So, after we realized that the Mazda5 was not the car for us, we went to a couple of new car dealers to just see what was out there (new dealers mainly because they were the ones open on a Saturday night when we decided to do this. We never considered buying an actual new car.).
That gave me some ideas, but then a few days later I had the chance to drop the kids off with my mother-in-law and go to a CarMax. I had poked around their website and liked that they had a bunch of makes and models available to see all in one place, and (ha!) most of their vehicles are previous rental vehicles so they were exactly what we were looking for.
(Just to head this off, this is also not a sponsored post, but I'm a pretty happy customer.)
I went in and had a chat with the salesperson, who told me up front that he gets paid a flat rate per each vehicle sale, as opposed to a higher commission for a fancier car and a lower commission for a more basic car.
We walked around and sat in a bunch of different cars, and test drove a couple. I liked two of them, and arranged for Peanut to come in that evening and test drive those two and see what he liked. They were about $5,000 apart in price, with the more expensive one right at the top of our price range. He ended up test driving only the less expensive one (a Rav4), liked it fine, and we bought it.
I wish it was that simple - it was a mountain of paperwork that took forever while I fed Pickle treats out of the vending machine and my mother-in-law drove Baby Bear around in circles in the parking lot so he'd stay asleep. I hope to never finance a car ever again simply for how long the process took!
Because, yeah, we did finance part of it. We put down $5,000 of the total cost (it was right around $18,000) and financed the rest at the lowest interest rate our sales person had seen in months (1.95%!). We also upgraded to a remote starter, which is simply astonishing in how it has made my life wonderful (and it's not even that cold yet!). We had it checked out by our personal mechanic during the five day period when we could return it with no consequences, and it got a clean bill of health, although I did end up having to take it back in the first month to have a tire patched (luckily the tire pressure light had come on during Peanut's test drive, so it was fixed as a warranty issue).
All in all, it was a great experience. And even better, I really like the car - it's so much easier to get the kids in and out of the car seats, it feels safer and sturdier, it gets really good gas mileage, it fits all my stuff in it, and there's more leg room up front. And the remote starter! How wonderful to start my car from the house, and dash the kids out there after it's all warm. Brilliant.
Oh, and what we will be doing with our old Mazda? Well, the plan was to sell it, privately, since we figured we could get the most money that way. We're waiting to have it detailed, but we might end up keeping it after all. Ch-ch-ch-changes are afoot!