So somewhere along the way we all grew up. Part of growing up is not visiting websites named ‘bellybuttonporn.com’ any more. So many of you never saw this. Now seemed as good as any time to copy the old post and images into this blog for our more modern sensibilities. I had to change the links for the comparison cars; they fell victim to linkrot after a model year had passed. At then end I’ll be back with an update.
Here’s my experience buying my Dodge Magnum SRT8
Pure, red-hot lust. In college I was looking for a car to buy after graduation. Being a wagon aficionado, my choices were rather limited. Here’s some cars I have considered along the way:
- Cadillac SRX – On the front page it makes it look more like an SUV than it is. It’s essentially a wagon with a really fat ass. Really nice, but a tad old lady for me.
- BMW 5-Series wagon – The 5-series might as well be passed out with computer or engineering degrees. Though the wagon is set off a bit from the sedans, it’s still just so…predictable.
- Mazda 6 Wagon – These things look great. The only negative is that it’s a smaller car than I like to have. It’s essentially a funny-shaped hatchback. Almost had me, though.
- Ford Freestyle – Given my search for the coolest wagon, why would I consider what many believe to be a boring crapmobile? Well, it is a large wagon, which earns points in my book. I’m sick of people calling these things crossovers. They’re clearly wagons. I even test-drove one. It was so awesome that had I had better credit, I probably would have bought one right there. Ultimately, though, I’d have found myself longing for a Magnum. Hopefully Blaine buys a Freestyle, so I can at least get some vicarious kicks.
I was introduced to the magnum in 2004. A friend told me about the concept. At the time, if memory serves, I had settled on getting the SRX, as it was the only large wagon-shaped vehicle acceptable at the time. Not any more. I had to have a magnum. I quickly drank up as much information as I could. Pictures, reviews, news sites. It didn’t matter, I read it all. I had lived in this purgatory from 2004 until March 19, 2007.
I didn’t know anything real about buying cars, especially new cars. So I started googling. I eventually found a couple of sites that offered lots of help. First is Carbuyingtips.com. He gives lots of good advice and explains several concepts and scams to avoid. He also has a spreadsheet and a plan to show you how to calculate an asking price, but don’t do that.
From Carbuyingtips.com I found a link to Fightingchance.com. The guy at Fighting Chance sells information packets. They contain information about the car you want to buy, it’s MSRP, invoice price, and the prices for all of the options and add-ons. It also tells you how much other people are paying for that car across the country. Also, it tells you other industry news that might be of use, like how well the company is doing, how fast they’re moving cars, and other facts you can use when talking to dealers. Finally, he describes a car-buying strategy called the “fax attack”. The packet costs $35 and is well worth the money. I decided the “fax attack” was how I’d buy my new Magnum.
I have bad credit. There’s no way I’m getting a fancy 0% deal. Or any deal, for that matter. My only hope: My credit union. Since my mom works for Firestone Tires, I’m in the Firestone Credit Union. As you can see by their low-rent website, they’re entirely small potatoes. [Note: They have since changed their name to Affinity Credit Union and gotten a new website] I love it. Here’s how my phone-based account access works:
- (I dial their number. A human being answers)
- Barb: Hello, Firestone Credit Union. Barb speaking, how may I help you?
- Keith: Hi, this is Keith Twombley, I —
- Barb: Oh, Hi Keith! What can I get you?
- Keith: Can you transfer $1000 from my savings to my checking
- Barb: Okay! Let me get that entered here for you. Alright, any thing else?
- Keith: Nope, thank you!
I’ve had a couple loans from them before, so I figured they were my best best for a car loan. I set a goal of saving at least 10% of the purchase price as a down payment. I started with a goal of $4000, but once I decided to add the navigation system (another $2k), I bumped it up to $4200.
Even though I opened the virtual account in Quicken on June 9, 2006, I didn’t deposit anything until August 15, 2006. You can check the Car_Savings/History page to see the progress I made on that. August 15th is also when I started making those graphs, and put them up on the site.
Here’s the ticker from the top of the site:
|I saved up for a new car, and ordered it. I’m still saving until it arrives. As of 2/28/07 I have saved: (history)|
At of the beginning of February I had saved enough.
Research Part 2
After sitting a while, I finally bought the packet from Fighting Chance and read it. I already knew the invoice prices for the car and the options, but there’s so much more in the packet that’s worth-while. Very worth the $35. I won’t go into details about the fax plan that’s in the packet, because the guy who prepared it makes his bread and butter that way, and I think he deserves every penny. I will say that he gives you instructions to prepare a fax, how to choose dealers to send it to, and how to negotiate when the dealers call back. Please, This guy saved me over $1500, for $35. Go to http://www.fightingchance.com and buy the packet for the car you want, if you’re shopping for a new car. How often do I endorse anything? Never. This is really that friggin good.
I started getting dealers from the dodge.com website and getting their fax numbers from their websites. Some times I had to call to get their fax number and a person to address the fax to. Then I wrote up a fax according to Fighting Chance’s instructions. I basically laid out that I’m buying a car, listed the exact car and options I wanted, and solicited a quote in reply. I finally sent the faxes out on Wednesday and awaited replies.
I started getting replies that afternoon! The gist from everyone was that there aren’t any of the car I want within 500 miles. Ryan Greenwood from Woodhouse even looked nation-wide. My exact car is sitting on a lot…in California. Screw that! Factory order it is. One dealer said I couldn’t even order one at all and I’d have to wait for the 2008s. Nope.
The local dealers gave me some ok price quotes. They hovered right around the invoice price. I was all set to settle for Invoice – 300, offered by Granger Motors. Then in a 1-2 punch on Thursday I got a couple of badass offers from Nebraska car dealers Tincher (the official vehicle supplier of the Todd & Tyler Show) and Woodhouse. Tincher beat Granger by about $250. Not a lot, but at least enough to give me some working room to negotiate with Granger. Then Woodhouse swept in with the killer price:
$35,999. Out the door.*
This is for the car exactly as I specified, mind you. This price was, to say the least, astounding.
How astounding? Well, the car’s MSRP (as configured) is $42,290. The car’s invoice (what the dealer pays the factory for the car) is $39,312. Dealers have a thing called ‘holdback’, which is actually a secret profit built into the invoice price. In other words, if a dealer sells a car for exactly the invoice price, they will still make a little profit. DaimlerChrysler vehicles have 3% holdback, meaning that there’s $1269 of hidden profit built into the invoice price. That brings us down to $38043. Finally, there’s a $1,500 customer rebate on the car, meaning that the factory gives the customer $1500 for the car (which is then applied towards the cost for you by the dealer). That brings the price down to the absolute bare-bones, no-profit-whatsoever, why-am-I-even-selling-this-to-you? price of $36543.
And I paid $544 less than that.
There has to be some extra double secret profit in there somewhere, and I’m glad I contacted Woodhouse. They made their sale.
*In Nebraska car dealerships don’t charge for tax, title, or license. So that would make the total price something like $38,250.
Well, I have to skip back for a minute to explain this.
I had previously talked to FCU about financing, in an attempt to get pre-approved. With my credit tenuous at best, I figured it would be wise to ensure I wasn’t wasting my time trying to buy a car if I wouldn’t get the money for it. Barb explained that they don’t do pre-approvals until I have a “purchase agreement”. Now, I don’t buy new cars all the time, but a purchase agreement and “pre-approval” don’t quite seem to jive to me. By the time I get a purchase agreement, isn’t it a bit too late to get pre-approval? Wouldn’t I be shopping for approval? Faced with this chicken and egg problem, I decided to just keep saving up and deal with it when it got here.
Ok, back to now.
On Thursday after I agreed to buy the car from Ryan, I told him I would call my CU and get back to him. Unfortunately we agreed to the deal too late in the day, and it was 5pm before I knew it. So Friday morning I called up Barb again and worked through the loan application. I faxed it along with the paperwork from the dealer over to her and then had to wait till 1:30 to call back, since she said it’d take about that long.
Mentally I prepared myself all day long for the inevitable “you’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”
I called back at 2pm and asked after my loan.
“Yes, it’s all taken care of. Just call us back when the car is getting close so we can draw up the paperwork.”
Aloud I said “Thank you very much, barb!”, but to myself I was thinking “THE FOOLS!, THEY HAVE NO IDEA OF WHAT THEY’VE JUST DONE! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”
Pulling the Trigger
I called Ryan at Woodhouse back and told him to order the car. He got some more information from me and also my credit card number for the $1000 deposit. Since he hasn’t called back, I’m going to assume the $1000 debit worked out just fine. Update: They never took the deposit out. I guess they trusted me.
The Interminable Wait
So here we are, my friends. I have 6-8 (5-7ish now) weeks to wait. I found an 800-number I can call for my status. Armed with the VON (vehicle order number) from Ryan, I have called this number daily to check. I made a box for the front page with the build status, and made a sheet for work to keep my coworkers updated. Maybe I’ll snap a pic of it tomorrow to show online.
I’ve spent the rest of the time shopping for insurance. So far Progressive has the best rate, but I’ve got 5-10 more quotes to get.
I also bought a pet hammock for the back seat. They even had free shipping for orders $50 or more, so I just had to buy one more thing to get free shipping. Cool.
I’ve been gathering the names of insurance companies and soliciting quotes. So far I’ve found a few interesting facts.
- Esurance, despite advertising the hell out of us, doesn’t do business in Iowa.
- Only a few insurance companies do online quotes.
- Some insurance companies claim to do online quotes, but instead of giving you the quote instead tell you that an agent will call you. If they’re not honest on their website, why should I trust them with my insurance?
- It’s not worth it to bother with small independent companies. At least for me. The big well-known companies, while screwing me over, at least screw me over $100-$200 less than the small companies.
My list of companies has swelled to about 20, even after I started pruning hopelessly tiny companies. I’ve got quotes from about 11 of them. So far it’s between State Farm and Farmer’s.
As of April 5th, I have finally determined that I will go with State Farm. Their quote is the lowest and after soliciting opinions from several people, nobody ever had anything bad to say about them. You can see, in my google spreadsheet (linked at the bottom), the quotes I received.
- March 27: D (dealer allocation and all parts accounted for) This means it’s OK for the dealer to order the car (they haven’t ordered too many) and the factory doesn’t have any delays on the parts (like sunroofs)
- March 28: D1 (gateline scheduled), It’s actually on the schedule to be built
- March 29: D1, Dealer gave me the VIN. Estimated Ship date of April 11, 2007.
- March 30: D1, No update for today. The customer service rep tried to give me some news for today, but I already know the VIN and estimated ship date, so there wasn’t anything new to say.
- April 2: D1, No update for today. This time she elaborated and said that “it’s on the assembly line being built right now”. That leads to the question of what the statuses signify. I assumed the status would trigger at the beginning of the operation (e.g. It would list as “E – frame” when they start building the frame), but maybe the status codes are like checkoffs to mark when these things are done?
- April 3: D1, They revised the date on my dog hammock thing for the car. Should arrive today now.
- April 4: D1, A friend of a friend works for Dodge and hooked me up with some info. His guess is that I’m not going to see my car until [[:Category:May|May]]. This page is going to get pretty dumb if I keep updating daily to say it’s still in D1, so I think from now on I’m only going to update when there’s some news. I’m still going to call daily, though.
- April 6: F (Painting), E means the frame is being made. Well apparently they got that done last night. Because now it’s on F, where they’re wrapping my frame in a sexy Steel Blue Metallic velvety glove of goodness. I bet they can get it done by the 11th now!
- April 11: KZ (Released by plant, invoiced), After sitting in F status for a while, it leapfrogged right into the shipping process. Depending on who I ask, that means it’s either waiting to ship, or has shipped. The customer service lady didn’t have a railcar number, though.
- April 12: KZL (Released, but not shipped), So I guess this means it’s on the train, but the train hasn’t left yet. I emailed my dealer and asked about delivery times. He said it could take from 2-3 weeks, depending on how many cars the factory is “sending this way”. Still no railcar number. The customer service people don’t seem to know much about that.
- April 13: KZM (First Rail Departure), Today’s CSR wasn’t as helpful. She said it had departed, and that it was in a KZ status, but didn’t know if it was still in KZL or not. I guess she didn’t know. But since she said it had departed, I’m going to guess it’s KZM. I think I’ll call back later today and try to talk to someone else. The same FOAF from earlier (the one from April 4th) has been contacted. If he has time and is willing, I hope he updates me again; his information is much more detailed than the CSRs’.
- April 16: KZM, I wasn’t sure last time because she didn’t give me much information. This time, though, the breathy southern belle told me it definitely is in KZM status. I think it’ll be here within the week. Within the week. Wow.
- April 17: KZM, I finally got the railcar number, from the dealer. So the tracking page tells me the car is in Gibson, Indiana. I should have it before the end of the month.
- April 18: KZM, An update rolled in this afternoon. At 13:20 my car was tracked in Proviso, Illinois. I don’t know why my car took a trip north after going down that far south. After doing some searching, it appears there’s a Gibson, Illinois. Furthermore, it’s just down the tracks from Proviso. I think that’s the solution; the tracking information had the wrong state. I put both routes on the google map. It shows an “arrival” date of 4/21, but I don’t know what that corresponds with. I’m guessing that’s when they’ll transfer it onto the truck. The 21st is this Saturday. I think Woodhouse is closed on Sundays. So that means I can probably get the car next Monday. If I can get there.
- April 19: KZM, I checked this morning and the railroad tracking website says the car is estimated to leave Proviso at 5:10am (pretty damn precise for an estimate). Dodge’s customer service line is broken; it plays the “Thank you for calling” and doesn’t follow up with the prompt to choose an option. I can’t barge in nor does any of the “gimme an operator” tricks I know work. I hope it comes back up later today. I’m very curious if the status is still KZM, or has switched to KZN (first rail arrival) or KZT (second rail departure).
- April 20: KZM, Union Pacific’s tracking website is pretty precise. I tracked my car all day yesterday, even going so far as to get a few pictures of the train as it sped through Ames. I’m going to add a table of the entire trip when it’s done. Since I’m updating the Google Map and making a chart for work, my time is pretty monopolized and I can’t keep everything updated. If you want to see what’s going on, check out the map linked below.
- April 23: KZN (First Rail Arrival), The car is there. Right there! It’s sitting in Council Bluffs (right on the Iowa-side of the river from Omaha), at the dealer (about 20 minutes north of Omaha), or somewhere in between. So now it’s just the waiting game. Sorta like at the beginning, but 100 times as frustrating, because I know it’s there! I’m glued to my cellphone and my email, waiting on news. If it comes today I can probably get my sister to drive me. If it comes Thursday or Friday (I think) Blaine might be able to give me a ride. In between? I have no idea. On Friday I went to Des Moines to sign the loan papers and get the big fat check. So now that’s burning a hole in my pocket. I also have the insurance all set up. Just waiting for the word.
- April 24: KZN, I called Ryan at Woodhouse to check up to see what’s going on. So here’s the story. The car was unloaded (I knew that), and waiting to be put onto a truck to go the 30 miles to the dealer. The guys that do that are unionized, and paid by the car. So there’s good news and bad news. They’ve got an incentive to hurry (paid by the car), but on the other hand, if it’s going to take forever the dealer can’t just send a guy down to grab my car. They give themselves a 2 week window to deliver all the cars, so that’s why the estimated date is May 6th. The dealer won’t know anything about the car until they actually put it on the truck, so that gives him a 45 minute lead time on when it’ll arrive. They have to do some tests and final detailing of course, which takes a few hours. Oh, and if it takes them 2 weeks to move my car 30 miles, that’s .08 mph.
- April 25: KZN, Ryan doesn’t work on Wednesdays, so I don’t really expect a call about the car today. I added and nicely formatted the railcar shipping information I gathered. I see that the railcar which formerly carried my car is now on its way to Wisconsin, empty. Godspeed, little autorack, and thank you.
- April 26: KZN, In case you missed it at the top of the page:
“I am standing here, looking at them unload a beautiful new steel blue metallic magnum SRT with your name on it.”–Ryan Greenwood, Salesperson, Woodhouse Auto Family, 4/26/07 12:05pm
|Date / Time||Action||Location|
|4/13||Shipped||Brampton, Ontario, Canada|
|4/16 7am||Arrived||Gibson, Illinois|
|4/18 1:20pm||Processed||Proviso, Illinois|
|4/19 5:10am||Departed||Proviso, Illinois|
|4/19 10:20am||Departed||Elmhurst, Illinois|
|4/19 10:58am||Departed||West Chicago, Il|
|4/19 11:35am||Departed||Elburn, Illinois|
|4/19 11:45am||Departed||Meredith, Illinois|
|4/19 11:55am||Departed||Cortland, Illinois|
|4/19 12:12pm||Departed||Malta, Illinois|
|4/19 12:44pm||Departed||Dement, Illinois|
|4/19 1:32pm||Departed||Ashton, Illinois|
|4/19 2:15pm||Departed||Nachusa, Illinois|
|4/19 2:57pm||Departed||Galt, Illinois|
|4/19 3:12pm||Departed||Lyndon, Il|
|4/19 3:41pm||Departed||Fropond, Il|
|4/19 4:10pm||Departed||Crossing The Mississippi|
|4/19 4:13pm||Arrived||Clinton, Ia|
|4/19 4:27pm||Departed||Clinton, Ia|
|4/19 4:37pm||Departed||Camanche, Ia|
|4/19 4:53pm||Departed||Brophy, Ia|
|4/19 5:06pm||Departed||Gramound, Ia|
|4/19 5:16pm||Departed||Calamus, Ia|
|4/19 5:27pm||Departed||Lowden, Ia|
|4/19 5:40pm||Departed||Stanwood, Ia|
|4/19 6:10pm||Departed||Koch, Ia|
|4/19 6:52pm||Arrived||Beverly, Ia|
|4/19 8pm||Departed||Beverly, Ia|
|4/19 8:02pm||Departed||Fairfax, Ia|
|4/19 8:24pm||Departed||Blairstow, Ia|
|4/19 8:44pm||Departed||Belle Plaine, Ia|
|4/19 9:06pm||Departed||Tama, Ia|
|4/19 9:26pm||Departed||East Marshalltown, Ia|
|4/19 9:56pm||Arrived||Marshalltown, Ia|
|4/19 10:47pm||Departed||Marshalltown, Ia|
|4/19 10:52pm||Scanned||Marshalltown, Ia|
|4/19 11:07pm||Departed||Clear Creek?, Ia|
|4/19 11:28pm||Departed||Ames, Ia|
|4/19 11:40pm||Scanned||Jordan, Ia|
|4/19 11:51pm||Departed||Jackson Street, Boone|
|4/20 12:40am||Departed||East Boone, Ia|
|4/20 3:17pm||Departed||Boone, IA|
|4/20 7:28pm||Departed||West Denison, IA|
|4/20 9:04pm||Departed||Haley, IA|
|4/20 9:18pm||Departed||Boyer, IA|
|4/20 9:35pm||Departed||Willett, IA|
|4/20 9:59pm||Arrived||Missouri Valley, IA|
|4/20 10:40pm||Departed||Missouri Valley, IA|
|4/20 10:45pm||Departed||S Mo Valley, IA|
|4/20 11:14pm||Departed||N Council Bluffs, IA|
|4/20 11:17pm||Arrived||N Council Bluffs, IA|
|4/21 3:34am||Arrived||Council Bluffs, IA|
|4/23 2:16pm||Complete Unload||Council Bluffs, IA|
Well, let’s get this out of the way up front: I was already in love a few months before I bought the car. You’re not going to read anything near a fair review of the car here.
Upon hearing the news, I jumped in a car with a friend from Strangetalk named Turbo. Ok, his name is Matt. Who knew internet people have real names? The ride home was pretty fun. Turbo had to meet someone in his home town, so I was unfortunately on my own. The car’s a lot bigger and I was unfamiliar with it, so while in Blair (where Woodhouse is) I drove pretty much like an old lady. It’s really easy to accidentally squawk the tires at lights, so after a couple embarrassing starts I started letting the car roll forward a bit before applying any gas. I like to think I’m a bit better at starting now.
I never did figure out the cruise control on that couple hour drive. It’s some kind of Nazi concentration camp torture device designed by Josef Mengele himself, I’m sure of it. That’s fine, though. A long sustained drive at a constant speed isn’t too great for a brand new engine. Like the A/C, I did figure it out later.
It took me a few minutes to figure out how to get a CD into the radio. It’s got a 6 disk changer built into the dash, so that’s neat. So far I’m not a super big fan of the Sirius satellite radio. To my ears it’s a “200 channels and nothing’s on” thing. Also, it takes a couple seconds to change the station so each time I change the station I have to wait to find out if I like the song or not, and then change the station again. Kinda frustrating. I stuck to my prepared CD for most of the ride home.
I associated my phone with the uConnect, and thanks to a couple phone calls from my roommate [[Beth]], I know it works well. I also got the radio presets programmed after some RTFM on my part. I recently read how to use the autostick (it’s an automatic that you can manually shift, sorta) so I can’t wait to try that out next time I’m out and about.
Spreadsheet & Other Stuff & Gallery
I made a spreadsheet to track the price offers I got on the car. Then I expanded it to have full final price information, the invoice/MSRP, and insurance quotes.
Google Documents and Spreadsheets has awesome privacy settings. I made this spreadsheet public so anyone can look (but only I can edit it), so if you’re curious about how much I paid, how much the car costs, or insurance, check it out.
Here’s the tracking website for union pacific:
UPRR Tracking site (requires IE, d’oh) [Edit: link is broken, goes to home page now]
I updated the map with the corrected route my car took, and a big arrow pointing out where it is.
Google Map I made a google map to trace where my car has been.
If you want to see the gallery of all the pics I’ve taken, check it out: Pictures of my car.
Stay tuned for the end of the story.