My wife and I had been discussing buying a new car for sometime with our 2009 Ford Fusion getting high in miles and a new addition to the family coming in December. It seemed appropriate to shop the end-of-model-year sales. Coming from a Honda family and owning only Ford cars myself, the last place I expected to buy a new vehicle was Heritage Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram.
Now, I have experience with this dealer as I had bought two used cars (one in 2009 and the other in 2010) from them. Both of those experiences were very good. Additionally, my family has always had good things to say about Heritage Honda, another MileOne dealer.
We test drove a few different vehicles, one of which was a 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan at Heritage Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram. While a Heritage dealer would have ultimately been our preference, we were set on a 2013 Ford Flex, and, sure enough, there are no Heritage Ford dealers in our area. We test drove a Flex at Bob Davidson Ford in Parkville, but could not come to an agreement on a purchase, partly due to their resistance to get their asking price down to near any of the researched fair market values. I then turned to someone recommended to me at Norris Ford, who offered a very fair price on just the Flex we were looking for. However, we also had to consider what kind of trade allowance we could get for our aforementioned 2009 Ford Fusion. Carmax, Bob Davidson, and Norris, all offered around the same for the car, between $6000 and $6500. I estimated a trade-in value, based on KBB, NADA, Edmunds, and Intelliprice, of about $7600. Given a strict budget, it seemed that we could not make it work given that I overestimated my trade. When Ford recently increased the incentives on the Flex to include cash and 0% financing, we verbally agreed to buy the Flex from Norris in what seemed like the best deal. The fairly low trade allowance from Norris was still bugging me though, so I went back to Jeremy Cooney at Heritage where we test drove a Caravan, just to see where they would appraise the trade. I was fully expecting to get the same $6000-$6500 number we'd gotten elsewhere.
The sales manager brought us into his office and explained the whole process of appraising the trade. He showed us many of the traditional numbers that consumers have access to (KBB, NADA, etc.). But he also showed us the actual Black Book and recent auction values. Then after explaining why all the other dealers had offered what they did, he showed us what he believed were the most comparable recent auctions. He said the average was about $8000, and that is what he'd give us for the trade. They let us walk out to reconsider everything with absolutely no pressure sales tactics. Given such a fair offer, which essentially amounted to $1600 swing including the sales tax deduction, we had no choice but to call off our deal with Norris Ford. If we were going to buy a Chrysler vehicle, it was going to be either the Town and Country or the Durango. We went back to Heritage a few days later and test drove both vehicles at our leisure with Jeremy. We were hesitant to commit to a Chrysler vehicle given concerns about quality. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the Consumer Reports reliability assessment of the Durango, as well as the reviews by the automotive press. We decided fairly quickly that we would buy the Durango.
In terms of the price negotiating, little was required. The exact vehicle we wanted was on a lot in Southern Maryland. The price offered to us was $800 below dealer invoice, including a $300 email coupon they honored. We negotiated down just a bit, although their first offer was admittedly fair. So we had a deal. They even found an interest rate that was slightly better than the already-solid credit union rate I'd been preapproved for. The numbers were all as I expected (well, nearly; more on that later) and we even negotiated an extended service contract to a fair price not too far above dealer cost. They had the vehicle delivered and detailed the next day.
The one fly in the ointment came the night after we signed the sales contract. I was running my numbers on the purchase at home, and something wasn't quite right. I would later find out that there was a mistake in the contract in which the dealer forgot to include the small payoff amount owed on the trade. A sales manager called me after we took delivery and matter-of-factly informed me that the contract was 'updated' and ready to be signed. I was a little bothered by this since it seemed they were hoping I wouldn't think it was a mistake on their part, which it was. I explained to Roman that I negotiated the service contract based on my budget assuming the numbers presented to me by Tavon (finance) were correct. I was not inclined to redo the contract. However, he made a fair point that all the numbers were negotiated in good faith, of course, up until the service contract. So we agreed to split the difference. I signed a new sales contract which included the payoff, but where he reduced the price of the service contract even farther and secured a rock-bottom 1.44% interest rate.
Bottom Line: Fair trade-in values, good customer service, and nearly unbeatable prices converted me from Ford to Chrysler. The next time we need to buy a car, new or used, we'll be headed back to Heritage Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram in Parkville.
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