This is my first time posting on Oppo (thanks "nobody"!) and I'm a little excited because I'm hoping to tap into everyone's collective knowledge and experiences. If you recognize my name from comments at all (I doubt it but still) you may notice my overall lack of technical knowledge. Full disclosure, I love pretty much anything with an engine/motor but I have had no exposure...I guess the "enthusiast" title I bestow on myself comes from actual enthusiasm for the topics discussed rather than the insight I can provide.

For the past few months I have been researching my next potential car. I'm looking to find the car that just FEELS right. I have a Fusion right now, lease ending in June, and as nice as it is...I don't want it. It is a great car but I just don't get that feeling of "this is mine" from it.

Sometime in March, a monkey wrench was thrown into my search when my mother decided that she needed to get a new vehicle. She wanted to trade her 2004 Suburban for something smaller (but not for that reason, it was more personal). I went to 7 dealers to discuss options with each respective salesman and had a variety of experiences.

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Many of the dealerships in my area are owned by one man. His (Quirk) presence on the South Shore (south of Boston) is huge and as a result, my family's last 4 vehicles from 1995 to 2013 were all from his inventory. Obviously, I would start with Quirk dealers.

Many of the dealers greeted me and my sister immediately, but then left us to our devices. We were kids (23 and 21) looking at vehicles for some woman who wanted to unload some bad memories that manifested themselves in a suburban...they just didn't want to deal with us. A couple took the time to speak to us in depth about what we were looking at and what we wanted to try. The Subaru dealer presented the greatest opportunity for us to get behind the wheel of some vehicles.

The Crosstrek...interesting looking vehicle. My sister loved it. However, the engine just wheezes. I don't have to elaborate further because it is a well known fact. The Forester (2013) was being offered with 0% financing because of the refreshed 2014 model being released. It was this vehicle that we presented to my mom. She tried it, liked it, and entertained offers...but I wasn't happy. The offer was nowhere near where it should have been considering the capabilities and the specials they had on inventory. My favorite line was that the special "was for that specific vehicle, nothing else. And we just sold it." I understand the principle of that technique fine, but when a fully loaded model cost less than the base I was negotiating, I move on. I thanked them all for their time and to let me know if they can do something to help us out more (only got $900 off their offer).

I took to the internet for another Subaru dealer in the area. I sent a quick email to one explaining my experience with Quirk and that my family was disappointed and felt betrayed. The response was magnificent. The woman I was in contact with sent me links to two new vehicles that were similar to what we were looking for as well as 3 used models that would fall below our desired price point. She even looked up the advertisement I referenced (but did not include) to find out what the model and price I was upset about was...then she beat that price on an identical model. Oddly enough, she contacted the Quirk dealer (or researched the inventory) and the model that was "sold" never left the dealer lot. Go figure. Anyways, I went down to talk to this woman in person because there was no way the price she offered ($1300 less than the previous offer of $900 off) could be so without a catch. Upon my arrival, there was no salesman greeting me as I walked through the lot. At the door, nobody was sitting and waiting for the next customer. It was all very relaxed. I was greeted by a salesperson who brought me to the woman I had emailed. She reminded me of a young grandmother living in New Hampshire...active looking and ready for a hike. She listened to what I had to say, walked through inventory with me and said that whenever my mother was ready to check out the vehicle offerings to let her know.

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(dealer photo, but basically what my mom looked at)

My mom went to see this woman, without me. She loved the car, loved the experience. We ultimately ended up with a new 2013 Forester in our garage and every day it gets driven my mom loves it more and more. It took almost two months of frustrating conversations, misleading advertisements, and terrible sales managers that a 23 year old could force into a fetal position with strongly worded sentences but my mother got her car.

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I guess my point is that when you're looking for a car, you never truly know what you want. The first thing dealers ask when you walk in is "what car are you interested in today?" Well, today I'm interested in the BRZ, but tomorrow it could be the Focus, or a GTI, or a Wrangler. What needs to be asked instead is what a dealer asked me yesterday when I began my own dealer search: "what are you looking for in a vehicle?" They didn't care what vehicle on their lot I was interested in...they saw that I was there and I had specific needs.

"Do you want the electronic gadgets? Is fuel economy your biggest need?" These kind of questions were never asked of me before...which I find odd. It was refreshing to be able to say that I was making my decision on the "feel" of the car. Because I was at a Dodge dealer, I tried the Dart. At 3200 lbs, it weighs about as much as my Fusion. I do not know how to drive stick (but my goal is to have someone teach me so my vehicle will be manual) so the Dart I took out was an auto using the 2.0L "Tigershark." It felt like a solid vehicle because of the weight, sounded nice upon starting, fit me ok (I'm 6'4"), and was a simple yet efficient interior. The steering felt heavy at low speeds, fairly responsive at normal driving conditions. The wheel itself felt heavy as well, partly because of how thick it was. The engine didn't have much pickup until about 2500-3000 RPMs, which isn't beyond expectations but below that felt more sluggish than it should. I would assume that it is a great vehicle to drive when operating at higher revs but the automatic limits that. Overall though, the Dart is a solid option if the 1.4L or 2.4L get rid of the slug feeling. The ride was decent, taking bumps and shakes well but still feeling planted for turns. The great thing about this dealer is that 1) they listened to me when other dealers "listened" but then moved on to where the cupholders were and 2) they offered an extended testdrive (1-2 hours) when my end of lease approaches and 3) they will teach me how to drive stick.

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When I walk into a dealer, I don't want the cookie cutter experience. I want that personal feeling that I got from the Subaru dealer that my mom got her vehicle from and the Dodge dealer I will certainly be returning to. I'll write again when I head out to try the BRZ, Focus, and perhaps the GTI. Please comment with your experiences, advice, expectations at dealers, or additional insight.

Thanks guys!