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My car purchasing experience.

2465 Views 13 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  Will M
I just got my Insight yesterday. Parked next to my red 1992 Civic, the Civic is redder. The Insight is more orange. Meanwhile, much to my liking, the Insight's red is quite visible. I've seen fire engines in colors I'd consider to be more subdued. Anybody that hits THIS car is BLIND.

I'm not trying to insult people or whine a lot, but I am wistful about the contrast between the purchasing experience and the way it OUGHT to be.

My first complaint is that I ordered the car early last March and the dealer could not estimate to the nearest month when I'd get it. I was told it would be in mid April, then I was told late May to early June, then late June to early July. Until the truck rolled into the dealership, the dealer had no way of knowing where the car was.

UPS tracks things better than this. Why can't Honda? :?

My second complaint is that the dealership as an institution handles salesmen in such a way that there are no experienced salesmen. Something about the job is bad enough that people quit and new people are hired all the time. The salesman I ordered the car from quit about a month after the order. This contrasts the service department, where I've worked with the same service manager for 10 years. I've bought four cars from this dealership and never had the previous salesman still working for the company by the time I bought the next car. :(

My third complaint is that the salesmen do not see themselves as part of at team, supporting each other. I had to wait more than a half an hour on three occasions now to get to the next step in getting this car because the sales manager had assigned a specific salesman to me for the purchase of this car, and since this salesman was busy with other customers, none of the idle salesmen could help me. They work on commission, so they are basically predatory, looking for prey. I was already "caught", so nobody else had any interest in me.

My fourth complaint is that I've never had a car salesman who knew as much about the car I was buying as I did. I've never had one offer me any useful information about the cars I was looking at. None of them have actually helped me know what was available to promote my values in a car. When I go to Lowes to buy plumbing supplies or carpentry tools, the people there know their stuff and give me the information I need to make an informed decision. The car dealership apparently can't do this. :roll:

My fifth complaint is that buying the car is like arm wrestling with a con man. He clearly sees his job as trying to talk me into spending as much money as possible. He seems to have no other purpose. It is stupid, dishonest, insulting and it SHOULD be unnecessary. Any dealership who took on a less adversarial, predatory attitude toward his customers would quickly become very popular. :)

As a side note, during my talk with the guy who successfully talked me into the 7 year, 75,000 mile warranty for about $1,000, I found out that I'm due back about $630 for the balance of the 8 year, 100,000 mile warranty I had on my 2000 Insight that was totalled at about 45,000 miles. I had pretty much decided not to get the extended waranty until this surprising discovery. I didn't realize I'd get a refund if the car was totalled. With the refund, it makes more economic sense to get the new extended waranty.

My sixth complaint is that even though I had already ordered this car, so there was no need to select the car I wanted, and I had the money in my checking account, so there's no paperwork for financing, it still took almost three hours to buy this car. These people do this for a living. It would seem like they'd have the process a little more streamlined. :roll:

To his credit, my salesman was friendly, attentive, and polite. He apparently had a lot of checklists to follow and he did go over all the points on his checklist. He did his best to personalize a very impersonal, form-letter structured process, even if he knew nothing about the car. Most of our conversation consisted of me explaining the car to him.

Most human systems are short-sightedly structured because the people who create the structure do not empathize with those inside it. I don't think the dealership empathizes with the salesmen and I don't think the salesmen empathize with the people buying the cars. The result is that salesmen don't last, and customers get bad service. The dealership exploits the salesmen who exploit the customers. The service department seems to have a clearer recognition that they can make money helping people and earning trust in an ongoing customer relationship.
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Will M said:
As a side note, during my talk with the guy who successfully talked me into the 7 year, 75,000 mile warranty for about $1,000, I found out that I'm due back about $630 for the balance of the 8 year, 100,000 mile warranty I had on my 2000 Insight that was totalled at about 45,000 miles. I had pretty much decided not to get the extended waranty until this surprising discovery. I didn't realize I'd get a refund if the car was totalled. With the refund, it makes more economic sense to get the new extended waranty.
$1000 for the 7 year, 75,000 mile warranty? You could get it for $820 at and they probably have a discount promotion that would make it around $760 or so. Back in April I purchased a 7 year, 75,000 mile warranty with $50 deductible from for $735. It was a bit more expensive because I purchased it after the car had been in service two years (about $60 more).
A great description of the flaws in the car buying process Will. The same sort of problems apply across the pond. But what is the solution?

My suggestion is that sales staff are paid a wage that they can live on without commission. Additional performance bonuses to be only paid for good customer service, checked by mystery shoppers. However, would this mean a drop in sales due to less profit hungry sales staff? Or would the additional business due to the better customer service make up the shortfall? I think the latter, if one brand was bold enough to take the step and advertise the change of tactics. (If the whole car sales industry did it, then it wouldn't affect the overall sales numbers). How else can the process change?
Will, I think you are exactly right on all of these points. I also think you got yours now because the ship with the Insights for the West Coast must have “come in”. I visited another local dealer last night that had just received a new Insight. That now makes two in the last week. The first sales guy I talked to seemed kind of surprised that they had it. He had to pass me off to his “sales partner” and she knew absolutely nothing.

That gave me an idea that would help with your fourth complaint. Dealerships should have a “technical advisor” to the sales staff to be on hand to answer any questions that the customer has about the car. He could be up on every detail and wouldn’t have deal with any of the sales and haggling part. Just answer the questions and move on to the next potential buyer. Of course, I suggested to my wife that I would be perfect for this new job since researching cars is already kind of my hobby! I know the General Manager and I’m tempted to run it by him. I’d show him your list as well but I have a feeling that he is well aware of all that you mention.
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Will, I think you listed all the reasons I hate going to a car dealership to buy a car, and why I bought my Insight and my wife's RAV4 on Ebay. Can you imagine haggling over the price of your groceries at the checkout, or something you buy at a department store? Why does this happen when buying a car, and why isn't the country up in arms about it? I would rather go to the dentist than buy a new car, and I can't express how much I hate and fear the dentist. And please, don't anybody yell at me for buying a RAV4. It's a very small SUV, gets 30MPG on the highway, and it's a convertible. Besides, my wife saw it and said, "I want it". What was I going to do?
Try finding a Honda dealership in Toronto that even acknowledges there's a 2003 model year Insight! What I know about Hybrids fits on the head of a pin, but I've walked circles around sales managers as they not so subtly try to steer me towards their more conventional (immediately available) products. I see that this is going to take more than the standard mix of research, patience and determination if I expect to buy one by the end of August!

Online, it appears that almost everyone's experience has been to order first, wait quite awhile, then take delivery, sight unseen, test driving not necessary. They're that rare. :? So, imagine my delight at finding another stream on this site that suggests an Insight gathering right here in T.O. this August! I'll be the one handing out cash (yes, Canadian but colourful, no?) for mercy-test drives. :lol:
I think most of the people here who are waiting on orders are wanting 5spds or a particular color. Or people aren't visiting the dealerships I see that have Insights on the lot.
My local dealership usually has two CVT Insights. It's not always the same two, but they seem to keep two of them in stock. They short-sightedly don't seem to be ordering 5-speeds, even though for the larger part of a year, they've sold every 5-speed they can get their hands on. I'm starting to suspect that they are getting CVTs from other dealerships, perhaps at a lower cost because the other dealerships can't move them. This is just a guess.

Last time I looked, there were 54 Insights listed online among new cars and only 13 of them were 5-speeds. I didn't find this out until after I had ordered the one I got and I decided to stick with the order instead of travelling farther to get one already at another dealer's.

I would have bought a 5-speed in another color, if it were available, but since I had to order a 5-speed from Japan, I figured I might as well get picky about the color. Now, it seems that everyone wants 5-speed, red with or without air conditioning. Are the dealers putting these on their lots? No. They are still ordering silver CVTs, moaning about how they can't sell them.

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Just heard back from a dealership in Markham that had promised to contact Honda Canada for availability of the Insights in Ontario. They reported that there are zero cars available at any of the region's dealeships and insist that there are no 2003's (in Canada at least). sigh
Any 5 speed was quite popular around here, but in particular blue 5 speeds were the hot ticket a while back. Knowing people who had blue 5 speeds they both had head hunters calling them seeing if they wanted to sell thier cars. They couldn't feed the demand for a while. When I had a silver 5 speed in the paper I had at least 3 dealerships calling me seeing if I still had the car. The thing now is they cars just aren't comming over in the numbers that they used to. Now they can't get rid of all the CVT's they ordered.
Getting Ready to Buy...ALSO Having Second Thoughts...

I have been an MPG Nut for years...(5 Geo Metros(ALL sold to 2nd Owners w/150K to 310K (on the one I'm driving now) on the odo)).

I LITERALLY wear a car out in 3 to 5 years, although I am what you could call a 'Fanatic', when it comes to Service Intervals, etc., and I am concerned wether or not the Insight will stand up to my type to driving.

I mean I could easily put 100K on it 18-20 months...On my Metros, I could pop a new Engine/Tranny...because they were easy to repair.

I know that I drive 'disposable' automobiles...My wife on the other hand, is on her 3rd (last) Honda, because she is utterly exhausted at seemingly having to 'prep' for another bout, when she has to take her car in for Service. She has had 2 instances, in her Honda 'History' where she was charged for a Service Interval 'thingie' as she puts it, that had been performed 2-3 weeks earlier (one at the same Dealership), because there was NO record to be found of ANY Service having EVER been performed on her car, only to actually be told, on one occasion, when she produced an INVOICE, that although she had PAID for the Service, it may never have happened due to 'time constraints'??????????????????????????.

I have been browsing the Insight Websites, etc., regarding the Insights history, and although it seems like it is going to be a challenge to 'learn' to drive, my main concern, is the Dealers/Service Departments, as this car seems that it could get REAL Expensive...REAL Quick.

If my wife, having driven normally aspirated vehicles, has such situations, what do I have to look forward to with a 'Hybrid'...

As far as the 'Team' aspect of the individuals at ALL Dealerships, their attitude/interest (or lack thereof) seems to be a 'learned TOOL'.

I don't think they INTENTIONALLY LIE...BUT, it appears that they ARE instructed on how much 'truth' to tell.

It just seems like an awful lot of 'NOT Normal/NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE' conditions, are being classified by the dealers as 'NORMAL', until the Warranty expires, something 'breaks', and they can nail you w/$$$$$$$.

AND by the way...NiMh Batteries don't do the 'Memory' thing like NiCad's did, BUT they DO build up a 'Window' of Operability...SO, what could that do to the 'efficiency' of the System in a 'Hybrid', and what does that do to the Fossil side of the Powerplant?

Just Wondering...Thoughts?
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My car turns three this Sept 10. It took five hours to get it and it seems like that dealership is trying to cut the time down. At least they are working on it.

I'd picked red instead of silver had I to do it again. Three of my four collisions were at dawn, so a silver car may look too invisible.
Well, my Insight experience is getting on for three whole months now, so I'm not the best one to answer, but if you want my $0.02 worth, I'd suggest buying a used Insight, and finding someone you trust (not necessarily the dealer) to do the service. That way you aren't always dealing with warranty issues, and if it does break, it is, as you say, disposable :)

As far as battery issues, my impression is that in the worst case where they go out completely, you're left with a three-cylinder car with about Geo performance.
Insights drive pretty much like a normal car, unless you want that top edge of efficiency to get extra mpg. To get that, it's mostly a matter of paying attention to what you are doing and try not to waste gas, using the mpg display as your subtle guide.

The batteries are automatically managed by a computer that knows more about how to make the batteries last than you do. Most of us fully expect to get quite a bit more than the 80,000 miles out of our batteries that they are warrantied to last. The computer will not allow you to charge the batteries above 80% of their capacity or discharge them below 20% of their capacity. This apparently helps avoid problems otherwise associated with the battery chemistry.

Not all dealers are bad in terms of service. Mostly, you have to pay attention to what the dealer is doing and what it is charging you for. There are crooks and saints out there, and most of us find dealers somewhere in between.

My dealer has been quite good. At 2 years of ownership, they did charge me for a "Bilstien" engine flush I didn't need without fully explaining it to me before providing the service, but in general they do good work. I consider them to be expensive, but worth it, since they have provided all maintenance to the only car I've ever owned to make it over 200,000 miles and still be running fine (a Civic DX hatchback).

They were a little slow to understand some of the unusual features of the Insight (like installing the plastic body parts between the front wheels and the bottom edge of the bumper), but that was 2000. They know better now.

I think you should follow the old Russian proverb: "Trust, but verify."

It's a good car. You can't buy a better one for less, especially when you consider how much you, in particular, will save on gas.
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