In anticipation of our future with baby #2, we decided the time had come to purchase a second car. We've know we wouldn't remain a one-car family forever, and luckily were able to plan for this purchase and save money over the years. Neither of us really enjoy the car buying experience. We did research to try and narrow down the parameters that we "needed" and "wanted". Of course many of the needs turned into wants as we started looking at prices. Here is a short description of our experience.
When we began shopping for cars, we started at CarMax, where they told us we could walk around and look at any of the cars, but none of them would fit our price range. We looked inside a few of the small cars to make sure that I could actually fit into them (6'2" is a tight squeeze in some cars). We really liked some of the cars, just not the price range. Next we headed to a Chevrolet dealership to look at a used Chevy Aveo. We got the usual dealership treatment: the long and slow process to test drive the car while the entire time they are telling you about how great this car is, and how it will be perfect for you and you must obviously be ready to sign the papers, here's a pen! We knew we weren't going to buy that car, since we had only started looking. When we told this to the salesman he said "why not make this be the first and the last?" We replied "It might be our first and last, but not without several in the middle."
Next we jumped on KSL.com classifieds for used cars. We found several that looked pretty good, but it's funny how people "forget" to post pictures of the side of the car with the huge dent. We knew if we looked long enough we'd find a good used car, but we struggled to manage our time in the evenings to make appointments and drive around looking at private party cars. We were now super frustrated with the whole thing.
At this point Melissa asked her sister about her experience with an auto brokerage in Seattle, Duffy's. She had good things to say, and Melissa's parents had also purchased several cars from him as well. Duffy's is a small company and the owner Tim was amazing to work with. He really knew his stuff and was able to help us determine if we could get all of our needs within the budget we had. He emailed us some information about several of the cars coming up at the auction, and we told him which ones we would be willing to purchase. He would then go to auction and see if the car was within our budget. The first few cars we selected went over our budget, so we had to wait until the following week for the next auction. This time we had picked out 5-6 cars, all of which we would have been happy with. Tim threw out 3 of them after inspecting and test driving them, saying "You really don't want that car--I don't want to get you that car." It was nice having an advocate more interested in meeting our needs than selling us the most expensive car he could find us.
In the end Tim found us a 2006 Ford Focus ZX4 SES. We opted for the official third party post-auction frame inspection and mechanical inspection to ensure the car didn't have any subtle problems. Then Tim picked it up from auction, cleaned it, put 2 brand new tires on it, changed the oil, topped of the air conditioning system, and turned the front brake rotors. We initially contacted him on March 30th and by April 14th we took possession of the car. We were grateful to have Tim helping us--by far the best car buying experience we've ever had.
Shameless plug (that we're not being compensated for!): If you're in the market for a car purchase, Tim is licensed to buy/sell in all states. He can shop by price point or by specific make/model/feature list. If you are interested in hiring him, visit his website for more info and his phone number: http://duffysauto.com/
We've now put 175+ miles on the car. It drives well and gets pretty great gas mileage. All of the major "used-car" things got attention from Tim, and now we're fixing up all the little things like buying sun shades, looking into window tinting, upgrading the stereo, fixing the fan speed switch, new wiper blades, etc. We're happy with the purchase and definitely enjoying the two-car family world! Here's a picture of the "new" car: