Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Let's make a deal

My dad rolled into town today to help me with actually looking at cars and not online searches. On his way in I drove about twenty miles from home to meet him at a place that had a vehicle of interest. It wasn't quite right--brakes clicked, just the basics--but OK, so it goes.

The next place proved to be what I suspected--rebuilt salvage vehicles--but then we swung through a series of dealerships lined up in a row. I took one car in what appeared to be immaculate condition, so of course it lost a hubcap after driving less than a half mile from the lot. Luckily another driver pointed it out to me, and we recovered it in time. (It was cheap plastic with a broken piece on it, so I was not at fault.)

I felt all right with that car, although it wasn't something I'd researched. Expectations remained in check and were tempered with some skepticism. I've since found out that its fuel economy is not so hot.

After a bite to eat we swung by four or five dealerships near my place just to see what they had. The last had a car whose price, while a little higher than I would like, was in the range and had the newness, mileage, and Consumer Reports reliability I was seeking. I took it for a test drive and was suitably impressed. And then the fun began.

I wasn't planning to buy anything today simply for the fact that I didn't want to be pressed into making a snap decision. I'll be spending the most money I've ever laid out for a car and possibly more than the cost of my four previous vehicles. It is not a decision I'm taking lightly.

The salesman did a nice job of applying the screws and then walked away to see what he could give me for the trade-in and knock the price down to. I was a little irritated by the length of the wait--it was near the dealership's closing time--and I was determined not to make a commitment that night. (My dad had been quieter than I'd hoped during this process, but at least he provided some moral support.)

Both of us expected a nominal discount and were thus surprised to see the price the salesman offered. Of course, this was an "only good right now, late night price". It was tempting to take the deal, but I stood firm and told him that I wanted to think about it and would come back if I felt like it was the right thing. He couldn't guarantee the deal would be offered on a return visit. I'm willing to live with that anyway.

What irritates me to no end is that this process is driven by anything but truthfulness and best intentions. The salesman put on a good performance, but you know what, if the car had been priced at what he offered rather than going through the whole give and take, I might well have that contract in hand now. I loathe the haggling and pretense that's all about trying not to get screwed over. Obviously they're making a pretty penny even with the "discount", which just tells me how artificially high the price was to begin with. (If going by the original/highest price on the car, I was being offered in the range of a 40% reduction including tax and title.)

Since coming home I've found the same and comparable cars advertised at about the same original price. Some have slightly better mileage and features. The car with the discount does not appear to be such a rare deal after all. I've tried to be diligent about educating myself during this process and going in knowing what's what. It's certainly been very useful--I can't imagine how badly some people get ripped off--but this nonsense puts me off the whole car buying dance to where I wish I didn't have to do it.

Buying a car should be fun? Ha. I'd settle for non-inflammatory.

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At 10:11 AM, Anonymous LittleWit said...

I'd be interested to see if you can get the same deal this morning. :) You should be allowed to sleep on it. It seems like the only sane thing to do!


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