There are many reasons for buying a hybrid SUV. These include replacing an older SUV, wanting less emissions from your car, wanting better gas mileage, needing better utility value, wanting to cash in on State or Federal incentives, or maybe just because of a new-found love of this vehicle. Potential buyers should be cautioned that this is a big investment and they had better think hard about what they want and why. It is too early for a good resale value. Even with increased gas mileage and incentives no one should expect a financial savings versus a regular gas SUV over the expected lifetime of the car. Many current Ford Escape Hybrid (FEH) owners have said they understand that this generation of hybrids are a bridge between regular gas/diesel vehicles and the expected Electrical Vehicle (EV) and Hydrogen/Fuel Cell Vehicles due to be introduced in 7-10 years. Many are highly educated (college or higher degrees), have high annual incomes ($60,000+), live in small family groups (less than 4 people), and are either current or previous hybrid owners. The majority live on the East or West Coasts.
Here are some tips for those ready to begin research into whether this is the car for them. Personal research is all-important because many Ford dealer salespeople are not knowledgable about the FEH. Learn everything you can learn from the ‘official’ hybrid vehicle manufacturer websites such as the Ford Hybrid, Toyota, and Honda websites. This will give you a bit of understanding about what a hybrid is and some assorted terminology. Using browser search tools, find online discussion groups and join in the chatter. There is a wealth of positive and negative information from real people.
Now, armed with a background, start looking for Ford dealers. Search Companies like Cars.Com and Pricequotes.Com will take your name and send to you a list of qualified Ford Hybrid dealers within a specified distance. Within hours or you will receive telephone calls and/or emails. Reply that you are still researching and not yet ready to select them as your dealer but you want to stay in contact. The Search Companies give you the ability to display the dealer’s inventories, their relative size, and what their service departments have to offer. One additional search could be through the database of the Chamber of Commerce for possible negative information. Dealers with dedicated Internet Sales Managers might give you the best deal and bypass the regular on-the-lot salespeople.
Compile a Top-Five list of dealers. Try to correspond by email and you should soon be able to judge their ability to communicate honestly by how they respond to your questions. This will also give an indication of how they may respond after a sale. Now, you will be armed with what you need to go into battle on the dealer’s home turf. Basically, you want to buy at Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) or less and not pay a premium. You may not be able to get your requested price on a trade-in so be prepared to sell the car yourself. Be prepared to wait for 8-10 weeks on an ordered car or be steered to an on-the-lot vehicle without what you want. Before ordering dealer options do your homework and be sure the options really offer you personal value. A great deal may change your mind about the options you want or the time you are willing to wait. Try to arrange a lengthy test drive under many driving conditions. If you order, get the expected date of delivery, the total price, and the list of options you ordered in writing. Try to not offer a cash down payment but just say you will give them a check when they call you back with a firm build date and partial Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
If your gut reaction to any face-to-face interaction with a dealer is negative, leave, but promise to return after you check with another dealer. Do not be hesitant about asking in discussion groups about recommendations about specific dealers.
Finally, at delivery, do not be bulldozed into taking dealer-arranged financing, the first quote for an Extended Service Plan (ESP), or other add-ons. Shop for these separately. Most important, try not to get emotional. You should be in as much control of the deal as possible until you hand over the payment.