In the summer of 1995 my whole family went on a 6-week, 15-country car camping trip across Europe. I was 15 years old, and it was the first time that I’d been outside the U.S. There were a lot of highlights of that trip for me, but one that still stands out for me to this day was the running tally of Renault Twingos that my sisters and I kept—I don’t remember the final count, but it was a bunch; Europeans fully embraced small, fuel-efficient cars a few years before we did over here, and the Twingo was a popular model. It was also probably the first hatchback that I really fell in love with, and when I got my own car a few years later I went with a base-model Civic CX, which at the time was the least expensive car that Honda made. I racked up over 240,000 miles on that little car before someone ran a stop sign and totaled it out while I was working on the Obama campaign in Ohio in 2008—and that was with a year and a half in 2004 and 2005 when I wasn’t even driving it, but during which I found myself noticing, in Australia, New Zealand, Mauritius, and South Africa, a little Honda hatchback I really liked called the Jazz. “I can’t wait until they bring that over to the American market,” I thought to myself.
Well, bring it over to the American market they did, in 2006 or so; they called it a Fit, and it started selling like hotcakes. When I totaled my Civic I decided to replace it with a used S2000 instead, with the explicit intention that I wasn’t going to keep it for more than a few months. I enjoyed the hell out of the S2000 while I had it and then sold it when I moved to Seattle in February of 2009, and I’ve been getting around happily by bike (for about 6 months in mid-2009), bus, Zipcar, car2go, and rides with friends ever since.
Until today. Ever since car2go entered the market I’ve been finding myself using it more and more often; I’ve been itching to get out and do more hiking, snowboarding, climbing, etc., for which ZipCar very quickly becomes cost-prohibitive; and, to top it all off, my little sister let me borrow her Fit when I was down in Texas last week, and I really loved it—it reminded me of an updated, more practical version of my trusty little Civic from back in the day, and driving it just felt right, in a gut-level emotional way that the Mazda 3 (see previous post) never really did. For the last few months I’ve been walking by Fits and Mazda 3 hatchbacks parked or in motion all over the city, and the 3 just somehow never cleared that threshold. Its benefits vs. the Fit were more horsepower (but virtually no difference in city or highway driving, which is surprising considering that it has 155 hp to the Fit’s 117), 4-wheel disc brakes, dual-zone automatic climate control, a Bluetooth audio system, and a slightly longer cargo area. All nice things to have, but not worth the $3000 difference in price, the uncertainty of moving away from a Honda when they’ve proven themselves to me time and time again in the past, or the worse resale value.
I decided sometime yesterday afternoon that I was going to go ahead and pull the trigger on the Fit, so I got in contact with Honda of Seattle (I wanted to be sure that my local sales tax stayed in town), went down and had them locate me a car in the color I wanted, and then negotiated a deal and signed the paperwork so they could go get it for me—and I lucked out, since the one I bought was the only one of its kind in the color I wanted in the entire state.
I think most people’s assumption about me, as a former car salesman, would be that I would really put the screws to whoever my salesperson was and get the best possible deal for myself no matter how long it took; in reality, though, the difference between invoice (what the dealership pays for the car, and what a salesperson’s commission is based on) and MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, or the sticker price) on the model I bought is only $456, as opposed to $2-4000 on the trucks and SUVs I made most of my money off of as a Ford salesman in 2002 and 2003, so there’s not a lot of meat on the bones to begin with. In the same way that it’s worth supporting local businesses that you don’t want to see go under or paying more for your groceries so that you can support a living wage for the store employees, I’m a fan of not starving car dealerships of a fair profit, and $456 is a fair profit in my book.
In the end they ended up eating a $300 accessory package the other dealer had already added, I paid them MSRP plus taxes and fees, and all was well with the world; the negotiation and finance portions of the deal were both quick and painless. They picked the car up from Bellingham earlier today, and I went by to pick it up from them just now.
I think this is going to be the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship—now I’m looking forward to getting it broken in properly :)