After nearly eight years and over 143,000 miles, I retired my 2002 Chrysler Town and Country minivan. Despite costing thousands of dollars in post-warranty repairs, the car served us well. It welcomed Moose into the world, delivered each boy to his respective first day of school, shuttled us all across Florida and more, and served valiantly as the family taxi/limo/schoolbus/ambulance.
Yesterday, I traded the Crapler (so named by Moose) for a brand new 2009 Mercedes Benz GL320 Bluetec. It’s a white SUV with a tan interior. It has all kinds of bells and whistles, and “a button for everything” according to WineGuy. There are separate manuals for the vehicle, the nav system, the DVD system, the tires; they are bound into one case that weighs about 2 pounds! It will take us a day to program everything and weeks to learn how to use it all.
As with all tales from the Testosterone Zone, this one had its share of drama. I have been looking for a new car for more than 18 months. Last year, I came close to buying a Toyota Sequoia, but WineGuy nixed it when gas prices skyrocketed. This summer, I learned about the Ford Flex. WineGuy went to look at one on his own and liked it, felt comfortable in it. We were having trouble agreeing on a color. I also had some serious reservations about certain Flex options that wouldn’t become standard builds on that car until late in 2009. I didn’t want to keep my van for another 6 months. In July 2009, the local Mercedes dealer sent me a flyer inviting me to come in and test-drive the GL320. They were offering a good rebate at the time, so I bit. Once I drove the vehicle, I was smitten. I just could not get it out of my head, no matter how many times WG encouraged me to special-order the Flex. At first, I didn’t play my cards right with WG. I had him meet me at the dealer on one of his shorter work days, but he had to drive all the way across town in the pouring rain. He was drenched and cranky and hated the car. The next time we went to the dealer, he had more time to sit in it and think about it, but the boys were being rotten. WG still complained about the car. A couple of weeks passed, and I was reading the Mercedes Benz GL discussion forum on Edmunds.com. I saw a couple of people getting phenomenal deals on the GL, including a $10,000 incentive from the manufacturer. Mercedes offered the $10K incentive from August 1-31, 2009, but I first learned about it on August 25, 2009. I quickly emailed WG, politely asking him if he could find some time last week to look at the car again. WG agreed to go that day; I suggested we try a different dealer, whom a friend recommended. I picked up all the boys from school and met WG at the other dealer. The boys behaved well, and the other salesman was low-key and very nice. WG and I looked at the car again very carefully, then WG said, “I can live with this.”
Woohoo! Happy dance! While WG took the boys for dinner, I met with the salesman. We discussed colors and options; he gave me an excellent price . . . if he could get the vehicle. A big “IF”. Over the course of the next two days, the nice salesman contacted more than 17 Mercedes dealers trying to get me a car. He struck out: the cars were selling out rapidly, and there were no dealer-trades. He gave me an idea of who had cars, so I started calling around the country. I found lots of the white/tan models, but to my dismay I learned that nearly all of them did not qualify for the incentive. There were no silver cars to be had, and the only “Barolo (red)” one had far more options than I wanted or needed. I called the Mercedes dealer whom I had met through the Costco auto program last month. Her white/tan car didn’t qualify for the incentive either, but she graciously pulled up the entire national inventory of the GL320 and gave me cities in which the vehicles were located. [This woman did not make a dime from me, but she was a tremendous help. I’m sending her a gift.] I called dozens of dealers all over the United States and got nowhere. For some reason, I went back to the list of Mercedes dealers in Florida and searched each one’s individual inventory. At 8:00 p.m. on August 27th, I called the dealer in Fort Pierce, Florida. The salesman had the same first name as Wizard . . . a good sign. Yes, he had a white/tan in stock, but that one might not be eligible for the incentive. He would have to get approval from the zone rep, and that would take another day.
On Friday morning, August 28th, I found a dark blue/tan model in Van Nuys, CA that had some of the features I wanted, some I didn’t want, and lacked the DVD system. It was a close match, so I asked for a price and was offered a great deal, including shipment from California to Florida. I emailed the details to WG, who loved the price but hated the color of the car because it was too dark. It looked black, and WG hates black cars. I agreed to table the CA offer until I heard back from Fort Pierce. At that point, I was frazzled and walked away from the computer. I had done everything I could and was getting nowhere. Later that afternoon, as I was picking up Wild Thing and Moose from school, Fort Pierce called back to say he had gotten approval to offer the incentive on the car. We dickered a bit and came to a price. I texted WG, and he replied “Go for it!” I called Fort Pierce back and gave them a deposit on my credit card, advising them we would drive up the next day, Saturday 8/29, to pick up the car.
We cleaned out the van and set out early for Fort Pierce on Saturday, August 29, 2009. The trip took about 3 hours, including one stop for fresh peaches and okra at a farmstand, and one stop for lunch. We got to the dealer early. The receptionist greeted me, and I replied, “That’s my car! I’m here to pick it up,” pointing to the white car straight ahead. It took about 2 hours to negotiate the trade on my van and complete all the paperwork. The boys behaved really well, although it was Wizard who kept whining, “Why is it taking so long?” I gingerly drove away from Fort Pierce in the pouring rain, enjoying my new car and trying to figure out the basics. We followed the same country roads back across the state and stopped at our favorite Southern food restaurant for dinner. When we finally got home, around 5:30 p.m., we were all exhausted, but not too tired to take some photos: