I thought I had bought my last brand new car. I bought the blue 2002 Mazda Protege5 brand new in 2001, and Shannen and I leased a brand new blue 2004 Mazda Tribute in 2003. For a brief period of time, we had 2 navy blue Mazdas in our driveway.
After the Tribute, we got a screamin’ deal on a dealer demo 2007 Mazda 5. Its only downfall is that it’s white. Shannen calls it the Delivery Van.
The Protege5 was a wonderful car in almost every way except for the cancer. Every Protege5 from that era rusts in the same spots – the hatch around the badge, the rear wheel wells, and the hood. In Saskatchewan, cars don’t rust. You see tons of 15+ year old cars still on the road. Not so in Ottawa. Cars rust away before your eyes. I knew this, and I considered rust-proofing services like Krown, but made the conscious decision to see what happened without it. Knowing now that those Mazdas were made of budget steel, I would have rust-proofed.
All that to say, the Protege5 was in pretty rough shape in fall 2011, despite only having 175,000 kms. The next repair was going to be $1000 or more, and I started to consider replacing it.
I put 80 kms on a day going to and from work, so fuel economy is critical. I also love the 5-door hatchback. 2 door cars and trunks are persona non grata in our house. Why suffer through them when there’s a clear alternative?
We didn’t have any cash under the mattress, so knew we had to finance. And financing a new car is expensive in today’s low interest rate environment! Best you can get is ~7% over 5 years. I looked at some 2010 Mazda 3’s, Hyundai Elantra Touring’s, and a Tribute, but all were ~$15k, and with financing the payments were … unreasonable.
So I started to look at new cars. Warranties vary – everyone offers 3 year / 60,000 kms except Mazda who offers 3 year / 80,000 kms, and Hyundai / Kia / Mitsubishi that offer 5 year / 80,000 kms.
I was tempted by Hyundai and Kia’s small car offerings, the Accent 5 door and the Rio 5 door, and the Ford Fiesta 5 door, and the Mazda2. However, as soon as you try to put a carseat in the Mazda2, you realize that this class of car is pretty limiting. Sure they’re good on gas, but you can barely fit kids behind the driver’s seat, and you certainly couldn’t put much in the trunk.
So I bumped my sights up to the Hyundai Elantra Touring, the Ford Focus 5 dr, and the Mazda3. I took the family for test drives of the Mazda3 and the Hyundai Elantra Touring on the same day – the Mazda was the clear winner. I’m sure the Elantra would be a fine car, and the 5 year warranty is definitely worth something, but we realized that we’re Mazda people, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The model with the best fuel economy is the Mazda 3 5-door hatch manual with the Skyactiv 2.0 litre engine. Unfortunately, none of these had arrived in Canada yet. The same thing happened to me with the Protege5 – I ended up paying list price for the car!
I wasn’t doing the same thing this time. I sat down with a salesman at Mazda and remembered that I hate the car buying experience at the dealership.
So I decided to do things differently. I started digging on the internet. I found 2 separate services that offer you an “invoice” price for new cars (www.carcostcanada.com and www.apa.ca). Both services charge nominal fees ($40, $75) and both give you very similar reports for a new car: the list price, the “invoice price”, a breakdown of incentives that are currently in place at the dealers, and a referral to a dealer that will sell you this exact car at an “invoice +x%”.
In parallel, I thought I’d try cold emailing every dealership in town with the car I wanted, and asking for their best price. I told them that I was contacting all area dealerships, was well aware of all incentives available to them, and would happily purchase a car from whomever offered the best deal.
The day after I sent those emails, I found www.unhaggle.com. For a fee, they offer to manage a blind tender for you to all area dealerships. I wish I would have found these guys on day 1 – they contact all dealers, give them a deadline of 3 days, and forward you all of the offers they get back. They claim satisfaction guaranteed.
I received a few emails from dealerships with different versions of “if you come into the dealership, I can get you the best price.” Only 1 salesperson was willing to negotiate to his best price over email – David Boyce at Carling Mazda. He was extremely helpful, and ended up hundreds of dollars below the best unhaggle price (Unhaggle refunded my fee when I told them I was able to negotiate a better price outside their service). If you’re in the market, I highly recommend David. If you talk to him, tell him I sent you and I get some credit at their service desk!
So I bought a car over the internet! Kinda. I avoided the barfy experience of negotiating with a car salesman in the dealership. It was all done very calmly over email, and I spent a grand total of 45 minutes at the dealership between the day I signed the contract and the day I picked up the new car.
And I love our new car. My only complaint is that January is a terrible time to take delivery of a new car. It was clean for all of 5 minutes.
And I’m going to rust-proof this one. Hopefully I’ll still be driving it when it hits 250,000 kms.