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First-Person Single: Hyundai delivers satisfying first-car buying experience

It was time for my youngest daughter to buy a car. She had some money saved, she was working 10 miles from home, and car-sharing with me gave us both too much to argue about. As usual, I kept my mouth shut – and let her begin her search for a solid but inexpensive second-hand car in her own way, on the Internet. Two weeks later, frustrated and still car-less, she admitted that this time she required a more hands-on approach.

A 2001 Hyundai Elantra on the lot

“Mom, do you think we could go look at cars at one of the dealerships?” she asked on a Wednesday morning.

With seven Fred Beans dealerships in Doylestown, it was only a question of where to start first. Do we turn left onto Swamp Road in Cross Keys or go straight on North Easton Road? I knew how little Abbie had to spend and didn’t really expect her to find what she could afford, but this would be a good experience for both of us. Because no, in 12 years of writing for the company and for Fred and Beth, I have never bought a car from a Fred Beans dealership. (However, in my defense, I can report that I have been driving the same vehicle for almost the entire time.)

“Sure, Ab, we can start at Hyundai and then go to any of the others,” I told her. I closed up my office and we headed out, fully expecting to visit several if not all of the Beans dealerships before we finished our car tour.

We walked into the Hyundai dealership at 4465 West Swamp Road and introduced ourselves to the first salesman we came to, Miles T. Clements III – who fortunately has “Chip” for a nickname. I am partial to nicknames myself, so we made a nice connection. Chip’s business card says “Selection Specialist” – I like that!

Abbie told Chip she was hoping to get an idea of what her $3,500 would buy. I don’t think Chip or I thought there’d be anything available at that price, but he brought out the store’s pre-owned list. Only one vehicle was in her range, a black 2001 Hyundai Elantra with a lot of miles and a little bit of body damage – but recently inspected, some key “older car” maintenance items already handled, good tires and a spotless interior. Abbie was grinning when she and Chip left for a test drive.

I waited, chatted a moment with the genial general manager, Matt Tucker, and wondered how this morning would end. I couldn’t help thinking, “Wouldn’t this be funny if instead of looking at a bunch of cars and buying nothing, as I’d expected, she brings home the first one she finds?”

Abbie returned with barely controlled excitement lighting her face. She announced that she’d seen the CarFax, the previous owner had brought the car to Beans for all of its maintenance, and the original owner’s manual was still in the glove box.

Abbie, Nathan and the Batmobile

When Chip said he could go get the pricing, if we were interested, Abbie looked at me, eyes shining.

“Hey, I’m only the chauffeur this morning,” I said. “This is your money, your decision.”

And that’s how it happened that Abbie is now driving her cute little Hyundai Elantra. The first car she test-drove, the only car she saw that she considered buying. It’s running great, with a sporty get-up-and-go that she loves. And it looks like Chip has a customer for life. Maybe two!

Oh, there is a little more to the story. After two days of the check-engine light coming on for no apparent reason, Ab and her 2-year-old stopped by the Hyundai dealership to ask the service department about it. But before a service advisor could get to her, her son lost all patience and she had to leave. A few minutes after she got home, someone in service called her and apologized for not getting to her. They then sent a driver over to pick up her car and leave her with a brand new 2012 Elantra to drive while they looked into the issue. Turns out, stray water must have been shorting out something in the system, so they dried it out and all is fine still, several months later. I can only say, “Above and beyond expectations!”

Abbie, Nathan and Chip Clements