I’ve had my Toyota Highlander Hybrid for almost nine years and while it’s been a great car, the creaks and groans were my clue that it was time to start thinking about replacing it. With 130,000 miles on the odometer it’s been a really good vehicle with almost zero problems. Really, the only issue I had was having the driver’s door window explode (outward, fortunately) and require an actual replacement door by the time they finished diagnosing the problem. Verdict: hyper-extended door hinge pushing on the window glass.
Other than that, a great journey with a vehicle that cost me the proverbial arm and a leg (over $50k) but was a solid investment. Here it is, just before I traded it into the dealer:
Ahhhh… I’m not much for waxing philosophical about stuff, but it was a good car and still in great shape, as you can see.
Still, things change and technology certainly moves upward and onward, and having had a chance to drive so many different cars in the last few years (you can read all my car reviews!) I have been increasingly aware of all the safety and tech features I was sacrificing with an older vehicle. I test drove a number of cars with replacement in mind, notably including both the Toyota RAV-4 and the Mazda CX-5. Mazda won out by offering a better car value and by having the 2017 redesign win a bunch of industry awards making it the best in class.
I reached out to the regional Mazda rep I had met at the Denver Auto Show earlier in the year and he hooked me up with Kevin, the general manager at my closest Mazda dealership, Courtesy Mazda of Longmont, Colorado. About 15min drive from my home, and a beautiful showroom that lets them show off a number of the popular cars in the current Mazda line:
Kevin handed me to Dave Dewey, who regaled me with stories about his life as a car salesman as we went through the process. At one point he shared that he was a Lamborghini salesman and yes, was able to drive the cars on special occasions. Nice.
We went through the various configuration options for the 2017 CX-5 — I didn’t want a 2016 1/2 model because of the acoustic redesign improvements — and I settled on the Grand Touring option because it had just about every possible feature and addition, from safety to entertainment to style and design.
Colorado has fairly benign winters, but we still have our days of miserable driving and it turns out that if your car has all wheel drive (AWD) you don’t need chains or snow tires in all but the most extreme driving. That’s for me: I couldn’t get AWD and hybrid in the Highlander, but with my new CX-5 I opted for AWD, which added about $1400 to the vehicle. Other than exterior and interior color, there’s only one additional package available, the “Premium Package” which adds a two-position driver’s seat memory, power passenger seat, active driving display, a heated steering wheel and, the kicker for my 13yo daughter, heated rear seats. That’s $1830, all told. We added it.
That was it. Configured with white exterior and parchment interior, luckily matching a vehicle they already had on the lot. I came back the next day without my daughter, knowing it’d be a slow process even with everything lined up and ready to roll, but soon enough I was sitting at Dave’s desk, signing the first of quite a few purchase documents:
A trade-in of my ’08 Highlander — and oh, how it depreciated in value during all those years I drove it! — a down payment of $7500 to lower my monthly loan payment and I won a visit to Debbie, their finance manager!
This time, we had a second round of exciting paperwork, loan origination forms, transfer of ownership for the Toyota, FTC disclosure documents and plenty more:
I apparently have a credit score above 800 so she was quite pleased to work with me and quickly set up a loan through a local credit union. I hate being in debt so it’s no wonder I have a good score, but I’m apparently pretty close to the theoretical credit score max, a fact that fills me with a certain level of pride. If you’re curious, the loan ended up being for about $15K at 3.6% APR. It’s sure nice when interest rates are low.
My strategy with all loans, by the way, is to pay them off faster than the loan’s duration so I ensured that it had no early payment penalty. It’s an easy way to save much money in the lifetime of a loan, and I do the same thing with my home mortgage, cutting years off the loan duration and eliminating many thousands in interest costs.
Roughly 90 minutes after I walked into the dealership, they handed me the keys and I drove off, behind the wheel of this lovely new white 2017 Mazda CX-5 AWD:
I miss the size of the Highlander, but the CX-5 is surprisingly roomy and spacious. I’m 6’3″ so I know about having to squeeze into cars! All the tech is fantastic too, including a lane monitoring system that can gently steer me back into my lane if I’m drifting, a cruise control system that speeds up and slows down the vehicle based on what’s happening in front of the car, and much more. I also opted for the 4 free months of Sirius XM service — and the JBL sound system is fantastic! – and am prepared to go through the inevitable negotiations with XM to get their mythic $5/mo basic access, all I need for my favorite half-dozen channels.
I called my auto insurance company and was surprised to find that my insurance only went up about $200 annually, though I added a “new car replacement rider” that covers me for the first two years of ownership which added an additional $25/annually. Next up are license plates, but I’m in no rush to deal with the Colorado DMV, even if they aren’t as bad as the infamous California DMV that I dealt with back when we were Californians.
The day before I went in to close the purchase, I’d also emailed Dave and asked him to ensure that there were no medallions, no stickers, nothing that identified the dealership on the vehicle. If they wanted to negotiate an advertising rate for being on my car, that’d be fine, but free advertising? I’m too much of a capitalist for that. 🙂 They were happy to comply and while I definitely recommend Courtesy Mazda in Longmont, even if you’re coming from Denver or Fort Collins, I didn’t want to look at their logo on my vehicle forevermore. Instead, I’m duplicating the stickers I had on my previous car, an Apple sticker and a Serenity sticker. Now I can just innocently say “what? my car shrank? I have no idea what you’re talking about”
Finally, buying a car is painful, there’s no question. Part of it is that there are always car configuration aspects that you aren’t aware of, part of it is that car salesmen are trained to close a sale which isn’t the same as “be really friendly and nice”, and part of it is that it’s a major purchase. Off the lot, my car was about $33K. That’s a big investment and there’s always going to be some anxiety about it, whether you’re paying $13K, $33K or 93K.
Nonetheless, my kudos to the entire Courtesy Mazda team for making the process quite painless and entertaining. It helps that I went in having done my research on models and options, but there wasn’t a step in the process that felt stressful or anxiety provoking. Well, maybe other than writing that $7500 check.
If you’re in the market for a Mazda, I’d encourage you to drop Dave an email at [email protected] mention my name. Who knows, maybe he’ll regale you with stories of driving Lamborghinis while selling you a car.