Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Quick post update

Well, we took the van to a shop... a local "Express" shop. The guy called a while later and said, "You have a fairly unique problem..." and went on to explain how the system was blocked up somewhere in the ABS system, and they weren't going to work on it. He said, "I'm not often scared to work on cars, but I'm scared to work on this." He said we'd need to take it to a dealer for the repair, since it required specialized tools and codes because of the malfunctioning ABS system. He said that other small shops would not have the right tools, but might try to sell us a rebuilt caliper, but that wouldn't fix the problem (since it was a blockage somewhere in the ABS module). When I thought about it, back on Thursday I did have to invoke the ABS in an emergency-stop situation, and after that is when the brakes were locked up. And apparently it was not only the left-front, but the right-rear also (but not as noticeable since it has drum brakes there). It was only $10.95 for this inspection and analysis (these guys have always been an honest bunch during all our various times to visit them).

So I call a dealer (there aren't any nearby; the closest is on the other side of town), and manage to get him to discuss various prices (he didn't want to at first), and I determine (from the explanation of what the guy at the express place found and the prices I got for various stuff from the dealer) that it would be a minimum of $500 to have it fixed there, and probably would end up being over $2000 (there is a modulator valve in the ABS system of the Mercury Vilager, and that piece alone is $1400). I don't think I want to invest that kind of money in a 1995 vehicle which is showing other issues (rear hatch sometimes won't lock, transmission starting to show signs of slipping, etc.). Regardless, I need a vehicle for hauling around my family and our luggage... we're supposed to be going to my brother's wedding in a little over a week, and I don't think walking is a viable option. Oh, and it'll be $72 for them to just take a look (plus the drive across town in a vehicle with locked-up brakes).

So we started looking yesterday afternoon for a replacement vehicle. We went by a local Driving 2000 (D2K) dealership (note: I highly recommend using these dealerships if you want a hassle-free, pleasant buying experience; they have no-hassle pricing - usually pretty good, too - no additional fees (no "dealer documentation" or anything, only the standard tax, tag, title); their trade-in is a one-shot, pretty fair deal; and the salespeople aren't paid by commission - so they've no incentive to get you to pay more for a vehicle - they do get a bonus based on number of sales, so they're motivated to get you into what works for you, but I've never met a pushy or un-nice salesperson across three different D2K lots over several visits, and even their new-car prices are typically well-below MSRP). They showed us a couple of things, one of which (Suzuki XL7) was a bit more than we wanted to spend (coming off no car payment, remember), but would work, but they said they had a couple more vehicles on one of their other lots we could look at, and we arranged to have them bring those two vehicles to the local D2K lot (so we wouldn't have to drive down to the further lot to see them) the next day.

So today, after my wife gets off work (and I take off from work again), we go to see the two vehicles. However, due to various circumstances, they were unable to get them delivered, but want to take us down to the other lot to see them. Unfortunately, the guy has to take care of a few things first, and before long we realize we're running out of time because we had to pick up two of our children at their respective schools; this is exacerbated by the fact that we're going to have to come back to this dealership before we can go to get them (since we're going to ride down to the other dealership with the salesman). So I suggest that we go look elsewhere now, so that when we need to leave to go get the kids we can, and we do that. We look at a Mazda MPV at one place, which my wife isn't overly fond of (it would work for us, but doesn't have the safety features she liked in the first vehicle, the side-curtain airbags), and it's out of warranty, too. At the second place we don't even get out of the car because she isn't at all interested in what they have there. Then we go to pick up our daughter.

We take her home, and I suggest that I drop off my wife at her workplace (where we left the car she was driving this morning), she head back to the D2K dealership, and I'll go pick up our youngest from his "Destination Imagination" extracurricular activity. He and I head over to the D2K place, and the guy is ready to take us all down to the other lot to look at the vehicles. When we get there, he drives around the lot trying to locate the ones he wants to show us; one (a 2004 Honda Odyssey with only 7000 miles on it) is sitting in the place where they usually put cars they've just sold. He locates the Jeep Commander, but can't find the Chrysler Town & Country he wanted to show us. As we're driving around, my wife notices a Kia Sedona in the back lot. We ask about it, and the salesman doesn't know anything about it because it's not on their used inventory list, but he'll check on it.

We go inside, and he gets us the key to the Commander, and says he's going to go find out about the other vehicles while we look at it. Well, seeing the 8 inches of cargo space behind the third row of seats (I'm not kidding; it was about 8 inches of cargo room!) said "no" on the Commander pretty quickly (so quickly, in fact, that the salesman, after we'd returned, didn't realize we'd already gone to look at it). The Odyssey's just been sold, and the T&C is on its way to Mississippi (they'd sold it to another D2K dealership over there). He goes to ask another guy about the Sedona. Turns out the Sedona was in their Thrifty rental fleet and was, just today, going to be transferred into their used inventory - it hadn't even been through their inspection or detail process for used vehicles. But we can go ahead and take a look and drive it in its current state.

Now, we'd looked at Sedona vans in the past, but all our Kia dealers are jerks (both in Huntsville and Decatur). We'd looked at an Entourage, but couldn't quite work out the deal at the time (I'd prearranged financing, and we couldn't fit it, as a new model, into the parameters of the financing). When my wife had driven the Sedona before, she had decided that's what she wanted. We just hadn't found the right deal.

Anyway, we drove this one, and despite its lack of extra features (no leather, no power vent windows, etc.), it will work. It still has about 28,000 miles of its warranty left (the 100,000 only applies to the original owner, so it's a 60,000 mile warranty). And it will work - room for the family, room for our luggage, safe, seems to be in good condition.

Now, here's the fun part: if they'd had the two vehicles delivered to the local D2K place, as we'd expected, we'd not have seen the Sedona. If the salesman hadn't driven around the other lot trying to locate the vehicles he wanted to show us, we'd probably not have seen the Sedona. If we'd made the trip to the other lot earlier, when we first got to the D2K place today, we'd probably not have seen the Sedona, as it probably wasn't moved to their back lot at that time. If we'd waited another day, we probably would never have known about it, since it would have entered their inspection and detailing process and not been out on the lot, but also not on their used inventory, and we'd probably have ended up doing something else (another vehicle) before it was on their inventory (and thus in the mind of "our" salesman). Coincidence? Well, I don't think so... we've been praying that God will show us what to do, and nothing was quite working out the way we felt like was an answer to prayer, until this. In fact, the guy who did know something about this van, the one who told our salesman it was being transferred from the rental fleet into the used inventory, wasn't even supposed to still be there, but "just happened" to be. We're at peace about this... tomorrow afternoon we'll do the paperwork, and Thursday it should be through the inspection and detailing.

And we'd never have happened on this if it hadn't been for our two vehicles breaking down within two days of each other this past weekend... so, while it may have seemed like a horrible thing to happen, I suppose it may be leading to a good thing in the end. It feels like it, anyway.

Sorry for the lack of amusing banter over the last couple of posts... been a bit hectic around here (as you may imagine from the posts if you've been reading them). Hopefully we'll return to the senseless (or less so, but less of my personal life and troubles) next time on...

[LAPSE... brain dead]

Until then... a topato!


Christy said...

Glad to hear the good news! BTW if you ever need help picking up the kids for whatever reason, I have room for at least two in my Santa Fe, so feel free to give me a call.

Tony M said...

Thanks - I'll keep that in mind if the need arises. Who knows... you may regret having offered one day! :)