Highlander Car Buying – Part 2

In the first part, I told you how we outgrew the Accord, the vehicles we were looking at to replace it with, and how we picked the Highlander over many other mid-sized SUVs available in the market today. In this post we will go over the most dreaded part of the car buying process, going to the dealership.

Inconsistent Prices

My wife stayed at home while her mother and I drove to the dealership. We used the TrueCar service to ensure we got the exact vehicle and specifications we need. This gave us the flexibility to know exactly how much we will pay when we got to the dealership. We met the salesman, who whisked us to the back to give a quick look-over of the car. It was exactly what I wanted!

So pretty

We took a test drive and it was wonderful. Once we got back to the dealer we sat down to talk numbers. For some reason, the prices from the TrueCar paperwork and the actual vehicle cost were not adding up.

Added ‘Features’

I reviewed the spec sheet for the TrueCar order and the Highlander, and some items had been added which I had not requested. The dealership had added VIN window etching, clear coat, door protectors, and the towing system I wanted had been upgraded to a more expensive one. I mentioned this to the salesman, and he said he would be right back. After about an hour of looking over the paperwork waiting, a new salesman came over. I would classify this guy as ‘The Closer’ of the dealership. We argued multiple times about why these features were added, and what we could do about it. It was apparently my fault for not telling them correct. Each time he would leave for about an hour to talk to the ‘manager’, leaving us sitting and waiting. Initially he said he was able to knock $700 off the price he ‘found’ in the advertising budget. I finally got an inch, so I conceded.


At this point we had been in the dealership for about 6 hours, much longer than we had planned. They were offering much less as a trade-in for the Honda than CarMax. I wasn’t worried since I had an active offer that I was comfortable with. I knew that the financing desk is where they push hard to up-sell additional services, so I was ready. Luckily, the finance employee did not push too hard. I think he saw us there for so long and took pity. He showed me what they offered, asked if I wanted it, and that was that. I declined all the services and was just ready to get home. After signing the paperwork, my mother-in-law and I had to find the nearest CarMax to drop of the Honda. Car buying complete!


As I knew that I was trading in the car that day, I had not filled up the fuel, and the light was on. My mother-in-law drove the Honda, and I the Highlander. She worried that we would run out of gas, but we got to CarMax with no issues. They checked the offer, called the bank, I handed them the keys and a check, and we were off. All in all, it took about an hour. Everything was looking good as we traveled into the sunset back home on our brand-new Highlander.

Highlander Car Buying – Part 1


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. It was my first brand-new car, and I loved nearly every part of it.

Ready to sell

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

Our Vehicle Introductions

Vehicle Introductions

First of all, I work on our vehicles myself to save some money so here are the vehicle introductions. I will share experiences purchasing vehicles and ongoing maintenance on both vehicles. As my memory is a little unreliable at times, so I will be noting my past experiences as accurately as possible. So let’s get introduced!

2010 Ford Escape

My wife primarily drives the 2010 Ford Escape she purchased back in 2010 for about $30,000. It is gray with black leather seats, 4-cylinder front-wheel drive with Microsoft SYNC. I can’t share my experience buying this vehicle because I wasn’t there, but will post the ongoing maintenance projects.

2015 Toyota Highlander

I primarily drive the 2015 Toyota Highlander we purchased in 2014 for about $50,000. It is blue with gray leather seats, all-wheel drive, V6, with the technology and towing packages. We ordered this car from the factory and chose every single options to make sure we got exactly what we needed.