Wednesday, September 23, 2015


My daughter told me immediately “New car is AWESOME!”

She has more room to stretch out. She doesn't have to roll down her window with her feet. We did have to have a discussion about rolling the window up and down. And how mommy has a MASTER BUTTON to stop all movement of the window.

She rearranged her booster seats in her dad’s car and mine. Apparently the RAV4 was to have the green one and the Prius v needed the hot pink one.

We do have some issues about her clicking her seat belt in herself. The clicker vanishes between the seats. I found a forum post that recommended putting a pool noodle in as a wedge. It helps.

After one week My 4 year old did ask a very insightful question.

4YO: Mom, do you miss your Old car?
Me: Do you?
4YO: I asked you first.

I told her I did.

But not the Corolla necessarily.

It is all the memories... I graduated college, lived in Northern California, moved back to Southern California, got jobs, lost jobs, got married, bought a place, was pregnant, had a baby, had a toddler, cried, laughed … LIFE… all in my first car.

Having anything for 17 years is a long time.

So yes, we miss the Corolla, but new Prius v is awesome and we will get to make new life memories in it now.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Anything Different?

I don't think I could have done anything different in this process. I needed to see it through as is.

Now that I have completed it once, will I do it again? Most likely, but limit the dealers to Mr. Bragg's 5-6 that he recommends.

The hardest part is calling and dealing with people that it is THEIR DAILY JOB to hard sell. Preparing yourself and knowing your mind is your best defense. I suggest everyone to write it down.

Your past self is smarter than you think.

Your past self was making decisions with no stress, no lights, no staring, no excitement to sway a decision… trust your past self.

When a dealer asked:
Want a different Car? … no. Past self wrote down Prius v.
What about a different Trim? … no. Past self wrote down Three.
How about Blizzard Pearl? … no. Past self wrote no white.
Do you know what Manufacturer rebates there are? … yes! Past self did the research, but tell me anyway so I can see if your answers are good.

My new car sticker price was $29,179.00, which excludes taxes, GAP Insurance, etc.

When I talked to Costco Auto Program dealer in March, they offered me $28,679 out-the-door. I know this depended on the Manufacturer offers and add ons at the time.

In July, my FINAL out the door price with everything included was $27,322.20 .

Was the $1,357 worth the calling and all that came with it?

Me? YES! To me, this was an adventure.

I would have done all the research and spreadsheets if I called or not. The only additional process I did was calling more dealers than what a sane person should.

Friday, September 18, 2015

At the Dealer

In ALL if this planning I forgot to ask the Dealer what information I needed to bring with me. So I actually needed to send Husband back home to get our current insurance card that was sitting on the desk.

  • Drivers License
  • Proof of Insurance.
  • All the information to fill out Credit Application.
… That is it.

I also recommend bring something to do. Something that you can start and stop.

I saw a lot of people playing with their phones. I would not recommend Hearthstone since at any moment you would have to deal with questions and paperwork. I chose to bring my daughter’s school calendar to update my paper calendar and our family Google calendar. All done through December!

All the prep work was worth it. Here is where it came in handy.

First, after finishing the Financial paperwork, they didn't want to approve me for my income since it was low. That is ok. I had the CU check.

I told them I should get $500 off since I would get $1500 rebate instead of the $1000. Salesman went back to talk to the GM.

Surprise! They can qualify me for the 0% if I use Household income. Sure.

Next off to the Financial office.

I sat down and pulled out a much loved and used blank Yellow Pad. Then placed my phone with my open spreadsheet next to the pad.

FO: Which finance deal were we doing?
Me: I don't car care there was only a $39 dollar difference.
FO: How you get that?

On my Yellow pad, I wrote out my 2 offers I currently had. Repeating exactly what was on my Sheet 1: Interest Calc.

1.24% + $1,500
0%  + $1,000
Car OTD Price
Interest Paid
Total Price

I circled the GAP insurance in the 0% column and told him that is where I can see the only difference.

I was smiling and laughing this whole time. Giddy is a good descriptive word. This was the fun part for me. With all the leg work done I would go in knowing I was good even with the CU deal.

He gave me his lowest price for GAP, $349, taking the number sold in his numbers and not necessarily the value.

Me: You meant $345. right?
FO: No, $349. That is the lowest.
Me: Works for me.

He went over all the up sales. Which I had looked into and said decided were not for me. When we were walking out...

Me: How many people come in with spreadsheets?
FO: No one.

In total 2 ½ hours I drove home in my new car.

WAY TO LONG DEALERS. It was only not a waste of my time, because I brought SOMETHING ELSE TO DO.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Hardest Part

On every sheet of my spreadsheet I put a statement...

Every call I make saves another dollar.

I needed it.

I have never been one to naturally talk on the phone. Though I have had jobs that it was something I did regularly. The actual process of dialing inhibits me. Once on the phone I am great! But dialing?

My arms start to ache and everything is more important than calling… even sorting through receipts, scrubbing the toilet, and cleaning my closet.

Knowing myself I did a few things.
First, I started calling at the bottom. The last, and farthest away dealer from me.
Second, I called the first dealer on my list. This was the closest dealer to me.
Third, I called the second to last dealer.
… I worked my way to the middle.

This helped a lot.

When calling the 13 Dealers on my list I started to get exhausted after 8. But seeing those 5 dealers, with the beginning and end done, I couldn’t not call the middle!

I started calling at 10 AM and finished all my calling at 11:30 AM. It took me 90 minutes to call the 13 Dealers. It worked out to about 7 minutes each. This included the messages left, received, and the call backs.

By the third person I talked to I realized “Internet Sales Manager” was a useless request. I felt whichever Salesperson was available I was given to. I still asked because it was something to say.

Things Dealers did:
  • Tried to talk me out of buying from them because they were “too far”.
  • Wouldn’t give me a price quote unless I was physically at the dealer.
  • Convince me to look at another car.
  • Gave price quote over the phone when I asked for email.
  • Said “okey dokey”.
  • Never returned message after 3 calls.
  • Willing to pay gas for me to come get it.
Things I said:
  • “You have the same exact amount of Prius V Threes in stock for the last 2 weeks.”
  • “If I wanted an experience I would go to Disneyland”

Monday, September 14, 2015

What Actually Happened

I used James Bragg’s car buying process that he lays out over on the Clark Howard blog he posted. This is my experience with it.

He noted that this was a 3 day process from months end. I choose to start 4 days out. Also because of the number of dealers I was contacting I wanted time to asses the deals in the negotiation round.

4 Days out: Morning called all dealers. Got proposals by email.
3 Days out: Morning contact dealers I didn’t have all the information from. Afternoon contact all dealers to start round of negotiation.
2 Days out: Morning decision time. Evening get car!
1 Day out: Deal with sick kid. (totally optional but it was what happened to me.)

Total phone time was 2 hours, 1 ½ hour the first day to start the process, and 30 min to clarify the first proposals.

Than I did everything by email.

Twice I needed moral and focus support. I called Husband and talked through what was in calls and emails. Once after all the calls were done. Second when I was about to start to contact dealers to tell them the my best deals. I was going to call, how Mr. Bragg recommends, but I decided I was going to email them all and be done with it.

I am a mom, and anyone out there with kids knows things come up. I am glad I was so smart to start early. On the third day I had for making final choice and taking delivery …

The Spawn woke up with a 101F temperature.

I finished filling my spreadsheet while cleaning out buckets of puke. I then sorted by the lowest response price and that was the end of it. That dealer had my car and I didn't care if I had no idea what color it was. I had a sick kid.

I called them and ask if I could come get it that night instead of the next day as I planned. Husband could stay home with the kid while I got my brand new car.

I waited until the next morning to email the other dealers. I didnt want to close options until I had car in hand. It would have been okay to do right away but sick kid. Did. Not. Care.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Dealing with the Dealer Process

I used James Bragg’s car buying process that he lays out over on the Clark Howard blog he posted. This is my experience with it. 

Again I made a new sheet. I created this two weeks before. I took Mr. Bragg’s process and guess what? Spreedsheet-ized it!

Sheet 5: Process

Every call I make saves another dollar.
First day
Call internet sales managers

I am looking for Toyota Prius V Three, with no accessories. Any color will do except Blizzard Pearl (White).

I am ready to buy by month-end, I am contacting limited number of dealers to get price proposals and I would like to get one from you.

I will need both the price for the and an itemized out-the-door price by email by 11:00 AM tomorrow. I do not have a current Prius. I live in Orange County so you can calculate taxes accordingly.

I will call/contact all responders the next afternoon to tell you the best out-the-door price I received and give you one shot to beat it.

Second day
Morning Call/contact those you have not heard from by 11am. Call and ask for missing information.

Afternoon Call/Contact everyone that afternoon with best OTD.

The best out-the-door price I received was $______. I am calling to give you one shot to beat it.

Winner to confirm all numbers via email to _______ (no surprises)

There will not be a third round.

Make appt to sign papers and pick up the car.

Third day
Call/Contact other dealers to thank them for participating.

I would use this Sheet to focus myself before each call. This way I was sure each dealer had the same information to do their quote with. I also could note deviations from what I asked for.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Math it Hurts so Good

The math didn’t click until I was talking to Dealers about getting proposals. This was the day before I was planning to buy. I was told 3 things in those conversations:

“Just add $500” “GAP is offered at $900, but I have a 25% off” “Dont worry about GAP only the car price.”

That’s IT!

This helped me fill in two of my spreadsheets.

First, when I was getting the proposals, some dealers give me the $1500 off price and others would give me both. I could use the “Just add $500” to each of the deal columns to get the price.

In my “Sheet 4: Call Dealers” I would have completed columns of:
OTD $1500
OTD 0% + $1500

I now had a list of my proposals from each of the Dealers they would give me with no negotiation.

Second, I could fill in my “Sheet 1: Interest Calc” spreadsheet with 2 columns:
Deal 1: 1.49% + $1500
Deal 2: 0% + $1000

1.24% + $1,500
0%  + $1,000
Car OTD Price
Interest Paid
Total Price

You can see the “Car Price” changes the exact amount if the Cashback by $500. The interest paid is accounted for. And my currently quoted GAP was also accounted for.

NOW with the “winning” Dealer, I could compare ONLY the financial deals with confidence. There was no noise of deal confusion, car price, or anything else.

This Dealer reminded me that even GAP insurance is negotiable! Thank you!

Having this, and fully understanding where all the numbers came from, made it exciting to get to the dealer with my offers.

I could SEE that there was only a $39 difference between the Financial deals. And as it stood the 0% was NOT the best offer I had.

Don’t walk in blind when you can see clearly.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Is it not Three Offers

Dealing with the manufacturing offers confused me. I have to admit I was not strong on the financials in comparing deals. I knew what I wanted but I was having trouble grasping exactly how I wanted to lay it out in a spreadsheet.

Toyota Financial had two deals going on. A cash back offer of $1500 if I pay cash/check. Or a finance offer of 0% with $1000 cash back.

The loan deal is “available to eligible customers”. I know I’m eligible, not just from the Credit Union offer, but also from my Credit Score on Credit Karma. No surprises.

At this point I put all this information on Sheet 1: Interest Calc. But it was not useful on a way I could use to negotiate with comfortably.

I left it as is.

Friday, September 4, 2015


My Credit Union was sending me pre-approved auto loan notices for a long time. I only actively pay attention last year when I thought I was going to buy a 2014.

The Credit Union pre-approval showed up every 3-4 months. I watched as the rate dropped. For about the last year it was 1.79%.

I went into my CU branch in May to see how the process worked. Since I was already pre-approved there would be no hard inquiry on my credit. They would issue me a blank check for the dealer and I would fill it out there. That’s it.

It was surprisingly simple process.

My husband and I talked about it. I came to the conclusion that I would be ready to buy in September. That was the month of my 40th birthday and I knew some extra money would be in by then.

Then the CU sent me an offer I just couldn’t refuse. The new Credit Union pre-approval showed up. It was for 1.49%. I know the difference was only 0.2%, but I needed something to push me over to buying a new car.

This was a little over two weeks before the end of the month. The timing worked out perfectly.

I went into the CU Branch to talk with another loan officer. We talked again about how it worked. I asked questions and he cut me a blank check.

The CU officer also went over the GAP and bumper-to-bumper warranty. Don’t chagrin information you think you don't need. Write it down. I used it!

The warranty was from the CU Third Party and not the Manufacturer. The numbers looked okay. I was not really excited about it. But I took the information with me.

They were doing a special offer on GAP Insurance for $345. I didn't know if that was good or bad, but in dealing with the Credit Union over the years I knew they would not gouge me. This gave me a talking point at the dealer.

Would I go with another deal? Of course!

If the dealer would beat the math then I had no problem going with someone other than the CU. But I knew that I had a great deal in hand and I only needed to focus on car price in negotiating with the dealer.

This was my true power.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Willing to Drive Where?

I used James Bragg’s car buying process that he lays out over on the Clark Howard blog he posted. This is my experience with it.

I created this two weeks before.

I live in Southern California. There are a lot of dealers here. I knew the price I wanted and was willing to drive to get it.

I went straight to the Find a Dealer page.

Sheet 3: All Dealers

I made a line item for each dealer. Listing their Link to their inventory of Prius Threes in stock and the actual number in stock. I made a column of the lowest price on the site posted. Also grabbed the Address and Sales Phone number. My headers ended up looking like this:

Relative Distance
Threes in stock as of 7/18
Threes in stock as of 7/26
Diff in Wk
Site Price posted Lowest
Internet Sales manager
Every call I make saves another dollar.

Bold headers came from information from the car dealer sites.

The site listed dealers closest to you to farthest to you in a circle. I added “Relative Distance” to give me an idea how far I would drive to said dealer. Dealer that was a 21 was WAY farther then a 4.

Using Mapquest I calculated that the furthest dealer I had listed was about $15 in gas. So the deal would have to be $30 or better to get me to drive there and drag someone along with me to pick up my new car.

The City helped me refer to the dealers in my head.

You can see I listed 2 different dealer stock dates. I had the links set up already, it was easy to go through again the weekend before buying that James Bragg recommends.

This was no joke in a time commitment. I think I spent 3 hours plus looking at dealer sites, collecting information, and looking at cars.

This was my car shopping time.

There was 40 closest dealers listed on the site. Of those there were 32 dealers that had cars that met my criteria. For a total of 166 cars I was willing to consider to buy.

I next sorted the list by “Threes in stock”. The top 13 dealers had 6 or more cars available. Those 13 dealer are the ones I chose to contact.

From Sheet 3 I copied over just the 13 dealers I was going to call. Creating:

Sheet 4: Call Dealers

I dont know if limiting to just the most cars in stock was a good choice. But it was the arbitrary way I chose to narrow down dealers to a more reasonable list. Even crazy me has limits.

A week before I was planning to buy I updated Sheet 4: Call Dealers in my spreadsheet with the current stock. This is why I ended up with 2 columns of in stock. Wanted to see what actually changed and keep with Mr. Bragg’s process as much as I could.

There was 112 cars on that list and one of them was going to be mine. At this point I fantasized about my car sitting in a car lot waiting to be born into my life.

Singing was involved.