What’s the Sonic Guest Experience actually like? I went to go buy a 4Runner to find out

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[Note: Sonic recently signed on to become a sponsor of the Agenda. I’ve long admired the Sonic Automotive brand, so I’m pumped about the partnership. This content was created in coordination with Sonic Automotive.]

I’ve read and heard about the new Sonic Guest Experience, but I hadn’t experienced it. Until now.

I’m in the market for a new car. I’ve loved my 2007 Toyota 4Runner, but I’m considering an upgrade.

First thing’s first – I hate shopping. So I was skeptical that my experience would be as advertised when I showed up to Sonic Automotive’s Town and Country Toyota dealership on South Boulevard.

toyota-town-and-country-charlotte

I walked into the showroom and when I walked up to the counter of the showroom one of the two guys asked, “How can I help you today?”

I sheepishly answer, “I’m interested in buying a car. Is there somebody I can chat with?”

town-and-country-toyota-showroom

The guys behind the counter immediately introduced me to Quinton. Great dude.

Quinton shook my hand. He then immediately disarmed the typical sales awkwardness by explaining to me that at Sonic, he’s paid a salary and doesn’t work on commission.

We chatted. I told him I was looking for a new black 4Runner. I didn’t need the fancy stuff, but I did want leather interior because I work for the internet and I’m delicate, :).

new-toyota-4runner-in-showroom

We opened the showroom doors and Quinton took me 45 yards out to the lot to a shiny, black 4Runner.

He told me that he recommended the lower end model. It comes with cloth seats, but we’d replace them with leather. This would save me a few thousand dollars since I wasn’t interested in the other premium features (kind of cool to have the sales guy take me immediately to the less expensive model).

I asked Quinton about the price. He told me that all prices are determined based on market value and they put the real price on sizable red boxes located on the driver’s side back seat car window. Sonic Automotive updates prices in real time based on local sales data.

He explained how unlike other dealerships, they don’t do the trick where you’ll find a high list price then you negotiate down – or where the list price is low, but then they sneak in fees later.

It’s just a straightforward price. It is what it is. Like a nerd, I asked him how this impacted his job. Quinton responded, “It makes my job much easier. I’ve worked in auto sales for a while and this system is better – it’s just easier and makes sense.”

price-of-sonic-4runner-charlotte-toyota

I’m interested in trading in my current 4Runner and asked if I could test drive the new car.

Quinton added the dealer tags to my car, grabbed my license and asked for the keys to my current car.

As I took the new 4Runner for a test ride, Quinton grabbed the details on my current car so that he could give me a trade-in estimate.

I took a spin.

After I expertly parked it back into the same spot, I jumped out of the car and asked Quinton, “OK, so what happens now and how much would I really be paying for this thing? Can we figure out what my payments would be?”

Quniton responded, “Yes, let’s do it. Follow me, let’s go inside. I’ll load it up all that stuff on my iPad for you.”

inside-toyota-4runner-charlotte

We sat together at a table in the front right and crunched the numbers on Quinton’s iPad.

He asked me about financing and I asked about my options. He said, here’s what we’ve got based on your credit score. I was surprised by how low the interest rates were.

Here’s the financing table we talked through on his iPad:

financing-toyota-town-and-country-charlotte

As I thought through financing options, Quinton said he was going to grab my trade-in value.

I asked how they figure that out and he said he scanned the barcode on my car and they immediately crunch the numbers using a ton of data out of their Cotswold headquarters.

He walked to the back of the dealership and walked back and said, “Okay, your trade-in value would be $7,000.” Then he hit a few buttons to add leather and a few other items.

I selected 72 months as my financing option and then he showed me exactly how the transaction would go down.

ipad-with-cost-breakdown-at-sonic

From the time I walked into the dealership door to the time I got an exact breakdown of what my transaction would look like, it was 13 minutes.

I told Quinton I was scared to make a big purchase without talking to my wife (true). I asked how long it would take to do the paperwork after I said “go.” He responded about 45 minutes or so.

I grabbed Quinton’s card and walked out. He didn’t pressure me or give me a hard sell. Super chill.

In summary, the Sonic Guest Experience lived up to its reputation — I found it low key, dead simple, transparent and lighting fast.

The only weird thing about the experience was when I asked Quinton to take a selfie with me, I think I weirded him out, but he couldn’t say no.

sonic-guest-experience-guide-charlotte

[This content was created in coordination with Sonic Automotive.]

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Ted Williams
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Publisher, golfer, dad and magician (seriously).

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