The short version: I bought a gray 2002 Mazda 626 from CarMax and found the process much less painful than I expected, despite an unfruitful trip to Orlando.
The long version:
Monday I drove the car I would later buy. Monday night I told Jodi that there was another 2002 Mazda 626 at the CarMax in Clearwater with fewer miles, and it cost $400 less. The color wasn’t acceptable, though, so we agreed to get the gray one.
Tuesday morning I noticed that there was a green 2002 Mazda 626 with leather seats, comparable miles, and $400 less than the gray one. It was in Orlando, so rather than pay for a transfer ($150, of which $50 could be applied to the purchase) and wait, we drove to the CarMax in Orlando.
The test drive was rough. It had an obvious alignment problem — when you take your hands off the wheel on a straightaway, a car should stay in its lane. This car indeed stayed in its lane when I took my hands off the wheel. So what’s the problem? It was a curving road!
Moreover, the transmission felt rough — not as rough as the Taurus we traded in, but worse than I’d expect of a Mazda with 42k miles. This car had been rode hard and put away wet, repeatedly.
I objected, but accepted Jodi’s assurances that we could get it fixed at the CarMax in Tampa for free. (If they agreed that they were actual problems. A rough transmission that works… probably not going to be repaired free.)
But then as we were filling out the final paperwork, I saw that this car had recently been returned. Oops.
So I had to explain to Jodi that this was not the right car for us, and that we’d have to move all our crap back into our Taurus and drive back to Tampa to buy the gray one. This was not news that she could easily handle; she didn’t trust the safety of the Taurus (I did), and she wanted to be driving a new car home that night. Also, she was dealing with the news that her friend had died.
Sheryl, if you’re reading this, I apologize again that we couldn’t join you for dinner. I was busy setting a new record for the trip from the Orlando airport area to the CarMax in North Tampa.
Our sales consultant at CarMax was gracious even though Jodi tells me I was not. As soon as I objected, he offered to bring my Taurus back. And when I called ahead to the CarMax in Tampa, they put the gray car on hold for us, started the paperwork, and even found a creative way to let us drive it home despite the fact that our credit union’s bank draft had been filled out for another car. (They hooked us up with a 7% loan that can be switched to our credit union’s 5% loan within 3 days, which I’ll be doing tonight. I already got a new bank draft from them this morning.)
My mom said Sunday that she doesn’t know why all car lots aren’t like CarMax. I agree: they should be.
Photos coming soon.