Let’s Make A Deal

Buying a car is never easy. Any given car usually has three or four worthy competitors offering similar performance and features at close to the same cost. Doing the research, in magazines or online, takes time. Choosing a dealer, working out financing, and the dreaded n word — negotiating — leaves many buyers cold. They don’t always get the best deal. But below are stories from three buyers who prove that buying a new car can be a satisfying experience. If any lessons prevail, they seem to be the importance of doing your homework on the car you’re interested in before you enter the dealership, choosing dealers on the recommendations of friends or family members who have had good experiences there, and never appearing desperate.

Sandy French and her husband, Zack, had already purchased three Fords — an Explorer, a Mustang, and a ZX2. When searching for a second car for herself, Sandy looked at a Lexus SUV and a GMC Envoy, but she wanted a BMW X5, the 4,000-plus pound luxury SUV, which she figured would be good for navigating Chicago’s brutal winters. But that car’s $50,000 price tag was a little steep.

“Since it’s a second car, this is for me tooling around the area. I couldn’t justify that cost,” she says.

So the Frenchs returned to the dealer they trusted. “We had had a good experience in terms of buying the car and it working well,” says Sandy of auto dealer Ray Fregia, who had even let the family keep a car in his garage for a few days so they could surprise their son. “Even though we’re friends, if it hadn’t been a good experience, we would not have repeated the transaction.”

She settled on a slate blue Ford Explorer that was priced around $40,000, but they were able to negotiate the price down to $36,000 — with an extended warranty. “We’re pretty good at doing our research and knowing what the car’s valued at versus what they want to get versus what we want to pay,” she says. “We researched on the Internet [to determine] what we thought it should cost and what we were willing to pay,” Sandy recalls.

Approved on the spot through Ford Credit, they negotiated a four-year deal at 3.9% interest, which gave them a monthly note of $567 (a much better deal than the current 7% on her existing vehicle).

The Frenchs traded in their old ’96 Explorer for $9,000. All in all, she felt the purchase was a bargain. “We got a good deal because we knew what we were looking for going in, having done the research.”

As an electrician, Stephen Hicks puts a lot of miles on his vehicles. The Aurora, Colorado, resident was happy with the Infiniti G20 sedan that he purchased in January 2003 — until May, when he spotted the new $38,000 G35 sedan while at the dealership for an oil change.

He had to have one — that day — but managed to keep his enthusiasm in check. “If you need a car, that’s