Our MINI Cooper Buying Experience


My first introduction to the mini was in the 1980's in New Zealand. Rode on a mini several times and liked them and always wanted one.

Now every time my wife and I saw a MINI on the road she would notice it and comment on it.

After getting over the it's not a 4 door car complex and our '98 Civic was beginning to show its age but still had some value, We decided to purchase a MINI Cooper.

Went to the dealer ready to order a MINI Cooper hatchback. Had built and rebuilt my MINI hatchback many times on the MINI website. Had printouts of my 2 best builds in hand- BUT after seeing the Clubman in person, it made more practical sense to us. The 3rd door of the Clubman mostly made up for the 4 door envy. Having a bit more usable space in the back seat and rear cargo area also was a selling point.

2010 Mini Cooper Clubman ordered 12/10/09


Our MINI was purchased at Rasmussen MINI in Portland OR.

As with most MINI dealers they only sell MINI's at MSRP as shown on the MINIUSA web site. Same price for cars on the lot or special ordered.

Dealer would not budge off of MSRP for current year models. They had some 2009's that they would take a few hundred off maybe. Was not worth the difference of ordering a 2010 with exactly what we wanted.

We did get a factory discount of $1250 with financing package from MINI/BMW. See Financing below.

Rasmussen MINI also adds a dealer prep fee of $395.00 which includes floor mats, wheel locks, a detail, and a tank of premium gas.

Trade In

This dealer did not really take trade-ins unless it was a MINI or BMW car. They did say that we could leave our trade in, (98 Civic) with them and they would call one of their buyers to came and make an offer on it. I would have to take whatever the buyer offered. The buyer would then sell at auction so I don't think we would have gotten much for it. Since we lived 200 miles from the dealer we would have had to do the trade in after the fact and I needed the trade in money as part of the down-payment. Ended up selling our car on Craigs List in one day for probably 2x what the dealers buyer would have offered.


The dealer did not so much as ask for any credit information or if I even had a job. He just took my deposit on credit card and ordered the car. I suspect many of the cars on the lot were ordered by customers who failed to get financing? I asked what if I lost my job or something. He said the deposit is non refundable but you can put $500 deposit instead to the standard $1K.

A couple of weeks before delivery I contacted the dealer and got a credit application emailed to me and got approved for a loan from MINI/BMW. I did have a backup I was pre-approved at my bank USAA FSB for 4.39% which was better than the local bank financing that the dealer had.

Note that BMW financing requires that all persons on the finance contract be there in person. I could not bring paperwork signed by my wife if she was not going to actually be present. The plan is to ride a bus alone to pick up the new MINI and drive it home. Cheaper to do that than to drive the minivan 400 miles round trip. As it turns out I was able to qualify alone on the paperwork.

Note: If you want to use the monthly MINI /BMW financing deals shown on the MINIUSA website then keep in mind that you can only use the deal that is in force on the day you take delivery of your MINI - not the deal that may have been there when you ordered it. Check back on the 2nd of each month to see what the new offer is for that month. In my case the deal was better in the delivery month then it was in the order month, but may not always be the case.

The month we ordered, the deal was 1.9 % APR.

Next month 1 free option (choice of Automatic Transmission or Premium package or Sport Package) and 4.9% APR.

In the delivery month the deal was either 1.9% APR OR 3.9% and 1 free option. (Automatic Transmission or Premium package or Sport Package). I took the 3.9% + 1 free option, automatic which gave me a $1250 credit.

With my down-payment the total cost of loan was ~$560.00 less for the 3.9% + option deal. Note that if I had not already ordered at least 1 of the 3 listed options then I could not have used that plan. If I would have known then I may have ordered the premium package. The dealer would not disclose the future deals before they are published and probably does not know more than a day or 2 before anyway.

Tracking your MINI through Production and Shipping

Note this is what I did when tracking my 2010 MINI Clubman production and shipping (Dec.09- Feb.10) to the West Coast using the WWL shipping company. Information here may be useful for shipments to East coast and/or using other shipping companies as well.

To track your MINI production you must have your Production Number. A few days after you order your MINI, your dealer will give you a Vehicle Inquiry Report printout which will show you the Production Number and a list of all options you added to your MINI. The printout will also show the destination port: PHMPOA = Port Hueneme CA.

Once you have your production number you can sign up in the Owners Lounge area on the MINIUSA website. http://www.miniusa.com/ Current MINI owners can also sign up using your VIN number.

The OL gives a very general outline of where your MINI is in the production cycle. The OL tends to be several days behind reality.

Click the View Order Details to see info on your ordered options.

Soon after your MINI goes into the scheduled for production phase, your new VIN number will appear in order details. Use the VIN to get insurance and finance quotes.

Note that the info in the Factory ordered options box may not show up for several days. Sometimes the info disappears and reappears later for no reason?

For more up to date status and slightly more detailed info, call 1(866)275-6464. Have your production number or VIN. The automated phone system is about a day behind. The automated system will give more info than the OL such as the estimated date of completion when you are in the production phase.

Use voice recognition or if want to be more discrete, use the keyed responses.

For keyed entry instead of voice:

“ …..... road side assistance or vehicle production status”....Press 2

“ …....OK what is your P# or last 7 of VIN...”..... Key in your production number.

Was that a P# or VIN#?” …. Press 1.

You can also talk to a live person and maybe get better info but I never did that.

Another useful OL perk. You can download a PDF file of your owners manual. On the OL click Your Mini and then owners manual. Currently owners manuals for all MINI models from '02 to present are available. Supplemental manuals such as radio manual are not available.

Note I found that after the MINI got to the US at the BMW VDC then the OL was more updated then the automated phone system. In fact the live operator has no information past the time when the ship leaves port in UK.

The At VDC status showed up in OL the day after the ship arrived in port. The OL also showed an ETA to dealer which for me was 1 week after arrival at the VDC.

Shipping Schedules

Once your MINI is complete and in the waiting transport phase, it will be transported to the Southhampton dock and wait for a vehicle transport ship.

MINI BMW often uses the Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics shipping company but has used other companies.

It takes bit of digging around and trial and error to find the shipping information. You should at least be able to find your ship name and departure schedule and ETA. A shipment to US west coast takes ~22 days.

Try WWL shipping first. If you can't find your MINI scheduled on a WWL ship, then look at the Southampton port ship schedules and see if you can find more information as explained below.

Ship Tracking MINI via Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics shipping company

Go to this web site:


If your ship has already departed then skip to track and trace below:

Customer Centre menu

Choose Schedules

Under Schedules options choose Search by ports.

Choose United Kingdom in origin Country

Choose U.S.A. in destination country – Search

Choose Southhampton in Origin Port

Choose Port Hueneme, CA in destination Port (West Coast)


Choose Port ? (East Coast).

Find the name of the ship that will depart closest to when your MINI was delivered at the port.

Click on the link next to the ship under Voyage.

Find your departure and arrival dates in the list.

Track and Trace

Click on the All users under Track and Trace

or drill down in Customer Centre menu and choose Track and Trace.

In the Cargo ID field (furthest right), enter at least the last 7 digits of your VIN and press Trace.

This will show more updated information and confirm that you are actually scheduled on the ship you found above.

You can also do 'wildcard' searches with the % character. To search for other MINI's on a ship: WMWML3C52ATX% Use more VIN characters to narrow the search or less to expand search.

Click on Voyage Number to see the current updated schedule.

This information in Voyage Number is updated as schedules change. Note that the ETA shown in the Voyage Details page is never updated once the voyage starts.

Once you know the ship name you can also get the latest schedule by going to Schedule options and choosing Search by Vessel.

Note that information may not show here until about a day before departure. If it does not show up by the day of departure you may have been bumped to the next ship. OR your MINI is being shipped via a different shipping company. See Southampton shipping movements below and look for any vehicle ships from different companies which are departing about the time your MINI is at the dock. Other known shipping companies: NYK Line. I don't know if any of the other shipping companies will show automobile tracking?

Your dealer may be able to get some information such as ship name and schedule.

Check back from time to time to see if the schedule has changed. Quite common to add a day or 2 due to weather or other delays.

Southhampton Shipping Movements

This site will show all ship arrivals and departures at Southampton. Ships will show up on list several days in advance of arrival.


Menu: Live Information

Choose: Shipping Movements

OR direct link


Find the ship in the arrivals and/or departures list.

If you do not already know the ship name and company (agent), then look for vehicle type ships in the list. Find all the ships departing within a week or two after your MINI is at the dock. Note the shipping Agent company and if not WWL then you may need to search for a web site for that company and see if they have means to track shipments by VIN.

For real time ship tracking (AIS)

Gives ship movement plots of all ships shown on very detailed maps + satellite hybrid maps. (Google Earth).

This works when the ship is in or near a port or within about 50 miles of one of the land based AIS base stations around the world. Currently will not track ships on open sea but that may change in the future when satellite coverage is added. Other means of tracking are available for $.

You can track your ship just before arrival, at port, and after departure for about a day when in the English Channel.

In my case I was able to see a tug pull up along side and move the ship to the dock. The ship docked for about a day, then I saw a tug pull the ship away on departure.

You will not be able to track again until your ship is near a coast of the U.S. You may be able to catch a tracking around Porta Rico, my ship did not show up in that area. No tracking is available through Panama.

West coast ships will pick up tracking again off the coast of Ensenada Mexico about 12 hours before arrival at Port Hueneme CA.

Zoom out on the map to see the covered areas in shaded grid boxes.


Click Vessels tab.

Click search all

Enter your ships name in Vessels Name field and click search

click current (last known) position link.

Another ship tracker


Enter ship name and search. Note call sign and use that in the plot position by call sign field for more detailed information.

Another web site devoted to AIS and Southampton port:

This has links to same pages as above but has other useful information.


Southampton Shipping movements:

Main menu – shipping movements – Southhampton – Southhampton Arrivals and Departures ABP

Pop ups must be enabled for this site.

If popup box is blank then select the displayed URL and hit Enter.

AIS tracking:

From Main menu select AIS+Radar+Shiplist+Webcams

Select AIS- Worldwide AIS

You know your a MINIac when:

You have not even taken possession of the car (You don't even really own it yet) and you

  1. Have spent countless hours on the MINI build site trying every option and color combination.

  2. You have already read more in the MINI (on-line) owners manual than you have ever read in the manuals of all the other cars you have owned combined.

  3. Have memorized your VIN and/or Production number.

  4. Your speed dial and contact lists set to 1(866)275-6464 (1-866-ASK-MINI) and the operator there knows you by name.

  5. Have the 2nd clock on your watch set to GMT (London time) wondering what part they are working on now.

  6. You are up at 3am tracking a cargo ship on line.

  7. Have read every review and forum you can find on line.

  8. Type MINI all caps even when you are not talking about a car. MINIature, MINImum etc.

  9. You are trying to decide on a name for your MINI.

  10. You write papers such as this...

First Impressions:

Secret compartment in dash. Can store 3 or 4 CD's in cases.

Steering wheel 'telescopes' in and out as well as tilting.

Seat belt is hard to reach when retracted especially for short drivers who may have the seat positioned forward.

Annoying and loud fan noise on full defrost & full fan speed. (Standard manual climate control system)

Vent functions slow to change (4 or 5 seconds) after turning dial to a different setting.

The vent function dial is a bit harder to learn than a button system. The printed icons are too small to see while driving so you have to memorize the dial position by feel. You don't have the instant feedback due to the changeover delay.

When the knob is turned from setting to a new setting the mechanism will sequentially sweep through all modes in between the old and new settings which takes a few seconds.

Speedometer reads high by 4 MPH compared to my portable Garmin GPS. Garmin says 60 speedometer says 64.

30 GPS says 33.

20 GPS says 22.

Switches for fog lights and the central door locks have a 'toggle' like function which means they function the same in both directions when pressed up OR down.

In the case of the door locks, if doors are locked, then pressing up OR down on the switch will unlock them. If unlocked then the next press up OR down will lock them. When pressing the switch, you hear the locks actuate but you don't know if they are locked or unlocked without actually looking at the position of a lock knobs on both of the doors.

Also when you unlock the door with CA button or fob unlock button and get into the car, the passenger door may be still locked depending on how you have the defaults set up. Toggle the lock switch and the driver door will lock. Toggle again and both unlock. In other words after getting into the car you have to toggle the central lock button 2 times to get the passenger door unlocked.

Doors can also be unlocked and opened from the inside by pulling the door latch 2 times. 1st pull unlocks and 2nd pull opens the door.

Also note that the fuel door also has a lock. The fuel door will be locked or unlocked with the FOB or door key. The fuel door will remain unlocked when locking the other doors with the central lock switch. The fuel door lock does not seem to be very strong. Feels like something could be easily broken if the door were forced when locked. Something to remember especially if you live in one of the 2 states that don't allow you to pump your own gas.

There is a manual fuel door release inside the rear compartment next to the 12V outlet.

The fog light switch also toggles the same way, but you do have an icon on the display which will show when they are on. In my state it is illegal to have the front or rear fog lights on when not really needed.

The window switches do act as expected down opens the windows and up closes them.

The radio controls take some learning as well but not overly complicated. You will be looking at the manual to figure things out.

If you did not order the rear fog light then there is an empty slot where the switch would go. There is also a dash light on the speedometer which of course will never light up.

If you did not get the bluetooth option then you will have 2 buttons on the steering wheel that do nothing.

Below is description of some of the options that I got as well as information about how to use them:

Comfort Access (on Clubman)

$500 option or part of convenience package

The CA key FOB has all the same buttons as the non CA including the integrated door key.

The CA key FOB has a replaceable battery. The non CA FOB has rechargeable battery which is recharged by placing FOB in key slot on dash.

The CA option adds a small button on both the driver side and passenger side door. The button will lock or unlock the doors as long as the FOB is within about 1 foot of the car.

The button on the driver side door will unlock only the driver side door and fuel cover, unless the key settings have been changed to all doors. See below.

The CA button on the passengers door will always lock / unlock all doors regardless of any settings.

The rear doors do not have an extra button. CA just works with the mechanical latch pull on the RH rear door. After getting out of the car and locking the doors, you can walk up to the 'barn' doors at any time (with FOB on your person), and open them. You can then just close the doors and walk away. All doors will remain locked after you walk away without pushing any more buttons. Make sure one of the items you put in the back is not the FOB! If you do the lights will flash and the RH door will pop open.

I wish the other doors would unlock via CA with the regular door handle latch like the back doors. Though if it did you still need to have the extra button to lock the doors. There is about a half to 1 second delay when pressing the CA button before you can open the door. There is no perceivable delay on the back doors. So unless you are carrying a load, it is sometimes more convenient and quicker to unlock the doors with the FOB button as you are walking up to the car especially if there are passengers who get to the car before you do.

My dealer lost one of the CA keys before delivery said the transport driver left it on the truck. They mailed me a new key but only the FOB buttons and door key work. CA functions do not work. I found that I will have to make a trip to the dealer to get the CA part of the new key programmed into the car. (And get the lost key deprogrammed)

Test one FOB in and one out.

With the CA system it is almost impossible to lock your keys in the car. BUT here is one way:

Unlock and open the passengers door. Lock the doors with the FOB lock button or manually with the door lock knob. Throw the FOB into the car then shut the passengers door. If you want to test this please have the metal key outside or the window open.

Note that this is not possible with the rear doors. Open the rear door with CA and put the FOB inside the rear 'boot' area. When the rear door is closed it will pop back open and the lights will flash.

It is not possible to lock the drivers side door when it is open.

The best feature of CA is that you can start /stop the engine without having to find and fumble with a key.

Make sure the driver has their CA FOB with them!

Driver left his FOB at home. Passenger has theirs in their pocket. Passenger gets out. Driver drives away. Driver gets to where he is going then turns off the car. Driver is then stranded without a way to start the car. Note that in this case there will be a chime noise and the tach display will show a key slash icon to warn the driver soon after the only CA FOB goes out of range.

Lock setting FOB vs CA

Can be changed in the computer setup.

Key unlock set to 1 door:

Driver side CA will open only the drivers door and fuel door..

FOB unlock will unlock only the drivers door and fuel door with 1st button push. 2nd button push will unlock all other doors.

I wish the CA button would operate like the FOB. When key setting is set to 1 door, and you have a passenger, then you have to use the FOB (2 presses) or driver has to get in and unlock the passenger door manually or with the central lock/unlock button.

Key unlock set to All doors:

Driver side CA button will unlock all doors

FOB unlock will unlock all doors with 1 button push.

Passenger CA button will always lock / unlock all doors regardless of the settings

Rear door operates the same regardless of the settings.

Automatic Locking:

There are 2 modes which can be enabled together or separately.

Time Lock – Automatically locks all doors except fuel door under this condition only:

Doors were unlocked with FOB or CA button AND no doors were opened within 2 minutes.

This doesn't seem very useful to me? Would be useful if the doors would automatically lock after you get out of the car and you forgot to lock them with CA button or FOB. As it is this will only work if you accidentally unlocked the car with the FOB, say from inside your house, or you pushed unlock when you intended to push lock when walking away from the car. For some reason the fuel door will not be locked with automatic locking?

Moving Lock – Automatically locks all doors when a speed of 10 mph is reached.

Automatic Transmission

The shift lever in auto mode has the 4 basic positions PRND There is no OD lockout or low gear position. So if you want to down shift or 'engine brake' say on a long downgrade then you must go to manual mode.

Manual shifting is accomplished using the shift lever. Base MINI's no longer get paddle shifters with the AT option. ('S' MINI's with AT do get the paddles)

I assume that the 6th gear is overdrive but have not confirmed that.

Sport Mode (Standard on all MINI's with AT)

Changes the shift points and tightens the steering. When in sport mode DS will be shown on the tach display.

Sport mode can be selected 2 ways. Pressing the sport button at the base if the shift lever OR by moving the shift lever to the left [- M/S +] from [D].

When the sport button is used to turn on sport mode then the system will stay in sport mode until you either press the button again or shut off the ignition.

Manual Mode

Manual shifting is accomplished by moving the shift lever to the left [- M/S +] from [D] position then moving the shift lever forward [-] or back [+].

Manual mode can be selected and canceled anytime any speed.

When you first move the lever to the left, from [D] the system will be put in sport mode (fully automatic). The tach display will show DS. The transmission will most likely down shift when you go from D to DS as the Sport mode stays in each gear longer.

Manual mode is not invoked until after you move the shift lever forward [-] OR back [+] from the center position [M/S]. (This 1st movement does shift the gears one down or up). You won't know what gear you are in (going to) until you shift.

Moving the lever forward [-] from center [M/S] will shift down one gear and back [+] from center will shift up one gear. The tach display will show the selected gear as M1, M2.... etc.

After shifting up or down one gear, you must let the shift lever return to the center position. It is spring loaded and will automatically return to center. After the 1st manual shift the system stays in manual mode until canceled by moving the shift lever from center position back to the right [D] position.

Failing to shift up will drive the engine to red-line.

The manual system will not let you make 'bad' shifts which might stall the engine. If you are stopped and shift the gear to any gear > M2 then the system will automatically change to M2. You will then need to shift down to M1.

If you slow down without down shifting with the shift lever, the system will automatically down shift for you in sequence ending at M2 when stopped. You will then need to shift down to M1.

Sun Roof

$1000 option.

The sunroof is a pseudo dual pane unit.

Operated by a toggle switch above the rear view mirror.

When operated (toggle back and hold) both panes will first tilt up and then stop. Toggle and hold the switch again and both will tilt back down and then the front pane will slide open (over the top of the rear pane). The rear pane does not open other than the initial tilt. Back seat passengers will not ever be able to stand up and pop their heads out the sunroof to have a look around.

There is a mesh sun screen on each pane which can be manually opened or closed at any time.

There is a mesh debris deflector bar which pops up as soon as the sunroof is opened.