It started when I borrowed my father’s little sports car to take to my high school reunion. I started to dream about a new car. My kids were older, and I no longer needed a “mom truck.”
But the thought of buying a new car made me queasy. While my car is practically a member of the family and I love it, I’m not alone: the auto industry not only looks down on the female buyer as unsophisticated, but it also has the reputation of duping buyers into overpaying. The process in itself can disarm and stupefy even the sharpest negotiators.
The power is shifting, though. The Internet and mobile apps have made the process much more transparent and even fun. So when we decided that my reliable Toyota Highlander needed a rest, the search was on.
Surfing the Web for a New Family Car
I had always wanted a BMW. I admired its design and engineering, and how each model year seems to retain its elegance and sportiness for years after, enhancing its long-term value. I liked the company’s long warranty and the maintenance plan, giving its cars up to four years of worry-free care and six years of coverage on all the big stuff.
My husband pushed for me to look at the 5-series, the larger more comfy sedan; I liked the smaller 3-series. Four doors were a must, as was a stick shift. And, if we bought a used model, it’d cost less and we could still get a few years left on the warranty. Other than that, I was open to anything, from color to options to luxuries. With my wish list made, all that was ahead of me was the intimidating part: the shopping.
Car Shopping Becomes Car Education
In reality, what I did was start learning. With just a few mouse clicks I could find every 5- and 3-series for sale in my target area, calculate the value of each (vs. the asking price), see what was wrong with them, see what was right, and find out where they were. I made a list of cars I wanted to see, drawing a line of potential cars from my home state of Connecticut to Florida that I could test drive during our holiday road trip south.
Visiting a Local Dealership to See the Options
I headed out to a local BMW dealer in Mt. Kisco, NY, and drove a 550i (too old), a 335i (only two doors–not good for school drop off) and a 335ix (pricey). I had researched which cars on the lot I wanted to drive, which helped the process; the salesman didn’t have to guess about what I might want. In addition, because I had learned a little bit about the models and the brand, he was also able to point out things about the car I didn’t know, including the benefits of a certified pre-owned car (a full check of the car, replacement of worn parts including tires, and a manufacturers warranty extended to 100,000 miles or six years).
My next step would be to visit some of the car dealerships on our way south for the holidays to see a few of the specific models I was considering.