Adventures In Auto Consulting: Kevin's First New Car

About a year ago my friend Kevin mentioned that he was thinking about getting a new car. He wasn't entirely sure what he wanted, all he knew was that the time for him to move on from his 2002 Nissan Sentra SE was approaching. Over the course of the next 12 months I would often discuss options with him, let him know when new vehicles came out that I thought would be a good fit, where prices were heading, etc.

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We went back and forth between used vehicles and new vehicles, purchasing and leasing. Eventually it became clear that the better choice for his needs would be to lease a new vehicle. With the used car market flooded with great options that I'd love to get into, I'll admit I was a little disappointed with his choice to go with a new car. However, as is frequently the case, I reminded myself that not everyone feels the way I do about preowned cars and all the quirks that come with them.

Reliable, fuel efficient, affordable and somewhat fun to drive, that's the criteria Kevin had for his car to be. Hell, that's the criteria that pretty much everyone has these days. Prior to the Sentra he'd owned a '98 A4 2.8 and a '95 Caprice Classic with an SS swap done by the previous owner. Of the three cars he'd owned the A4 was his favorite, largely in part to the Quattro system that made it so much fun to drive.

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From the time he first expressed interest in getting a new car I'd been thinking Subaru. I'd helped another friend get a good deal on one the year before and given that they had similar lifestyles and budget, the Impreza Sport went to the top of our list.

Though I would have loved to get both of them into a WRX, neither felt that they needed the power. I had Kevin talk to our other friend about the car and the consensus was that it would be a great fit. I had him look at a Mazda 3 and CX-5 for posterity but in my mind, the Impreza was the car for him. After driving those and driving the Impreza, we were completely on the same page. When the time came to get a new car it was to be a Subaru.

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Early last month he notified me that he was going to be ready to pull the trigger. The stars had aligned for Kevin, he had a new job, was going on vacation for a week later in the month and it was the best time of year to be in the market for a new car. I started scouring inventories around Southern California and was surprised to find that there weren't as many Imprezas out there as I had thought. Right from the get go Kevin had his mind made up to get an automatic(much to my chagrin) and I was finding a whole lot of nicely optioned manuals.

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Initially Kevin had wanted to go with a lower trim level but after taking a look at the numbers and driving an Impreza Sport, he decided that was gonna be the way to go. I agreed, the difference between the models we'd been looking at and a fully optioned Sport were negligible. He was dead set on putting no more than $2,200 down and wanted to keep his monthly payment as close to $300 as possible. Those are pretty good numbers to be working with anytime but they're especially good when it's Labor Day and you're looking at vehicle at the end of it's model year.

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So with all of the research done, a very specific budget and a sense of optimism only found in the under 30 crowd, we headed to Subaru of Santa Monica to get Kevin his first new car. SOSM wasn't my first choice of dealership but it's the closest and Kevin had a rapport going with a sales guy over there. It's against my principles of car buying to develop any personal attachment to a salesman as they will use that to their advantage but Kevin is much less jaded than I so, off we went.

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We took a quick spin in the car, just to be 100% sure it's what he wanted and then got down to the nitty gritty. It was a relatively painless process, I sat in a new STi checking my Instagram and Twitter while Kevin filled out a mountain of paperwork. When it was time for the finance guy to get involved I gave Kevin the simple instructions I give all my friends, stick to your guns, don't get frustrated and remember, you can always walk away.

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Luckily it didn't come to that. The finance guy did throw some curveballs but Kevin hung in there and got the deal he'd been looking for. $308/month for 36 months with $2,100 down and 12k/mi a year. All told he got the car for $25,640 including tax/title/registration. That was and still is well under True Car's "unusually low" estimate, which is what I aim for. I know True Car has its faults but combined with searches on Auto Trader and Cars.com, you'll end pretty good barometer of what a car is going for. Use this system and you should always be able to buy with confidence.

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I'm really psyched for Kevin, not only did he get a great deal on his first new car, he got a car that he's more than happy with. It's one thing to get a deal on a base model, it's another to get one on a top of the line ride, especially when it's a Subaru. In case you haven't noticed, the damn things pretty much sell themselves. Makes it all that much sweeter when a dealer is willing to play ball and help a kid get what he's after.

Andrew Maness leased a WRX in 2008 and managed to get it well below dealer invoice and since then he's offered friends tons of unwanted advice, crashed AutoTrader's servers and declared himself an authority on new vehicle acquisition.

All of this goes over really well with the ladies, especially his girlfriend.

For more brain droppings follow him on Twitter @thisnicelife & Instagram @theroadlessdriven

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