Saturday, July 1, 2017

My Walkabout: A Search For The Perfect Truck

For the last twelve years I have driven a 2001 Ford Focus SE (the station-wagon model.)  I inherited it from my Grandmother when she passed away in 2005.  So, for its 16 year lifespan it has only been owned by two people.  I knew I would have it a long time so I have kept great care of it.  Honestly though, I didn't expect I would have driven it as long as I have. 

It's been agreed in the household that I really do need a new vehicle.  I have wanted a truck for some time now.  So I decided to strap up my tough work boots, and set about a walkabout.  Actually I didn't immediately put them on.  I started on the computer.  I knew I wanted a regular cab 3/4 ton truck with a short-bed. 

Since this family is a Ford family I decided to look at all the Ford dealers first.  The problem with the Ford F-150 XL (the regular cab/short-bed model) is that they are usually all work trucks.  A lot of them don't have the upgraded electronics or even cruise control.  Also, dealers like Gator Ford and Wesley Chapel Ford didn't even carry them on the lot.  There were about 10 total dealers whose websites I looked through that didn't even carry a vehicle that was anywhere close to what I wanted.

Since the Ford dealerships were carrying so little of what I was looking for I decided to look at the Chevy websites.  Again, a lot of them carried straight work trucks.  Some didn't carry any at all.  I did found two Chevy dealers that carried a few Silverado 1500 Work Trucks (that's their model name) with a few upgrades to them. 

So I decided I would visit one dealer per day.  I would find a truck or trucks I was interested in on their webpage.  I would send an e-mail, and let them know I'd like to drop in and take a peek at them.  Now, it was time to strap on my boots, and start a walkabout. 

Monday:  Brandon Ford.

Brandon Ford has an advantage that a lot of other dealers don't.  They have a huge amount of space.  The main lot and overflow lots of theirs let them carry 2,500 vehicles.  That's pretty wild.  I talked to Jim Gordon (not the Gotham detective), and his associate Gabriel. 

The blue Ford XL I was looking at had already been sold.  So I test drove a white one with the same features.  I have to say, the steering was a bit loosey-goosey.  I liked that the engine and other parts were spaced out under the hood.  I'm sure that would help keep it from overheating in the summer.  I also liked that even with the 17 inch tires, it had a lot of clearance room underneath. 

It was a nice truck, but usually nice equals more expensive.  So we talk numbers.  They had a set formula for what they would sell a vehicle for.  The only thing that didn't really make me happy was that they offered only $500 on my trade in.  Kelley Blue Book said they should have offered $900 at least.  So that ticked me off a bit.

What I didn't know at the time was that, they actually offered me the best price overall.  Also, what I didn't know at the time was that, when it came to trade-in prices, every dealer was offering about the same.  It came down to if they were to accept the trade-in they would sell it at auction or sell it to LKQ's to part out.  They wouldn't make any money on it.

It just so happened that I saw a post from a friend who was looking for a vehicle.  I contracted him, and explained my situation.  I told him that for a private sale, KBB said $1800 was a fair price for my Ford Focus.  And on trade-in it was $900.  I told him I would sell it to him at the $900 price.  I also told him all the good and bad about the vehicle. 

He was really excited to see the Focus, and was thankful for the deal.  Now, when I would go to a dealership I could tell them I would straight up buy a truck and there would be no trade-in.  That made it easier since I would just be dealing with the truck price. 

So Brandon Ford's price was around $23,250 with the trade in, so figure $23,750 without the trade-in. 

Tuesday:  Ferman Chevrolet.

I talked to Bill and Maz at Ferman Chevy.  As far Chevy dealers go, they were only one of two in the area to carry a few Silverado 1500 W/T's.  They had one in metallic silver that I test drove.  I have to say, I really liked it.  The turning radius was really short.  That's good for me since it makes it easier to park.  It had a few electronics on it.  Let's just say it had more than the Ford.  But it still didn't have quite everything I wanted on it.

I have to say there were a few tense moments between Maz and I.  He thought I was going to buy today (Tuesday.)  I told him I was going to many dealers.  He said, "If we have what you are looking for what do you need to go to other dealers for?"  There was a bit of miscommunication on both ends.  I honestly felt like a woman who had to defend herself from, "leading a guy on."  He wanted me to sign, and I told him I wasn't going to. 

I also told him the truck didn't have everything on it I would like.  He ended up saying that, "If this isn't the right truck for you (meaning me) he understood.  He could acquire something that I would like.  Again, I said I was on a walkabout, and collecting information on trucks.  I also wanted to know what price range the Chevy's were because in the past they had always been $4000 more than the Fords.

Maz and his manager Bill came out with a price that was about $4000 more than the Ford.  (Surprise, right?)  But when I showed him the price that Brandon Ford (which is just down the street from them) they huddled to come up with a new price. 

Their price was $22, 893 plus tax, tags, and title.  So that would put it in the $24,000 range.  Now, with all the equipment they had on the truck that's not bad. 

Wednesday:  Bill Currie Ford.

There was only one Ford XL on the Bill Currie lot.  It was a stripped down work truck, in that, it was economy white and didn't have a lot of flashy things on it.  Don, my salesman, was a pretty good guy.  We took it for a test drive.  Again, the handling seemed loose, and it felt like it hadn't been aligned correctly. 

We walked into the building to go over numbers.  He came back and said that the Fleet Sales Manager had just sold that truck.  So I couldn't go over any numbers regarding the truck.  So that visit was over. 

Thursday:  Elder Ford.

My parents bought their current vehicles from Elder Ford.  Elder had a white Ford XL with a few things on it.  I didn't worry about test driving it, since I had already test drove two of them.  My salesmen were Jason and his manager Mike.  Since Jason was internet sales he found a Ford F-150 XL in silver that had quite a few things on it. 

He first price came in a bit high.  I told him both Brandon Ford and Ferman Chevy had come in under that price.  He talked quite a while to his manager, and then came out saying he had a "deal of a lifetime."  $23,900 out the door.  Not only that, but Elder Ford had something that no other Ford dealership had.  They had a lifetime warranty on a lot of the main parts that aren't normally covered by the warranty. 

The catch I found out, is that, you have to make sure all the regular maintenance is carried out by a certified Ford dealer.  In other words, if I change my own oil, well, that would cancel out the lifetime warranty.  Oh, and to be clear the "lifetime" part is as long as I own the truck.  If I sold it to someone else it doesn't transfer. 

Right up front I told Jason that I didn't want to buy today.  I didn't want to, "lead any dealer on."  I was just collecting information.  That didn't seem to matter as Jason and his manager started in on the "hard sale."  Since Thursday was the 29th of July that price would only be good until the end of the month.  In other words, the next day.  So they went over every way I could put money down on the truck, and buy it that day.

If I had to rank the dealers buy slimiest I would have to put Elder Ford number one.  They really put the clamps on.  I told them that I had promised to visit two dealers the next day, and even had appointments with them.  He asked if I, "would cancel the visits."  I told him I don't break my promises, and again, I wasn't buying that day. 

When I made mention that I was visiting Dimmit Chevrolet the next day, and Jason said that, "He wasn't worried about them.  Fords were so much better that he didn't even think the Chevys could compete."

I just told Jason, I would let him know tomorrow after my visits what my thoughts were. 

I was able to let them know as I was at another dealership when Jason called.  A few hours later his manager Mike called.  I told them I would not have the money ready during this month.  When it would be ready (middle of July) I would let them know. 

So Elder Ford's price:  $23,900 out the door. 

Friday:  First visit:  Dimmit Chevrolet in Clearwater.

Now, you may be wondering why I would travel so far to Clearwater when there are other dealers all around me.  Well, Dimmit had the most Silverado 1500 W/T's of any Chevy dealer.  They had some in white, black, and blue.  They had about seven trucks I would consider.  But the two blue ones they had on the lot had a lot of what I was looking for. 

Christine was the telephone salesperson who passed me on to Jerika.  Both were really nice, and acted more human than any of the other salespersons I'd talked to.  She pulled the truck's listing up on the computer, and then drove it to the front of the dealership. 

I have to say I was impressed.  This one had pretty much had everything I wanted.  An upgraded electronics package with Sirius XM radio.  It had the bigger screen as well as back-up camera assist.  And it actually had a spray-in bed-liner.  The only thing it didn't have was a trailer hitch receiver.  I found that kind of odd. 

I'm not so worried about the trailer hitch as one can be welded on.  I forgot to check if it had the wiring harnesses installed.  Again, I don't think it did, but that can be easily taken care of. 

I drove it around the lot.  For me, I thought it had better handling, a tighter steering wheel, and a tighter turn radius.  I thought, "This is the truck for me...  but let me see what price tag this might have on it." 

We went in to talk prices, and Jerika was honest, and said it wouldn't be fair to quote a price since it will change at the end of the month.  She said that when I do have the money she could give me an offer then.  I have to say that was one of the more honest things I've seen a salesperson do.  As of now the Chevy is in the pole position for which vehicle I would buy. 

Friday:  Visit #2:  Autonation Ford in Bradenton. 

So I made my way down from Clearwater to Bradenton.  Yes, I drove around 70 miles to see one truck.  They had an F-150 XL in blue.  Don my salesman was really nice, and Autonation Ford really felt like a family run business. 

Unfortunately, the blue XL they had was really stripped down.  The only things that made it so it wasn't a complete work truck was that it was blue, it had a bed-liner, and a trailer hitch receiver.  It didn't even have a CD player.  It had no electronics package to speak of.  There were no power windows or mirrors.  There was no cruise control.  The radio was as stripped down as far at it could be. 

So this one was a no go.  Don didn't try the hard sell.  He said that I had done everything I should do.  I had visited 6 dealerships in 5 days.  I had looked at 10 more online.  The only thing left to do was pick a truck.  Unfortunately for him that would not be the Ford he was trying to sell. 

Autonation's offer:  $23,550.  But remember, that's a really stripped down truck. 

So here I sit in my comfy chair on Saturday.  I think back to what Jason from Elder Ford said.  Today I would tell him that he should be concerned about the Chevy.  I come from a Ford family.  Out front there are two Focuses, an Escape, and an F-150.  But the Chevy drove better, had more power, and I had better 360 degree vision around the truck. 

Again, Christine and Jerika acted like real human beings, and viewed me as a person, not a walking cash register.  So in a couple of weeks, when all my finances line up, I am going to give them a call first, and see if we can work something out. 

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