Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ron Carter Toyota

There isn't much to tell in this post. We bought a new car at Ron Carter Toyota in Alvin Texas. There's the summary.
If you decide to buy a car, that's a great place to go. They were wonderful, which isn't really my experience with car dealerships. Therein lies the story.
Here's the pitch. If you do buy a car from them (new or used), ask for Brandin Hudgens as your salesperson (281-388-8600) and tell them I sent you (Vince Bernhardt). They give me money for the first five people every month that do that. If you're one of them (and they really do send me money), just email me and I'll send you ten bucks via PayPal. Bribery? Of course! But you wanted a car anyway…

The Story
It's time for a new vehicle. Both of ours are 2003. We'll have to do a little work on Darling's car and I suspect I'll be driving it and that's okay. We need to make room in the garage for both vehicles. That could be tricky, but we'll manage.
I remembered something about myself that I already knew but forgot. I dislike change. Sounds simple, doesn't it? I like my 2003 Toyota Camry. Personally I think that Toyota cars will run pretty much forever mechanically. Our youngest has a 1998 Camry and it still runs great. It isn't much to look at, but it is a good, capable car. That's what happened to mine, too. So we'll sell The Lad's car and he can have mine. I just upgraded.
I bought a new Camry.
That wasn’t my intention. I really planned on buying a used Camry, something with a few less years on it than mine. If you read any of my financial advice, you'll know I don't advocate buying a new car. You lose money the moment you drive it from the car dealership. However, they did make me a sweet deal which I found acceptable.
Here's the way it all worked.
I've been looking at upgrading my vehicle for a while, almost a year or so. I think upgrading would be a Mercedes or a BMW (never mind that I have a mental block about BMWs - an entirely different story). Something nicer than a Camry. But I like my Camry.
So I chose to sell my Apple stock at a loss (AAPL - what happened to you?) and sent the money from my brokerage to buy a car. So now we had the money and had to choose a car.
Yeah, I'm not a car guy. I like the 1968 Ford Mustang. I think the Delorean is a cool car and the flux capacitor is a bonus gadget. The Tesla is beautiful. I've mentioned all this before in my post on electric cars.
So I decided it was time to replace my car, not upgrade it. I'd replace it with - a newer Camry. I really don't like change, and that was glaringly apparent when I took a used Prius for a test drive. Oh, it drove fine - really well, in fact. The interior was simply too strange for me.
We went to one large car dealership on the Gulf Freeway in Houston, but the salesman gave me a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. Ah, the story…
When I first came to Houston in 1980, I arrived on a greyhound bus. Within a few weeks of looking for work and living with a buddy of mine downtown I discovered you really needed a car to live in the Houston area. I borrowed a car to find a job. Once I had a job I needed a vehicle.
I went to a car dealership and looked at some Fords. The salesman, with a toothy grin and a paunch held back by a Texas-sized belt buckle, just oozed good nature. Here I was, a young and inexperienced kid looking for a car all by himself. The guy probably choked with laughter about me for days.
"You a graduate?" he asked.
"Yessir," I stammered. I didn't know what I was doing, but my new employer had fronted me seven hundred dollars to find a car.
"Ever owned a car? Financed one?" That was a bit of a trick question. I didn't own one at the time and didn't think about my old Ford Galaxy 500. But I paid cash for that, and sold it for cash, so I never financed a car before.
"No, sir." I was so out of my depth.
"Well, look, kid, it's your lucky day. We have a deal for new college graduates that never financed a car. We will offer you financing for one of these beautiful Mustangs for only…" I forget the price he stated, but distinctly recall my stomach tying in knots.
I couldn't do it. Dejected I left and went to a used car dealer. The guy there wasn't much different. Mentally the two salesmen were twins. Both marked me as an easy kill. For some reason, I don't recall what, he convinced me I had to give him $100 and he could help me. I gave him the money and didn't even get a receipt.
I chose a car exactly like my Mom's and drove off the lot. Within a week the transmission started acting up. I drive it back to the dealer.
"Hey," I said. "The car's broken."
"Not my problem, kid. You bought it already."
"What about the hundred dollars I gave you?"
"What hundred bucks, kid?" Basically, it was the "get lost" speech.
Dejected, without the money to fix the car I drove back to the Ford dealership. When I explained the situation the original guy just grinned.
"I can't offer you anything. Now you own a financed car, so you don't qualify for the special deal."
I ended up trading my broken car in for a demo Ford Futura, not a car I'd normally choose, and had it financed to include the cost of my loan for the broken car.
The men had no pity on a young kid from a small country town in Michigan. I had no clue.
So car dealers usually make me uncomfortable.
The guy we spoke with on the Gulf Freeway lied to us from his first sentence. We spoke with a young woman before going there and she put our name in the system for a used Camry we saw online. This guy blew us off, dismissing her as a clerk. Then he told us that car was sold - he sold it the previous night.
I'm older now. I'm not the backwoods kid that came to Houston (though I miss him sometimes). I have much better discernment (usually).
We walked away and didn't look back.
When we got home I looked up Ron Carter Toyota on my computer and looked at cars. They are outside the main Houston area, and I knew they had better prices, easily confirmed when looking at the listed cars. We called and then drove down to the dealership to look at a used silver Camry.
I won't say that all the sales guys were good eggs, but we only dealt with two last night, and they were both nice young men. Our sales guy was Brandin and he was very good with us.
I got to drive a Prius, as I said. Cool, but I don't like change. The used Camry wasn't quite what we expected. Darling found a used Infiniti that she liked (next time, maybe). We drove and Corolla which is so close to a Camry on the interior that I didn't suffer from the difference.
They made us an offer. We countered. Then they made us an offer on a new Toyota, something I normally wouldn't consider.
It was a great offer.
So now we own a 2013 Toyota Camry. It is silver with a grey interior.

I'm afraid to drive it.

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