“Fantastic, Mr. Thomas. Congratulations! You’re the proud new owner of a 2017 Jeep Renegade Limited.” – Phillip Holt
Yesterday, I purchased a new vehicle—a 2017 Jeep Renegade Limited. In the 14 months I’ve been back in the DC area, The Gazelle has taken an absolute beating on the nation’s worst roads. And as I’m nearing 105000 miles, I may be a lot closer to that “until the wheels fall off” point than I wanted to be at this particular date in time. Of course, as I’m committed to the Jeep brand, I decided that I would simply get a new Jeep…like a brand new Jeep, not the other meaning. From the start, my eyes were set on the Jeep Renegade. I was first introduced to the latest offering in the Jeep line in January 2016. It was initially my plan to get one for my 32nd birthday last year and pass The Gazelle over to my little sister. The move to DC last summer changed that. For a hot second, I considered the 2017 Compass and the 2017 Grand Cherokee Laredo but I didn’t like the new look of the former and the I’ve already had an experience with the latter in a rental, of which I wasn’t overly impressed.
WHAT I WANTED. The last time I was in the market for a new vehicle, I was more general with what I wanted. I wasn’t concerned with the model…I just wanted a newer Jeep than The Midnight Blue Express. This time, I was very specific. The Jeep I wanted was as follows:
- A 2017 Jeep Renegade Limited
- Colorado Red exterior paint with a black interior color
- Black leather-trimmed bucket seats
- A 2.4-liter I4 MultiAir engine with an automatic transmission that could be converted to manual, if needed
- All of the standard equipment items that came on the Renegade Limited including the rear back up camera, the remote start system, the rain-sensitive windshield wipers, the heated steering wheel, the heated front seats, and the 18” aluminum polished and painted granite crystal wheels
- All of the features from the 27G Customer Preferred Package: the UConnect 6.5 Navigation Group and the MySky sunroof system
- As close to 0 miles on the ride as possible
THE SEARCH. Because of the specificity of my search, I cast my net out to the entire nation. Almost every search came back with the price being in the $26500 to $30000 price range. Of course, there were a couple available close to the DC area—one in Baltimore and one in Woodbridge, Virginia—but they both wanted over $28500, which was at the high end of the search, and they had the most miles already on the “new” vehicle at 214 miles and 163 miles, respectively. My best option seemed to be from AutoNation Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Fiat of North Columbus. They had it for $26800 and, according to what I saw online, it had absolutely no miles on it. Even more was that Jeep was offering $4750 in savings, making it a $22000 vehicle. I called down to the Columbus, Georgia dealer and asked for more details about the vehicle. Apparently, it had just come in on the truck 3 days earlier. He also confirmed that it had 0 miles on it. I told him that I was very interested in it and that I needed a week to get down to Georgia to get my eyes on it. I may have slightly fabricated a story about me being an active-duty servicemember returning from a war zone to get him to commit to not putting miles on the Jeep. With that Jeep squarely in my sights, I cut off communication with all of the other dealers nationwide and booked a one-way flight home to Birmingham.
THE TEST DRIVE. I arrived here, in Birmingham, on Thursday morning. Even though I had a very, very good deal on financing set up with USAA, I still stopped by the bank to withdraw a sizable amount of cash for leverage purposes. Yesterday morning, my father and I made the 3-hour drive to North Columbus to the dealer. We arrived around 10am ET. As promised, the dealer had pretty much left the vehicle untouched. The odometer read 0 miles. Just as he did with The Gazelle at Med Center MAZDA more than 6 ½ years earlier, my father performed a thorough inspection. It was fairly uneventful because the vehicle was literally brand new. After he gave me the thumbs up, we took it for a spin. For an out-of-town buyer, I was actually at an advantage in that test drive being that 3 of the buildings I managed for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were at Fort Benning. Combine with the fact that my wife resided in Columbus prior to our wedding, I knew the exact stretch of road to get the best out of a test drive. The Jeep handled well. It rode smooth and it stopped sharply when I needed it to. It felt comfortable inside. I really loved the way those seats felt on my ass. In fact, when I got in for the test drive, I made adjustments and my father quipped would probably be in place for a while. Overall, the test drive was clean. I only needed 4 miles to get all I needed out of it. The vehicle was good, the drive was good. I was ready to buy.
THE NEGOTIATIONS. Just as I expected, we started at the $26800 MSRP price. The dealer added the $1095 destination charge. That brought us up to $27895 to start. Phillip then took off the $4750 in Jeep savings. For some odd reason, I got that much in savings from Jeep in Georgia whereas I would’ve only gotten $1500 in Virginia…another reason why I decided to make the trip. With the savings, the new price is down to $23145. At this point, I made my first play: the military discount. It’s usually a risky move to ask but with Columbus being a military town, I went for it. The dealer was willing to give me an extra $3000 off the MSRP to honor my “service as a national hero” if I was willing to buy immediately. Without saying much of anything, I was already up to $7750 in savings. With the price down to $20145, I started my work getting to a price I wanted to pay, not exactly what the dealer was offering. I pulled out my notebook, where I wrote down negotiation points. The 1st point was the wheels. In the lead-up to me making the trip down, the dealer had told me that the vehicle had all of the standard features of a 2017 Jeep Renegade Limited. One of those standard features was the 18” aluminum polished and painted granite crystal wheels. The wheels on this particular Jeep were satin silver. I let the dealer know that even though they were considered a premium upgrade, I didn’t want those wheels. I asked to have them exchanged for the granite crystal wheels off another Renegade Limited. After talking to the sales manager, Phillip came back and said they couldn’t make an exchange but they would take off $800 for the wheels. That’s double the cost of that premium upgrade and it brought the price down to $19345. That was satisfactory for me as far as MSRP vehicle price. The next items for negotiation were the fees…specifically the documentation, lemon law, advertising, VIN etching, rustproofing, and destination charge fees. Phillip sensed that I wanted no parts of the VIN etching or rustproofing fees so he immediately took those off before going back to talk to the sales manager again. He came back and informed me that the destination charge was scrapped since I came a long way to purchase the vehicle…he said something to the effect of “you came all the way from Afghanistan to get this done, it’s the least we can do”. LOL…if only he knew. He also said that they knocked $50 off of the $200 advertising fee. The documentation fee and lemon law fee were set in stone. I countered with a request for an itemization of that documentation fee, considering they were charging $699—the maximum allowed by the State of Georgia. I gave a somewhat passive-aggressive “if it’s truly $3, then I guess I’ll pay the lemon law fee”. I also contended that if I was going to pay the now $150 advertising fee, then I wanted everything that identified the dealer off of the vehicle. My logic was that it’s enough for me to pay for the advertising but you’re not going to get the benefit of having every motorist behind me seeing your dealership on my ride. Back to the sales manager he went. 5 minutes later, he was back. He agreed to take all of the AutoNation stuff off the vehicle. It was at this point that he informed me that I had saved $8550 off MSRP and $690 off fees. He asked if we had a deal. I said yes and he proceeded to pass me along to the sales manager to finish things up. The sales manager did his thing and offered financing but I rebuffed because I already had approval from USAA to finance up to $25000. The sales manager also complimented me on my skills as a negotiator. I responded that I just did a lot of homework and I came prepared to pay the price I wanted to pay. The final price out of the door was $20864. I ended up paying $15000 in cash and I financed the rest. I walked out of that dealership feeling like I got the better of the deal…and honestly, I did. I had all of the advantages with the biggest ones being having the cash on hand and the ability to walk away whenever I wanted to.
FIRST DRIVE AS AN OWNER. With the keys to the new 2017 Jeep Renegade Limited in my hand, my father snapped a few pictures to capture the moment and we were back on our way to Birmingham. That drive north on Highway 280 was just like old times, when I made the trip from Opelika to Birmingham once or twice a month. When I got to certain cruise spots, I let it go. It rode well. I even got my first taste of the rain-sensitive windshield wipers during a brief rainstorm in Alexander City. Mostly, I loved the UConnect features…the Bluetooth communication system, the built-in navigation, and the SiriusXM service.
Currently, there are 330 miles on the Jeep, which I’ve christened as The Red Wolf because of the obvious color and the fact that it’s a reflection of me returning to my persona as a “lone wolf”. I’ll spend another day or so here in Birmingham before I hop on I-20 East to Atlanta to pick up Mercedes. From there, it’s a long drive to Montgomery County, Maryland but I’ll definitely be breaking it in on the road. I’ll still retain The Gazelle as my everyday vehicle with The Red Wolf being my special occasion ride.