When we replaced my car in Spring 2001, we had expected to be able to wait a few years to replace Lori's. But entropy has been accelerating on Lori's car; both side mirrors have been broken for a while, the 'Check Engine' light has been coming on frequently, and so forth.
So we'd been thinking about buying at the end of February (the end of the month, when car salesmen are keen to make their quotas, and February when car sales are traditionally sluggish.) But more troubles occurred to accelerate our schedule; there was a problem with the brakes grinding shortly before Christmas, and in the recent cold weather, the car's windows have been covered with frost on the inside. And I figured out that by paying the credit card bill just before it was due instead at the end of the month as usual, we could just afford the amount we'd paid for my Accord last year.
We have liked my new Accord, and felt that all the reasons we'd chosen it still applied. So we planned a very focused approach: we went with the same model of car, the same general amount of mileage, the same dealership we'd dealt with before, and the same salesman. We gave him a call ahead of time, and he picked out a few selections for us.
The shopping involved one unfortunate discovery: the 2001 Accord LX that I bought doesn't actually have antilock brakes. I have a theory that explains this: I think that when we were shopping in 2004, I looked at Honda's website and saw that the Accord LX had antilock brakes--but I was looking at the 2004 Accords, and I did not realize that that didn't apply to the 2001 models. So, oops. I don't have the antilock brakes that I had been shopping for.
So we changed our target up to the Accord EX to get antilock brakes. The EX came with other features Lori likes, particularly a sunroof and a CD changer.
But, of course, that costs more. The salesman gave us a price because we were repeat customers, and showed us that it was about 85% of a price on his list. This, of course, doesn't necessarily mean anything, but I had done enough research on current prices to know that the larger price on his list really is the middle of the pack for advertised prices for Honda Accords of that age and mileage. Of course, there's a fair bit of flex between advertised prices and selling prices, so this doesn't necessarily mean as much as I'd like either. But it does give me some confidence that we got a reasonably good price.
Even so, we had to do some financial gyrations; we put $2000 of the cost on our credit card, and wrote a check for the remainder (which the dealership promised not to cash until we had a chance to move money in to cover it).
Lori is very pleased with her new car. I'm glad for her, but I also confess to a bit of envy; I'd been expecting to have the nicer of the family's cars for another year or two. Oh well.