My air conditioner went out on me in late August, as I was driving home to Samson for the day. It was working fine until I got to somewhere past Clanton. I stopped at a Hardee's, and after getting my food and getting back in, I heard a small pop of some sort when I started the car. And suddenly, Toni Rocki Honda was just blowing... air. Not cold air. Not cool air. Just air.
Its going to cost close to a grand to get everything fixed in the air, the compressor, the hoses and belts, whatever else. So The Lovely Steph Leann and I have gone back and forth--do we get it fixed, and then hope nothing else breaks, or do we make a plunge and go ahead and get something else... I've never had a new car. Matter of fact, every car I've owned has been nothing but a mechanic's dream--lots of maintenance. I feel like I've had not just a lemon, but a grove. A new car? Wow, that would be amazing.
Anyway, the Mizzus was in Pensacola Thursday night, for work, her time of the month. For the trip, I mean. So I headed on my own to do some reconnaissance work at two places we had discussed... the local Kia dealership and the local Hyundai. I know, I know, there are some people out there now that who hear the word "KIA" and "HYUNDAI" and shiver, and automatically think I'm in the welfare line... they give me the guv'mint Land O'Lakes, the guv'mint Kraft slices and the guv'mint Honda... and ten years ago, absolutely.
I remember some retreat I was involved in around 99 or 2000, and the speaker told a joke that a KIA Sportage is a combo of "Sports" and "Garbage".... but I did some looking on the interweb and it seems that both cars are much more reliable now. Plus, I know people who have newer models of both, and they love them.
So I stopped at Riverchase KIA over on Highway 31, and walked around. After a few minutes, a pleasant guy named Ken came out, shook my hand, and we chatted for a while. He wasn't pushy, he wasn't invasive, he built up KIA while not trashing other brands, telling me that Hondas and Hyundais are good cars, but (of course) he thinks the KIAs are better deals. And one I really liked was the KIA Soul... its a far less gay version of the Mini-Cooper. It might be a little out of my price range, but still...
|The 2011 Elantra Touring|
The point of this little anecdote, though, was that at KIA, the guy came out after about ten minutes, which was fine with me. At Tameron Hyundai, I was there over 30 minutes, and not one single person came out to talk to me. Its not that I wanted a bunch of pushy salesman around, but seriously, nobody? Really?
So Friday rolls around, and The Lovely Steph Leann and I make plans to head out to just east of Birmingham, to the Roebuck/Center Point area--not the safest place to travel once night falls, but it was early in the evening, just after five pm.
Serra is a name attached to four or five dealerships along a stretch of Centerpoint Parkway, right next to each other--Serra Chevrolet, Serra Hyundai, Serra Kia, Serra everything else--and our plan was to go by Serra Hyundai. We have both been hearing on the radio "NEW HYUNDAIS FOR $8,000! WE HAVE TO MAKE ROOM FOR THE 2011s! GET A NEW HYUNDAI ACCENT FOR $7000! A NEW ELANTRA FOR $8000!" so we wanted to check it out... now, we are both realists, and we know that it cannot be quite simply "New Car for $8000", but it never hurts to investigate.
Worst case scenario, we come home with no new car, just the paid for cars we already own. Best cast scenario, we plop down $8 grand and I drive home with a brand new Hyunda Elantra. Its possible, even probable, that they were base models, so I told The Lovely Steph Leann we'd have to spend a little more on a radio... what is important to me is an iPod auxiliary jack. I want to be able to plug in my iPod or my iPhone and listen to it, be it a Harry Potter audiobook or Sara Bareilles' new CD, through the car speakers. Yes, I could toss in the CD into the CD player, provided it has one, but that's not the point.
Let's keep in mind, I haven't eaten yet. When I say that, I tell you that I've been at Starbucks at work from about 415am to about 130ish, and on my lunch break, I had to do two things--get tickets for Harry Potter (going the following night), get Melanie something (I told her I would grab her lunch) and get myself something. I had 30 minutes. I zipped down to Chick-fila to grab lunch, but realized I didn't have time to eat. When I eat Chick-fila, I have to doctor up my own sandwich, which takes about five minutes, which I had no time to spare, so I grabbed Melanie's food and then zipped down to the Rave to get tickets, which I did. And after I got off work, I had some errands to run and some other stuff to get done (Translation: I don't remember exactly what I did--it was two days ago) and when The Lovely Steph Leann got home, we jumped in the vehicle, her vehicle, and headed to Center Point. She had a late lunch, so she's not hungry. I'm getting kinda hungry.
Up 280, down I-450, onto I-59, then off to Roebuck Parkway, which turns into Center Point Parkway. The median length forces us to drive past Serra Hyundai, Serra Chevy and Serra KIA, but as I turn around the median, I told The Lovely Steph Leann I wanted to pull into KIA. She asked why, and I told her I wanted to look around. I mentioned that we could walk down to the Hyundai dealership, which is still our original destination. We stop, park, and start looking around. The Forte, the Optima, the Sorrento, the Rio and... The KIA Soul. A cherry red KIA Soul sitting on the end of the row. There was a white one there too, but it was white. And not red.
Its the commercials with the hamsters. Honestly, I remember the hamsters, but didn't connect it was a KIA commercial--or a car commercial, for that matter--until the sales guy mentioned in. Just sayin'.
A salesman comes out, introduces himself as Gene, and begins to tell us whats on sale. We do some looking around, ask some questions, answer some questions, and then the big question gets asked... whats our price range? Ah, that is the query, isn't it.
I will say the Rio drives fine. Its a good little car, it picked up quickly, it was comfy and I'm okay with small cars, because good gas mileage is important to me. With Toni Rocki Honda, I fill up once about every three weeks, though it helps that I live 3 miles from the store and also that we usually take The Lovely Steph Leann's Honda because its a more comfy ride.
We pulled back in and Gene asked us to run some numbers. He did the whole "Now, you don't have to commit to anything, I just want to see what I can do for you." The Serra salesman sell cars across all three dealerships, so he filled us in on the Hyundai $8000 deal... you have to buy two. And that was in the fine print, of course. Yeah, he could have been feeding us some Bantha Poodoo, but makes sense.
Finally, I ask to test drive the KIA Soul. He goes and gets the keys, and we pull out of the lot, a car with 31 miles on it. Its... its just cool. Its just fun. Its bright red, a color that I usually associate with 21 year old guys in Mustangs or convertibles to pick up chicks, and higher insurance rates, so I ask about other colors, and am assured that if I want this car, they'll get me whatever color I want. Of course they will, its a car dealership.
I've already done some research on the KIA Soul, and have liked what I'd seen... its quite safe, it holds appreciation well, its sporty, its not too expensive, its roomier than most cars of its kind and so on. And in driving it... its fun. I like this car. And this is not good, because this thing is brand new! This thing is costly! There's no way we're going to be driving away with a KIA Soul. The Lovely Steph Leann won't allow such a mockery of Dave Ramsey Justice! Right? Right?
I noticed something as we walked around a little afterwards... the KIA Rio is about $1200 more than the KIA Soul. So... if we wanted to get the Rio, which The Lovely Steph Leann liked, then... wouldn't the Soul make more sense? Its bigger... and cheaper?
Smashcut to a half hour later... we are sitting in Gene's little cubicle and he's in front of us, hands clasped, elbows on table, telling us that he wants us to drive off the lot in a new car. Of course he does. This is a car dealership.
The Lovely Steph Leann and I listen to his pitch, and both simply tell him, "No". It was too much. Too much down, too much in car payments, car payments that we were trying to avoid all together. He had written down the details on a piece of paper, and they only would pay $500 for Toni Rocki Honda, which was a travesty in my own mind. Sure, she needs a $1000 repair in air conditioning, but I am pretty sure I could get a grand for her on Craigslist or even the paper, but $500?
And I watch the car salesmen tricks unfold... "Okay, what if I do this? What if [crossing out the number 500 and writing in pen] we give you a $1000 [writing the number 1-0-0-0] for your Honda?" We say "No". "Okay, well what if I say you don't have to put this much down [crosses out the amount down] and you only put this much down [writes down another number] and we say "No".
He says, "Okay, let me go run some more numbers", and runs off to do a credit check, leaving The Lovely Steph Leann and I alone. We start chatting quietly about what we are going to do, and suddenly, getting a new car, the bright red KIA Soul, is a distinct possibility. A real possibility.
The Lovely Steph Leann is the budgeter in our family, the "Nerd", is Ramsey speak. I am the "Free Spirit", the one who spends a little more than he should, so I'm leaning on her, my wife, heavily to help me through this (isn't that the way it should be, really?). She says one single "No way, we can't do this", then I'm not going to fight her for it. I tell her straight up that there is a certain threshold of savings I want to keep in there, and no matter what, we don't go below that. She tells me what the reality is of our budget.
Gene comes back with another set of details and agreements. I smile and simply say, "Okay, man, listen... this is a great deal. We have talked about it, and we agree this is a great deal, but we just don't think we can do it. We weren't looking for car payments, we don't want to kill our savings and really, if we have to say yes or no at this very moment, we'd have to say 'no'." Gene tells us, "I understand. But let me just tell ya, we haven't sold a car today. I'm going to do what it takes to get you into this car." He gets up and runs out.
Gene comes back in, with the same piece of paper, folded over, with words written in Sharpie at the top, saying "XMAS COMES EARLY HO HO HO", with some details on the bottom. And the details are great. I ask Gene to give us a minute to discuss, and he agrees and leaves. The Lovely Steph Leann and I then go to work.
The questions begin... "Can we do it?"... "Do we want to take on a car payment, even for just a little while?"... "We can do it, but do we want to do it?"... "How will this affect how we live?"... "What do we do about Disney World in February, and for that matter, in two weeks?" We talk for about fifteen minutes or so, and The Lovely Steph Leann leans her head back, puts her hands in her hair and just say, "Aarrgghh... this is like buying the house all over again!"
I smile and say, "We either do it or we don't. I like the car, quite a bit. But I'm not bothered if we walk out of here without it. We deal with my Honda for a while, and then we can decide how much money to put into it. Or, we take the plunge, deal with it for a while, and have a reliable car for a long, long time. What do you think?"
Again, she says, "Aaargghh!" and then laughs uncomfortably. Gene comes back in and asks what we think, holding out the paper with a line on the bottom. Without saying much, The Lovely Steph Leann just leans over and signs the paper.
We just bought a car. Its an awesome car. Its a 2011 KIA Soul, complete with a bright red exterior, four doors, a hatchback, Sirius Radio, an iPod auxiliary jack, 31 miles when I drove it off the lot and, unfortunately, for the first time in over three years since we have been debt free, a car payment. Just don't tell Dave Ramsey.