Saturday 28 April 2012 - Shopping for cars
My wife and I had originally had a brand new Dodge Grand Caravan ready for us through International Auto Source but that deal fell through when I told them for the third time that I was self employed. Oh well, we didn't lose any money on the deal.
But we still liked the Caravan, though as a vehicle it seems to be a bit like Marmite - some people love it, some people hate it. We'd seen the equivalent model in the UK though the UK model was a higher spec than even the top US model. So my mission was to find a second hand model somewhere in the LA area. Unfortunately there only ever seemed to be half a dozen on the market at any one time within a 75 mile radius so there wasn't much choice.
Upon visiting my wife's cousin however, he suggested somewhere he'd seen on a local TV program. This place offered financing to those who couldn't get finance through a bank - basically the dealer would hold the "pink slip" and act as the bank. For an expat with no credit history this sounded like an option. However, he couldn't remember exactly where it was!
So we drove to the general area and had a look at one dealership which didn't really have anything that stood out. I should point out that the wife had just agreed to a similar model if a Caravan wasn't available. Anyway, this dealer knew the other dealer that was on TV and directed us to her.
We went to what we thought was the dealer but quickly realised it wasn't - however, could see it in the next block. But this dealer had a Town and Country vehicle which was similar to a Caravan - 7 seats, power sliding doors, leather seats, and $8000. We had a test drive. We smelt something burning. We got back to the dealership and opened the bonnet to find oil dripping on the hot engine. We asked if it would be fixed. Salesman scratched his chin and said "I don't know". We walked away. It might have been a simple fix, it might have been major. And if the salesman has no authority over what he was selling then there was no point in continuing.
So we walked to the next dealer. There were only 10 cars on the entire lot - it was small! But to my surprise they had a Dodge Grand Caravan SXT with bucket seats in the second row, power sliding door on the right, and DVD player in the ceiling. The only thing missing was the leather seats! At $7000 it was well within my budget - assuming I could get a little financing. It was a 2005 model with 103000 miles on the clock which isn't too bad for that age. And the condition of the vehicle and inside cabin was pretty good.
The next question was finance. I offered to put $5000 down with the remaining $3000 roughly (including tax, plates, etc) on finance. I explained the situation and she was still happy to do it! We went back to collect the necessary documentation (tenancy agreement, SSN) and came back a couple of hours later (via a tasty Mexican restaurant next door). The car had been cleaned and was positively gleaming! We went through the credit details - at 21% it wasn't cheap but frankly I'm lucky to get any credit at this stage. With a payment period of 10 months it worked out to $250 in interest - less if I paid it off earlier. That's a small price to pay for convenience like this.
The couple that ran the place were so friendly. Despite their small lot they said they sold around 20 cars a month - more than the bigger dealer on the next block. On this particular day they'd sold 3 including mine. Remember, this is a lot that only holds 12 cars maximum. They kept their costs low by not employing anybody else - not that they needed to with a lot this size. They also did all their credit in-house, compared to the boys up the road who paid a commission every time they sold a car - i.e. the car buyer pays the extra commission. Even if you had problems one month paying your bill, she said to phone them up and explain the problem and they'd work it out. Obviously if you didn't pay anything for a couple of months then she'd have the car repo'd - and she still had the pink slip until you made the final payment.
All-in-all, quite a pleasant experience buying a car, compared to the nightmare I was led to believe it would be. This is probably because I avoided the big dealers.
Oh, and the insurance was a doddle too. She recommended somebody she knew locally but I tried to explain that it's hard for expats to get cheap car insurance. There is a scheme where you pay $440 to join what is basically a club with membership benefits - and one of those benefits included cutting car insurance premiums from $2000 for 6 months down to under $1000 - well worth the money for that saving. But the broker came up with a price of $80/month plus $200 down, i.e. $680 for 6 months which was very reasonable! My wife's cousin said the coverage was decent and the price was definitely good, so we went for it. Again, avoided the big dealers and went local.
Saturday 28 April 2012 - seems to be going well!
|Posted by goldenstate31 |
seems to be going well. Not nearly as scary as some of the senior, long terms posters on this forum would have some poor members believe!
Good going...you seem to be doing fine.
|Permanent Link |
My attempt to get an EB1a visa for the US, a person of extraordinary ability, which gives a green card pretty much immediately, and there is no waiting period unlike most other visas.
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