX track in it.  Keira rode in it to school.   It was (and still is) a great car.  It wasn't going to be easy to replace.
Ready for bike check in at IM Lou

Bringing Keira home for the first time
After my BQ in KY with my girl. 

I had my eye on the Ford Fusion for the past year.  I saw it at the auto show last year and fell in love.  The fusion was based off of the Mazda platform, so it would be replacing the car with a very similar sized and priced vehicle.  I had been looking forward to getting the new stylish Fusion. (this photo was taken in 2013 NAIS Detroit show)
This photo was taken a month or so ago at the Y.  One of our members drives my dream car!

I'd kind of thought it was a done deal.  I had been pumped about getting the Fusion.  I wanted a blue one just like the one in the picture above. 

Ryan and I started looking around at cars.  Since he works at Ford and gets A plan, our pricing is set.  So it should be really simple, right?  Well, with inflation and new technology available, we couldn't get the fully loaded Fusion for anywhere near the cost of the mazda.  They were looking a bit pricey.  And then we thought maybe we should get another Ford Escape.  I did not want another Escape.  I was against having two of the same vehicle, plus I felt like the escape was a downgrade from the Sport Trac we traded in from a size and utility standpoint.  Ryan primarily drives the Escape so it was his call that we got a pretty basic one.  It was a cash for clunkers trade and we were on a time crunch.  We were one of the fortunate ones who had our vehicle tagged and waiting for when the vouchers came available and with 27 dealers in the Metro Detroit area, it wasn't hard to find the options that Ryan wanted.  Amazingly, it was available at the dealer across the street from our condo.  Two tenths of a mile away and I could walk there.  Awesome.  The mazda6 came from just another block down.  We entertained the thought of an MKC for about 15 minutes.  We built one of those online and without A plan, comparing public pricing, the MKC with FWD was $80/month more than the AWD Escape, so totally not worth it.

We thought about a Taurus.  This is where all the drama began.  Those of you who know me well will also think, "of course you flipped out".  With incentives, when we were talking with one of the salesmen at our closest dealer, the Taurus seemed pretty close in price to the Fusion.  There were a lot more incentives, and Ryan felt like we could get a lot more car for the money going the Taurus route.  I was not thrilled, but the realistic side of me (yes, I know there is one in there somewhere) knew that I had to give it some thought.  Well, basically I tried to come up with real hard concrete reasons against buying the Taurus instead of "it makes me feel old".  And it did make me feel old.  My mom drives one, and Ryan's dad drives one.  Plus, any Taurus we would get would be far inferior option wise than theirs.  I really didn't want the cheapo version of an old person car.  I cried.  I felt like I was having a full blown midlife crisis.  My run on Thursday was horrible because it was windy, and then I felt even more old.   I came home and measured the garage.  The Taurus is approximately 203 inches long.  Our garage, from the front concrete block to the hardware on the inside of the garage door was approximately 210 inches.  Score 1 for me.  There wouldn't be room in the garage for this car AND my bikes, plus the kids bikes are currently in front of my bike, plus my stroller and our firepit are in the corner blocking the man door.  All of this stuff would need to be moved.  Obviously we could put the firepit outside and purchase a cover for it and move the kids bikes to the front of Ryan's car, and sell or move my stroller to the basement.  But the problem with the adult bikes would still exist.  I knew I would have a dent in the front of the car from an SPD mountain pedal.  One of my very sensible responsible friends suggested covering it with a pool noodle.  Sigh.  Everyone was coming up with solutions that pointed to the Taurus.  The dealer we were working with had told us that if we picked something from their lot, they would give us what we wanted for our trade.  Ok.  We'd see what we could come up with.  They didn't want to retrieve my "dream car" from another dealer because they would lose some money on the sale, so they would take that out of my trade.  Some people we spoke to thought they were being a bit extreme on this, but needless to say, we tried to find a vehicle from their stock.

The other issue with the Taurus/Fusion debate is that Ryan wants to be able to use this vehicle to travel, which means we need to be able to load up bikes and all sorts of stuff on and in it.  The Taurus has a huge trunk.  Massive.  Plus, our Yakima skybox will fit on it and we can take some pieces from the existing Escape rack and move them onto a Taurus.  We would need about $300 in parts from Yakima to make it work.  I called Yakima, and they have no towers that will fit with the Fusion for 2013/14, when they redid it.    However, the woman on the phone said that the skybox will fit with any crossbar as long as there is at least 3 inches of clearance.  Thule to the rescue!  They aren't American, which is a bummer, but they do offer a rack solution for about $600.  I was not about to let $300 be the difference of my happiness.  Then, Ryan found a Taurus with huge 20inch wheels, which I had said I would entertain a Taurus if and only if it had huge 20 inch wheels because that would prevent it from being "an old person car".  Or it would just really date me!  Well, Ryan found one in the sterling gray color with black leather (a must) and 20s.  Crud.  I agreed to go look at it on Friday after I picked up my race packet.   We looked at the outside of it, and I agreed it looked like a pretty decent car.  I had a good cry about my fabulous sporty mazda that was MINE being replaced by an old person sedan, but wasn't going to be totally unreasonable if this really was an affordable car for us and would be better for our family.  I spent the evening cleaning out the food, paper, and stuff that had accumulated in my car.  I ended up pulling an insane amount of stuff out of there.  Some of the items included: double jogging stroller, 5 pairs of safety glasses, a reusable shopping bag of CDs, two reusable shopping bags of reusable shopping bags, one reusable shopping bag of important papers and things not trash, plus a disposable shopping bag of trash and another of recycling, plus 3 unopened bottles of water. 

I ran the PJ10miler and had a great race.  With my parents in town, we thought it would be a great idea to be able to go to the dealer without the kids and test drive the Taurus.  The guy I had worked with in the past was not there, however the guy that confirmed the appraisal was.  We waited forever after the test drive, and finally sat down, about ready to close the deal.  The guy came and got us and we started to talk about numbers.  Wow, we were shocked.  First, they had devalued my trade.  I was irate.  That same man had told me earlier in the week that "had I picked something off the lot, I would get $X for my trade" because he really wanted to sell the Taurus.  Not $X-$500.  That made me and Ryan really angry.  We felt like we had been mislead and told a lie.  They would not budge on this.  Then, the guy we worked with wouldn't explain all the numbers to us as to how he got to our monthly payment, which was HUGE!  Holy moly!  It was bigger than the mazda6 payment.  When we talked earlier in the week with the other salesman, payments were over $100/month lower.  What the heck had changed?  $500 on the trade is only about $10 a month, so even giving us that didn't make this car affordable.  Not at all.  The lack of explanation offered to us and my lack of food from racing was a horrible combination.  I'm a math person, which means if I can follow everything, there is something in there that shouldn't be.  We really felt like there was something being pulled over our eyes here, and we walked out.  It sucked to be back at square one and waste the time I could have spent with my parents being incredibly confused and frustrated.  I went home and added everything up on my own, and it seriously should have been $25 less.  Still way more than the Fusion, but a lot less than what we had been quoted that day.  I read all the fine A plan print and included tax and the fees and that is what I got.  I called Ryan and said that was what we should expect for that size car, and if we really wanted a car that big, we would have a car payment that big.  For an old person car.

Being back at square one brought in more stress.  We circled back and Ryan asked if we should consider the Escape again.  No.  I wanted a car.  Fine.  We looked more at dealer inventory online that night and I decided to go look at another car on Monday with a few free minutes that I had.  They had a blue one online, and to have them go through detailed pricing with me.  These guys made perfect sense to me, except the blue one had been sold.  They appraised the mazda and agreed that it was worth the $X dollars I was initially asking for based on Kelley's Blue Book value for trade in.  They wrote up a fancy form on it too for me that I could bring back when I was ready.  They had two black ones that were affordable with the smallest engine.  I said I'd be in touch.

Later that day, Ryan and I met up at a dealership that had been recommended to us by my tri club.  I pulled up to that dealership and thought, "this is the kind of dealership I am used to in Detroit".  It was massive.  We had looked at their inventory on line and they had lots of options.  It was made from an old mall and had cars as far as the eye could see, plus a fun gallery of classic cars.  They were also a Lincoln dealer, so I could ask about the MKC (which Ryan actually knows more about from his internal Ford knowledge than the dealer anyway).  They people here treated us really well and Ryan took out two different Fusions for a test drive to determine which engine we would want because there were 3 options.  Ryan was mostly interested in the middle sized 2.0L ecoboost of the Fusion.

We had to give it a day because we both had activities on Tuesday night.  We did some searching online of inventory again, and it seemed like Bill Collins, the awesome huge dealership recommended to us by my tri friend, would have something.  We were up against the deadline of March 31st, when the incentives would change.  They might go away, stay the same, or get better, but we have no clue, and won't know until tomorrow!  I went there with the mindset of, "we WILL buy a car today".  I was just worn down of the search process and had decided that interior color (dark charcoal leather) was the top priority.  Leather is so much easier with kids.  Just compare my 9 year old mazda interior with Ryan's 4  year old cloth Escape.  We don't even eat in the escape and it is discolored from Soren being carsick on one trip.  Keira had reflux as an infant and threw up on an almost daily basis in the mazda.  It wiped right off!  Plus our sport trac just stunk like sweaty exercisers by the time we traded that in because the sweat soaked into the cloth.  Ew!  The cloth of the newer cars is supposed to be better, but I wasn't sold yet. 

We met up with our guy, Tone Wesley, on Wednesday.  We told him we wanted 2.0L Ecoboost, preferred dark leather, and few other options if any to keep cost down, and some acceptable colors.  We also said if they had a Taurus like the one at the first dealership, we would rather buy it from him.  He pulled 3 cars into their showroom, 2 Fusion 2.0L Ecoboost engines, and 1 Taurus.  The first Fusion had leather and was sterling gray, the second had cloth and a ton of other bells and whistles, and was black.  The Taurus didn't have the big wheels, but was basic and had light leather.  I didn't want light leather because I'm a jeans girl, and didn't want to stain my leather from denim.  After going to the auto show for years on the first public day, I had seen firsthand what dark denim does to light leather interior.  It turns it blue.  It can be cleaned, but its a pain and not something I want to plan to stay on top of from the beginning.  That car was out.  They had a similar with dark interior, but it was a demo car with a decent amount of miles.  I really liked the first one.  I didn't need all the bells and whistles.  It had Sync to use my ipod and satellite radio, so that was really what was important from an entertainment system.  It had heated seats.  It was sterling gray, so almost the same color as our Escape, but also the same color of the Taurus we almost bought.  Ryan liked the black Fusion with the cloth and all the extras.  We sat down and talked price.  For the first time EVER, the car I wanted the most, with the leather interior and nothing else, was the least expensive!  That was hard to argue with.  All three options were affordable, but it was really hard to argue with "I want the least expensive".  Then we had the mazda appraised a final time.  The kids said goodbye to it, and cried.  It was hard for me to not cry since it was such a great car.

Goodness I was stressed.  We got our $X trade in, and it was done!  We declined all the extras and we have the lowest car payment we've had.   Here's the new car!!!!!

And it fits in the garage!!! (and matches our other car, sort of boring, but it won't be this way forever!)

Sorry for this crazy post, but I really felt like I needed to get this out here.  I was crazy stressed out over this, and documenting it should hopefully help me know what to worry about and what not the next time around. 


HaeWon said...

Hi! I've followed your blog for awhile and love all your stories and recaps. I hope you can help me. I'm putting this here because I couldn't figure out how to contact you otherwise. I am running the Derby Marathon this year and trying to BQ there. I was told the last 4 miles are being "rerouted" this year due to construction. I have read your review as well as several others and I wanted to see what the hill at mile 22-23 was like. It's really unclear to me if there is still a "hill" this year. I drove down from Indiana this week and tried to drive the course but couldn't figure out the part from Breckinridge to Barret to Winter to Baxter to Broadway because the road went one way the wrong way when I got to Breckinridge and I couldn't find the right streets after that. If there is any way you could look at the map for this year's couse and let me know if we still run a hill at the end I'd appreciate it. I'm driving down to Louisville again next week to run part of the course.

Melissa Christensen said...

Hi! Thanks so much for contacting me about this! I sent you a message via google, so hopefully you'll see it. I just updated my email too so hopefully Ill get a notice of any response. I just texted a friend who is also running, and she has been very involved with the Norton Healthcare training runs. According to her, you will miss the hill on Barrett. The last 4 should be easier/flatter this time around.