Tag Archives: car

Buying a Used Rental Car

hertz
Buying a car is a stressful event. Buying a used car is even more stressful. You don’t want to buy a lemon and you don’t want to overpay. I purchased my previous car years ago through Enterprise Car Sales and had a good experience with it. You can read about my experience here. In a prior post, I mentioned that I was looking at purchasing a bigger vehicle and eventually bought a minivan. After doing some research, it seemed like the Honda Odyssey was a good choice. One big reason was the fuel economy for such a big car. Unfortunately, Enterprise Car Sales did not carry that car so I considered going to a regular used car lot.

I did not have a good experience with the used car lot. I found a car with a very good price…maybe too good to be true. I had a mechanic check it out and he basically told me to RUN FAR FAR AWAY. He said that even if the price was dropped $2000, he wouldn’t recommend buying it. I didn’t want to deal with shady used car dealers so I considered other types of minivans and looked back at Enterprise Car Sales, but their prices didn’t seem as good as when I purchased from them years ago. I also looked into Hertz Car Sales, which like Enterprise sells their rental car inventory, CarMax, a no-haggle used car retailer as well as a new tech start-up called Carvana, which sells used cars online (they deliver the car to you).

After looking at those option, I found that Hertz had the best prices for the vehicle I was interested in. Hertz advertises that their prices are $1000 or more below the Kelley Blue Book (KBB) value. It is a no haggle price so the price is the price, however, I found the price to be very fair based on my research and over $1500 below KBB value. Also, if you are a Hertz Gold Member, you get an extra $300 off. If you’re not a member, you can just sign up online. They didn’t seem that strict about it. I just showed them my member ID card which I printed from my e-mail.

Hertz offers two options when purchasing their cars. One is Rent2buy and the other is Herz Certified. For the Rent-to-buy program, the cars are still in their rental inventory so you have to reserve the vehicle. You have three days to test drive the car and decide whether to buy it or not. If you end up buying it, you will not be charged for the rental. I went with the Certified program. According to their website, certified cars are “carefully selected from their rental fleet” and then undergo “extensive” inspections because it is put out for sale.

My car buying process went smoothly and without a salesperson trying to pressure me to buy or upsell me. There also wasn’t any hidden fees like “destination fee” or “documentation fee.” The person I worked with showed me the car and took me on a test drive. There was no pressure and the transaction was stress-free. I recommended Hertz Car Sales to a friend of mine and he also bought a car, but he went through the Rent2buy program. The cars in that program might have less mileage as they haven’t been retired from the rental fleet yet. My friend told me that during the three-day test drive, the car ran smoothly and when he took it to his mechanic, he was told the car was “like new.” Hertz also provides a 12,000 mile or 12 month power train warranty. You also get 12-months roadside assistance.

When I’ve mentioned that I purchased my car from Hertz, some have asked me whether I’m worried that it’s was previously a rental car and might have been abused. I guess this is a possibility, but I think the majority of people renting from Hertz are probably people on business. And for others renting the cars for leisure, do you really abuse it or do you just drive like you normally do? Another thing is that I bought a Minivan! Most likely the person renting it is a parent and I doubt they’re flooring it or doing donuts in the parking lot. Also, I think rental car companies have an incentive to keep their cars in good condition so maintenance is not really an issue.

One other criticism was that I didn’t get a good deal because I could not negotiate the price. However, I can’t say that was the case. As I mentioned in my previous experience with Enterprise Car Sales, I did my research and in that instance also went and negotiated at other dealerships. In the end, no-haggle is not a big deal because the price is fair. It’s possible that if you’re an expert negotiator and the dealership you go at a time is desperate to move its inventory you might get a better deal, but I’m happy with my deal. The only downsides for some maybe is that they may not carry the make and model of the vehicle you want, and their cars also probably won’t have higher end features. But I don’t need heated leather seats or an entertainment package so that’s okay.

Would you purchase a vehicle from a rental company or do you prefer to negotiate at the car dealerships?

It’s Okay to Drive a Minivan!

2011 Toyota Sienna XLE -- 05-18-2011

Recently, two of my co-workers were discussing their growing families and the need to buy a bigger vehicle. They discussed various SUVs with third-row seating to accommodate their needs. When the idea of a minivan entered the conversation, both immediately responded unequivocally, “I could NEVER drive a minivan.”

I have a friend who just had his third child and when I joked that it was TIME for a minivan, he said that his wife is completely against it as she does not want to be seen in a “soccer mom car.” But she IS a soccer mom? Another friend who also just had his third child, said that he has “held out” long enough and that he is finally “biting the bullet” and buying a minivan. It’s as if he were trying to avoid the bubonic plague!

All over the internet, in forums and articles about the best vehicles for families, I read the same vitriol towards the minivan. In the comments section of an article about minivans, one person asked, “is there anything sadder than seeing a dad shamefully climbing out of a minivan in front of his friends and colleagues…instantly beleaguered, defeated and utterly emasculated?” Wow! That’s harsh! Another commenter demanded that one’s “man card” be revoked for driving such an uncool vehicle. A mommy blogger compared it to wearing mom jeans and argued that she wanted to retain a semblance of her pre-mom coolness and did not want to be “defined” by her minivan. Some anti-minivaners would rather buy a behemoth like the Chevy Surburban than be relegated to soccer mom/dad status by driving a minivan.

After our recent addition to the family, we decided it was probably time to replace our old car. My wife was a trooper squeezing in-between two car seats in our Hyundai Sonata when there was another adult, but that wasn’t an optimal solution. A big vehicle really isn’t a necessity for a family of four, but my in-laws do not drive and my parents prefer not to have to drive as they are getting older. In any case, it just made sense to buy a vehicle where I could transport more people. So which is better? A large SUV or a minivan? I didn’t put too much stock in people’s opinion of the coolness factor as image is not my priority.

Doing the research on SUVs and minivans on various sites that talk about cars, I found a common theme. The writers would say that the minivan is the best people-mover, that it is the most functional, practical, and utilitarian choice, but lament the fact that it is ugly and uncool. Sure, I can see the possible coolness factor in a sports car or even sedans and cross-over vehicles, but was a huge SUV really sporty or cool compared to a minivan? I don’t know, and I’m probably not the best person to ask since I mainly see a vehicle as a tool to get from one location to another. Sure, I’d like a “sporty” looking car (whatever that means) with some of the newer safety as well as entertainment features, but ultimately I just want something reliable that does its job.

So after doing some research, deciding that the minivan was more practical, I bought a minivan. Here are a few reasons why I think a minivan is better than a large SUV based on what I read and on my experience so far:

Power sliding doors
– I love them. They’re awesome! I can open the door with a push of a button which is very helpful when I’m carrying a car seat or a bunch of bags. Sliding doors are also great because there’s no risk of the door banging into another car’s door in the parking lot.

Versatility – What good is a third-row if you can’t access it? My friends with SUVs that have a third-row tell me that you can’t get to the third-row if they have car seats installed. You’d have to uninstall the car seat, push the seat up, have the person climb into the third-row, then reinstall the car seat. Then you’d have to repeat this when it’s time to get out. That kind of defeats the purpose of having the third-row to begin with. Minivans also have more interior cargo space than large SUVs. Many of the seats in the minivans can be moved, folded down, or even removed to configure the space how you like it. This Motor Trend article is a bit dated but it does a great job comparing minivans with large SUVs.

Costs – If you compare the costs of a large SUV to the costs of a minivan, you’ll notice that minivans are more affordable. A large SUV like the Chevy Suburban can cost over $50,000 and the Ford Expedition starts at $41,700, while the Honda Odyssey starts at around $30,000. Your auto insurance premiums will also be cheaper. You’re a boring soccer mom or dad right? The insurance companies figure you’re probably not weaving in and out of traffic and making risky maneuvers on the road so you get a lower insurance premium! Fuel economy for minivans are generally superior to large SUVs so you’ll save money on gas too. The Chevy Suburban gets 16 city/23 highway while the Honda Odyssey gets 19 city/27 highway.

And finally, “it’s fun!” Well this is what my 3 1/2 year old son told me when he first climbed inside our new to us minivan. He also called it a “city bus.” Yea, it’s pretty big I guess.

Minivans have lost their popularity as most families flock to the big SUVs. Many car companies have tried to rebrand it, with Toyota calling its minivan a “swagger wagon.” Kia doesn’t even want to call its minivan a minivan, they call it an “MPV” (Multipurpose vehicle). It seems that when choosing a vehicle, most will choose style over substance. I don’t want to judge those who choose large SUVs over a minivan. It’s your choice, your money, and you can do whatever you want. But it just seems ridiculous that so many people will overlook a perfectly good vehicle choice because it might cramp their style.

Okay, can I have my man card back now? Oh wait, I never lost it. I’m not defined by what car I drive and I proudly drive a “dad mobile.”

Why do people despise minivans? Are they really that ugly looking?

When is it Time to Replace Your Car?

Just got a car wash not too long ago...looking good!

Just got a car wash not too long ago…looking good!


Being that I often read blogs about living a frugal life and encouraging the same on my blog, I often read that you should “drive your car into the ground.” I’m picturing driving a car until the paint has almost entirely chipped off, signs of rust, scratches and dents everywhere, and you still only have a tape deck as the entertainment system. On the other hand, some of my friends are more like the average American consumer and start itching to buy a new car every three to five years. One friend is very honest and admits that he just likes driving a new car every three years. Other friends I know try to convince themselves that they NEED one. They want one that is more reliable, has the latest safety features, and has better gas mileage. They say that they need a bigger vehicle as their family grows. And one person said that she wanted to trade-in her current car before it went over 100,000 miles and dropped in value even though replacing it would result in car payments when she had already paid off her old car. Some reasons have validity, while other ones…not so much.

I drove my last car, a Nissan Altima which was bought used, for about 10 years and yes it only had a tape deck but no worries, I had a cassette tape to CD/MP3 converter. My friends would tease me about still driving the same car that I had in college, even though I had already been working for a couple of years. Heck, some friends still ask me if I’m driving that car! A year after I started a new job that required a long commute, there came more repairs, and the car once left me stranded on the highway when it broke down. This happened about a week before my wedding and I think that was when I seriously considered buying a new car, although I didn’t buy one for another two years. I wasn’t great at keeping up with maintenance of car so that was probably a bigger reason why it broke down. I really need to learn more about cars and make sure that I maintain them better.

In any case, fast-forward to present day. I’ve only been driving my current car (a Hyundai Sonata I bought used) for six years, however, because of that long commute, I already have 183,000 miles on it. Last year, I had a few non-routine maintenance issues that I had to deal with. I had to replace a cam shaft and crank shaft as well as some minor repairs. When I went to get the oil change a few months ago, the mechanic spotted a leak. Apparently there is an issue with the heater core which will cost about $800 to fix. He did replaced some hoses (which cost about $250) as a temporary fix and said that I need to fix the heater core issue before the summer. He also said to me, “why don’t you just buy a new car instead getting it fixed?”

That was all it took and I started researching different cars and reading car reviews. The mechanic didn’t exactly say he thought there were any other underlying issues with the car when I asked if he thought there would be a lot of other upcoming repairs needed. It doesn’t really make much sense to replace my car just to avoid the $800 repair and while it felt like there were a lot repairs, a quick scan of my receipts shows that I spent less than $800 on non-routine maintenance costs.

Normally, my frugal self wouldn’t be swayed much by someone telling me to buy a new car, but there are some other reasons. Our family is growing and we’ll need to have two car seats in the near future. I’ve been asking a few other people with families and most say that you’ll have a hard time fitting a third person in the backseat with two car seats back there. Although they do say that you might be able to fit a small adult there for short trips. Generally, it would be my wife and kids, but I’d like to fit another passenger in my car once in a while. Unless I bought a car with a third-row, any car I buy probably won’t help me with adding space. And most cars that size aren’t the best on fuel economy and with a long commute, I’d like to have a car which is as fuel efficient as possible. So I’ve been trying to balance the pros and cons of getting a new to me car.

Should I replace my car? If you have a family, do you know of any decently fuel efficient vehicles that can fit two car seats and an adult in the backseat? How do you determine when it’s time to replace your car?

Should I Renew My AAA Membership?

501px-American_Automobile_Association_logo_svg
A few days ago, I received a letter in the mail from AAA asking me if I want to renew my membership. I only spend $40 a year on it, but I’m not sure if its really worth it to keep it. In the 7 years that I’ve been a member, I’ve only had to call them twice. Here’s a recap of those instances:

It was a week before my wedding, and I was driving home from work, intending to stop by a vendor to make a payment. I had just merged on to the highway when my engine just shut down. I was stranded on the side of the highway. I called AAA and they had a local mechanic shop send a tow truck to tow my car at no cost. However, the cost to later fix my car was absolutely not free or cheap, but that’s another story. The second time that I had to call AAA was when I was leaving work and noticed that I had a flat tire. I considered changing the flat myself, but I am not handy at all was in my suit and tie and didn’t want to mess it up. Anyways, a tow truck came and he told me there was no need to put on the spare. He inflated the tire and patched the leak and I was on my way. All in about 15 minutes and $10. It turned out better that I didn’t attempt to change the tire because a $10 patch job was all that was needed.

Many people swear by AAA. It has been around a long time and has a great reputation. My father used to have it too, though I’m not sure he ever had to use it. However, with more options today and alternatives today, is it really worth it. The cost of AAA for the basic plan is $52, plus a one-time $10 membership fee (the fee is waived if you opt for automatic renewal). My sister is an associate member on the account, and addition members are an extra $28. So we split the total costs and pay $40 each per year.

Roadside assistance
Many people who drive older or less reliable cars want the peace of mind of having roadside assistance. For basic membership, they will tow up your vehicle up to 3 miles, make minor repairs, jump start your battery, replace a flat tire with your spare, deliver fuel, and lock out service. It kind of boggles my mind that people run out of fuel, but I’m a paranoid person. I don’t even like it when the fuel gauge indicates that I have less than a quarter tank left. The main purpose of AAA is to provide roadside, but my auto insurance company, Geico provides a similar service for a fraction of the cost: $6.70 per 6 months. So basically, $13.40 for Geico’s roadside service versus AAA’s $40. I have no experience with Geico’s roadside service though so I cannot vouch for its responsiveness.

AAA discounts

Attractions
One of the secondary benefits of being a AAA member is that it provides discounts at various attractions. Here in NYC, you can save 40% off movie tickets, 20% off Bronx Zoo tickets, 15% off Madame Tussauds and Cirque du Soleil, among other attractions. I’ve gone to various attractions inside and outside of New York where they offer a AAA discount where I’ve saved a couple of bucks. But still, I’m not sure that those few times make it worth the money.

Shopping
Another discount that AAA provides is at various stores. There’s 10% off at the Gap Factory Store, Banana Republic Factory Store, Payless, among others. Also, at the Tanger Outlets in New York, you can receive a free coupon book. I did use this benefit a few years ago and with one of the coupons in the book, my wife and I bought Adidas sneakers (on the clearance rack) for a total of $35 (Hers were like $16 and mine were $19). I don’t think I’ve gotten a better deal on sneakers before. You can buy the coupon book for $5 though, and we really don’t go to the outlets much so I’m not sure that’s worth it.

Travel
When booking a hotel, you often have an option to choose the AAA rate which sometimes gives you a better deal. The last time I used my AAA card to get a discount at a hotel, my wife and I hadn’t made prior arrangements and just found a hotel along our way. I asked about the AAA discount and it saved me $20. That’s not bad, but for the most part, we usually plan our hotel stays and you might be able to find better deals using Hotwire or Priceline. There are also Hertz coupons that they send me once in awhile, but I’ve never used them. Same with the other travel services they provide.

DMV Services
There are other miscellaneous benefits that AAA provides, but the last one I’ll mention are the DMV services. I’m sure many would gladly skip a trip to the DMV and renew their registration at a AAA office, so this might be a good benefit. However, how often do would you take advantage of this benefit. Plus, you can do many things online now as well without going to the dreaded DMV.

So is renewing my AAA membership worth it?