Easter Joy, New Car, and Graduation Week Ahead

I hope all readers of this blog have a joyous Easter today. I encourage you to pause and reflect on this special day and what it celebrates. I certainly am. I was at Church for the 2.5 hour Easter Vigil last night plus two more Masses today. (Have I ever said that I am a Church musician? Well, “musician” may be too strong. Let’s just say that the musical liturgy director tolerates my playing!)

This is a big week for our baby boomer family. Yesterday we purchased a new vehicle. We are picking it up later in the week after they install the trailer hitch. This development may appear to contradict my philosophy that vehicles should be purchased used. I still believe that. On the other hand, we buy new vehicles for my wife. We just don’t do it very often because – bless her heart – she patiently and cheerfully drives them for many years and for many miles. Since we began having children, we have purchased two minivans and one SUV for her – new – and she has driven them close to exhaustion. The two minivans were so well used that we donated them to a needy charity rather than try to sell them. Her 1999 vintage SUV will also be handed down – to me.

Her new vehicle – an AWD Toyota Highlander – is a crossover SUV capable of towing all of our stuff but it is not nearly as huge (or as fuel-sucking) as the old Ford Expedition we have been using as a hauler.  We will try to sell the Expedition but if we can’t get a reasonable amount for it, we will probably keep it at the lake as a rarely used back-up vehicle. With no collision coverage, insuring it is relatively inexpensive.

Sadly, we will be selling my car. I love my car but it is just not very practical for us any more. We can’t haul the dogs in it, we can’t tow anything with it, it uses premium fuel, and is not suitable for use on the hilly, mostly gravel roads where our condo is located. Those roads (and periodic winter conditions on the Cumberland Plateau) really require a 4×4 or AWD drive vehicle. With this new purchase and hand-me down, both us will have vehicles that can meet most of our needs.

The buying experience yesterday was relatively painless. I signed up for the Consumer Reports Car Buying Service (only $13.00 for one year). I used their system to configure the vehicle we wanted and immediately, three participating dealers responded with price quotes on that vehicle. The quotes included a dollar amount and a guaranteed fixed amount below dealer invoice. The dealers guaranteed to price all of their in-stock Highlanders using the same “below invoice” differential, in case they did not have the exact vehicle configuration we wanted in their stock.

Unlike the other “dealer quote” services out there, I did not have to identify myself before receiving the quotes. I was given the quotes and the mileage from our location to each dealership. If I liked the numbers, I could then enter my identifying information, after which the dealer names would be disclosed. The price quotes I received were very competitive and, indeed, aggressive compared to other “fair pricing” sites I had researched. Consumer Reports obviously wants it that way.

We printed out the pricing report and took it to our local Toyota dealer. We first asked to see and drive a vehicle in their stock that was mostly equipped how we wanted it. We drove the vehicle and liked it a lot. The sales manager came over and I showed him the printed report. I told him we could make this a very quick transaction if they would match the best price offered on the report which was $601 below dealer invoice. I also told him I would need to see the invoice to confirm the dollar amounts. Within 15 minutes they produced the invoice and agreed to our price. The only problem was that the vehicle did not come with a factory installed trailer hitch. It was configured with an upgraded “tow package” which strangely did not include the actual hitch or wiring harness. I won’t further bore you with the details but we had to go through an extended (although pleasant) discussion to get the dealer to agree to install the hitch for the same amount the factory would have charged. We could have saved a few hundred dollars by purchasing an after-market hitch but my research had revealed that after-market hitches did not integrate well into the rear-aesthetics of the  Highlander.

The car buying experience was better than expected. This dealer had free wireless (and desktop PCs) available in the showroom and willingly let us use them to check pricing, etc. The only hard sell we received was from the finance manager at the end. We weren’t financing the car but his job is also to sell various extended warranties and appearance protection packages, none of which we wanted.  Once we made that clear, we were done.

Now we will have a vehicle (that has fewer than 12 years and 120k miles on it) that we can use to drive to – our youngest son’s college graduation! It’s hard to believe that this Friday he will be concluding his college life in Mississippi and returning to Tennessee.  A week from tomorrow he has an internship/employment interview with a local start-up in his field that looks promising. We are very proud and happy for him. I’m not so sure he is happy about leaving the college life but he will adjust.

This post is longer than I intended and I apologize if your eyes glazed over reading it. I do recommend that you look into the Consumer Reports car buying service (operated by ZAG) if you are inclined to purchase a new vehicle. I believe it can save you a lot of time and perhaps money to boot.

Enjoy your Easter day!


  1. Jan says

    We did the same thing with buying our Honda. We got a bit of grief- but got the price we were prepared for. They were a bit shocked when we produced our check book and wrote the check:>) I love living on a cash basis.
    Best wishes to your new graduate.
    And- Happy Easter!

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