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What I think I learned...

So I recently bought a Toyota RAV4. And I love the car. but, like most of us, I did not love the buying experience. So just to set my mind at ease, here is a summation of my experience.

  1. Selecting the vehicle: I went around to three dealerships looking at small SUVs and test driving them. I also looked at all the features and do-hickeys to see what I absolutely wanted.

    Winner: Me. I went during a weekday afternoon when the dealers had zero traffic and made it clear I was just looking around. I got a bunch of information for a small time investment.

  2. Negotiating the price: I used edmunds.com to estimate the MSRP on the thing and then e-mailed 5 local area dealerships.

    Winner: Me - sort of. I used the automated e-mail service on edmunds.com but it didn't let me customize the e-mail. This resulted in an extra round of negotiations to get the price I wanted since everyone initially just sent me a "best price" instead of responding to me saying "This is the price I want".

    Lesson: send your own damn e-mail so you control exactly what it says.

  3. Negotiating the trade-in: I got a quote from carmax before going into the dealership so I would have a comparison price. I believe I did a great job negotiating the price on the RAV4, which meant the dealer was really out to recoup on the trade-in price. In the end, I wound up settling for the same price that carmax offered.

    Winner: The dealer but I don't know what else I could have done besides selling the car independently, which is a hassle that I wasn't looking for.

    Lesson: I don't know, maybe I should have refused to trade-in the vehicle? If someone knows the answer, please tell me!

  4. Financing: Since Toyota is busy killing people with their problems, I got fantastic financing.

    Winner: ME, totally 100% the winner!

  5. Dealer Add-ons: Well, this one really chaps my ass to admit. I totally went for the paint/upholstery/undercarriage sealer etc.. protection package. I do need/want these things for my lifestyle but was the cost worth it?

    Winner: The dealer. The truth is that I could have applied a lot of this stuff myself for cheaper.

    Lesson: DO NOT buy the dealer auto-protection package, no matter how tired you are and wow, does it seem like a good deal. I am super sure that my local auto shop would've done it for cheaper.

    On a side note, I went for the extended warranty which only time will tell about, but I think it was at a good price (Toyota killing people => good price on warranty). I also went for the gap insurance but I'm canceling it in a couple of weeks for a full refund. Gap insurance only works if you total the car or it gets stolen (irretrievably i think), which are odds I'm going to take.

  6. Stupidity: hoo boy. This one is a crazy maker. It turns out that a RAV4 Limited edition comes with XM radio as a standard feature. It even says so on the sticker. Unless you upgrade to a integrated nav system... in which case, they add a small clause in parenthesis to the sticker right after describing the nav, saying this option deletes the XM radio. So my stupidity was in not explicitly reading every friggin line on the sticker and assuming that adding on an alleged $2000 to $4000 upgrade package would actually IMPROVE (a.k.a. NOT REMOVE FEATURES). The dealer/salesman stupidity was in never discussing this interesting fact. I refuse to believe that people who will shell out money for a integrated nav system do not want integrated XM...

    Winner: Jury is out on this one. I went back to the dealership service dept because I couldn't get XM to work, which is when I learned all this stuff. I then complained to the sales manager because I was pissed off. The sales manager offerred to pay 50% of the reduced price that the service department was offering after my initial "What do you mean I don't have an XM receiver?!". I accepted the offer. The loml says that I needed to tell them I was returning the car and they would have done it for free. My sole regret on this is that I did not try this immediately upon discovering the issue.

    I don't like playing the what-if game, because the other what-if says that if I had known beforehand, then I would have paid for the XM as part of the sales cost of the vehicle and I possibly saved some money doing it this way. but damned if I can tell.

    Lesson: DO NOT FALL in love with the vehicle during negotiations
    INCLUDING the 3 day return period. I thought I was safe once I purchased the thing, but my weakness totally bit me in the ass when I had the XM issue, crippling my ability to negotiate fearlessly.

but its over now, and I have to say.. Damned if I still love don't that thing.

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