Car Corner
The Burb

September 1, 1999
By Scott Lewis

We got a Suburban. Last month I reviewed the differences between the Ford Expedition and the Chevrolet/GMC Suburban. The Suburban won the comparison. Its better ride and more secure, confidence inspiring handle, along with a full size third row seat gave it a huge advantage.

So we decided to get a Suburban. Alas, we were torn between getting one now, or waiting for the all new 2000 Suburbans. We checked the price of Suburbans and figured we probably couldn’t afford one. With MSRP prices of around $35,000+ we didn’t think we would meet our goals for a monthly car payment close to our existing one.

We decided to try a dealer selling cars on the "no-haggle" method. This is becoming more and more common. They put a discounted price on the car next to the sticker and that is the selling price of the car. No negotiations. Some places refer to this as menu pricing.

They had a GMC Suburban that was a demo. It had 3400 miles on it. It was discounted over $1,000 less than any other Suburban on the GMC or Chevrolet lot. So we decided to try and go for it.

Then the other shoe dropped. They offered us only $14,500 for our Explorer. We had already looked up the value of our car in the Kelly Blue Book. It was rated at $15,950 in good condition and $16,950 in excellent condition. By their definitions, our car was everything a good condition car was and most of what an excellent car was. We were expecting at least 16,000 for our car.

Since they don’t haggle, we just left.

We decided we afford the new Suburbans with the payments we wanted. From our pricing, we were going to be at least $3,000 short of the price point we needed. This made us initially wait until the 2000s were out. It would give us more payments (equity) on our Explorer, and time to save some extra money.

Then we decided to check into used ones. We figured we could save a lot of depreciation by getting a 98, or even 99, used. We went to Car Max and Auto Nations, but came up blank. Neither had a 98 or 99 Suburban.

Then we went buy a GMC/Pontiac dealer and checked their used inventory. They had an emerald green 99 with 21,000 miles on it for $32,000. It was the top of the line SLT loaded with everything, including leather we didn’t think we could afford.

Then came the all-important negotiations. A couple of months ago I wrote about some of the tricks car dealers use, and gave a silly (but almost true) example of the kind of conversations people have with dealers.

It gave me a laugh to write it, and I hope you got a laugh from reading it. But that article was about the never pleasant aspect of buying a car... getting a fair price.

The dealer offered us $13,000 for our Explorer. My wife walked out. They complained about our attitude, and we told them we didn’t appreciate being lied to, and at that ridiculous value it was an insult. They came back with a price of $15,750 and eventually offered $16,100 for our car.

We got them to come down on the Suburban to $30,100. We made the deal, and our payments only went up $32 a month. This is a big move up scale for us in both size and luxury. We were very happy with the deal. And I have no doubt they will make over a $1000 on our trade, and probably made at least $3000 on the Suburban.

I looked up the price of the GMC Suburban. New it should have carried a sticker price of about $36,522 and invoiced at $31,893. That does not include TT&L. This also assumes there isn’t some option on the car I don’t know about. I also looked up the Kelly Blue Book retail price for the car as a used vehicle. It came up at $33,185.

So, we paid about $3000 less than Kelly Blue Book retail. We also paid the equivalent of $1,800 less than invoice for the exchange of 21,000 miles. Compared to sticker, we saved over $6,000. This is more than acceptable for a car that still looks brand new with its 21,000 miles. It is still under the factory warrantee, and the only thing missing is the new car smell.

In an upcoming column I will tell you about all the little things that come from living with this car/truck. To wet your appetite... The Burb is so wide it doesn’t fit through our garage door unless we fold in one of the side view mirrors.

Currently I am looking for a nickname for The Burb. I am thinking about getting custom plates, so I need something short and sweet. So far I have these:

  • Big Burb - obviously there is a connection to Big Bird (perfect if it was yellow)
  • The Burb - just because
  • Burbzilla - which could be shortened to Brbzila or Burbzila on a license plate

I do not know how many letters you can use in Texas, but I know it is at least 7, maybe 8. So I need a great nickname that can be done in 7 letters or less. Please e-mail me with your ideas. \