Friday, October 29, 2010

The car shopping Auto Maxima! (part 2)

[Continued from car shopping and Auto Maxima (part 1).]

So it turned out, J didn't actually expect to pay $9,000 (plus the trade in). He thought they would make a counteroffer. They just didn't know how to do business quite right. They could have at least countered $100, if they weren't going to lower it at all, because that keeps things moving. J loves haggling. He thinks it is great fun. I do not.

On Tuesday, J wanted me to scan a bunch of documents, because we are refinancing our Yaris, since rates have gone down. I really hoped he had gone back and I was scanning documents for the Baja, but I had been pretty frustrated with him, because he was immediately ready to go back to looking at that one Tacoma (which was probably smoky) and the Isuzu. So I figured we were done with the Baja.

EXCEPT! J really did know that the Subaru was a great deal, and he wanted to make me happy, and he knew that it would meet our needs really well, so he actually DID go back. He was going to keep it all a surprise, and one of these days I would go outside after he left for work and he would have taken the Yaris to work, and instead of the Elantra being there, my new, perfect Subaru would be waiting for me.* Even though I had been a pain Monday evening after we test-drove the Subaru.

The thing was, it was going to take a few days for it all to wrap up, and he felt like it would be deceptive to keep it a secret for so long.*

"The loan docs are for the Baja," he told me.



"Really?" I was so excited.*

He told me he had gone back and talked to Gustavo, and he had offered $11,000 without the trade in. Basically, Gustavo had asked if we would maybe want any detail work done on the Baja, in the future. He offered to include that. Instead, J negotiated to have him fix the dents on the Elantra, and detail the Elantra, since we're about to sell it. And then it would be worth more money to us. So the negotiated price was $11,700--for the Baja and a bunch of work on the Elantra.

"WAY TO GO!" I told J.* What a great solution! They get the money they want to pay their taxes with, or do whatever they want, and we get a bunch of stuff that has value to us.

"I told him the Elantra has to be done before we close, because that's our leverage. If we close and it's not done, they may not do it."


"But he wants to close by Friday, because, you know, the end of the month. So I'm kind of putting him under some pressure, but he thinks he will be able to do it. I'm going to give him a deposit of $500 so he doesn't worry about doing the work on the Elantra and then us not buying the Baja, or something."*

J pulled up the reviews on Google for Auto Maxima. "They have great reviews! There are 29 and they're all 5 stars, except one. But I don't know, because someone came later and even defended them after the one negative comment. I bet they're good for the work, even after we close. We can probably trust them."

J had scheduled to have Gustavo take the Baja to our mechanic** the next morning. I helped him scan loan docs, and as long as there were no major surprises at the mechanic, things would all be in place and they would sign a contract! Tuesday evening, J and I were both very excited. Also, we looked forward to being done with our car shopping project. And J looked forward to being done driving the Elantra.

The next morning, I started looking at the Auto Maxima reviews online and I became a little concerned. As I read through the reviews, I noticed that most of the reviews read similarly. Little grammar mistakes appeared frequently, and they seemed to be written by someone who spoke English as a second language. (Although Milla and Gustavo speak English very well, I am pretty sure both of them speak English as a second language.) There were other similarities, too:
- In many of the reviews, the reviewer does not capitalize the first letters of sentences.
- The reviews focus on the same things, like price, and like buffing headlights, and how dirty (or filthy, or stinky) their car was.
- Verb tenses are not correct in many of the reviews, like, they use present-tense where they should use past tense.
- Several of the reviews mention Milla and Gustavo by name. All in a row.
- Many of the reviewers use "dol" as an abbreviation for dollars.

I looked for other used car places in the area, and most of the other places had 1-2 reviews. Some had 7. Low Book Sales (which does a TON of advertising) has 79 reviews., exactly, did a tiny dealer nobody's heard of get 29 reviews? Most other places had 3 stars. Some other places had 2 1/2 stars. There were a couple 3 1/2 - 4 star places. So...earning 5 stars from 28 people would seem to be pretty challenging, wouldn't it?

I began clicking on the names of the users who had submitted reviews. Most had only reviewed Auto Maxima.


Uh oh.

The one bad review was beginning to seem much more relevant.

I noticed that Auto Maxima is a sponsored page on Google. So they must think online presence is important. Also, their website is intense. There are 19 different sections on their website. They specialize in detailing cars, actually. On their website they have before/after pictures, they have a forum (with four sections: auto detailing questions, car buying tips, car selling tips, and auto body work. In all, there are 27 total posts.), a blog, reviews, their location, a link to their Google profile, a link to Facebook, etc.

Okay, they are on Twitter and Facebook. On Facebook they have 17 friends. Two of the friends are Milla (she has 2 profiles for some reason), and one of the friends is Milla's daughter. So. It's just a little weird that they go so overboard for a tiny place that sells 4 cars. But, obviously they think online presence is important. And of course if you think online presence is important, you're going to want to have good reviews. It is important to have good reviews.

I remembered that Gustavo had said the windshield was replaced. Hm. Okay. It could have been hit by a rock, or something, and that's what we had just assumed. But they are an auto body place. I began to develop the idea that maybe Gustavo and Milla were fixing cars up and then selling them as though they had never been fixed.

Could this be possible?

I hoped not. I loved the Baja. I was so excited that the Baja was going to be mine.

But it's true that you get what you pay for. Was the low price an indication that they weren't being straight with us?

I decided not to tell J that I thought the reviews were made up. The car could be fine, anyway, and I didn't want us to not buy a perfect car just because the reviews were fake. After the inspection by our mechanic, we would know more.

[To Be Continued]

*What a guy!
** Have I mentioned our mechanic before? We take our cars to Action Auto Repair on 3900 S. We started going there because Jiffy Lube told me I had like, 20 rock chips to repair. I took the Elantra to Action Auto Repair because they had a sign up with their rock chip price on it, and it was like $10 instead of the $25/chip that Jiffy Lube wanted. The guy climbed up on the front of my car to look very closely, and feel the windshield. "Welllll," he said. "You do have a lot of rock chips..." he kept looking, "but they've all been filled." So he didn't charge me anything for his time, and I left with a great feeling of not-having-been-ripped-off. We've been back a few times, and they're not the cheapest place out there, but their rates are very reasonable, and they're very good, and they're honest. We like them.


Lou Barba said...

Hi Emily,

I think you should abort this the trench in your living room. I never did hear the rest of that story. Seriously, after reading those reviews, every time you hear that car creak or vibrate, you'll be chewing your fingernails up to your elbows.

Stephanie said...

EM!!! I have a marvolous idea for you...

My bff Angels bf, Ben did the following:

He did his homework. figured out exactly how much he was willing to pay for the exact car he was looking for, found the cars at delerships using the internet and emailed them requesting that they blind bid for his business. Anytime one would respond, he would reply with a form email telling them that their bid took them out of the running but that if they put in a new bid today he would consider it. back and forth... If the deliership dropped out, it ment that the price they gave was the lowest they could go... finally when he got the price he wanted he went in and signed. His logic is thus: If he walked in, they would screw him and not feel bad. But by turning the bidding war on them... its like why ebay is so successful... people just want to WIN the bid. He ended up getting the exact car he wanted for almost 15,000 under the list price.

Javier said...

Hi Emily!

I think that Maxima looks cool.
How's the negotiation with the car dealers? Orange County is where I'm planning to buy a new car for the Holidays. I'm thinking of buying a Chevy. I saw this used 2009 Chevy Impala being sold for only $13,991. It's still in good condition, and my girlfriend is loving it. Used car dealerships in Orange County (CA) is pretty alluring, especially now that the season is up for some spending for big and small presents. They got good high maintenance services there too. Anyway, I hope you found the perfect car for you by now.

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