Jul 24, 2010

Busy times

After doing some more crunching of numbers and talking and debating, MrsZ ended up getting a CR-V from the local dealer. We tried to shop around, but found that other dealers were ... uncooperative.

Our local shop offered us a price of $24,800ish on a new CR-V EX 4WD. List is about $25,800. Not a bad discount to begin with. I got in touch with three other dealers; and these were the answers given:
City 1: email quote for $23,995. When I called for more information, I got bounced around their phone system by a couple employees and never got to talk to a sales person. They lose.
City 2, dealer 1: phone quote for $23,900.
City 2, dealer 2: refused to quote over the phone.

I took the two quotes for $23,900 back to my local dealer and asked them to match it. The first thing our salesman said was, "If they can really get it to $23,900, then buy it. That's a great price. But are they including destination, or any of their fees?" He went to the manager and came back at $24,400. I thanked him and left to make some phone calls.

City 2 Dealer 1... left a message for the salesman I'd spoken to before. Asked him to call me back or fax the total fees involved in a purchase; I've seen dealers charge $200 for DMV paperwork and $400 for "new car prep".

I talked with MrsZ some more, and we decided that $400 was not worth a two-hour drive each way, especially since we have history with the local dealer. (My folks have purchased four cars from them, I've bought one - now two - and had several serviced there over the years.) The salesman knows us by name, the service department knows us by name, and that's worth a lot to me. They've got loaners for service customers who purchased there, etc. Went back to the store, MrsZ picked the one she wanted (silver exterior, gray interior) and filled out credit applications.

We went to pick it up Wednesday afternoon. About fifteen minutes before we were supposed to pick it up, the salesman from the out-of-town dealer called me and left a message. It was, in effect, "I'm not a quoting service, $23,900 is our offer, and you can either buy it or not." That absolutely reinforced my decision to stay local. I sold cars in a previous lifetime, and if a potential customer wanted to know what our fees were, I told them, up front and with no arguing. (It's been a while, but I think it was $45 to cover paperwork fees and $10 for the state inspection.)

In an earlier post, I talked about finance and new vs. used. Again, new really turned into the better deal, as far as I'm concerned. The local dealer has a few used CR-Vs on the lot. To pick a close example:
2007 CR-V EX 4x4, 37,000 miles, $20,495. Our local bank would write that loan at 6.25%, or $430/mo for 60 months. There's no remaining warranty on the vehicle, just powertrain and corrosion, and no guarantee on how it's been driven.

We got a 2010 CR-V EX 4x4, 14 miles, $24,400. Financed through Honda at 2.9%, or $475/mo for 60 months. 3/36 full coverage, 5/60 powertrain coverage. We know it hasn't been abused because no one has really driven it (off the truck, maybe one test drive, and to the gas station before delivery).

It's really a no-brainer in my book.

So MrsZ has her new vehicle, and we are pleased by that.

We are not, however, so pleased with the OLD car. We knew it needed some work but expected it to be minor stuff. Her brother had tentatively agreed to buy it from us, and we were going to drive it out to North Dakota to take it to him. I took it in Thursday for an oil change and once-over with particular attention to a couple items.

They came back with quite a list. The front brake that stuck cooked the caliper, pads, and rotor, to the tune of $600 for OEM parts and labor. There's a bad bushing on a control arm, ballpark $400 to fix. The cabin fan turned out to be a bad resistor - but they don't stock the part, so it'll be another hour of labor and the part to fix that. Power steering fluid should be changed, battery should be replaced, and I think there was something else that I'm drawing a blank on. Their grand total was in the ballpark of $1500. In other words: way too much for a ten-year-old car.

We're not willing to put that much into it, and I won't sell it to MrsZ's brother with that hanging over his head, not to mention what might happen six months down the road. He was understanding when I explained it to him. (I'd sell it to someone I don't know in as-is condition with a copy of the quote from Honda, but not to a family member whose finances and welfare I care about.)

I'm sure a non-Honda shop could do it for a good bit less (Honda quotes $90/hr for labor), and much less if using non-Honda parts. (Just checked a place online, complete brake calipers with pads were $60/side and a rotor was about $20. Bushings are cheap, resistor is about $30 ... there's probably less than $250 in parts that it needs, and someone handy with a wrench.) If anyone knows someone in the central NY area that would be interested, I'm looking for $2,000 firm. (Kelly's books it at $4,000 in "fair" condition.) Motor and transmission are solid, tires were done about 15,000 miles ago, oil has been done regularly, etc. Great winter rat or errand car, or commuter for someone wanting to save on gas and not picky about luxury.

In other news...

We've got this big long trip coming up in a few weeks, and MrsZ has been doing a lot to keep things up around the house while I work my insane hours. As a little thank-you, I picked up a Nook (wi-fi only) from Barnes & Noble along with the Alice cover and gave that to her. I know there's been some debate and commentary around the blog world about the utility of them and whether or not they'll supplant dead-tree books.

I hadn't put hands on one yet, so I went to the local B&N and played with their demo model. Short form: pretty slick. The "digital ink" or whatever they call the display is VERY nice. Response time for anything other than a page turn wasn't great, but it's not designed to be a tablet computer (even though it has a beta web browser). The partial-touch partial-color screen setup took some getting used to - I kept trying to tap in the non-touch/gray portion. (Pro tip: it don't work.) I was impressed. I waffled briefly between the 3G and the WiFi version, then decided on the WiFi-only, as hotspots are becoming more and more prevalent, and my phone can sub as a hotspot if we're not near one otherwise.

She seems pleased (after some hiccups with registration), and has been fiddling with it and looking for titles that interest her. I expect it will see plenty of use as she commutes to work (she takes the bus) and during our Great American Tour next month. I may even steal it myself now and then...

So, why not the Kindle or the eReader? The Kindle looks great, but seems to me that there are still DRM issues to contend with. The eReader at the same price point ($170 to the nook's $150), as far as I can tell, doesn't have wireless to download content easily.

Are e-books going to supplant dead tree? Yes and no.
For daily content, they make a lot of sense. No distribution network is needed, and most of us don't save a year or two of the NY Times to go back through. Even libraries transfer content to other media instead of saving years of papers.
For textbooks, they make a fair bit of sense. Most college students end up with a few books that they can't sell back due to an edition change, and those just collect dust. (Not to mention that going to a morning full of classes meant 2-4 textbooks at 3-5lb each in my backpack...)
For recreational reading ... they're going to take over a portion of the market. No way around it, and no doubt about it. Amazon says e-books are outpacing hardcovers three months running.

But ... there are always going to be a few of us diehards who want ink on paper. Wrinkled covers, dogeared pages, penciled notes in margins, and the smell of BOOK. On the higher end of books, there's something immensely satisfying about a leather-bound volume, with gilt-edged pages, a sewn-in ribbon bookmark, perhaps a few color plates, and, above all, the inscription inside the front cover from whomever gifted it to you. You can't inscribe a file.

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