High Expectations

I’m in the market for a car. It’s something I’ve been talking about for a while, although admittedly, I’m dragging my feet. Hey, no car payment is nice! Who can blame me? But I know that winter is getting closer every day, and it’s not likely the Honda will make it through the cold, snow and ice trouble-free.

So, I’ve been researching, and looking, and keeping an eye out for good deals. I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of new vs. used, and really thinking about what I want/need in a car. I want something I can drive for a good long time. It’s likely I’ll be buying something new (gasp!) and financing it (double gasp!). I know, I know, this isn’t a popular idea in the personal finance/early retirement community. I’ve read all the articles stating that the only way to get ahead is by always driving an older car, and never buying new. And sometimes the numbers do work out that way. And sometimes they don’t. And, let’s be honest here, there’s more to decisions than just the financial aspects of them.

And yes, I realize that I had a new car not that long ago, which I sold in order to buy back the Honda. No, I don’t think that decision was a mistake. And again, it was more than just a financial decision. Yes, I wanted to get rid of the car payment for a while. But I also wanted to get rid of the baggage that the Nissan represented. I bought the Nissan because it was the cheapest car I could find that fit my job and living arrangement at the time. And the reality was, 2 years later, the Nissan was no longer a good car for me. I’d moved from the southwest to the Midwest, and the Nissan wasn’t  well suited to the ice, snow and wind. It wasn’t the right size to accommodate my day-to-day life. And, having bought it specifically for the job that I had, it was a constant reminder of a situation that had turned very sour. As much as I’d love to live in a bubble, and think only of the financial implications of my decisions, the reality is that all decisions involve more than money.

With that in mind, I’ve really been thinking about what type of vehicle will suite me for the long haul. I want a vehicle that suites the life I lead now, but also the life I’m working towards. I want a vehicle I love now, and can see loving for many years down the road. Recently I had been leaning towards getting a Ford. They have some good vehicles available, and our company has a fleet vehicle discount through a local dealership. So, I’ve been looking at different models, playing with the numbers, weighing my options and preferences.

The past few weeks have seen dealerships screaming in every format about the great deals to be had on 2013 models. The dealership where I can get the discount was no exception; actually, they were screaming the loudest.

All 2013’s must go! Never before seen low prices! Up to $13,000 off! Up to $7,000 above book value on your trade in!

On and on they went. So finally last week I contacted the fleet sales manager to discuss some options. I told him that I was really interested in a Ford Escape, and even listed the colors I would consider acceptable. I told him that the base model, S, really had everything that I was interested in; to me, everything else was just unnecessary fluff that I wasn’t willing to pay extra for. I asked about the fleet discount, the advertised discounts, and whether the two could be combined, or if it was one or the other. I asked about the trade in offer, what was meant by “up to $7,000 above”, and how my Honda would fair.

I thought I was being pretty specific. The response? I don’t have enough information to give you any specifics. Why don’t you come in for a test drive? Humph. Typical salesman tactic! Not sure why I was expecting anything different. I mean, seriously, you can’t tell me whether the fleet discount can be combined with other offers? Or what type of deals are being offered when I specify a make, model, class, year and color(s)?

My instinct was to give up. But then, I could only get the fleet discount by going through this one guy. I might as well at least try until I found out how good of a deal it might be, right? So, I tried again. And again. We bantered back and forth over and over, him giving me nothing, me asking specific details.

Finally this morning, possibly upon realizing I was NOT going to come in until I knew more information, he sent me some details. Well, kinda. He picked one vehicle, and gave me the “best deal available” for that vehicle. And? It was completely underwhelming.

The vehicle he presented was a one-off 2013 model, in a strange “frosted glass” color (which is not even shown as an option for this vehicle anywhere on Ford’s website, even for last year’s models). The Never before seen! discount equaled out to about $2,500, which included my fleet discount, and then $1,500 trade in value for the Honda, which is exactly what Kelly Blue Book says I should expect from a dealership.

That’s it?!?

Maybe I’m expecting too much? Maybe when a dealership screams about great deals, I actually expect to get a great deal? When I questioned the guy about all of the advertised specials, he said the best deals and increased trade in values were only being offered on the F-150’s, despite the fact that the advertisements included all models. Sorry, but I have absolutely no interest in owning a truck.

What really chafes me is the feeling that the sales guy is toying with me, trying to make the most money off the sale. Okay, I get he’s commissioned. But I don’t really feel like he was listening to me, or trying to help me with what I wanted. The vehicle I was looking at has a 2014 S model that had everything I needed and wanted, including the ability to get the color I wanted, for a starting price of $22,700, before my discount or trade in. I was assured that if I wanted the base, I could get it, although I might have to wait for it to be ordered. I was aware that there were no 2013 S models still available, so if I were to consider buying a 2013, I would need to upgrade to a SE. I was very clear in stating that, since there was nothing in a SE model that I valued enough to spend more money on, I would only be interested in considering a 2013 if the discounts would be enough to make it less expensive than the 2014 S model. Instead, I was given information on a more expensive vehicle, that after the “year-end blowouts”, my fleet discount, and my trade in, ended up being the same cost as the 2014. And that was before taking into account the fleet discount and trade in value on the 2014.

I understand that the 2013 Escape has more features than the 2014 that I was interested in. Coming from it that way, it’s rightfully a more expensive vehicle. But, as I stated, none of those features were ones that I was interested in. So why would I pay more for a vehicle with features that I didn’t want? Sure, that price may be a great deal for that vehicle. But if I don’t want or need those features, it isn’t a good deal for me. Lets be honest here, I’m never going to tow anything with my vehicle. So paying extra for a tow package makes no sense for me. Even if they give me an unbelievable price for it, paying $1 more for it isn’t worth it. And how often am I going to move my seat, that I really need to pay more for automatic seats? In reality, I usually find that feature more of an annoyance, since it usually takes longer than just manually adjusting the seat when needed.

Which means I’m back to searching for a vehicle that will fit my life, and my budget. If anything, this guy’s unwillingness to listen to what I want opens up more options for me. I’m no longer stuck considering only Ford vehicles, on the premise that I’ll get some great fleet discount. Sure, if I end up finding a Ford that I’m interested in, I’ll still look into getting the additional discount. But I no longer feel like that’s the best deal out there.

– Cindy W.


  1. I think the only vehicles that they will give you over trade in value are pick-ups and SUV’s because they hold their value much better than cars. Since you want a base model, the dealership probably won’t throw in many discounts. Its the extras that get thrown in on their side and they are able to pass along those savings.

    I think my next car will be a Ford because they hold up way better to Midwest winters.

    1. Yeah, as I dig a little further (through other dealerships) I’m finding that the “fleet discount” for the base model only ends up being around $200. I mean, that’s still money off, but nothing compared to the other rebates, etc, that are being offered.

      Finding something to handle the Midwest winters is definitely a high priority for me. I never realized how big of a difference it made, until I owned a car that couldn’t cut it!

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