In which we buy a car and #1 discovers some confusing truths about herself: Also, what happens when buying a car is a repeated game

The Thursday before last I was convinced that I wanted to buy another Hyundai Accent, SEL (that’s the second tier) trim (because I like having a USB charger in DH’s car and there’s not much difference between adding that for $70 to the base trim and just getting the next level of trim.  I like packages.)

So on Thursday we drove over to the Hyundai dealership ready to test-drive a new model Accent and also the Ioniq.  And we walked into a big empty show-room and eventually the one guy there sitting at his desk noticed us.  And wanted us to sit down and talk.  After some discussion about how no we didn’t have a lot of time and no we didn’t want to make an appointment for later, we just wanted to do a test-drive, we left saying we’d have to go to a Hyundai dealership in the city that weekend instead.  And then we stopped at the Honda dealership because it was on our way home and I wanted to try the Fit.

… I did not like the Fit.

The Honda dealership has a super bumpy road right next to it and I could feel every single bump with the Fit.  Of course, I can feel every bump with the Accent too and that doesn’t really bother me.  But the Accent is a 15 year old car that I am attached to and the Fit is some new bumpy plastic thing I had never met before.  So then I test-drove a Civic with the lowest level trim and it was much smoother though by no means smooth, but it was more of something that I could live with.  But I wasn’t in love or anything.  So we went home.

This experience immediately triggered internal angst.  Who am I if I care about a smooth ride and fancy features?  What has happened with the person who was happy so long as there were four doors and air conditioning and reasonable safety/reliability ratings (and I didn’t have to drive stick, which I hate)?  Was there any point in trying a new Accent, or would it cause me disappointment too?  Have I become a luxury-seeker?  Will I be super unhappy the next time I have a rental Toyota Corolla?  Did the Clarity spoil me or is it some internal change as we’ve become more well-off than I could ever have dreamed of as a child?

After some research that evening I decided we should try Kia next, both their Forte (equivalent to the Accent) and their Niro (a sub-compact SUV hybrid).  This salesman also wanted to talk with us, but we were more firm about just wanting to test-drive and he was more agreeable to that (and DH didn’t make the mistake of politely sitting down).  The Forte was immediately checked off our list because I don’t have enough hand strength to release the emergency break when it’s fully up.  But at the salesman’s urging I took it for a (way too long) drive anyway.  It was a bumpy ride and I had trouble with the stick gears (not a manual, but they do drive/reverse/etc. with a stick) because the labels next to the stick didn’t really match up to where the stick was– you had to know that you were in the 4th place rather than the 5th because all of the labels were condensed to where the first couple hit.  (The Niro had the same problem, but it had little lights to indicate which gear you were in, which was helpful.)   The Niro had the same acceleration problem that Wandsci noted in the Ioniq in this post, which, she notes, shouldn’t be a surprise because the Niro and the Ioniq share the same hybrid drive.  So we thanked the salesperson and left.  For those interested, I also thought the KIA’s backing up guidance was a bit confusing– it provides more information than the Civic’s with 3 boxes instead of 1, but you’d have to know which box to focus on.

In my research that night, I had also learned about the existence of the new Honda Insight, which is essentially a super nice Honda Civic Hybrid– pretty similar to the first Honda we bought back when they still had a Civic Hybrid model, but the 2019 version.  So after striking out with KIAs, we went back to Honda (because… it was on our way home) and just missed the guy from Thursday (who was showing a family a minivan), but his replacement was similarly useful and took us to test drive an Insight, after remarking that it doesn’t make sense to talk about trim until you’ve actually tried the car.  The drive was slightly smoother than the Civic and not quite as smooth as the Clarity (the Clarity is a really really nice car!  But also not cheap.)  They had a lot of the mid-trim (EX) and only one low-level trim (LX), but after a short drive in the EX we tried the LX.  The LX doesn’t have the right-side camera (neither did the KIAs we tried) and the video screen was too small (the EX model is still smaller than the big one on the Clarity, but was big enough that I didn’t feel like I was looking at a cellphone).  So… I decided I liked the mid-level trim on the Insight.  And that I liked this car enough that I could buy one.

But we wanted to do due diligence and check the Hyundai dealership again, so we decided to ask for a walk-away price and check out Hyundai the next day (“Can we leave DC2 age 7 with DC1 age 12.5 as babysitter?  The internet seems to think so…”) .  It took quite a bit of discussion for Honda to give us a price (the salesperson called in the manager to talk to us), and they kept trying to find us in their system but could only find our purchase of a 2007 Civic Hybrid.  Eventually they realized they needed to look under DH’s name, not mine.  And then… they were a little bit less than enthusiastic but came up with a number.  Before showing us the number, the manager spent some time asking roundaboutly how, as repeat customers, they could get us to shop around less.  And I point blank asked … you want to know what you can do to have us give you two thousand more dollars?  And he said something about needing to make a profit, and I asked if we’d really gotten that close with the Clarity because I hadn’t thought we had.  But then he showed us the number… walkaway price of $24,772,89, which is actually a pretty good price for an EX trim already ($22,955 before taxes and fees required by our state are factored in).  I think shopping around we could get maybe $500 shaved off of that, and I told DH that if he wanted to do the shopping this time that he could have the difference added to his allowance, but he didn’t think it was worth it.  Moral:  If you bargain hard with a dealership, they keep notes and offer you a lower number the next time around so as not to waste time.  I’m hoping that us accepting their offer instead of trying to squeeze out that last few hundred dollars doesn’t backfire on us, but I’m also hoping we won’t need new cars for another decade or two.

That evening we did a bunch more research and the next morning we were feeling less like leaving DC2 home alone with DC1 in order to test drive the Accent which was likely to be a disappointment as reviews compared its shocks with the Fit and the Forte which I didn’t like, and we found out about how the Ioniq had a similar acceleration experience to the Niro.  Also the Insight gets better mileage in practice than they list (except in high altitudes) and the Niro gets worse.  So… there just wasn’t much point.  We called the dealership to let them know, but since I didn’t actually want to get the car until Tuesday when my Accent would be taken to the shop to get the gas tank fixed (juggling 3 cars with a 1 car driveway in a HOA that doesn’t allow sidewalk parking at night is a huge PITA), we had to wait to buy it until then.

We might have ended up with another Accent if the guy had just let us test-drive one that Thursday.  I don’t know.  But after trying the Civic and the Insight, it just wasn’t going to happen anymore.  I was willing to pay $5K more for a much nicer car from a much better dealership.  I am having a hard time reconciling this with my view of myself.  I mean, it’s not quite mid-life crisis levels of sports car, but it is a big shift from how things have always been for me.  I … think I may like having nice things sometimes.  For myself, even, not just for DH.  And not just because they’re going to be better for my health or last longer… I suspect a new Accent would last another 15 years for me.  The Insight hasn’t been around long enough to know about its reliability ratings, so it might not last as long.  I’m not sure how to feel about this new discovery about my taste for a bit of luxury over strict needs.

My new (white) Insight

The front seat interior as viewed from the passenger seat.

This car has knobs!

So far I’ve been driving it a few days to work and back and I haven’t gone down a single bar in fuel– there’s well over 400 miles left to go before I will need to fill the tank up again. Everything about it has just been lovely.  It has just been a great drive.  It is a little loud compared to the Clarity on acceleration, but very quiet compared to the Accent.   It’s only a little longer than the new model Accent I sometimes park next to and handles well in the way I like smaller cars to handle.  It’s not quite as brazen with the safety warnings as the Clarity is– preference for that could go either way, I think.  If you’re looking for a hybrid in the Prius range, I would strongly recommend giving this one a test drive.  If you live in a state with a cleaner energy mix and you’d like (and can afford) a bigger car, the Clarity Plug-in is delightful and a more pleasant drive we think than the Ioniq or Niro–I’ve even gotten used to the faux wood paneling inside.  Now, I can’t compare these cars to BMWs and Teslas and Mercedes and so on, but for the mid-level hybrid and hybrid+ market, we really do like these the best of the competition.  As a disclaimer, I just don’t like the new model Prius as a passenger and my tall DH was physically uncomfortable in the Prius Prime, but Toyota does have some options that a lot of people think are comparable to or better than either the Insight (Prius) or the Clarity (Prius Prime).

I do like this feeling of rightness I have about the purchase.  Before test-driving it there wasn’t an obvious choice, but after test-driving, nothing else compared in the non-luxury small car market.  I think I would have come to appreciate a new Accent as I got used to it, but the Insight makes me happy just driving it.

What do you look for in a car?  Have you had repeat experiences with same dealership?  Have your tastes for nice things changed over time? 

33 Responses to “In which we buy a car and #1 discovers some confusing truths about herself: Also, what happens when buying a car is a repeated game”

  1. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    Interestingly you didn’t say anything abt the Bluetooth & how convenient & reliable connecting your phone to the car is. You also didn’t say anything abt how readily you can adjust the seat, steering wheel, pedals to get a super comfortable position. Are these not important to you? Anyways, enjoy your new ride! The white paint job is slick!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Bluetooth is unimportant to me, I keep it off. I use the USB ports. The seat is comfortable without major adjustment. I have no idea if the wheel or pedals are adjustable. I would actually prefer things not be super adjustable because that would mean someone could screw them up.

  2. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Today’s phone call:

  3. Steph Says:

    If I move next year I will likely have to get a car, so this series has been helpful for thinking ahead a little bit even though I’ll likely buy used.

    I think we share a lot of preferences in terms of car size. I don’t mind if my car is loud when it accelerates – but I need it to accelerate. I hate having to absolutely gun the engine just to merge onto the highway safely. I am pretty sensitive to the location of the headrest and the height of the armrest/center console – I like to lean my right arm on something and I’m always thrown off when I drive a car without something to lean on (the Civic Hybrid I drove in college had a driver’s seat armrest and I’ve never gotten out of the habit). If I were driving all the time I would probably care more about charging and connectivity for my Android – with rentals I just bring a battery pack and aux cable.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be picky and spend a little more on a car you’re really comfortable in, especially if you plan to own it for 15+ years. If you’re constantly annoyed by something about your car it could just add that extra level of frustration to your day, where if you’re happy driving it it could be a boost for your day.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think I get used to annoying things so long as they don’t cause actual pain. I mean, there are a lot of things I was fine with in the old Accent that I’m not sure I should have been fine with. (I noticed this when warning the guy who bought our Accent to brake early and to turn off the a/c if he wants to accelerate quickly and…)

      My DH also needs something to rest his arm on, and I’m always moving his arm rest because it bothers me(!) I think most of the Hondas have an adjustable one.

      The used insights on the market are mostly older models from 2014 or earlier that are completely different, but depending on when you buy there might be some 2019 models available used :) .

      • Michael N Nitabach Says:

        “brake early” 😹😹😹

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        “and if it gets icy out, JUST LEAVE IT AT HOME” His other car is a big gas guzzling truck (with well over 100K miles on it). Hopefully with the two cars together he’ll have all his driving needs figured out.

  4. monsterzero Says:

    So many car salespeople are so terrible and I don’t understand how they ever sell anything. I guess their tactics must work at least some of the time but I don’t get why.

    Prospective Customer: I see you have %car%, I would like to test drive %car% please.
    Terrible Salesperson: No.
    PC: kthxbye

    I look for reliability, comfort, mileage, and as narrow a car as possible, in part because I have to drive on narrow curvy roads, but mainly because I have an irrational fear of sideswiping vehicles under perfectly normal driving conditions.

  5. xykademiqz Says:

    FWIW, DH bought a Toyota Camry hybrid and has been very happy with it. It looks nice inside, drives very smoothly, and switches between electric and gas seamlessly. But we’re Toyota diehards, so perhaps biased. (I’ve had a RAV4 for 12 yrs, it’s still agile as a bunny, really fun to drive. Love my RAV!)

    Your new car looks cool — happy driving!

  6. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I’ve personally never purchased from the same dealership but then, I’ve only bought two new cars in my time. Since then, we’ve only bought used from private parties. It’s not always the best route for time constraints but it’s what we can afford in order to get the things we want. It’s also why we always get pretty old car so all the new cars are a bit of a mystery for me. It’s possible that our next car will need to be new since we’re hoping to go hybrid or maybe electric, so I appreciate the thoughts here.

    If you’re not NEEDING to live close to the bone, I think it’s natural to sometimes make decisions based on liking something a little nicer. Just because you got used to not needing the nice things doesn’t mean you can’t get used to liking the nicer things if you can afford them! I’ve noticed this in myself as well and I’m never really quite sure if I’m holding back on principle or if it really would cause all the cards to fall down around me if I let go and let myself have a few more nice things. I’m pretty convinced of the latter since there are days that I’m a little bit desperate to not HAVE to work sooner than later.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      This is our fourth (new) car purchase(!) I keep being reminded about how much life we’ve already lived. Mid-life crisis ahoy!

      I am definitely worried about the future… state politics could make us have to move one of these years (in order to protect our children) and I’m not sure what would happen to our incomes in a blue state, though I know our expenses would go up.

      • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

        Shouldn’t the income go up in line with the increase in COL if you moved to a blue state? Do you have a favored blue state if that move were to be necessary?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        If there were jobs for both me and my husband, it would. But all the high paying jobs for me are on one coast and all the high paying jobs for DH are on the other coast. That is a problem with being in specialized fields. (Plus we’re getting older and more likely to only be able to get high-paying jobs via networking.)

  7. Abigail @ipickuppennies.net Says:

    I’ve never gone back to the same dealership, so I’ve never gotten that benefit. And the next car I get (please be far in the future, please be far in the future) will likely come directly from the Honda dealership, which I haven’t used before. So I guess I won’t get the benefit then, either.

    Glad you got the car you wanted. Sure it’s a little confusing when you realize that you’re okay with spending a little on a bit of luxury. But a car is a huge purchase, one that you’ll hopefully have to live with for a decade or so. More according to your estimate. So it’s best not to regret anything… As long as we’re not talking about getting a Tesla on a whim or anything.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      This car purchase was definitely not a whim… in fact if I were a reader of this blog I’d be feeling like, “finally… she can stop talking about not yet getting a new car”. I feel like most blogs that talk about new car purchases don’t extend that discussion out over a 2 year (or more) period. Sometimes I wonder about myself. It might be healthier to be a little more spontaneous about purchases. (But when I am spontaneous, I end up with ridiculous magenta polyester pants, so I’m not sure what that says about me.)

  8. Debbie M Says:

    What I look for in a car is supreme reliability, minimal pollution (correlated with good gas mileage), and affordability. Plus I want my boyfriend to like it, so it also has to have good A/C.

    I think I’ve only been to two dealerships. At the first one I asked if they had any cars at all for my budget (assuming they wouldn’t but giving them a chance). They did not. So they asked how much I could afford per month. I told them I could afford a down payment of my budget and a monthly payment of zero.

    Last time I ended up at CarMax. If I have the same troubles finding a car from a private party again, I would try them again. They don’t bargain at CarMax, so I suspect nothing would change with repeated visits.

    My first car was a two-year-old 1983 Ford Escort. My second car was a ten-year-old Nissan Sentra wagon (back when Sentras were super reliable). That second car was cheaper to buy and cheaper to own, had fewer repairs, and lasted longer than the first car. So now I look only for ten-year-old super-reliable cars. (When possible–last time I settled for a 3-year-old high-mileage car.) Also, I used to be afraid of manual transmissions, but now I prefer them.

  9. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    So many options for actions. Here’s what I’m going with today. https://twitter.com/Celeste_pewter/status/1135672702126026752

  10. CG Says:

    Congrats on the new car…and on making the decision. We have a satisficer (me) and an optimizer (DH) in our house, so that can sometimes make decisions interesting. We actually bought our last car off the lot, which was very out of character for him and something I’d always wanted to do. (“Yes, I’ll take…that one. Right now.”) As for the luxury issue, it’s funny what you can get used to and then require. Our last car (bought used) had a heated steering wheel, and in our cold climate and with my long commute I really really appreciated it. Once we had a third kid, we had to buy a different car so that we could still do carpooling, and did not spring for the heated steering wheel. Boy do I miss it! Like, every day I drive it November through March, pretty much. So whenever we buy another car I might decide I’m willing to pay extra for that feature.

  11. Cloud Says:

    Nice! I think you’ll like your Insight for a long time. Honda makes good cars.

    If you’re ever back out in my neck of the woods I’ll take you for a spin in the Tesla so you can compare. I’d say the biggest differences between the Tesla and the other cars we test drove is that the acceleration in the Tesla is knock your socks off fast. I don’t think I have ever pushed the pedal down more than halfway, and even at halfway one kid is screaming “wheee!” and the other is screaming “MOMMY! SLOW DOWN!” (even though I’m only accelerating up to freeway speed – I’m just doing it in a couple of seconds).

    I also really notice the improved handling from the all-wheel drive when I’m on curves, but I think that would be true in any AWD car.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Are you going to do a full Tesla review on your blog? (No pressure but I’m curious for the full rundown!)

      I’m still getting used to not having to turn the a/c off if I need to accelerate fast…

      I think ASSA is in San Diego this year but I only submitted to one panel so I’m not likely to get in. (Thank goodness we’re not hiring this year…)

  12. Norwegian Forest Cat Says:

    Ugh, car dealerships! I knew exactly what I was looking for when I bought ours last year, and it was super hard to find the trim level I wanted. They also tried to give me the ‘let’s chat’ first and then told me someone else wanted to test drive the car I wanted to look at. I said I wanted to test drive it immediately and was prepared to drive it home today, but that I would walk out if I couldn’t do it right then. They made it work, but I am sure that they were going to try to upsell me right into an SUV if I had spent some time with them.

    It is so hard to know when you’re falling prey to lifestyle creep, and when it’s the right thing to do. I was driving a 15+ y/o car that was about to fail its state inspections without some very expensive repairs. I was totally committed to a Corolla because of price and all of the standard safety features, but the Corolla hatchback (a really-want-to-have) is incredibly ugly, didn’t handle well, and isn’t really a Corolla anyway…I think it’s a Scion model somehow? I ended up with a mid-level Civic that was a smidge more expensive, and I am thrilled with the purchase.

    If my company had extended their ‘bonus’ on electric and plug-in hybrids to my part of the company, I absolutely would have gone that route. I’m glad you found something that suits you – it looks sharp!

  13. RBOC | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] like having nice things.  I’m still not used to having nice things.  But I drove my car to the city (not just the airport in the city, but a conference in the city) and it was SO NICE […]

  14. We bought all the things: Will I run out of ways to be obnoxious? | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] over the past year or two we’ve bought two cars, renovated the kitchen, shared the expense for a new fence with our neighbor, and bought a new […]


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