For nearly 15 years, I drove the same vehicle, a Toyota pickup truck. I purchased it new in 2000 and it was still going strong thanks to a very sturdy make and the fact that I drove it less than 10,000 miles per year. With only just over 170,000 miles on it, I assumed I'd drive it at least another five or six years. Then, it happened. On a rainy Monday morning, an inattentive young woman ran a red light causing me to smash into her car just behind the driver's side door. Both her car and my truck were totaled. The frame of my beloved Toyota was bent at a 90-degree angle.
The driver also did not have insurance and, given the age of my car, I didn't have collision. Fortunately, I did have uninsured motorist coverage, which helped cover the cost of a down payment for a new vehicle. The problem is that I hadn't even considered buying a new car in a decade-and-a-half. Since my 16th birthday when my parents, as strapped for cash as they were, bought me my first ride, I drove trucks. It was a no brainer when I needed a new one.
But now, significantly older and facing the needs of a new family, I realized a truck wasn't going to cut it and not being much of a car guy, I had no idea what to get or how. I had helped my wife buy a new car just under two years ago, however. The process was relatively easy, but it still took time, even if you didn't count the test drive. How could I possibly cut down on all that nonsense, I wondered.
It should be noted that this is not about finding the car you want. That took me significantly longer than 30 minutes. I researched and did test drives. I searched the Internet for options and checked out prices. No, this is about the purchase process, which as I had remembered from previous experience, could be an absolute mess.
Once I decided on the car that I wanted, I immediately went to the web. I searched the inventory of every dealer within 200 miles until I found the car that I wanted. From there, it literally was easy.
A friend of mine who bought a new car a couple of years ago gave me some good advice. She said to state exactly what you want and warn the sales person you will walk out if they try to add on anything else.
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Within minutes, I had e-mailed the dealership in question with my exact parameters. I knew from research what a car like this should cost and the website had provided me with at least a dozen photos of the car as well as a list of all the features that came with it. That's the thing about dealership websites, for the most part, they are extremely helpful. It is easy to find exactly what you want from color to featured packages.
I got an e-mail response within minutes -- these places obviously want to sell cars -- and our remaining three or four exchanges were done in 10 minutes. The next morning, I was e-mailed with a positive response from the finance department and the deal was done. I went to the dealership, signed two stacks of papers -- one for financial and one from the sales person -- checked the car and drove off the lot.
The entire process took a grand total of 45 minutes spread out over the course of two days.
What made the experience so easy was a combination of a reputable dealer and sales person along with the convenience of purchasing online. The less face time I needed with a dealer or sales person, the better, and the faster the process was over. Turns out, just like Christmas gifts, you can buy a car online too...and it's a LOT easier than the alternative.