Lisa got into a major car accident and totaled the car. It wasn't her fault and we're hoping she's going to shake her back pain, so that means we have some financial/auto decisions to make. Right or wrong, I just want to detail the thinking we've been doing. I also want to see if I can get the deal I want from local used car lots. 

 

Lisa's car was a 2004 Malibu Maxx. It was in really good shape, garaged, and maintained. We'd spent over $3000 on in the year leading up to the accident. Unfortunately, that seems to be almost wasted money. I once joked with Lisa that I do deferred maintenance on my car, which means I let it break down first. Sadly, it appears she would have been better off to have followed my advice on her car. 

Anyhow, insurance said $6000. What can we get for that? Basically, we can get a non-garaged version of her 2004, complete with missing or broken parts. Honestly, there must be a lot of people who dig this vehicle, so we're moving on. We've got a few options:

1. Buy a replacement for the same price

2. Combine the amount we got from insurance with trade in value of my car to get one nicer car

3. Use the money for something else and have Lisa re-learn to drive a car without ABS, traction control, etc. 

4. Sell my truck and get Lisa a small SUV or mini-van. 

 

Honestly, none of the options listed are perfect. Mainly, I want my wife and kids in a car that has traction control, ABS, and (I think) stability control. That limits some of the options above. As of fall 2013, not many used cars come up for $6000 that have stability control, especially suvs. Since we're still debating as of the writing of the article, I'll just post a letter I sent to a local dealership requesting the deal I wanted for a car. Instead of bringing me in, turning me around, and generally selling me what they wanted to sell me, I just made a very fair offer. However, we'll see what kind of response I get from them.

SAT / re-sent MON

Hello,

I checked out the lincoln mkz awd with you last night. Thanks for showing me the vehicles. I am still interested in the Lincoln. My wife may have time today, but we need to know that the car is a possibility. 

As your co-worker mentioned, you are auto brokers and not car salesmen. That sounds good. Instead of trying to sell me on a deal when I'm there, let me explain what I'd like to be brokered on the one vehicle. I can always look at the other ones if this does not work out.

According to your carfax link, the vehicle has been for sale for nearly 200 days. You want it off the lot. You may get someone as the snow gets closer, but those folks will gravitate towards the suvs. 

According to kbb, you likely gave $10,500 in trade for the car. In-house routine maintenance. No additions. 
You have the vehicle list right at blue book avg price. $15,450. 
I think you can drop it to low blue book. $13,764. 

I have a trade that is a 2009 Chevy Cobalt. Its bluebook on trade is $6100-6800.  Retails around $8000. You won't sell it there, I'm sure, but you have that huge network of dealerships, so you'll be able to sell it. 

Assuming the Cobalt checks out, I'd be willing to go $14,000 on the Lincoln and $6500 on my trade. Or $13,764 and $6200 in trade. The rest in cash. 

Please forward this email to those who make the final decisions. These basic numbers are firm for me, as we are willing to wait longer. I suppose you may be, too, but that MKZ has been waiting a while. 

Thank you,

Brian Jaeger

MON

I sent it on a Saturday morning and have still not had a response as of 3:30 on Monday. Honestly, salesmen love to talk, so I wonder what's going on. Are they laughing at me? Are they discussing the merits of negotiating deals this way? We'll see. 

OK, so the dealer (broker) called and wanted to talk. No emails. It's probably policy so that they don't get anything in writing before you walk in the door. Lisa went in for a test drive. Of course, they kept her there much longer than she wanted to be there, taking a look at the trade and all. So, they came back with $14900 on the purchase and $6800 on the trade. Decent trade amount, as I would have listed it for $7500 myself. However, I still wanted a little more effort out of them, so here's my next email: 

Hi John, 

 
My wife's purpose was to test drive the vehicle. She also came back with some numbers. She likes the car. I'm not going to say she totally loves it, but she believes in it... that it can do what it says. I want her in a car with awd, traction control, abs, and stability control. This is not the only car with all of that, but it is available now. 
 
I believe in your dealership and that you can make this deal right now. I just want to get what I want out there so you can make this happen and have your first sale of the new month. Or tenth if you're really amazing. 
 
I'm not going to argue with $14,900 being an OK price or with $6800 being a fair offer for my car. I don't like the fees, though. About $300 in fees. Now, let's deal with those: 
 
You could
Take $300 off the MKZ or add $300 to the trade. 
Or take $100 off the MKZ or add $100 to the trade AND get me the $200 gas card advertised on the boucher.com site as being expired on 9/29. I printed the coupon. 
 
Also:
I understand there's a smart care maintenance package (it's pretty undefined) and/or a powertrain warranty - if there's a choice, I'm sure I'd go with an actual warranty
 
I'll  want the wine cooler or summer tailgate thing advertised, as well. 
 
Then, just let me know if you want me to bring a check or cash for the balance. (around $8541)
 
I can be happy with this deal. If you can't do it, that's fine, too. We can always try again next month.

Thanks for your efforts, 
Brian
 
I am willing to walk away from this deal over, yes, $300. However, it's really $600 off my original offer. We'll see what they want to broker at this point. 
 
TUE

Again, nothing in response to the email. I was geared up and ready to deal. When I got home, there's another message from the dealer. No mention of email, just asking if we're going to make a decision. CHECK YOUR EMAILS, J-DOG! 
 
I finally called his cell phone and told him to check his email, which he only did after calling me and asking me what it said. He agreed to the counter offer right away, which probably means that I should have just stuck to my original offer. Anyhow, I got top side of Blue Book for my trade and low end of it on the purchase car. 
 
Maybe I would have brokered a better deal in person by showing up and threatening to walk out on my initial deal. That has worked one time before. What I do know is that the "reduced" price is negotiable and that you should accumulate as many freebies as you can from the dealership - oil changes, (skimpy) warranties, free gas cards, and gifts with purchase, especially if those items make you feel a little better. 
 
WED
 
So, some problems arose after I got the car. Here I am again, trying to get something done to make it better:
 
To Whom it May Concern,

My wife was recently in a major collision that left us without a car for her drive. When I began the search for a new vehicle, I ventured to Boucher Lincoln in West Allis because I was interested in a 2009 MKZ AWD. I was impressed by what it had to offer, and I wanted a safe vehicle for my wife and kids. I entered into negotiations after looking the vehicle over, and we eventually agreed on a price I could live with. Everything seemed to be going very well. I was feeling more like I did when I went with my dad  and our Merkur to Uptown, as opposed to our few dealings with Heiser. When I buy or service a Lincoln, I expect the dealership to live up to the nameplate.

My goal was to do a final inspection when I got to the dealership to buy the vehicle. However, it was already getting prepped, so I was encouraged to go ahead with the deal and told that Boucher would make it right if there were any issues. Unfortunately, there have been several small issues, and I am writing to you in order to make it right as I was not given much hope in a phone call to the West Allis location. Keep in mind that, while this car was not brand new, I did pay $15,000 for it, and I bought it from a reputable Lincoln dealership.

The reason I called in the first place was that when I wanted to set some of the electronic components, I noticed the manual was missing. I figured that would not be a problem. There are other similar cars on the lot or a spare sitting around in a store room. At worst, Boucher would just order me one. I was given a flat out no. Apparently, there’s a website where I can order it from. Really? Fine, I can download it for free or order it for $30, plus $10 for the Sync manual. It’s not huge, but should that really be something I need to go and do?

Next, when I looked at the car the next morning, I noticed the chrome Boucher plate holders, which don’t look half bad, secured with the rusty bolts from my trade in? This would not have happened at Best Ford when I worked there as a porter, even on a used Escort. I’ll probably have to take those nice plate holders off now. While I’m at it, I’ll probably remove the B sticker from the rear of the car.

I know it’s a sign of the times, but I was a bit miffed at less than a quarter tank of gas, too. At Best, we filled up every new car, but we also took care of the high-roller used cars. We knew that those customers still kept the business running. Even half a tank would have felt like a little bonus, since that’s what my trade had in it.

Lastly, there was a mileage discrepancy that I never really noticed until looking at the bill of sale. The vehicle was advertised as having 88,582 miles. My car REALLY has 89,630. Autotrader, your site, Carfax, and the window sticker all said 88,582. All of my research was based on that number. Even my wife was happier that it had fewer miles than her wrecked vehicle, but it really didn’t! What? I know it sat in your possession for several months, and I know it should be driven once in a while, but why did a car that was for sale and listed as having a certain number of miles get driven over 1,000 miles? And why wasn’t any documentation updated? In fact, I believe one website I saw showed a price drop on the vehicle over the summer, which IS reflected on the sticker. But the miles had stayed the same?

I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the dubiously legal issue just mentioned had I not been looking through the glove box for a manual. I also would not have been so upset about it (less than $50 on Kelley Blue Book value) had the other issues not seemed so simple to have done right in the first place.

Of course, now I’m wondering if Boucher will, in fact, make it right. Am I just some sap who got taken by another used car deal, or am I a Lincoln owner with an upright dealership to back him up? Will I use your service department if it seems there is a complete lack of attention to detail? You know as well as I that word of mouth drives your sales. Beyond friends and family, I love telling my personal stories to my students and I write reviews for a website. However, I don’t want you to react to this letter just for those reasons. I want you to react because I bought into two names that has spanned the decades to mean something: Lincoln and Boucher. Please let me know that it matters.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Brian Jaeger
 
 
THU
 
I received no response Thursday to the letter, which seemed very odd to me. I did, however, receive an email late Thursday from my salesman. Of course, it's a very ironic and at least a bit irritating: 
 

Hi Brian,

I trust that you are enjoying your LINCOLN MKZ. The Boucher family and I feel strongly about making you feel welcome before and after the sale.  We feel that if we listen to your needs, find you the right vehicle, and deal fairly with you, we'll build a long-lasting relationship.  If you have any questions about your MKZ features and functions, I truly want you to call me. 

By the way, I'd appreciate you keeping me in mind if your friends and family or MILWAUKEE neighbors are ever in the market to purchase or lease a New or Pre-Owned vehicle. I promise to do my best to find them the perfect vehicle!  

Thanks again for choosing Gordie Boucher Lincoln where we Ride With You Every Mile!

Wow, I could use that email as a lesson in irony, couldn't I? I know it was an automated email and that my salesman, at the most, hit a send button, but the whole time I dealt with him, he never responded to an email and responded negatively to my telephone request for a manual. Maybe someone important will read my last email Friday. 

 

FRI

 

Good Morning Brian,

I read your e-mail and appreciate your input. I would also like to apologize for your experience. 
We strive to make sure all of our customers are completely satisfied before, during and after the sale. Apparently we failed. 
Both the Used Car Manager and myself have left messages with you, but I also understand you are a teacher which would make it difficult answer. We will try and make it right either way.
I have ordered an owners manual which will take approximately 1-2 weeks to get here. Once on site, I will contact you for pick-up.
The $200.00 worth of gas cards are in my possession and ready for immediate pick-up. I also included another $25.00 gas card for the lack of fuel at delivery.
We would also be happy to replace the rusty license plate screws when you stop by.
The mileage on our vehicles is recorded at time of safety inspection. The vehicles do get driven periodically which is why we take a final odometer statement at time of delivery. Nothing is hidden from a customer, hence the reason we ask people to test drive before they purchase.

Thank you for your feedback 
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