Last Friday, one week ago today, I had one of the best car buying experiences of my life. And since I'm 71, I've had a lot of experience with buying cars, many of them frustrating.
Before I share the recipe that was used to cook up my purchase of a 2020 Subaru Crosstrek Limited, here's the final product in all of its "cool gray khaki" glory sitting in our driveway's turnaround area. (Note: I agree that the color is cool, but it sure isn't gray, nor khaki.)
Basic ingredients are simple:
Good sales manager
I contributed the patience, after deciding in early November of 2019 that I'd rather order a 2020 Crosstrek to my specifications rather than choose from the few 2019 Crosstreks that were still available, or take my chances on the Capitol Subaru dealership here in Salem, Oregon getting a 2020 model sent to them that was close to the car that I wanted.
Dan Penick was the sales associate who put together the order. He sat down with me and went over every available option, most or all of which I said "yes" to. The Limited is the top Crosstrek trim, so it had most of what I wanted built-in.
But we added: footwell illumination kit, splash guards, rear seatback protector, LED upgrade to map and dome lights, all-weather floor liners, and exterior/interior auto-dimming mirrors. All were excellent choices.
Kelly Stewart was the sales manager who did his part to make my purchase of the Crosstrek so smooth, along with trading-in my 2017 VW GTI. My wife and I probably have bought at least a dozen cars from Kelly during his various stints with the Capitol Auto Group. So we built on that lengthy history of trust in this deal.
Dan and Kelly were both appealingly low-key and non-pushy. I never felt pressured in the slightest. This is an excellent sales technique, especially if you have a quality product to sell, like the Subaru Crosstrek.
I'd given much thought to what car I wanted to replace my GTI, so when I headed over to Capitol Subaru last November for a test drive, all I needed was to get a feel for how the Crosstrek drove and how the instrument panel was laid out.
After that, it took me a few days to realize that my best bet was to order a Crosstrek Limited just the way I wanted one, even if it took a while to get the car.
Which turned out to be a bit under three months.
Fine with me. I understand the appeal of buying a vehicle that is on the lot, or readily available. However, as noted above it seemed highly unlikely that Capitol Subaru would be allocated a Crosstrek Limited that was the right color and had all of the options that I wanted.
Now, here's the timing part of the "recipe" that made my purchase and trade-in so smoothly pleasurable.
(1) Preparation for trade-in offer. My wife and I have sold three cars via the CarMax in Beaverton after getting low-ball trade-in offers from dealers.
This time, I scheduled a trade-in appointment for Thursday at Capitol Subaru after learning that our Crosstrek had come in, and we had an appointment for Friday at CarMax -- figuring that we'd take the highest offer, then pay for the Crosstrek on Saturday.
A few days prior to Thursday, Kelly emailed me, asking for some photos of my VW GTI and the VIN so he could do some advance work on a trade-in offer. Great idea. Because when I took the GTI to the dealership on Thursday, an offer sheet was waiting for me. All Kelly wanted was the GTI key so he could briefly inspect the GTI.
I'd used the Kelly Blue Book web site to do my own trade-in estimating. Kelly's offer of $18,500 was about what I'd expected for a trade-in offer.
And I'd taken a look at what CarMax was selling 2017 GTI's for with about the same mileage as mine. Subtracting a few thousand dollars for their profit margin, it seemed to me that probably CarMax would offer about the same amount for the GTI.
So I accepted Kelly's offer. That saved us at least three hours of time to drive up to CarMax and get an offer. (A Salem CarMax is slated to open on February 12, 2020, which is excellent news.)
(2) No dickering needed on Crosstrek price. I'd told Dan and Kelly that it'd be good to know the price of the Crosstrek ahead of time, because I detest the usual several hours-long process of making an offer, having a salesperson disappear into a back room to talk it over with their manager, then repeating the process if the price still seemed too high.
By contrast, I also told Dan and Kelly that I trusted them to give us a good discount on the Crosstrek, given how many cars we'd bought from Capitol Auto Group over many years.
So it was a pleasure to be handed a piece of paper when my wife and I arrived to pay for the Crosstrek that had a $1,765 discount from the suggested retail price of $32,103. This seemed fair to me, being in the neighborhood of the discount that the Consumer Reports Car Buying Service showed for recent Crosstrek purchases.
(3) Purchase took just 45 minutes or so. With both the trade-in price and Crosstrek price settled ahead of time, it only took about 45 minutes for Dan to do most of the work on selling the car to us.
He said that was a record short time for him. Sure, signing papers took about another 30 minutes, after which Dan gave me a brief introduction to the Crosstrek's features, including pairing our iPhones to the infotainment system.
All in all, I ended up writing a check for about $12,000 to cover the difference between the GTI trade-in offer and the discounted Crosstrek price. That wasn't too painful.
I'm enjoying the Crosstrek a lot. In another blog post I'll describe why.
Sure, it doesn't have the speed and handling of my VW GTI, but few cars do. And the Crosstrek has a bunch of safety and other features that the GTI lacked. It's just eight inches longer than the small GTI, so the Crosstrek feels almost as nimble and easy to park in small spaces.
I'm not saying that what I've described is the best way to buy a car, just that it worked well for me.
I can heartily recommend Dan Penick and Kelly Stewart if you're in the market for a Subaru and you live close to Salem. Tell them that Brian sent you. (Maybe I'll get some Subaru swag out of that referral.)