Car buying is a harrowing experience even for the most seasoned of veterans. Here I will go over my experience customizing and buying a brand-new 2015 Toyota Highlander.
When we initially got married, I had a 2009 Honda Accord 4-door. We kept it after our first-born, as it provided enough room for us even with the new addition. Even when travelling during the holidays, we were able to pack up everything in the Escape and travel 800+ miles up to the grandparents house. It was a tight fit the first year, but we made it there and back. Once we graduated from a carrier to a seat, I realized there wasn’t quite enough room, and started to look at a larger family car that would provide us not only with enough room needed currently, but room to grow.
We started our research into mid-sized SUVs online. We looked at what each offered and figured out which features were important to us as a family. Initially we had our eyes on a Honda Pilot as after owning an Accord for six years I was partial to Honda, but in 2014 Honda had not yet updated to the 2015 body style with the Android-based infotainment center. We test drove a Pilot and a Ford Explorer.
My initial thoughts on the Pilot were great, but it did not have any sort of smart integration with phones to allow for application access for music streaming, which was important for us. The Explorer was nice, but there were a couple things which I didn’t like: the windshield was too small for me, the turn signal selector. I prefer to have a large windshield in my vehicles to allow for ample visibility when driving. I have a better view of the road with a larger windshield which (I believe) makes me a safer driver. In the Explorer, the turn-signal selector does not click into place, the driver just presses it up or down which starts the signal. I absolutely hated not having the satisfying click, which turned me off on the Explorer.
Choosing the Highlander
After some additional research, we saw the Highlander received high marks across the board for safety, reliability, and technology. After test-driving one, I knew it was the vehicle for us. I did not want to pick up a cookie-cutter vehicle available on the lot. I researched exactly the vehicle we needed customizing everything. We picked the color, interior, technology package, all-wheel drive, V6, and towing package. I have always wanted a blue car, but never have been able to get one.
This being the first time I have ever been able to customize a car from the factory, my dream was fulfilled. To complement the exterior blue, we picked the gray leather seats, with the captain chairs and third-row seating. We chose the technology package because it included lane-departure warning technology, variable-speed cruise control, and auto-braking. All-wheel drive was chosen because although we live in Florida where it never snows, we travel up north for holidays. Even though this came at a loss of 1 MPG, I felt the benefit outweighed the additional cost. We chose the V6 because we both can have a little bit of a lead foot, and after having the larger engine in the Accord, a V6 was a must-have.
Ordering from the Dealership
I emailed the dealership with my specifications, and dropped $500 on a deposit. After some additional thought, I decided to add the towing package to try to ‘future-proof’ our vehicle. When our family decided to grow some more, instead of having to go out and purchase an even bigger vehicle, we could rent or buy a trailer to cart around our stuff. The dealership said it would be ready in about two months.
Those two months dragged on! During this time, I got the Accord appraised by CarMax and on a website, seeing what I could sell it for. At the time, I was still upside-down about $3,000 on the Accord. CarMax gave an appraisal of $13,000, with the website showing a maximum of $10,000. I also starting stashing away money for a down payment. When we finally got the call from the dealership that the Highlander was on the lot, we got all the paperwork ready and drove over. This is where the real fun started…