I just got back from completing my Lease-End Car Inspection. Although I disagree with a couple things the guy has in the report that I didn’t see until after he left (….such as stained carpets. Um, NO….that’s the plastic mat I purchased with my own money…the carpet is quite clean, thank you!), and it looks like he missed the scraped rim (I’m hoping any charges for that aren’t TOO great), the total “damage” was $414. I believe I have a $1,500 allowance, so its looks like I’m safe from any extra charges!!! Hoorah!!!

So, that leaves me with several options…..say goodbye to my Accord, and hello to either a Civic or a Corolla, or I can keep my Accord. I’m more in the air about this decision than ever. Well, I now have some semi-reliable numbers, and a couple of test drives under my belt, but do I know what I want to do? No, not really. Let’s start with Saturday morning’s visit to the bank…..

I went into the bank to see what kind of deals the credit union could find me. I had done some preliminary research and figured I wanted a Honda DX or a Corolla CE (I think that’s what it was). Well, the first thing was that the guy explained how their program works. I get preapproved for a loan first, they look up a few cars, I pick the car, I pay and drive away. OR I don’t.

So, the next thing he said (when I gave him the stink-eye for suggesting the $18,000 Civic) was that the DX that I had been looking at isn’t usually sold in our state (oops) and doesn’t come with AC as an option (um, excuse me?!). So needless to say, that was NO LONGER an option. The next model, the VP (I think?) did not have power doors or windows. Um, I don’t think so….that left me back at the LX, the $18,000 Civic. lol. He did the same with the Corolla, and I determined the LE was what I was looking for. They asked a good number of questions as they pre-approved me for the loan, but luckily my “A+” score left him pretty confident I’d be officially approved for their best rates. We ran through a few scenarios based on the prices he found and my options for financing for all three of the cars I was looking at. In sum, for my lease buyout, 60 mos the rate is 5.49%. For a new car, 60 mos its 4.99%. 

I left happy with my newfound information. I now knew the dealerships they work with, he gave me some tips (like make a photocopy of your drivers license so they won’t hold your real license hostage), and was more or less ready to go test drive. He left me his number and said he’d call in a week or so.

Later that morning I decided to call my Honda Dealership. I had a brief conversation with the guy (mostly encouraging me to go to the dealer that same day….I wasn’t quite ready, and I’m glad I didn’t), but he said he’d call me after my inspection. In conversation he mentioned they could probably get me a Civic for $17,000 and 3.99% apr. Meh, not impressed. (Well, the 3.99% sounded kinda good.) Either way, I’d have a better idea after inspection.

So later that afternoon I enlisted the BF’s help to go check out these cars in person. We went to Toyota first since its closer. I found a Corolla LE and drove it. It felt very different from my current car, but it wasn’t bad. While the interior wasn’t as flashy as what I remembered about the Civic, it was decent. Most importantly it had an A/C and power doors and windows. hehe.

We then headed over to Honda and found a Civic to test drive. The model was even the cute blue color I’d been eyeing! However, I didn’t make a copy of my license and it was taken from me!!! While I like the interior, it was very space-agey. The BF said with all the lines it looked like something out of a movie set, and re-reading Stephanie’s review she seemed to agree too! While I think it was cool, I could see myself getting tired of that real quickly. Then I started driving…..first thing I noticed, was the engine seemed to be struggling a bit more than my car and the Corolla. It was slightly noisier, and at 20mph it felt like it was straining. Now, I’m sure its a good motor, but still….the BF says his sister’s car feels the same way (its an older Civic). Surprisingly, and against my previous assumptions I didn’t quite like how the Civic drove.

After the test drive the guy asked us to have a seat “for a minute” in his little cubicle. He asked me what I thought, and I told him the truth. We’d just test driven a Corolla and I actually thought that ride was smoother than the Civic. He seemed surprised (or acted that way, I can’t be the first person to say that), asked a bunch of questions and asked what price I was looking to pay. I said from $14,000 to $15,000. (He tried sneaking in the whole “monthly payment” schpiel!) After asking if Corolla was offering me $15k I said we hadn’t talked prices yet. Would I take the Civic at $15k? I said I would definitely consider it. He walked off to see the manager before letting us go. I’m assuming the fact that he let us go was his manager didn’t approve the $15k. But still….maybe with a little persuasion….?

So let me recap where I stand:

My car (Accord): $14,000 after taxes. A smooth ride, but its 3 years old with almost 45,000 miles

Corolla: the cheapest of the two new cars. Slightly under $15,000 with the Amex deal (although that probably doesn’t include taxes). Relatively smooth ride, non-flashy interior

Civic: flashier, I may get a good deal on one, around $16,000 with the Amex deal. There’s also Dealership #1 (where I test-drove) and Dealership #2 (where I got my lease). Perhaps if I get those two bidding against each other I can get a good deal

Another thought I had….whatever car I buy is the car I’ll be driving when I’m 30. (Scary! lol). Do I really want to be a 30 year old driving a Civic? Won’t it look like I’m desperately clinging to my 20’s? (Maybe that’s only true if I pick that bright blue color, hehe) I know I shouldn’t really be concerned about image, but I can’t help it, lol. It seems to me that the Corolla is a more sensible car for a 30 year old to be driving. Any thoughts?

Also, everyone I spoke to (at the dealerships) encouraged me to make my decision by Wednesday. Unfortunately all of the month’s incentives end that day (a $1k rebate from Toyota, and “dealer incentives” at Honda). Should I try and go back before Wednesday, or will that just provide another way for them to pressure me into a purchase? I do NOT want any pressure. I figure there will be some other kind of incentives again in May.

I’m excited because I’m that much closer to putting this all behind me….except that I’ll have to live with my decision for a while. =[