Shopping for the Next Ride – Part 1

Last Saturday marked the beginning of my quest to find my wife’s next car. I compiled a spreadsheet (yes, I am that anal-retentive) listing a wide range of choices, complete with the make, model, trim, msrp, invoice, rebates, residual vales and money factors I could find (along with other performance details for quick comparison). Then I crunched the numbers a bit to come up with a basic monthly payment (with tax using invoice price plus rebates) to give me a ballpark idea as to what to expect per month. I didn’t include inception fees since that number varies from place to place and it usually requires that I actually sit down and start working out the fine details with my dealer. I do however, have a pretty good idea what to expect since I’ve been leasing cars for nearly a decade. I also know that for every $1000 borrowed, that the payments will either increase or decrease by $30 per month. Using this general guideline, I can quickly adjust my payments if one dealers inception fees are higher than another.

Here is a list of what cars we saw this past weekend.

  1. Mercedes Benz C300
  2. BMW 328i
  3. Acura TSX Base
  4. Acura TL Base
  5. Acura TSX V6 Base

MB C300

We made our first stop over at Mercedes Benz of Long Beach. Overall, my wife came away impressed with the built quality, the road manners and it’s performance. The ride was smooth, quiet and satisfying. I also came away impressed with the interior details and features, such as the compass that actually tells you which street you are on without the need of the Navi feature. There was one thing I didn’t like though, which was the cruise control lever. It sits so close to the turn signal that you can sometimes click that by mistake.  Anyway, solid ride overall. I didn’t talk dollars and cents because we weren’t ready to take the plunge; but as you know, for the right price, I don’t mind pulling the trigger a little earlier than usual. When it comes to financing a Mercedes though, I think the biggest turn-off are the fees. The $1095 bank fee is over three hundred more than BMWs and nearly double of what Acura charges. Then you got your disposition fee (which can be waived if you stay with MB on your next car) which I dislike a lot because it feels like a gimmick to force you to buy the car. With the bads, there are always going to be good things with MB leases as well. The “pull-ahead” program is great, allowing you to get into your next lease/purchase anywhere from three to five months before you lease ends. The payments are waived, not rolled over into the new car which can help you get in an out of a lease without worrying about negative equity. Plus you can get $500 in wear-n-tear and can get  your disposition fee waived.

BMW 328i

After the C300, we headed over to Long Beach BMW. As I have mentioned to many of you. If you are in Southern California and you are in the market for a BMW, Dave is probably one of the easiest guys to work with so I highly recommend him.  In any case,  as a bonus for visiting, I got to preview the 550 GT, which began rolling into dealerships (in a VERY limited quantities) about a week or two ago. My first impression is that its not really my kind of ride. Its like a X6 and 7-series wrapped together under a 5-series badge. Plush, sophisticated and probably drives well too. But not my cup of tea.

Anyway, while Dave and I chit chatted about the RIDE with G site, upcoming sales and what not, my wife hopped on the freeway and was doing 90 mph in a blink of an eye. This car is fast for being the “lower-end” 3-series. Sure, its no 335i or G37 (I am being biased here), but it’s still pretty quick and nimble. Wife liked the interior, the easy controls and the performance. Her verdict? The best “driver” car so far. The Ultimate Driving machine for all the right reasons.

Acura TSX Base / Acura TL Base/ Acura TSX V6 Base

Our last stop was to visit our dealer Power Acura in Torrance, CA. We got our 2007 TSX from him some years ago, so it is natural to come back to see what kind of deal we can work out for us. My wife got to drive all three of these cars and decided that the TL and the 4cyl TSX were not for her. The TL was a too big, while the TSX 4cyl didn’t have enough power to help her zig-zag through LA traffic. So the TSX V6 was the obvious in-between choice. What we love about Acuras in general is the fact that all their “base” models come loaded with so many features that cost extra on other models such as the C300 and the 328i. The C300 we test drove had an MSRP of $37k, while the 3-series topped at $40k. The V6 TSX came in at $35k and has more standard features than the other two, combined.  Money talks and the TSX V6 offered to me was cheap. $1800 off invoice (Eric got an even better deal). $1100 due at signing, $409 per month (including 9.75% sales tax). No security deposit, $595 bank fee, $45 dealer fee, no disposition, GAP included.  Problem with this deal is that it will end on the 30th of Nov, when the $1500 dealer cash on the V6 expires. If the cash doesn’t come back, I expect the payments to increase about $50 bucks more per month. Ouch! With the BMW cash and rates, I have until January. Same on the MB, just no cash. There is also the option to special order the 328i or C300 to lock in the rates and then pick it up 2-3 months later when the TSX lease is about to expire. This would put us in a good position because it will keep our expenses at a minimum. In any case, the final decision will come down to how much car can we get for the money, so we will have to test drive a few more rides and price them out some more to get a feel for what other good deals there are out there.

Here is the rest of the “to drive” list:

  1. VW Jetta TDI
  2. VW CC 2.oT Sport
  3. Infiniti G37 Journey Sedan
  4. VW Tiguan S 4motion
  5. Lexus IS250
  6. Hyundai Genesis 3.8 Sedan
  7. Mazda CX-7 GT
  8. Audi A4 2.0T Premium Plus
  9. Mazda 6s GT
  10. Toyota Prius II
  11. Honda Insight EX
  12. Subaru Impress 2.5GT
  13. Subaru Legacy 2.5GT

I know it’s a handful, but we don’t discriminate. Haahaa.

So the moral of this story is simple; Make sure you have a lot of options available to you if you are on a budget. Look around, drive around. Don’t commit to anything. If possible, visit dealers that you already know. This will help you not get stuck with some new guy trying to make a sale and hounding you endlessly. If you don’t have a dealer, you might want to start by looking for one online on Google, Edmunds or TrueCar. The market’s changed and buyers/lessees are in charge right now. Take your time, and do your research. If you have never driven the car, do it early, so you know what you like and what you don’t. I like to start early because it gets me ready to pounce when I see a great deal. It’s still somewhat early in the game for us, so we will be test driving more cars and weighing our options; but so far, the wife is digging the C300, with the 328 and TSX V6 following in a close second and third. Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Shopping for the Next Ride”.

Anyway, here are more pics of the 2010 BMW 550 GT.

24 thoughts on “Shopping for the Next Ride – Part 1

  1. my prediction… she will like the 328, the G37, and the C300 the most. Maybe the A4 and IS could be in the top 3. But I know how you are with Audi and I think the IS will seem too cramped. And the Mazda 6 v6 will surprise her as being the best bang for the buck.

    • I think you’re right. I also think that the A4 will be really tough to get within a reasonable price (compared to the rest). Going for a Premium Plus trim with just inception will be in the $500 range and I am not about to go beyond 36 months to keep the payments low.

  2. G- That $1095 bank fee on the C300 represents $300 more in profit to the dealership. MBFS charges $795, and then its a free for all by the dealers. Tell them to jam that where the sun doesn’t shine. If that doesn’t work, send me a private email and I’ll get you the name of a broker in Encino who will perform miracles!

    • @barry. Thanks Barry. I just might take you up on that offer when the time comes!
      @zamo. Great deal on the Legacy, congrats! I hope the wife will enjoy the Subarus, we could use a AWD car to take up to the mountains during the winter. I’m like you, looking for the best bang for the buck, I just hope my wife feels the same way. Haahaa.
      @pat. I think the GTI is real nice too, but I know for a fact my wife isn’t very fond of hatchbacks. We once test drove the 08 GTI and she just didn’t like the overall size of the hatch. Personally, I think I might buy a GTI in the future to mod and use it for fun.
      @supercharger. I actually do not use my lease calculator at the dealership. I usually do my calculations at home, like zamo does. Then I just show up to do last minute negotiation and sign papers. I also know the lease formula off the top of my head, so all I really need is a simple calculator. I tend not to roll any fees into the lease anyway, so the calculation is pretty easy. Despite this, I think bringing a laptop to the dealership can be a good idea, so you can do research right on the spot. He/she can’t BS you if you can dig up info on your own.
      @ursus. Wow I didn’t realize that the 2.5GT was manual only. I guess we gotta scratch that and switch it to the 3.6R. Wife doesn’t drive manuals. I know Subaru’s aren’t exactly pretty on the inside, but they are very good overall vehicles so it’s hard to just pass them up. Plus their leases have always been pretty reasonable.
      @jake. thanks! I think it’s a good idea to rent one to see how the car would be. I do find the 30 min test drive very difficult to see how the car fits into our lives. Unfortunately, its pretty tough to find the kind of cars we are shopping for on a rental lot. I think the key is timing for me. I got a lot of time on my hands, so we might narrow down the list a bit more and maybe I can find the finalists at the Hertz or Enterprise rental lots. That’d be a great idea to filter out the winners from the losers. Too bad many dealers don’t do the “take it home for the weekend” test drive anymore. I know B got to do that with the G37 for the wife. That’s awesome.

  3. The Legacy 2.5 GT is a great deal for the price, but it does not lease as well as “base” model cars. TL, TSX V6, A4 and the G37 might have the best payment to MSRP ratio (with 0 down).

    Over 2 years I got a loaded 07 Volvo S80 with sport package (bi-xenons, active suspension, climate, park assist, etc) for $399 + tax for a 24-month term lease. I paid $625 due at signing. That was the best deal ever. Car MSRP was $45K. I wish I had the chance to tap a deal alike anytime soon.

  4. I’ve also looked at the VW CC 2.0T Manual for some time. I did not get it as I wanted to keep payments as low as possible at that point in time. My local dealer is offering the CC for $329 + tax for 39 months. Total due at signing is dealer fee + tax + tag (around 700 bucks). I believe that is a good deal.

    BTW, I did get a 09 Legacy 2.5 SE for $244 + tax with $0 due at signing. That deal was hard to pass. 12k/36 month. First time I open my wallet to just provide DL and insurance card; not to pay anything at signing, not even tags.

  5. I know this is probably something she would not dig, as it’s a sporty hatchback, but the new GTI is very nice. The interior looks audi-like. Maybe she’ll like the Golf TDI? Has a lot of the GTI features minus the racer look.

  6. @G

    Do you take the Lease Calculator with you when you are at the dealer if you are serious about the ride? I’m planning to take my laptop with the Lease Calculator the next time I shop for a new car so I can have roughly the same screen the salesman is looking at to facilitate the negotiation.

  7. G, I really liked 2010 Legacy 3.6R Limited. Well, not so much it’s silver plastic. BTW, 2.5GT only comes with manual and costs more.

  8. @Supercharger. My approach is to establish communication via email or phone with dealers that have the car that interests me. I perform all kinds of calculations at home, and there are 2 key pieces you need to have handy. The money factor and residual value (or percent). You can start playing around with the sale price and then once you find a sweetspot ask the dealers if they can give it to you for the price you want.

  9. @all
    great post G, a few years ago I rented a ford f150 from enterprise for house stuff etc. I had it for a week, that made the diff I loved it so much I leased one the very next month. what I’m tryn to say is a 30 min test drive is not going to chop the list down maybe ask for a weekend test drive with your top 3? you’ll only know then if it’s for you.

    car seats, backseat space, your driveway fit, easy for the kids gettn in and out, example (lex rx350) rear doors scrapes my twin girls legs (Audi q5) did not.

    see if enterprise, hertz, dollor has the ride your lookn at and rent it for the weekend why not it’s a car you’ll have for a few years be 100%

  10. @G
    since my crash I changed rides weekly g37x, caddy wagon, Volvo s90?, dodge ram I’ve been in these more than my bmr lol.

    in these times dealers may let you test drive longer if you ask them (ask a few)

    happy T G

    • @jake. definitely will ask a dealer to see if they are willing to do this. i think it would really help the wife decide. hope you had good turkey day!
      @warren. You know, I am thinking she will like the TDI too. I do like VW/Audi’s interiors quite a bit and the wife is a big fan of Audi interior, so that might work. Plus the 3yr/36k mile maintenance is really enticing. I just spent about 70 bucks doing tire rotation, oil change, new wipers and inspection on the TSX, so it would be nice to not have to spend that kind of money anymore. Not to mention extra issue I just discovered with the car today (more on that later). I think free scheduled maintenance on the wife’s next car would be nice.
      @pat. I have never used before. I typically negotiate on my own after researching a few dealers and online. On Saturday, I just got offered the 2010 c300 at invoice without me even having to say a word. Haahaa. I was just doing holiday shopping and then got a call from a MB dealer about going invoice. I’m thinking they could go lower if its that easy. I think using tools like Zag would be beneficial, but I find that with a little pressure on your end, you can do pretty darn well on your own. As for the 328 and the GTI, I think it would depend on whether you decide to lease or buy. I dont know how good the GTI lease rates are this month, but I would rather have a BMW if the numbers are within $100 bucks per month because the warranty lasts longer on the BMW than the GTI.
      @ProShopper. Welcome! Thanks for the info. I actually did get an offer from my local MB dealer offering 9-10k off MSRP on remaining Cs, it’s definitely possible.
      @zamo. I would definitely wait on the Volvos right now. They haven’t been very good leases this year, so I approach them with extreme caution. I do hope they improve, their newer models looks pretty good.

  11. I would bet the wife will like the Jetta TDI. As Pat mentions above, think Audi interior on these. I took a look at one a few weeks back and came away quite impressed. Since she doesn’t like hatchbacks, she might even be interested in the GLI too, which is similar to the GTI but in a sedan version. VW has really done a nice job with the 2010 models I think. Plus with the TDI, you’ll be saving a few cents off the price of regular gas prices and still get phenomenal fuel economy.

  12. @G, just wondering if you ever used I’ve heard a few people use it and it seems pretty good. From what i can tell, it gives you group buying power, and most of hte prices seem to be around $100-$300 over invoice.

    Would you recommend using something like this or trying to negotiate your own price? I guess i’m just thinking dealers don’t get near/below invoice quick enough for me… (i dont want to go back and forth)

  13. btw… i’m considering either a base 328i coupe or 2010 GTI. Hard decision, overall i prefer the looks of the coupe, but GTI comes pretty well equipped and it’s hard to ignore a $10,000 difference in price!

  14. G,
    New to the site. so I don’t know exactly where to put this…
    All 2009 C300 and C350s were put into “demo” status the first of October. Doesn’t mean a whole lot, but Mercedes is giving the dealership a $5000 rebate for demos and $5000 for clearing 2009s. So if you find any 09’s = possible $10,000 off.

  15. @G. On the same boat. WIfe wants another XC90 but current residuals and money factor put the monthly payments north of 500 (if not in the 600 range). I read that things are changing Dec 1st for Volvo… will keep waiting and see

  16. @G One other question… i know that going from 12k miles to 15kmiles a year is usually about a $20 difference or so in payments a month, is there a general range that payments change when you’re going from 36 months down to 24 months? Like say comparing 36mo 12k miles a year to 24mon 12k miles a year.

    • @pat. not really. When we change just the residual value, it is easier to predict. When comparing 24 and 36 month terms, you are looking a changing the term, the residual and possibly the money factor.

  17. “One way – or another – they’re gonna getcha – they’re gonna getch, getcha, getch, getcha . . .” – Blondie

    So, you think the band had just come back from buying a car when they recorded that song?

    I just closed a deal on a GLK – one dealer quoted $900 under invoice with a $795 bank fee. I’m thinking, yeah, no mark up on that damn bank fee.

    Then my dealer was $1200 under invoice. I’m thinking I’m the star of the century. Then i find out the bank fee was $1095 (boo!)

    Same deal, just a different use of mirrors and blue smoke.

    I’m happy – that’s all that matters. They made a little money (very little, actually – about $390, I figure) and I enjoyed the process.

    Now they’ll lower the money factor next month and I’ll want to kill myself. LOL!

    • Haha. That is true Barry. I’ve seen stuff like that before as well. The thing, when a dealer can’t/won’t go any lower, they start playing with the fees and things like that. So it’s really important to itemize all the things you’ll be paying, so there are no discrepancies. Once the papers are signed, it’s pretty much final, so folks need to be diligent.

      By the way, did you get the GLK at the same November rate? I’m suspecting BMW, Audi and MB are going to keep their lease rates the same as November for this month. I know Acura did, but changed their rebates.

      So how’s the GLK anyway? I’ve had my eye on it for quite some time, but the numbers haven’t dropped enough to entice me. Then again, I am still tied down to my G37 so I shouldn’t be straying, yet. Haahaa.

      If you get a chance, please share with us the deal you got on the GLK. I’m sure folks would love to hear about it.

  18. @G, just noticed someone said you’re not to fond of Audi leases…what exactly don’t you like? (As i’ve added the A4 to the list of cars i wanna check out )

    • @pat. I don’t like Audi leases because I don’t think you get much car for the money. The residual values are so low, it makes it a nightmare to trade that car in if you ever need to. Another thing is payments. Some 5 years ago, the A4 was the cheaper alternative to the 3-series and C-Class. You could get a pretty loaded A4 for about the same price as a base C or 3. Not anymore. Nowadays, if you want a loaded A4, you’re talking $500s easily, (even at 48 months, you would be looking at high $400s), no free maintenance, security deposit and disposition fee. The bank fee is still fairly reasonable, but if I had to spend the same amount of money every month, I’d rather have a 328i than A4 2.0T because there is more value to a BMW lease due to the free maintenance. Specially now since there’s $1500 cash on the 328s and $2500 on the 335s. That cash helps offset the high MF on the 3-series.

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