After months of research and a lot of time spent online, I traded in my 2004 Toyota Prius for a 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid yesterday. Well, I bought the Highlander, knocking a bit off the price with the Prius, realistically.
First off, I bought the car because I found myself at a point in my life where I owning two cars: the Prius and a 2004 Volvo XC90. I really didn’t want to have two cars, so when I envisioned a vehicle that had the best of the space and bad-weather capabilities of the Volvo and the energy efficiency and general design panache of the Prius, I identified two possibilities, the Highlander Hybrid and the Lexus 400h hybrid SUV.
Problem with the Lexus, though, is that it’s darn expensive, more expensive than I was prepared to pay. The Highlander priced out, even with every option, at least $10k cheaper.
2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
So I spent time online, went to the Toyota site and requested bids from dealers throughout Colorado, and tried to work directly with Boulder Toyota, the local dealership.
Now I’d had a bad experience with Boulder Toyota when I bought the Prius back in 2004 (they refused to omit a $900 “high altitude prep package” which was them etching my VIN on the windows and doing an undercoat, which would have cost them about $80, if that) and ended up canceling my Prius purchase and buying it from a Denver dealer instead, so I was unsure how the down economy would affect their interaction.
In fact, they were still unpleasant and untrustworthy salespeople. This time the salesman didn’t say a thing about prep packages, but when we’d emailed back and forth I said that I was expecting $13-$14k for my Prius trade-in. I drove the Prius in and while he offered me a good price on a dealer demo Highlander Hybrid (approx $40k) he also offered me $10k as a tradein on the Prius. Not acceptable.
I called up the used car manager at Boulder Toyota and asked him about how much it’d cost if I wanted to buy a used Prius from the dealership and he told me that an ’04 would cost me about $17k. That’s quite a profit on my little used vehicle!
I wrote an email to the Boulder Toyota car salesman:
The Highlander Hybrid VIN JTEEW44A182019389 is an acceptable deal at $40k, but $10k for my 2004 Prius when your dealership is going to sell it for $17-$18k (according to your used car manager, who I talked with this afternoon) is unacceptable.
I expect a minimum of $14k for my car as a trade-in and know it has strong market value: you only have one used Prius on your lot and it just showed up a few days ago, which tells me that they’re moving well for you.
Please advise how we can proceed.
A week later, I still haven’t received an answer. Apparently they aren’t as hungry to make a sale as I had expected.
Fortunately, I’d also been communicating with the online sales guy at Stevinson Toyota West down in Golden (about 45 minutes drive from my house). We talked on the phone and I shared the $40k for an ’08 Highlander Hybrid deal, to which he said “that’s just dealer cost minus the current rebate, we could do that.” Sweet!
Stevinson Toyota West, Colorado
Yesterday I dropped off my son at a pal’s house and drove down. We met and the Internet sales guy at Stevinson Toyota was pleasant and friendly, but when the time came for him to show me numbers, he presents me with $45k for the Highlander Hybrid and $10k for the trade-in value of the Prius.
What the hell?
I said that was not acceptable and that we’d already discussed the price and he was way off what I was expecting to pay, and way off on what I believed was the trade-in value of the Prius. I offered him $40k for the Highlander against a $13k value for the Prius.
He came back with an offer that was about $800 less than the previous.
I said “Apparently I wasted my time coming down here today. We’re done. Please go grab my Prius keys and I’m outta here.”
He leaves and comes back with The Manager.
Ho hum, I thought, more games, but let’s see how this plays out.
The floor manager (according to his nametag) offers me the car for $42.8k and a trade-in of $10,500 for the Prius. I say “this is pretty ridiculous: your salesman and I talked about this and he told me he could sell the Hybrid for $40k. That’s the number I need to see. And the Prius trade-in is unacceptably low too. You’re wasting my time and your man isn’t telling you what’s going on.”
He says “let me see what I can do” and, surprise, wanders off, salesman in tow, to talk to The Big Manager.
They come back and offer me $12k for the Prius and the Highlander Hybrid for $41850. I stand up to leave and he changes the ‘1’ to a zero. I figure “good enough” and we have a deal.
So the 2008 Highlander Hybrid, fully loaded with all the option packages and with 33 miles on the odometer, I bought for $40850, against a $12,000 trade-in value of my Prius. Not bad.
But we weren’t done yet. Of course not, because then it was the finance guy’s job to try and upsell me an extended service warranty, clearbra, “Karr Alarm” (whatever that is), etc. He presents me with this hand written sheet of different warranty options and how much my monthly payments would be with each one.
I look at the way he’s presenting it and ask “what’s the base monthly payment again?”. Turns out (thanks to my iPhone calculator) that they were asking $5,460 for an extended warranty, clear bra and karr alarm package by making it seem like “only $91/month more * 60 monthly payments”. Insanely overpriced!
I laughed and said “you’re really asking $5460 for this package? I’d think about it for $1000, maybe, but not this price.”
He looked at it, looked at me, pulled out his pricing book, and said “I could sell you just the warranty for a thousand, but not the clearbra and karr alarm.”
me: “If it’s just the warranty, I’ll offer you $900.”
He looks it up again and says “that’s lower than employee cost on it. I’m not authorized to go that low, I need to get approval” (pauses for a few seconds, to “think” about it) “Oh, what the heck, better to just do it. Okay.”
So I figure that the extended warranty was probably still padded, but not by much.
And that was my car buying experience yesterday. Approximately elapsed time, three hours. Had you have been following my Twitter stream that day, you would have seen the blow by blow along with a ton of hilarious and supportive comments from everyone else in the Twitterverse. It made the experience far more amusing, which helped me stay calm and focused on what I wanted to attain. Thanks, gang! (You can find me on Twitter as DaveTaylor and my film alter-ego at @FilmBuzz).
I will say that it’s disappointing to have dealers use the Internet as a honey pot to lure buyers in and then game ’em anyway, rather than honor what they communicate with potential buyers and simplify the process.