(If) The Price is Right

In order to function in my new job in Red Deer I will be needing myself a car to travel outside the city two days per week.  When I first came back from traveling I was entirely gung ho about the process and was determined to test drive every model of small sedan on the market.  Every time I drove one I could hear Bob Barker exclaiming “A neeew caarrrr” in my ear.  But the novelty wore off as I discovered that the excitement of test-driving came with the less exciting car dealers.  This is not a jab a car dealers who often get the “sleaze” title.  I never had a negative experience with any of them and some were exceptionally helpful but, that said, they are there to sell me a car and I was there to shop around.  The phone calls started (thank goodness I gave my parents’s home number instead of my cell) and continued…and continued….and crushed my car-buying spirit.  After speaking with a few friends and my parents’s offer to drive me out west in their vehicle I decided to leave the purchase for out there.  The test-driving did give me a good idea of which car I would like to see myself in.

There are a few decisions that go in to buying a car (ok, many, many decisions) and one of the first I had to consider was new or used.

Decision 1: New or used
Friends:  I’m going with new.  Perhaps not as financially savvy as you used buyers out there but I will gladly take the full warranty that comes with a new car.  The other obstacle is that I have about one day to find a car.  To me, buying used should be a process where one scours the market, compares dealers and vehicles, waits for desired models, years or features and buys when the right car comes up.  Having one day to seal the deal does not give me confidence in my ability to find what I want or to sufficiently research the history of the vehicle and make sure it ain’t no lemon.

Decision 2:  buy or lease
Leasing is a tempting option because the payments are about $100 less per month.  Holla!  I wanna pay off these freakin student loans.  But hold up – you need to pay about $1000 upfront before taking that car home and that is $1000 I ain’t got.  There are km limits on how much you can drive the car and going over costs a bundle.  Plus, everyone I have spoken to about leasing uses the word “scam” or has a story about themselves or a friend (or friend of a friend?) who had to pay insane amounts of cash to hand over the vehicle at the end for minor defects in the car:  scuffed dashboard; a small scratch; a dead, decomposing fox in the trunk.  Ok, I was guessing on the actual problems but it seems like there is always a catch.  Case in point:  the dealers try to so hard to get you to lease.  Why???  Wouldn’t they prefer you drove away with that hunk of metal for good?  My mind has been made up:  A NEW CAR!


Decision 3:  manufacturer and model
This is the one that is currently giving me heartburn.  I only perused three dealers before I gave up and all were Asian-sounding.  Apparently I can get a way more decked-out car for cheaper if I go the Ford (chevy? who?) route but, let’s be honest, I buy into the hype that the others will give me fewer problems down the road.  On this question I’m still up in the air but here have been my experiences.

Test drive 1:  Mazda 3 – A very pretty car with a fun, young interior.  The options packages make sense and I would end up with steering wheel mounted blue tooth and cruise control.  The dashboard is pretty.  It handles smoothly. Friends tell me good things about their Mazdas.  I was instantly smitten with this car.  AND they were willing to offer 0% financing for up to 60 months.  Um, yes please. I hope I didn’t miss the boat on that one by choosing to wait.

Test drive 2:  Honda Civic – My initial impression was “this is a hideous car”.  They put out a new model for 2012 and it is ugly.  The interior is nicer than the exterior but almost a little too showy for me – it felt like it was trying too hard with its little computer screen and digital dashboard.  Plus they were offering financing at a ridiculous 4.99% NO MATTER THE TERM.  Even with the reputation for quality I couldn’t get over how much I hated the look and how stupid I would have to be to finance at that rate.  This car is OUT.

Test drive 3:  Toyota Corolla – my brother drives an 03 and I was honestly expecting this one to give the Mazda a run for its money based on its great reputation.  On first glance it is a sporty little car on the outside with a reputation for reliability – sign me up!  The problem was the interior:  I hated it immediately.  It felt like a grandma car inside.  In fact, I made the remark that I hated the beige interior to a friend and the dealer corrected me saying that it is actually grey inside (correction:  I’m SURE the dash was beige but perhaps the seats were grey) although he conceded that I wasn’t even the first person to say that the car FELT BEIGE.  Who wants to drive a car that feels beige inside!?!?!  Depressing.  On top of that, for some reason, Toyota mounts all of their cruise controls on a stick under the steering wheel and would not mount my bluetooth in a convenient spot.  AND the clock was so low down under the radio and everything else I had to lean back or tip my head sideways to tell the time.  Details, people.  OUT.

Test drive 4:  To attempt to make me happy they convinced me to try the Corolla Sport.  Definitely not beige on the inside and handled even better than the plain corolla.  But when I stepped back it hadn’t remedied any of my other annoyances:  cruise control?  Still the little stick.  Bluetooth?  Not so much.  Clock?  Still in the wrong freakin spot.  Plus the price tag for the “upgrade” was a hefty one.  OUT.

Test drive 5:  Toyota Matrix – I have to thank my lovely friend Mama J here for accompanying me back to the dealership and convincing me to try the Matrix.  It drove well but felt a little heftier on the road which appeals to my slight nervousness for winter highway driving.  The interior was immensely cuter and all black and silver.  The clock wasn’t even annoying!  The cruise control was still that freaking stick but I would be willing to overlook this since I was so happy with the car.  A definite top runner.

Those were all my test drives so far.  Right now the Mazda 3 and the Matrix are neck and neck but that just leads me to more test driving.  Before I buy I am definitely going to try the Mazda 3 hatchback and their other car similar to the matrix.  Depending on how patient I’m feeling in Red Deer I might try whatever that Ford or Dodge or other “in” car is right now.

Then I have to decide on colour and features…..

Please tell me about your car buying experience – what did you end up with and why?  Have you been happy with your decision?

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3 thoughts on “(If) The Price is Right

  1. Nat says:

    Sounds like your really getting your new life out in Red Deer on the go. If I could add any added insight to your car crises I will say, The Mazda 3 is by fair my favorite! As a Mazda owner (we got the CX-7 about 4 months ago and we freakin love it) and previous owner of the Mazda 3 Hatchback I will say that if you do chose to sit with the 3 model the hatchback if your better option. We had the hatchback model 2008 and it was so roomie we moved our entire apartment in that little thing without a sweat. the door is set wide so you have less trouble manouvering things in and out, who knows what you might need this way if you take a trip into Calgary and hit up the Ikea you can take back a bunch of fantastic items for your place. The trunk capacity of the sedan is decent (from filling it up with Laura) but I like knowing its not a problem with the hatch back plus the hatchback is sexier I think. I have been in the Matrix and yes its comfy but all in all it feels like a knock off of the Mazda (I totally said that to my friend who owned one in North battleford when we had out mazda, she came to agree in riding in ours. I am glad to hear your in Red Deer. We have some good friends there as its only 40 mins from where we went to college, it was the get away city for us, many a cheap movie were seen at the rainbow theater there (an option you, I am sure will come to enjoy). Anyways hope you make a decision soon so you have your own set of wheels

  2. Anonymous says:

    Try the Hyundai Elantra. Consumer Reports has it rated highest in the small sedan category. It's a nice car and they have a pretty good warranty too.

  3. Katie V. says:

    Wow, thanks for taking the time to type all that out Nat! I definitely need to try the Mazda hatchback. I'm excited to have my new car and use it to explore out west! Anonymous – thanks for the tip. I had been looking at Hyundais (online) but then always had negative comments about it when I mentioned it to friends/family. Perhaps I'll do a bit more research.

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