August 09, 2017

Buying a WRX

18 MIN READ

guides , wrx

A few months ago I shared my thoughts on my ownership experience of my Fiesta ST, which you can read here. In short, I praised the ST for its sharp handling, peppy personality, and balance of power and efficiency. However, I also highlighted a number of its flaws, including a harsh ride, cramped cabin, and uncomfortable seats. I closed by mentioning that I felt I had outgrown it in many ways, and alluded to a plan of upgrading to a Subaru WRX in the near future - something that has always been a dream of mine.

Why a WRX?

As a child of the 90’s and 2000’s, I was raised on a steady diet of Need For Speed, Fast and Furious, and Hot Wheels. With the Subaru WRX featured in almost every car-related movie, TV show, or video game in the last 20 years, I spent most of my childhood dreaming about someday owning one. Unfortunately, between the cost of insurance, finances, timing, etc., I’ve never really been able to seriously pursue that dream.

But shortly after picking up my Fiesta ST back in 2014, I made a promise to myself: that the next car I purchased would be a WRX. I put my mind to it, and spent the next three years planning, saving, and waiting. I found myself finally ready to pull the trigger earlier this July and placed an order for a 2018 WRX Premium in Lapis Blue Pearl.

Placing my order

With an estimated delivery time of 10-12 weeks, I knew I’d need some way to distract myself…

I got to thinking about the types of things I had searched for during my research, and realized that one thing I hadn’t come across was someone who had fully documented their ownership experience. This seemed like a fun challenge, I’d give it a shot myself!

So in that spirit, this post will be the first in a series designed to share my WRX journey in detail; from research and ordering, to purchasing, maintenance, and modding. I’ll identify a few things to know if/when you decide to start shopping for a WRX of your own. As somebody who has already spent an unhealthy amount of time scouring forums, magazines, YouTube, and dealerships for information, I’ll do my best to distill everything into an organized and easy to understand format.

To start, let’s take a look back at the history of the WRX.

WRX History

The Subaru WRX was first introduced in 1992 as a high performance variant of the Impreza. With roots in performance rallying, and offering a unique blend of reliability, performance, it was an instant hit. Unfortunately, it took over ten years for the WRX to arrive in the North American market.

Since then, there have been a number of evolutions of the WRX, each advancing the nameplate with unique performance, refinement, and styling improvements.

What’s new for 2018?

With the latest generation of WRX (2015-present), Subaru opted for more subdued styling and focused on a more refined driving experience. However, the basic ingredients of the WRX formula are all still there: all-wheel drive, huge hood scoop, flat-four turbo “Boxer” engine, and based on the Impreza chassis.

For 2018, Subaru continued its tradition of giving the WRX a minor refresh every three years of a six year model cycle. The WRX was given much-needed updates in two important areas: refinement and styling.

While power delivery remains unchanged from the FA20 DIT engine, with 268hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, the cabin has been outfitted with higher resolution displays, gauges, and soft-touch materials. Thicker front glass, door seals, and a foam-filled header beam were added in an effort to reduce unwanted road noise. Additional improvements were made to the transmission synchros and clutch mechanism, resulting in a smoother shifting experience overall.

Why is the WRX so special?

For me, the merits of the WRX are as follows:

  • Performance - The numbers speak for themselves: 268 hp, 258 lb-ft torque, symmetrical AWD, 0-60 in approximately five seconds. Plus, if you’re willing to sacrifice your warranty, a light tune and bolt-ons can easily see those numbers break 300.
  • Practicality - Based on the Impreza, the WRX is a spacious vehicle for its size. In addition, excellent visibility all around helps contribute to an open feeling cabin. Four doors, a surprisingly spacious trunk (sadly no hatchback option), and standard roof rails (revived for 2018) make the WRX a great option for a daily driver.
  • Safety - An IIHS Top Safety Pick, the WRX exemplifies Subaru’s commitment to safety. In addition, for drivers like myself who find themselves confronted with snow and/or rain on a regular basis, the tried-and-true AWD system inspires confidence and control through the rougher months.
  • Aftermarket - A healthy aftermarket (both performance and cosmetic) means you’ll be hard pressed to find identical WRXs roaming the roads. Door switches, climate control knobs, fender flares, headlights, taillights, etc. You name it, somebody makes an aftermarket version of it.
  • Reliability - Market research supports the brand’s touted reliabilty with “98% of Subaru vehicles sold in the last 10 years are still on the road today”. (IHS, 2017)
  • Ethics - In an age of news peppered with “emission scandal” and “bankruptcy” headlines, automakers are under increasing pressure to be more environmentally-conscious as well as transparent with consumers. In this regard, Subaru has continuously demonstrated an interest in environmental causes. By becoming the first “Zero-Landfill” American automaker as well as contributing to environmental sustainability research and development, Subaru has done an admirable job of putting their resources where it counts.
  • Community - The “Subie Wave”. There isn’t a day that passes that I don’t see two Subarus giving each other the nod as they pass. With some of the most active forums and clubs in the world, from teenagers to retirees, it seems everyone appreciates a Subaru when they see one.

Ok so which one should I get?

For the sake of brevity and simplicity, I’m going to assume you’re interested in ordering a new one directly from the dealership. I won’t be discussing the used WRX market, but suffice to say there are always at least a few for sale. However, it can be nearly impossible to track down an un-modified, low-mileage, affordable one. At the end of the day, it’s always going to be a lot easier to walk into a dealership and order one yourself. Not to mention, you have the peace of mind of knowing exactly how it was maintained/driven!

You’ll want to decide what kinds of features are important to you, as the WRX comes in three trim levels (not counting the STI here): Base, Premium, and Limited. For example, if you’re the type of person who needs leather seats, a sunroof, and in-car navigation, you’ll have to pony up for a Limited trim.

For comparison, here’s an simplified breakdown of the differences between the trim levels:

  • Base - 17” wheels, halogen headlights, heated mirrors, 6.2” touch screen, cloth seats
  • Premium - 18” wheels, fog lights, 7” touch screen, moonroof, heated cloth seats, optional CVT transmission
  • Limited - LED steering-responsive headlights, keyless push-button start, leather seats with power adjustments

NOTE: For more details on the different trims cars101.com is sort of the internet’s unofficial “Subaru Encyclopedia”.

In my opinion, the Premium trim level is the best value, as it adds a number of important upgrades (nicer wheels, better stereo screen, heated seats) over the Base model. On the other hand, some argue that the Base is all that’s necessary, thanks to the WRX’s saturated aftermarket. But keep in mind that items like heated seats or a sunroof aren’t readily available as aftermarket options.

How much should I pay?

Factory pricing for the 2018 is as follows (invoice/MSRP):

  • Base - $26,323/$27,855
  • Premium (manual) - $28,446/$30,155
  • Premium (CVT) - $29,547/$31,355
  • Limited (manual) - $30,568/$32,455
  • Limited (CVT) - $31,669/$33,655

NOTE: These prices include the required $860 “destination and delivery” charge.

A closer look at the official pricing sheet from Subaru reveals a number of additional fees like “hold-back”, “marketing assistance”, “floor plan”, and “gas allowance”.

WRX Pricing

Simply put, these items are basically an allowance extended to the dealership from Subaru for various expenses associated with selling the car. As this information is not widely advertised, most dealerships won’t even itemize them separately when listing the vehicle for sale. In negotiating with a dealership, some amount of these “kickbacks” below invoice can be sacrificed in an effort to give a better price, but don’t expect too much wiggle room.

On that note, one important distinction to make between Subaru and other manufacturers is the lack of financial incentives.

With low-volume, high-demand, specialty vehicles like the WRX in particular, Subaru doesn’t need to offer special incentives to sell them. This is atypical when compared to the usual “manufacturer discounts” offered by other brands.

For example, when I cross-shopped the WRX with a new GTI, the Volkswagen dealership I worked with was able to offer $1,500 off the MSRP almost immediately thanks to a “manufacturer incentive” on top of a load of other discounts. WRX’s are different; dealerships know they will sell, so there’s little need to lure in buyers with deep price reductions.

How do I get the best price?

That’s where things get tricky as negotiation tactics vary widely from dealership to dealership. Some dealerships won’t budge on their sticker price, and will laugh you away if you walk in looking for a discount, while others will publicly advertise their cars for well under MSRP. It all depends on your region and dealerships.

Thankfully, there’s a little secret you can use to negotiate almost any dealership below invoice.

Heuberger Subaru

Heuberger Subaru

Heuberger Subaru is the nation’s highest-volume Subaru dealership. Since they’re allocated and sell so many vehicles, they’re able to offer their cars for significantly lower margins than other dealerships. In addition, Heuberger’s online sales team regularly works with customers via forums such as IWSTI, NASIOC, and ClubWRX. If you’re ready to purchase (even if you don’t plan on buying from them), you’ll want to get a quote from their internet sales team first.

As of writing, Tom Kushnerick ([email protected]) handles most forum/internet-based orders. Tom is a super nice guy and always willing to answer any questions about WRX ordering you might have. Most importantly however, he’s able to provide you with a no-hassle quote over email.

12/07/17 UPDATE: It looks like Tom is no longer the internet forum director for Heuberger. For the most up-to-date contact info, check the Heuberger Orders Thread over on IWSTI.com.

Below is an example of the type of email you’ll want to send to him:

Hi Tom, My name is (your name here), and I am in the market for a new 2018 WRX. I've seen Heuberger mentioned on numerous forums with great feedback, so I thought I'd reach out to you! I'm looking at a (trim here) in (color here) with the following options: - (options here) What would be the best price you can do? Since I'm located in (state here), would you be able to provide a shipping quote to (zip here) as well? Thank you in advance for your time, and I look forward to hearing back from you! Kind regards, (your name here)

Depending on the time of year, you should hear back from Heuberger within a few business days. Eventually you’ll be provided with a quote that looks something like this:

Vehicle Model and Trim Level JUO 2018 WRX Premium 6MT Color Any Port Installed Accessories None (unless you tell us to add something) Dealer Installed Accessories None (unless you tell us to add something) MSRP - $30,155 Invoice Price - $28,446 Forum Exclusive Price - $27,374 Total Price Including $489 Dealer Handling $27,863 Optional Cost of Shipping to ZIP code provided: approximately $725 up to $775 depending on the cost of fuel when your WRX gets here from the factory (or you can come get it !) If you are financing the vehicle, you will need to calculate a $27.20 titling fee and your local tax on top of this as well. License, registration fees, and plates will be due at your local DMV no matter what, and those costs are decided on by your local government. It only takes a $1,000 deposit to start your build order, or to secure a car that’s already here. That deposit can be taken over the phone with a major credit card. When you’re ready to start the process, call me or David O’Berto (the boss) at (719) 866-6411. Your deposit does of course come off the purchase price of the vehicle. Please allow us the opportunity to handle your finance business. One of the ways we keep our forum pricing so low, is by capturing a small fee from the lenders, while meeting or beating your pre-approved rate. We also offer competitive pricing on window tinting, clear masks, and paint protection packages. Let me know if you’d like any of the options installed before we ship the car to you. If you’d rather drive your new car home, we do offer courtesy pickup at Colorado Springs Airport and Denver International Airport. When flying into Denver International, please make sure to arrive between 9am to 2pm, Monday through Friday or we cannot offer courtesy pickup (I’m off Thursdays FYI). If you’re flying into the Springs, I can come get you between 9-4pm Monday through Saturday (except Thursdays). Please reach out to me directly before booking any flights to make sure I can assist you in person ! Thank you again for your potential business, I look forward to helping you get your new Subie!!

And that’s it! You’ve got your lowest possible quote.

At this point, you can always accept Tom’s offer and purchase the vehicle through Heuberger. However, if you’re interested in buying locally, and willing to do a bit of work, Heuberger’s quote can also be used to negotiate other dealerships to lower their prices.

Negotiating with other dealerships

While it may sound intimidating, this part is actually pretty simple. Just take the vehicle sale price as indicated by Heuberger, add any applicable fees (such as shipping, tax, title, license, etc.) and email your local dealership(s) like so:

To whom it may concern, My name is (insert name here) and I am in the market for a new 2018 WRX. I have been in communication with Heuberger Subaru in Colorado about ordering from them, and they have quoted me at (Heuberger price here) out-the-door (including taxes, delivery, fees, etc.). Since you're a more local dealership, I'd much prefer to do business with you. What would be the best price you can do? Thank you in advance for your time. Kind regards, (your name here)

If a dealership is serious about earning your business, you should get a response pretty quickly. In my experience, there will be some dealerships who insist on quoting you over the phone. If you’re willing, this can be a great opportunity to get a feel for the type of salesperson you’ll be working with (see below). If they simply email you back a quote of their own, even better!

Either way, once you receive a quote you’re happy with, you have one of two options:

  1. You can choose to proceed with ordering from that dealership. At this point, if you haven’t already, I would recommend giving that salesperson a call to gauge their personality and attitude over the phone. While the car buying process should be as non-personal as possible (to minimize emotions and therefore the risk of overpaying), it’s always nice to know the person taking care of your order is going to be responsive and enjoyable to work with.
  2. If you have a specific dealership in mind, and their initial quote is higher than other local offers, now is the time to leverage those other quotes to your advantage. Take the best price you’ve gotten thus far (excluding Heuberger) and send your dealership of choice an email notifying them you have gotten a better offer from another local dealership. 9/10 times they will match or beat the offer.

Sealing the deal

Once you’ve agreed on a price, it’s time to get a written quote. I chose to go into the dealership and get a printed copy (just in case there’s a mixup in pricing later on). In addition, most dealerships will require a refundable deposit (typically $500 in my experience) to secure your order, so bring some cash or your checkbook.

NOTE: This deposit should be refundable - be sure to clarify this with your dealership. Its also a good idea to pay this deposit on a credit card and get a printed receipt. That way, if the dealership tries to keep your deposit or fails to discount it from the sale price of the vehicle, you have documented proof of your payment and can always dispute the charge with your credit card company.

Finally, be sure to share any special requests with your salesperson. In my case, I requested that they not drill the holes for the USDM plates, as well as not put any dealership decals or stickers on the vehicle. In addition, I asked that they keep the roof/hood wrapping on the car (to make sure it’s not washed before I take delivery of it).

And that’s it! Now relax, give yourself a pat on the back for getting the best price, and settle in for a bit of a wait. Most vehicles take 10-12 weeks to be shipped stateside, but I’ve seen owners report deliveries as quickly as 6-8. It all depends on allocation, availability, configuration, etc. Vehicles with port-installed options (such as the Homelink mirror, short throw shifter, etc.) may take a bit longer.

Welcome to the family!

While you await the arrival of your new car, you can start to settle in to the role of Subaru owner! First, I recommend checking out any of the awesome Subaru forums online. There’s a huge variety to choose from, but one of the biggest and best is the North American Subaru Impreza Owners Club (NASIOC). Don’t let the name mislead you - NASIOC is a wealth of information for any Subaru, not just Imprezas. The community there is active and ever-growing.

In addition to online forums, be sure to check Facebook or search around for local Subaru groups. There’s almost always something car-related going on during the summer months, so take advantage of the opportunity to get to know your Subaru neighbors!

One of the most important connections to make however, is with a local Subaru Ambassador. These folks are dedicated enthusiasts who have been hand-selected by Subaru themselves for the sole purpose of spreading some Subaru love through swag giveaways, organized meetups, and social media. Beyond the awesome gear an Ambassador might give you, they are also allocated a number a Ambassador Coupons - a special $500 credit you can use at the time of purchase for some last-minute savings on your new Subaru.

NOTE: Since dealerships are able to treat these Ambassador Coupons like a direct credit from Subaru, there’s no need to mention that you have one until the time comes to sign the check. It’s to your advantage to present the coupon as late in the process as possible!

Finding an Ambassador local to you can be tricky, but good places to look are local Subaru Facebook groups, as well as the aforementioned forums. Finally, Reddit has a dedicated Subaru Ambassador subreddit with an “Ambassador Phonebook” to help you get in touch with Ambassadors in your area.

With all that said, I hope this post has been helpful for you! Feel free to share your thoughts, opinions, or questions in the comments below!

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