My Barcelona Red 2008 Toyota Rav4 V6 was 100% reliable and blessed with a capacious cargo load area. It had ten cup holders and a secret compartment in the back for all my secret stuff.
But it wasn’t very smart. It couldn’t make a hands free phone call. It didn’t have Microsoft Sync, and it was more car than I really needed for city driving and occasional road trips around Oregon and Washington. The gas mileage was not ideal – I was filling up once a week for about $45.
What to do? Could I leverage the equity I had in my used Rav4 to hold my payments to $269 a month and purchase a new car? What would a single woman’s successful car buying experience look like?
First I went to the Portland Auto Show in January of 2012, so I could sit in a number of vehicles and compare notes. Here are the questions important to me when I buy a car:
- Can I see who’s behind me on the road? (Mirrors, window configurations, etc.)
- How many cup holders are in the vehicle, and can I get to them without breaking my clavicle? This is all about coffee.
- What are the electronics on the car? I want hands-free phone dialing (voice command), directions, traffic, syncing with my Android and iPhone address books, etc. Oh and satellite radio, – yes please.
- Is there a comfortable arm rest on both sides of the driver’s seat?
- Is there a sunroof? And, for any guys reading this, what about torque? I don’t know what that is! I just threw it in for you guys! I don’t really care about it, or the engine size. I will later – when I buy my BMW.
- Does the car look sporty and well designed?
- Is there good lumbar support for my picky back? Do I “fit” in the car? – Can I get in and out in a bulky winter coat and not feel like a D Battery in a badly engineered flashlight?
- Can I “rack it up” for bikes and additional cargo space? I still want to go on road trips!
- Can it be financed for the same amount of money or less than I was paying on the Rav4?
10. Can I survive the new car dealership experience with my dignity and integrity intact?
11. May I please get 40 MPG Highway?
12. Do I feel valued and rewarded as a competent woman purchasing a vehicle all by myself – at the dealership?
The Portland Auto Show was great. I looked at lots of cars. I fell out of love with the Fiat 500 – too small for me – I was a D Battery in it and couldn’t warm up to the spare interior and alarmingly awkward cup holders.
The Toyotas were all good but I wanted to experience a brand that was new to me.
One of the cars on my list was the highly acclaimed, award-winning 2012 Ford Fiesta. Once I saw it, sat in it and checked out my wish list I was IN. Plus, I was sort of buying American. Right? It used to be important. I think it still is. We didn’t have to bail Ford out, right? Ford seems like a “smarter” manufacturer to me. The Escape and the Focus lines are doing very well.
Because the Portland Auto Show is a “non-selling” show, it is the ideal environment to approach factory reps and local dealers to get great information on the cars without the worries of the hard sell. I met a fantastic representative from a local Ford dealership and then I was on my way.
Within a week I had driven the 2012 Ford Fiesta Hatchback SE and created my “wish list” of features. I really wanted a sunroof and heated seats – luxuries I had in My Great but Troublesome Volvos. I got that, and then some.
Now I have my silver Ford Fiesta Hatchback, and it is the perfect car for me right in this moment. This car has been a hit in Europe for a while, and it gets incredible gas mileage – up to 40 MPG Highway – without the Hybrid Hype. What’s not to like about that?
Plus, it’s really, really smart. I did not know there was a Canadian “NPR.” Of course there is.
Driving the Ford Fiesta is kind of like driving a very large laptop with an unconventional keyboard, and I adore it. So, to re-cap:
If you want a new car, save time and learn lots at your annual local Auto Show. Be patient and unhurried, make a list of what you want, match it up with what you can afford, sit in the cars, find a dealership you like, test drive, make another list based on what you now know, and let the dealer find the perfect car with the features you want. My car came right off the dock! The dealers are so happy to do this for you. Don’t be afraid if you are a woman on your own. Spend a few minutes online investigating your trade value, get real about that, sharpen your pencil and go after your car.
Walk if they won’t work with you.
Get the perfect car for you and go on a road trip!
My next blog post: The Reluctant Couponer Goes to Denver!