I have been searching for a car on and off since February. I don’t have to tell you that car shopping sucks. Just sucks. Either the salespeople are too pushy or they completely ignore you. There doesn’t seem to be any in between. Car salespeople are a strange breed. The following is just a sampling of the people I encountered in my search.
• The guy who, upon hearing what I do for a living, tried to pitch me a business proposal on a test drive. He was so earnest and really believed it was brilliant and original. The only problem is that about half of my large customer base is made up of the same kind of business as he was proposing. (He didn’t take that news well.)
• The guy who, despite my being interested in the car and interested in taking it for a test drive, had lost the keys to that particular car and kept me waiting for a full half an hour while everyone searched for them. (I did not end up test-driving that car.)
• The guy who, despite being told (by me) that I would be the purchaser and sole owner, would only address my dad. As in, I would ask questions and he would respond to my dad instead of me. Not OK, sir. Not OK at all.
• The lady who, after hearing my (very small) budget, suggested a car listed at $6000 more. When I reiterated my budget she said that she couldn’t be sure, but maybe her boss would come down. Yes, lady, I’m sure he’ll take a little over half of what it’s listed for.
• The guy who left for a family emergency in the middle of talking with us but didn’t bother to pass us off to anyone. I understand a family emergency, and it’s completely reasonable that he wasn’t thinking straight. But the rest of the salesmen knew he had left and no one came to take over, either. We left without test-driving anything.
• The guy who, despite being told I used to work in consumer lending, tried to explain (in an extremely patronizing way) what a lien was.
• The guy who, after showing me a Chevy HHR and having me rule it out for multiple (model-specific) reasons, showed me a second one. (The back hatch hits me right at forehead level when open. I would have hit my head every time I loaded something in the back. A second one wasn’t going to change that.)
• The guy who, despite being told repeatedly I would not be financing any portion of the purchase, kept showing me cars wildly out of my price range with the caveat that “with [my budget] as a down payment, the monthly payment wouldn’t be too bad”. What part of “no financing” didn’t you understand?
You can see why I didn’t have high hopes for today’s trip into the city for more car shopping. I had researched a couple of cars before we left, hoping that being informed would help me out. Yeah, not so much. The car at the first place had sold already. That’s OK, because it turns out it was a manual transmission instead of automatic like the dealer’s website said. The second place had nothing in my price range, but suggested a few vehicles at another location. The third place had a car I was interested in but had the same automatic/manual discrepancy. They had another one I was interested in, but it had sold already.
But! They had one more they wanted me to look at. I was a little concerned at the price. It was far too low for the year, make, and model. I was convinced it was completely stripped down, or was another manual transmission, or was in terrible condition. Instead, I found out it was what they called a “liner ad”. That means they mark it way down and advertise the heck out of it, hoping it will draw customers in so they can sell them something else.
It has a little over 100,000 miles on it, which is not ideal, especially when I commute and add about 500 miles a week to a car. It doesn’t have cruise control. It has a few minor (I mean, really minor) things that need repair. But at TWENTY-FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS under book value, to quote Chandler, it was a friggin’ steal. And it’s alllllll mine.
We were so concerned it would get sold while we went to lunch to talk it over that we signed an agreement to borrow it for a couple of hours to sort things out. They couldn’t sell it out from under me if it wasn’t there! It’s a 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt. I was able to pay for it outright, no loan. It lifts a nine-month-old weight off of my shoulders. Even if I trade it in for something else in a year or two, I’m practically making money on it. I absolutely lucked in to it and it’s perfect for my current needs. Yay!
And normally I wouldn’t recommend car shopping at ten degrees below zero, but in this case, I think it worked out pretty well.