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How an Edmunds editor bought her 2011 328i

clachnitclachnit CaliforniaPosts: 35
edited January 2014 in BMW

Ever wonder if Edmunds' employees follow their own advice? Carroll Lachnit is features editor at Here's the story of how she bought her first new car in a decade.

In late December 2011, when it became clear that my 2001 Acura TL might be heading for some expensive transmission repairs, I went shopping for a new car. I wanted a coupe, and it didn't take long to narrow down my list: Volvo S60, Volkswagen CC, Audi A5, Mercedes C250, Infiniti G37 and BMW 328i. I toyed with the idea of the Mini Cooper Clubman, but since no one at my local Mini dealership could be bothered to call me back regarding a test-drive, I dropped it.

With that short list in hand, here's how my car buying went. From start to finish, it took about a week.

The Research: Since I work at Edmunds, I had some in-house resources on my side. I drove our long-term Volvo S60 a number of times, so I didn't need to test-drive it at a dealership. I got personal car recommendations from Edmunds editors. I huddled with our consumer advice editors, Ron Montoya and Phil Reed, for shopping and negotiating strategies. Car shopping is a lot more fun when it's a team sport.

It's true that I had "insiders" to lean on, but the tools I used the most were the ones available to any car shopper. In software development circles, using your own product day in and day out is called "eating your own dog food." That's what I did: filled up on Car Chow.

I read Edmunds' reviews of all the cars I was considering. I used our True Market Value and True Cost to Own information and re-read most of our stories on negotiating. I also used our iPhone app for at-home and on-the-fly research.

The Test-Drives: As Edmunds advises shoppers, I made test-drive appointments through the Internet departments of the various dealerships. I did stop by one dealership to scope out a car I'd seen on the dealer Web site. The CPO Volkswagen CC showed a sticker price that was $1,000 higher than the price advertised on the site. That was just one more good reason to use the Web.

I did the bulk of my test-drives on the same day so my impressions would be fresh. The Internet department sales folks who went on drives with me were polite, laid back and well-versed in their cars.

Narrowing the List: After the test-drives, I spent a couple of days winnowing down my car list. Once I'd driven the BMW and Audi, I didn't give the Volvo S60 a second thought. Too stodgy. The Mercedes C250 just left me cold. Can't say why, but it did.

The Infiniti G37 didn't stay in contention long either. It's a fine car, but having once had an Infiniti G20, and coming out of an 11-year Acura relationship, I was ready for a little more of a driver's car. My top three picks all were German.

Cold Logic, Warm Heart: The BMW 328i beat the Audi A5 on price. It also won out because Audi didn't offer a free vehicle maintenance program, while BMW and Volkswagen did.

The Volkswagen CC was not the usual car to cross-shop with BMW and Audi, but I really liked its looks, and the thrifty part of me was enticed by the price (about $30,000 for the Lux trim level). Ultimately, I ruled it out because I preferred the 328i's steering feel, surefootedness, responsiveness and power. It just won my heart.

It won my head too, once I decided on a 2011 BMW 328i. Since I would be buying it at the end of December and at the end of 2011, I knew dealers would be motivated to make me a deal.

Must-Haves: I didn't want a lot of special stuff on the car, but I did want navigation and heated front seats. I wasn't even that particular about interior and exterior color -- aside from being bored by silver after 11 years. My husband found a gorgeous Montego Blue Metallic with Saddle Brown Dakota leather. It came with the Premium Package (which includes a universal garage door opener, moonroof, auto-dimming mirrors, BMW Assist with Bluetooth, lumbar support and a digital compass mirror) and the Value Package, consisting of power front seats and an iPod/USB adapter.

Buying the Car: Edmunds' TMV price for the car was a little below the invoice price, which Edmunds listed as $40,155. (BMW said invoice price was $41,165. The difference seems to be that BMW shows the automatic transmission as a $1,375 option. Edmunds shows it coming at no charge.) MSRP was $44,050.

The actual negotiation took about 15 minutes over the phone. I asked the excellent Internet manager for McKenna BMW in Norwalk, Calif., to give me her best price.

Based on the invoice price and TMV, I already had decided that a good deal would be a price between $39,500 and $40,000. When she said "$39,995," I paused for just a minute. And then I said "OK."

There are some -- including my husband, who negotiates for a living -- who would say that I should have pushed harder for a lower price. Where's the sense of victory unless there's a tussle over price?

I suppose I don't see car buying as combat. The salesperson had presented me with a price that was $4,000 below MSRP, $150 below invoice, and spot-on when it came to TMV. I decided not to waste my breath for a few dollars more. If Edmunds had Price Promise back then, I definitely would have considered using it.

The F&I Room: Like the price negotiation, this was a relatively painless process. I did buy a $2,000 extended warranty on the tires. I'd heard some unpleasant stories about the vulnerabilities of BMW run-flat tires. Plus, the warranty offered coverage for wheel damage. I'm hard on wheels, so I thought I would get my money's worth. And so far, that premise is proving true: The car's wheels protrude a bit and are prone to curbing. I've had free repairs on three occasions (and only two of those were my fault, by the way).

What I Learned: Buying a car does not require months of research, weeks of roaming car lots or hours of negotiation. If you do your homework, it's easy. And it's fun. I haven't had any buyer's remorse. After two years and 23,000 miles, I still feel a little thrill when I open the garage door and see my sleek, gorgeous car. It's even more thrilling when I hit the start button and punch the gas.


  • konacougkonacoug Kailua-KonaPosts: 196

    you got hosed on the tire and wheel insurance...I was offered it for only 1K last summer, which I turned down on my 2013 328i. I also made my deal in the So Cal area.

  • clachnitclachnit CaliforniaPosts: 35
    edited January 2014

    There's something to be said for shopping around, for sure. Next time, I will.

  • ken117ken117 Posts: 249

    Like your husband suggested, taking the first price a dealer offers, even if it is from an internet manager, rarely results in a best price. IMHO, most dealers concoct an initial price offer which is low enough as to not result in the buyer walking but not their lowest price. For the internet savy buyer, that price will likely be lower than the price for someone who just walks into the dealership. But that price is probably not the dealer's lowest price.

    Dealers know the internet savy buyer has done some research. Dealers do not like research. However, dealers anticipate a buyer, even an internet savy buyer, will haggle. So, why not haggle a bit?

    And good to remember, that internet manager is, under all her polished exterior, a sales person. Often a simple "that seems a bit high, let me think about it a bit" will entice the dealer to offer a better price. A good negotiation tactic is to make the dealer believe its price is too high. The best way to accomplish that may be to make the dealer believe you are about to take a walk-about.

    Two thousand dollars for wheel insurance? Numerous internet reviews suggest such insurance from a BMW dealer can be found for around $1,300. IMHO $2,000 to cover a possible wheel problem may not be a wise way to spend money. Such piece-of-mind products are always priced so the dealer and product provider, not the buyer, win. They know most people who purchase these products will not recover what they paid for the product. Might be better advice to put the $2,000 into an account where it would be available should a wheel issue arise but would also be available should no wheel issue materialize.

    As even Edmunds advises, all products offered in the Box, F&I office, are overpriced and of questionable value to most people. Dealer F&I managers really do not like us "knuckleheads" who refuse to buy those products. I have read they do refer to such buyers as "knuckleheads."

  • konacougkonacoug Kailua-KonaPosts: 196

    Yep, the F&I guy was visibly pissed that I didn't want to buy any of the "great" extras he was offering. I told him, I could replace 3 tires for the "special" 1k tire and wheel policy. Besides, living in Hawaii, my commute is less than 15 miles a day, the roads are fine.

  • kyfdxkyfdx Posts: 70,300

    LOL.. I remember the F&I guy being stunned that I didn't want the extended maintenance plan for $200 off list.. Never mind that it had a $500 spread between cost and list...


    Prices Paid, Lease Questions, SUVs

  • fst1fst1 L.A. Posts: 18

    My dad bought a similar 3 Series and also bought an extended tire warranty. I told him the warranty probably wasn't necessary, but he's had several replacements due to sidewall damage from road debris as well a complete set from simple wear. It turned out to be a good deal, especially since he doesn't really like to deal with tire stores, instead he just calls the dealer he's familiar with and they take care of it. He's happy with it.

  • cskicski West Springfield, VAPosts: 1,536
    edited February 2014

    I bought my 2012 Optima EX in December 2011 also. It is a family tradition to buy our cars on the last business day of December, arriving in Santa hats and ready for the tussle of the sale. I try to make it fun, and I KNOW the dealer will want to move ONE MORE UNIT.

    The Santa hats disarm the dealer staff. My car stickered at $24,260. I negotiated 21,880. The Optima was hot at the time, with the new factory not able to keep up with demand, so I was happy.

    I also bought the tire warranty. It wasn't worth the paper it was printed on, and I suspect neither is yours.To keep the warranty valid, it' requires the buyer to pay $160 of " recommended" service inspections" per visit on VITAL things like "door hinge lube".By the time your tires are ready for replacement you will have paid the dealer for them already, plus the warranty fee up front. If you bend a rim or pop your tire in a pothole, they will not cover it unless you pay for everything they "recommend:".

    Also, they wanted to charge $60 for a cabin filter costing $7.00 at Auto Zone., and I had it installed in 5 mins. PS. It is behind the glove box under a lid in most sedans/coupes.

    I get free oil changes for life and tire rotations are $20, and I follow the manual for "required" service.

    Just don't get that confused with "recommended". I could "recommend" that you buy distressed property in Haiti, wear an eye patch and replace one of your hands with a hook, or replace your brake pads every 5k, All are bad ideas.

    Chris Skalski: Network Engineer 2012 Kia Optima EX

  • laurasdadalaurasdada Posts: 3,112

    I, too, bought my new car this past New Year's Eve, got what seems like a very, very good deal...

    As recommended by my trusted tire/mechanic shop, along with research, we did buy the BMW tire/wheel insurance for the wife's BMW 535xi. 5 years, it was IIRC, ~$1300. I've had buyer's remorse ever since. But, she did just have a runflat replaced under the warranty, bubble in the sidewall. So, we're on our way to recouping our investment. 20/20 hindsight, I would have self-insured. Have never bought such a warranty before, probably will not again.

    '13 Jaguar XF, possibly my favorite of all the cars I've owned. But, my '09 Jag XK was a beauty, as was my '05 Acura TL, '88 Acura Integra, '84 Mitsubishi Mirage Turbo & '78 VW Scirocco (my first!). And, of course, the '92 Nissan Sentra SE-R and '95 Saab 900s I bought for the ex... Ok, I like a lot of the cars in my life.

  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,809

    I have NEVER heard of a "tire warranty" and 2000.00???

    What exactly do they cover for that price? Just curious.

  • konacougkonacoug Kailua-KonaPosts: 196

    It is bogus to some extent, regarding the price...essentially, if any tires and/or wheels are damaged, they will replace them free of charge. They scare op's into buying it with the cost of run flat tires. When I got my first BMW back in 05, the tire warranty was $475 and I got two tires replaced and it made sense. However, the F & I, guy makes money off of selling these various protection policies and will charge whatever he thinks you will pay. Last July, the F & I guy offered me the insurance for $1000 and I told him no.... I can replace at least 3 tires, if not 4 for that price. The best way to deal with this...go to Discount Tire and buy a tire warranty from don't have to buy the tires there. It is less than $100 bucks for all 4 tires.....

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