I've written in the past about all the issues I've been having with my 2005 Honda Accord. Well, those issues are over. I no longer have a Honda Accord. Several weeks ago I traded it in and bought a Lexus.
In my previous blogs, I had gone on and on about how I had a 100,000 mile warranty on the Accord and that I was hell-bent on keeping the car until that warranty expired. Well, something happened several weeks ago that pushed me over the edge and made me decide to get rid of it. On September 16th, the monthly meeting of the Ft. Lauderdale CocoaHeads user's group was scheduled to occur. CocoaHeads is a user's group aimed at people who write software for Macs (as I do). So I went to work that day, and then left work at the end of the day. I was driving north on the interstate and everything in the car was going fine. I continued north until I reached some bumper to bumper traffic. So I slowed down and inched along for a while. Everything seemed fine. After a little while of this I happened to notice that one of the 'check engine' lights on the dash had just lit up. I didn't think much of it. So I continued to inch along in traffic. At a couple points there, the traffic would open up in front of me enough that I could accelerate and make some distance. So I'd press the accelerator. The problem was, the car didn't accelerate. It continued to plod along very slowly. Since the traffic never stayed open for long I didn't think much of it. I just figured maybe I had missed pressing the pedal right with my foot or something. But after a bit more crawling, the traffic opened up again in front of me and I hit the gas. Again no acceleration. I tried several times to make sure I was hitting the pedal right. The car would just barely move. I tried everything I could do to get it moving faster without much luck. Great. So now my damn car is crawling along the interstate going maybe 30 MPH while every other car around me is zipping past me. Plus, I'm in the center lane going very slow. Obviously something is wrong with my car and I need to take the thing in in the morning and get it fixed. By this time,, it was probably the 12th time I'd taken it in for some kind of repair this year. I'd had it. I said to myself right there as I crawled along the interstate, that this car was history. Obviously, with this car trouble, I wouldn't make it to the CocoaHeads meeting, so I decided to see if I could make it home. With some effort I was able to maneuver it over and pull off at the nearest exit. I eventually discovered that the car did accelerate, it just did it VERY slowly. A light would go green and I'd step on the gas. My car would be lucky to hit 30 crossing the intersection. If I kept pressing the accelerator, it would slowly accelerate up to speed, but meanwhile I'm blocking traffic as my car plods along. So I ened up driving the 20 miles or so from where I was home, in a car that was driving at an average speed of maybe 30MPH. It took a while. I took it to the dealership the next morning to get it fixed. Oddly enough it drove fine. But the dealership checked it out and determined that the sensor that detects when I press the accelerator had failed and so it couldn't tell I was pressing the accelerator. Hence the car wouldn't accelerate. They fixed the car under my 100,000 mile warranty and returned it to me with no cost to me. Despite that, I knew it was time. The car was breaking down so often that I didn't trust it. It was time to get rid of it.
So I have my Accord back and it's working fine (for now). I decide to start hunting for a replacement car. I knew immediately that I was going to buy a late model used car - something with low miles and 2008 model year or newer. I also knew that I was going to buy the car, not finance it. A good friend suggested that I look at buying a Lexus. So that weekend (the day after I got my car back) I went used car shopping. I first went to JM Lexus. I had done some research on their site and had narrowed it down to a 2008 or 2009 Lexus ES350 sedan. I drove up to the dealership, looked around, test drove a couple of the Lexuses and liked what I saw. But I wasn't sure it was the best deal. So I left without buying a car and drove to a few other places. I went to two different CarMax dealerships and looked around. Nothing much there I liked. I found a nice Acura TL at one of the CarMax dealerships, but I thought the price was a bit high. It was almost as much as the used Lexuses I had looked at. I looked at some late model Nissan Maximas. No luck. I looked at an Acura dealership for an Acura TL. I found a decent TL there, but I mentioned to the salesman that the TL was expensive. I could buy a Lexus for the same price. He asked me how much I would be willing to pay. I gave him a number $4K less than the sticker price and he agreed immediately. This struck me as a bit shady, that he would so easily drop the price so much. That meant the car was overpriced to begin with. I wasn't comfortable with this, so I left. I also went by a BMW dealership and looked at a few of their cars. They were very friendly and helpful, but I didn't much like the cars. They were OK looking but the Lexus had more features for the same price, so I ultimately ruled those out.
So after a weekend of extensive shopping, I didn't have much to show for it. About the only decent car I'd found was the Lexus ES350. The price was decent, the cars all looked brand new. They were spotless. It looks like Lexus is the way I'm going to go. The problem was money. I had the money I needed for the car sitting in a mutual fund account. I had to sell the mutual funds and get the money transfered into my account. I figured it would take about a week to do all that stuff, so I decided to not buy a car that weekend. I would sell the mutual funds on Monday, give it a few days to get the money into my account and then buy the Lexus the following weekend. So I sold the mutual funds, and got the money into my account. It took about a week as I expected. Once I had the money ready, I went back to the JM Lexus website and looked again at the cars they had for sale. I figured I'd better do this since it's possible the cars I looked at the previous week had been sold. I narrowed it down to a couple of possible cars, and contacted the salesman who had helped me the weekend before. I told him I was ready to buy and would be coming in on Saturday to look at a couple cars. If they worked out, I'd buy one right then and there.
Saturday arrives and I hop in my Accord and drive up to the Lexus dealership. I show the salesman the cars I want to see. We take a couple out and test drive them. I settle on a 2009 Lexus ES350. It was in good shape, had low miles (under 20,000) and had everything I wanted. It had a few minor problems in the interior that had to be corrected though. The salesman assured me that those would be fixed at no cost. Lexus has a 3 year, 100,000 mile warranty on their used cars. So, now reassured, I go into the office to buy it and fill out the paperwork. I'm sure you can guess that it's here that the fun began.
We sit down in the office. He gives me the sales price on the car. I give him the key to my Accord so he can get it appraised for trade in value. Of course I'd already looked up the trade in value online. it was $9,000. I had $20,000 cash from the mutual fund, so with those numbers in mind, I told them that the final cost had to be not one cent about $20,000 after trade in value. On the first try, the low-balled my trade in value badly. They offered me $5,000 for a car that had a trade-in value of $9,000! I told them absolutely not. My car was worth 9K, not 5K. So they come back with another offer. $6K for my car. The final price is now $23,000. That's $3K more than I told them I could spend. I told them I could not afford anything over $20,000. They then suggested that I finance that $3K difference over 3 years! Um, NO! I told them emphatically that I will not be taking out a loan and I will not be paying over $20,000. After some more negotiating I got them down to a final value of $21,000. I told them $20,000 or nothing. So they said they couldn't sell me the car. So they suggested I look at another car. I reviewed my list of possible cars and found a 2008 model that was nearly identical to the 2009 model I had been trying to buy. I suggested we go look at that one. So we went off, found the car, test drove it, and it looked good. It was also in better shape than the 2009 model I almost bought and had about the same 20,000 miles. So I agreed to buy this one instead.
We go back to the office and start negotiating on that car. We argue back and forth. After much arguing, I get them down to $20,400. I told them that I could only pay $20,000. No more. Granted it was only $400, but I was firm on this. So they said we don't have a deal. I can't buy the car. So I thanked them and left. Not 20 minutes later, I get a call on my cell phone from the head of the used car department. "What can I do to put you in that car today?" I said $20,000 even. He agreed. I asked me to come back and pick up the car. By now I was already half-way home, it had been a long day and I was tired. I didn't want to go back. I told him that I'll buy the car but I couldn't go back today. I would come back the next day and buy it. I don't think he was happy about that, but he agreed. So I went home.
I returned the next day, ready to buy the car. My car is there right at the front of the dealership all shined up and with a 'Sold' tag on it. I went in and filled out all the paperwork. Not as bad as I expected. I guess there's a lot less paperwork when you don't finance a car. I was in there maybe 1 1/2 hours. Of course they tried to sell me on an extended warranty, but I refused. I didn't see much point in the warranty they were trying to sell me. The car already comes with a 3 year, 100,000 warranty. The warranty they tried to sell me was expensive and would have only extended that by 1 year and no extra miles. I asked them if they would take a personal check for $20,000. To my surprise, they did. So I wrote the biggest personal check of my life and walked out the owner of a Lexus! I had mentioned to them while doing the paperwork, that I had several pieces of stereo equipment in the Accord that I wanted to get taken out. I was going to keep those parts. They said they would have one of their techs remove the stereo parts and return them to me. I should just come by the next evening and pick them up. So I agreed. I then moved all my stuff into the Lexus. The salesman spent a lot of time with me helping me set up the car. We programmed the radio stations. We programmed the seat memory. We programmed the Bluetooth interface for my cellphone. All very well done. I then drove off in my new(er), completely paid for car!
I've been driving the car for a couple weeks now and I have to say, I love it! I still have to remind myself that the fancy car in my driveway is MINE. It blows my mind that I OWN that thing. I went out and bought a car outright and did not take out any kind of loan. I've never done that before. It's an amazing feeling. It is such a weight off your mind to know that no one can take that car from you. I'm proud of myself that I was able to stick to my guns and accomplish the goal I set out to do - NO LOANS. The car looks and drives like it is brand new. It does not look like a 3 year old car. I'm very happy with my purchase. When the time comes for me to buy another car, I will do the same thing. I will buy it outright and I will buy it (slightly) used. I will never buy a new car again. My next car may also be a Lexus. Who knows? I'm really enjoying owning this car.
Some people thought I was crazy to spend that much buying a car, cash. Why not just finance it? That way you have all that money in case you need it. Well, true, but what a lot of people just don't grasp is that when you finance a car, you have already spent all that money. One way or the other, they are going to get that money. Why not just get it over with at the beginning? When I buy something, I prefer to buy it and not have to worry about payments. I buy it. I own it. It's mine. You can't have it. End of story. It's much less hassle, and it's much less stressful. Try it. I have to say though that most people's reaction when I tell them that I bought the car outright is very positive. Usually it's something along the lines of "That's great!" or "I wish I could do that!" This tells me that I made the right decision doing this.
Of course, seeing as how I just blew $20,000 on the car, I need to be ready for the NEXT car. That means that next year is going to be 'rebuild the car fund year'. I'm going to save $20,000 in my savings account by the end of next year. That money will be saved for the next car I buy. I already have enough money in savings to cover at least 6 months of expenses, so that isn't a worry for me. I just want to have the car fund ready to go for the next car down the line. Once that fund is restored, I resume my pay off the house early plan. That plan has been delayed a bit, but I haven't given up on it. I will achieve it.