A few weeks ago I got some bad news. My current company vehicle was going to need some significant repairs. After doing some research I found out that it would cost more to fix than the vehicle was worth. So I decided to say goodbye to the 2003 Chevy Trailblazer that had gotten me from Iowa, to Houston, to Alabama, and many places in between. She had gotten me through several jobs, more than a few snow storms, and even multiple girl friends. So it was a bitter sweet goodbye. This caused me to enter into a new endeavor. That’s where the fun began…
I new I needed to start the new search for a good solid company vehicle. So I said to myself…”Self. What makes a good company vehicle?” I often travel on site to service my customers. And, no that’s not a prostitution joke. Some of my clients are an hour or more away so I needed something that was reliable. I also didn’t want to spend quite so much on gas. I loved the old blue monster, but she could eat you alive in fuel costs. I knew that I didn’t want spend the money to get a new vehicle, but I didn’t want something so old that I would need to buy another one in the next year or two. Finally I have read a lot about ride sharing, and even have a couple of friends who have done some moonlighting. I thought it might be interesting to give Uber and/or Lyft a try for some additional disposable income.
I started looking at the reliability ratings. Honda and Toyota were at the top, to no surprise. Then it got complicated. Over the last few years Hyundai and Kia have been quietly climbing the ladder. Also, in an effort to make america great again, Ford and Chevy have been making a comeback. Most of the rest of the manufacturers were hit and miss depending on the year and the model. I decided to first focus on Honda and Toyota, but keep my eye out for any other good deals.
Where to look? Now days there are so many places and methods to find a used car. The internet is littered with websites, and car search apps. Besides the ones that are focused on cars, there’s Ebay and Craiglist. Not to mention the fact that I could stand in the front yard, swing a dead cat, and hit 19 used car lots in our area. And don’t forget the ancient tools of yore, pennysavers, newspapers, and other print media that have almost become extinct. Side note I picked up a Sunday paper for $3.75 the other day. I knew this to be a sign as my age, as I wept remembering being a kid and seeing them on sale for $1. But I digress. Long story short there are more ways than ever to find that elusive “Perfect Vehicle” and I was bound and determined to use every last resource at my disposal.
There are 10 types of people in this world. Those that can read binary, and those that can’t. By the way only the ones that can will get that. Actually there are 2 types of car hunters. The first one will just dive right in and go look, test drive, and buy. Then there are the researchers. Take a guess at which one I am.
I cracked open Excel and started a crisp new spreadsheet. I put all of my important headers at the top such as age, miliage, reliability rating, customer ratings, fuel efficiency, and of course price. Being a techie, I started with the internet. I made searches for my area on Autotrader, Car Gurus, Car Fax, Ebay, Craigslist, Cars.com, and numerous other sites. I compiled my list of good values in my price range and decided to sort them in order of most desirable based on my previously mentioned criteria. Knowing how much work I put into the pre-buying portion of the process, I was confident that the rest would be relatively quick and painless. Now, I’ve been wrong about a lot of things in my life but I think I was more wrong in this case than ever before. What actually happened was an absolute nightmare!
The first car I found was an SUV. Good miles looked like it was in great condition, and only about 45 minutes up the road. I called to confirm that it was still available before making the drive. The dealership said it was, but someone had taken it out on an overnight test drive but should be back at 2pm. At about 2:30 I called to check the status and they said the customer had not returned yet. They said they would call the customer and call me back. So I waited for their call. 3pm no call, 4pm, no call, 5pm no call. By this point I had given up thinking that the customer was negotiating a deal. I called back just to confirm. The lady says they were going to buy the vehicle, but it looked like the deal might fall through. I again asked them to call me back and let me know. I got a call at 6:15 (15 minutes after they close) to inform me that it had indeed been sold. I was not thrilled.
The next vehicle I went to look at was again a small ford SUV. It looked like it was in great shape, and had been well taken care of. We drove it and drove better than any of the other vehicles I had driven so far. The price was fair and as the final step in the process I decided to take it to our local mechanic. By the way, If you purchase any car, truck, or SUV without taking it to a mechanic you are asking for trouble. If you don’t have a regular mechanic you can take it to a quick oil change place (We use Express Tire &Oil). They will charge you $25 for a vehicle inspection and it could save you thousands. As was the case with this one. Turns out it would need about $2500 to make it right. It had multiple oil leaks and several parts were on their way out and would need to be replaced in the next 6 months to a year.
Then I get a call one day. A new client has all of their systems down. Someone was messing with some of the ethernet and phone cables and now no one can figure out what is hooked up to what and nothing is working. And guess what? It was a used car lot. I’m thinking to myself outstanding! Not only did I gain a new client, but this is my chance to look at some cars and maybe get a good deal. After all if I can’t get to them I can’t fix their computers. So I go down, and solve all of their issues in under 2 hours. They are thrilled and told me that I will be their go to IT business moving forward. I explain to them that I need a car or a small SUV and they show me 5 or 6 vehicles and let me test drive them. I didn’t find anything that day but they told me they get in new cars every week and to check back. I checked back a week or two later and sure enough they had a nice 2010 Hyundai SUV. I drove it and seemed like a very nice car that I would be happy with. However, It was Saturday evening at about 5 pm and I told them I would like to take it to my mechanic. Since they were closed on Sunday we agreed that I would pick it up on Monday morning when they opened. I show up Monday morning and I have to wait for them to open up. As I walk around the lot I’m not seeing the Hyundai. Once I speak with one of the guys there he informs me that one of the other sales reps opened up the shop on Sunday for a customer, and they purchased the vehicle. Are you kidding me? This was now the third car in the process that had been sold out from under me (I skipped one for brevity).
Needless to say at this point I was drained. I had done so much research on all of these vehicles and put so much time and energy into the process only to walk away empty handed on so many occasions. I decided I was going to take a break from looking for a while. Over the next couple of weeks I didn’t do any research or even think about a car. Then one day the car lot/client called and needed help with another computer issue. Once I got them taken care of I noticed a Toyota Prius that looked like it was in incredible shape. I asked them about it, and found out it was a little more than I wanted to spend, but they convinced me to to take it out for a spin. Now in the past I wan’t a big fan of the Prius. When they first came out they didn’t look very good, they were small, and hybrids were a new concept that I thought might be a fad. But I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong. When I started researching cars I calculated the amount of money I would save in gas and it was in the $700 -$1400 a year range. I thought they were expensive to work on and the parts were expensive. I was wrong again. Most of the parts are actually cheaper. And in my research I actually found out that the total annual maintenance and repair cost is lower than other compact cars. The car drove like a dream. It also had a bunch of cool tech in it that many of the previous cars I looked at didn’t have. And even with the car being 8 years old I should still average 30 – 40 mpg. I came back in and we started talking price. They felt bad about my previous experience, and I had now given them great service on two occasions and so they ended up giving me a very reasonable deal according to Kelly Blue Book. I called my mechanic to see if they could look at the car that day. They did and it passed with flying colors. In fact when I took the report back to the dealership they said they should frame it and put it on the wall. Next I took care of the financing through the credit union and picked up a cashier’s check.
Words can not describe how happy I was to finally have this whole nightmare of a process behind me. As I drove back to the lot with my down payment and financing check in hand I took a huge sigh of relief. I felt like Atlas having the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders. I walked in, filled out some paperwork, handed them the check and they handed me the keys. As painful as the process is, so is the reward at the end of the journey. Now I have a reliable company vehicle that gets great mileage and is fit for a tech company. The only thing left to do was to sell my old vehicle…. but that should be easy… right?
Below are some pics of the new company vehicle