Subaru Outback Purchase #2

We are the proud owners of a new Subaru Outback.  We bought the following specs:

2019 Subaru Outback
2.5i premium
Exterior: abyss blue pearl
Interior: Gray cloth
Optional package with blind-spot detection, power rear gate, and turn signal mirrors
Auto-dimming exterior mirror with approach light
There are seven Subaru dealers in the Seattle area, so I went to all seven for quotes via e-mail.  Ideally, I would have received 14 quotes, 2 from each: one for best on-site option and one for factory order cost.  Despite exchanging at least a dozen e-mails with each of the seven dealers, I received only a total eight quotes, and from one dealer, I never managed to get a quote on a Premium, only a Limited (a more expensive version.)
The most expensive dealer (excluding the one that only quoted a Limited) was a dealer that quoted $32,004.  Then my local dealer quoted me $31,387 after several days delay.  I was corresponding with a sales associate who was clearly not empowered to name prices.  I gave her the opportunity to meet my lowest price, since I’d gone on a test drive at her facility, and she was not able to do so.  For perspective, I also got two quotes $28,734 and two quotes for $28,400.  (The latter I negotiated down by letting the dealer know about the other quote for $28,400.)  The remainder of the quotes fell somewhere in between.
(Note that all these prices include taxes and fees.  Local tax rates are 10.3%, and statewide tax rates are in excess of 9.5%.  One of the dealers I spoke to was from outside my county and has lower tax rates, but even with that taken into account, they were not quite the cheapest.)
To me, the difference is extraordinary.  $28,400 vs. $32,000?  That’s a difference of $3600!  If I had stuck to my local dealer, would I have paid $31,000+ for the car?  I don’t claim any ability to negotiate, so I doubt I could have “talked them down” or anything like that.  I don’t really understand what MSRP is or any of that stuff.  My approach was to simply ask the dealers for their lowest price and to advise them that I was seeking additional bids from competitors.  I have no idea if I got a great deal, but I think I did at least OK.
The other interesting thing to me was differences in who I was talking with.  In some cases, like with the dealer I bought the car from, I negotiated with a sales manager who had an office and clearly had the authority to offer pricing.  In other cases, like with the local dealer that offered the terrible price, the sales person I spoke with had to go to a manager to get a price and sometimes took ages to do so.  In another case, an associate generated a price for me (and their signature declared them an “internet sales manager”) but the price was wrong, and after probing, I got shifted to his manager, and it was clear the original individual didn’t really know what he was doing.   Something similar happened in another case.  I was offered what looked like a good deal on a local car, and I was about to call and consider closing the deal, but e-mailed back, “Just to confirm, this vehicle meets the following specs . . .” and repeated the specs I’d originally sent.  It rapidly became clear that the vehicle did not in fact meet those specs, and I was shifted to another manager.
All in all the process took about 2 weeks.  Last time, I exchanged a few e-mails but most of the process took place in a single weekend.  After a weekend of doing nothing but phone and e-mailing with Subaru dealers, I was about to lose my mind.  Overall, this process of lots of e-mailing and using a spreadsheet to track status and quotes took longer but was significantly less stressful.  It was also easier because this was the second time I bought a car and not the first.
We are lucky to be able to afford to buy a new vehicle.  We got $23,800 back for our old Outback, so we had to come up with roughly $5000 to buy a new one.  God knows what the impact on our insurance rates will be from the accident because as anticipated, the vehicle that ran into me from behind is trying to say I’m at fault in our collision.  I suspect the vehicle that precipitated the whole incident is under-insured for a variety of reasons, one of them being the super sketchy insurance company he called out in the accident report and their super sketchy website.  I feel like my decision to swerve to avoid direct impact with the vehicle in front of me may have saved one or both of us from injury, possibly serious injury, and even if it does cost us thousands in addition to the 5K for the new car, I obviously don’t regret it.   I wasn’t distracted or impaired in any way whatsoever, no cell phone, no food, not switching stations on the radio, and I honestly don’t think there’s anything I could have or should have done differently.
On a more positive note, I love our new Suby (as we affectionately call it).  I got spoiled by our old one, and tooling around in the 2002 stripped-down Focus has been quite the come-down.  Most annoying?  That lack of adjustable intermittent windshield wipers.  Not ideal during a Washington winter, since we so often have light rain that’s not heavy enough for on and too heavy for off.
The new Suby has some major upgrades over the old one, mostly electronic safety features, including blind spot detection, cross-traffic detection when reversing, auto-braking when you’re about to hit someone in front of you, blind spot detection, and lane departure detection and correction.  After the recent accident, my interest in safety features has definitely increased.  In addition, the entertainment and mapping connectivity with my cellphone has significantly increased, as it’s compatible with android auto.  Android auto and cellphone connectivity is still definitely in its infancy, but it has taken a step forward from before, as I can now display Google Maps on the Subaru display in the car.  Gas mileage is also a little better, so that’s another plus.  Interestingly, it cost us a few hundred dollars less than the old one.  Overall, I’m thrilled with it.