How Car Buying Should Be

2011 GMC Terrain SLT

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We bought a GMC Terrain.

If you don’t know what a GMC Terrain is, go ahead and check it out. Or scroll down to see my gorgeous face standing in front of one. Honestly though, the car looks so much better without me next to it.

Anyways, a few weeks ago (the day after Christmas), we bought another car. You may recall that I sold my Monte Carlo before leaving for Air Force BMT. After graduation, I began debating on what we would do about the car situation. We were in a bit of a sticky situation because we didn’t know if we should buy a car while I was home on Christmas Exodus, or wait for me to buy one right away after arriving at my PCS in Denver.

How a Car Buying Experience Should Be


There were pros and cons to each side. If we waited, we could save up more money for a down payment and would have three more months without a second car payment. Unfortunately, that scenario left me stuck in a wintery Denver with nothing to drive. I would have to go through the car-buying process alone — without Mike’s input and test-drive — all while going through the stresses of in-processing at my new base.

On the other side of the coin, if we purchased a car while I was home on Exodus, we could handle everything together, from the negotiations to test-driving, but that would mean more paperwork to fill out at tech school because I wouldn’t be flying straight to my new base. It also added the question of, should I bring the vehicle to Mississippi and drive it to Colorado, or wait and pay for a plane ticket to St. Louis and drive it from Missouri?

So many questions and so little time! That was the hassle of the whole ordeal. In the end, we decided it couldn’t hurt to start looking while I was home, so the test-drives began.


Our first stop was Enterprise Car Sales. I had heard good things about buying used rentals, especially when in the market for an SUV, as they tend to not be driven as hard as the smaller cars. At the time, I knew I wanted a crossover/SUV that got decent gas mileage and could handle mountainous driving. I also wanted something with a 6 cylinder engine in it, since they tend to last longer over time. Even though I was interested in the Toyota Rav4, Honda CR-V, and GMC Terrain, independent research revealed that the new CR-Vs and Rav4s were unavailable with V-6 engines.  Even though I hadn’t driven an SUV in 10 years, I know enough about cars to know that I wasn’t willing to compromise on the V-6.

So, we headed into Enterprise to test-drive a very overpriced Terrain with all the fixins’. It was a white 2015 with 40k miles on it and the right engine. There were asking $26k. That was way out of our price range, even though we were approved by USAA for a $25k loan. We had hoped we could negotiate with them if we really loved it. That’s before I knew that Enterprise has a no-haggle policy.


First, let me say that the Enterprise people were great. We had a young guy who was knowledgeable, personable, and friendly. He didn’t feel like a salesman, possibly because of the no-haggle policy. He didn’t push or pressure. The test-drive was perfect. I loved the car. After driving one GMC Terrain, I knew I’d never be able to drive another SUV and feel the same. These Terrains are far more luxurious than the standard crossover.

After the test drive, we went into the office and talked about our options. They offered us coffee, etc. It was at that time they informed me the $26k price tag was a non-negotiable. Of course, they had their reasons. They feel their prices are as low and good as it gets because dealers offer comparable vehicles for $3-5k more. That was fine and dandy with me, but we were not willing to pay that much for ANY vehicle.

I stated this to the salesman and manager, and they asked me if there was anything they could do to get me into the car. They offered to let me drive it for the rest of day. They were still kind and respectful. They didn’t get ballsy and make false claims. I responded that it was simply a matter of price – and that we were not willing to go into that much debt for a car. They understood and that was the end of it. The next day, the salesman gave me a call to see if I had changed my mind, and I told him no. He has not called since. I think that is a good salesman. He has not badgered us with vehicles we weren’t interested in or called us countless times. I would send other people to him if they were searching for a car.

If I had truly been interested in a Rav4 (they had several for around $19k), I probably would have bought from Enterprise. They were offering great deals on them and the experience was pleasant. All in all, if you’re interested in a purchasing a used vehicle, I recommend checking into them. I think you could find a good deal.

2011 GMC Terrain SLT
Isn’t it a beauty?


After the Enterprise experience, I got really depressed because I realized that we would probably NEVER be able to afford a Terrain. All the ones in our price range either had too many miles or a 4-cylinder engine. It seemed that every V-6 was out of our budget! So I headed home to Clinton to be with my family while Mike finished out his work week before Christmas.

Thankfully, Santa was looking out for me this year. I was searching AutoTrader while chilling on my parents’ couch when I saw it – it was a 2011 GMC Terrain with the SLT trim. It had a lot of fancy extras like remote start, heated seats, and extra snazzy wheels. Of course, that’s not what made me want it. I loved the way it looked, but I was slobbering because it had just 45k miles and a V-6 engine! They were asking $21 grand.

$21,000 was still a bit steep, but I felt I could negotiate and knock off a couple thousand.  So I called up the salesman and asked if it had been smoked in (a key factor) and if it was still available. Of course, it was clean and perfect and ready to drive. I scooped up my mom and Grandpa and off we went.


Believe it or not, after the test drive, I did not feel “in love” with the car. I liked it, but I had come to terms that I didn’t want to spend more than $18k on a vehicle. No matter how many times I ran the numbers and payments, I couldn’t handle having a huge $350-$400 a month payment (in addition to Mike’s truck payment).

This put me in a pretty good position for negotiating. We went into the office non-chalantly. I called Mike (in front of the salesman) and told him that while I liked the car, I didn’t love it enough to pay $21k. He kinda just told me to do what I felt best and play it safe. I turned to the salesman and said, “Well, I’ll offer you $18,000 for it.” He laughed and said, “If I go to manager with that number, he’s going to laugh in my face.” I said, well, that’s what I’m offering. Take it or leave it.

We went back and forth with some friendly banter. I really liked the salesman. He was a fatherly type figure and had served in the Air Force, so we had some commonalities. He was a legit nice guy. When I finally convinced him that I was absolutely serious about my number, he left to talk to the “man in the sky.” That’s what my grandpa calls it.

Of course, they did not accept my offer. They came back with a counter of $19300. I called Mike again and told him what was up. We came up with a plan on how we would approach the situation, and I truly think it worked in our favor. We refused the counter-offer. So they went and talked some more and came back again with $18,500! But I stayed strong. I stood fast at my number.

Long story short, I told them even if they would take my offer of $18k, there was no way I could buy the car without my husband driving it, and that he would not be down until Christmas eve night. I told them that we might come test-drive it again the day after Christmas on our way back to St. Louis if we were still interested.

That’s when things got crazy.

It was at this time that the “man in the sky” came out and offered to let me have the car during Christmas so I would have time to see if I really liked it and so Mike could drive it. I couldn’t believe they were offering me this sweet ride FOR FREE for three whole days! Of course, they hoped I would fall in love with it enough to buy it for their price.

The truth is, I did fall in love with it more as I drove it. It began to feel like my car and I got attached. Mike was not a super fan of driving it, but he could see how much I loved it. We decided we would stick with our number and make them an offer.

I called the salesman Saturday morning and said, “My husband will make the deal today at $18k, and not a penny more.” They heehawed around a bit, but eventually they came around and the price was finalized. I felt like I had won the lottery. We got it for a bit less than dealer Bluebook value, so I feel like it was fair. They made money and we saved some money.


I know that $18k is still a lot of money, but that had always been our budget when we started shopping. We also added a 6 year, 75k extended warranty. That tacked on an additional $3k to our loan, so we still ended up paying $21,000 for the car. But now I have the reassurance that if something goes wrong at 100k miles, it’s covered.

We ended up going with Great Southern Bank because they got us a 4.9% interest rate at 72 months. I know 72 months is a long time to pay on a 2011, but we plan on paying it off early. We wanted a lower car payment so we could focus on the higher interest rate debt first.

I couldn’t be happier with our car shopping experience. We stayed within budget, never felt pushed, and got to drive the vehicle for three days before purchasing. It doesn’t get much better than that.

How did your last car buying experience go? Was it as relaxed as mine? 

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, A Disease Called Debt and Racing Towards Retirement*

6 thoughts on “How Car Buying Should Be

    1. Thanks! I actually read about it on another blog and thought, that’s actually a really great idea. If anyone is in the market for a larger car or SUV, I’d definitely recommend looking into it.

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