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.