If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I am a lifelong car lover. In the past, I have written about all the Cars that I have owned, when I recognized the Magic in them for me, and the Stable of cars that I have been accumulating.
Just last fall, I wrote about how hard it was to trade in one of those fun cars and how that launched a search for a replacement. Well that search is over now but before I give the big reveal I have a story to tell.
Not only do I love cars, I also love new cars. Of all the cars that I have purchased, I have only bought two used cars in my lifetime, one turned out to be troublesome…
…and one turned out to be extremely reliable.
I know all of the financial advantages of buying used cars instead of new and I have family and friends who never buy new. But as with any monetary decision that must be made by weighing the pros and cons, the intangibles of buying a new car for me have always factored more heavily in my decisions. The reliability factor, having a repair warranty, and being able to get pretty much exactly what I want tip the balance over a used car’s lower cost (in spite of the fact that with a used car, someone else is taking the hit on depreciation). This perspective has unfortunately put me at the mercy of the new car salesman and the new car sales process time and time again.
It truly amazes me that as expensive a purchase as a new car is, that closing a sale has to be dealt with such dishonest people. Because the sales price is negotiable, every buyer always wants to get the best deal and the seller obviously wants the same thing. With two independent parties both wanting the same goal, invariably in the end there has to be a winner and a loser. Thank goodness in our modern society that buying food does not involve the same process, as the weekly shopping trip could take all day if we had to negotiate the price for every single item.
While I don’t mean to slam the entire new car industry—there must be honest dealerships and salespeople out there—I just haven’t come across many in my past.
One of my favorite experiences was when my daughter was buying her first car and witnessing how assertive she was in the negotiation process (and how she said each time the sales person left to go talk to his manager, that they were just eating donuts and shooting the breeze). It was as if she were a pro on her first outing.
In my lifetime, I have bought 13 new cars so I have subjected myself to this process multiple times. Some sales people I’ve dealt with seemed more honest but others epitomized the sleazy salesman we often think of. A couple of years ago when my youngest son bought his 2nd new car, it was probably one of the worst buying experiences I have ever had (and one I will never repeat at that dealership).
The only positive aspect of my buying experience is that I have always known exactly the car I wanted to buy before I arrived at the dealership so I wasn’t having to visit a multitude of dealerships and subject myself to that pain multiple times. In fact in recent years, I have started off with the sales manger first because the car I actually wanted was not on the lot (having previously viewed their inventory online) since he would be the one to have to locate it anyway.
When my wife bought her last car, we tried a totally new process—Internet sales. Thanks to a really nice feature that all car manufacturers offer today—a new car configurator—you can use this online tool to configure just the right car. My wife built the car exactly the way she wanted it and then submitted it for a sales quote. After getting a return e-mail response fairly quickly, we scheduled and went in for a test drive of a similarly equipped model, asked for their best price, and then left to talk about it. No pressure and in and out of the dealership in less than an hour.
A few days later, we decided to order the car that my wife had built online, called them back and that was it. No sitting in the showroom for hours and no haggling (and yes, no donuts). I knew when I bought my next car; this was the approach I wanted to use. Only problem was this time, I didn’t know what car I wanted so I was destined to have to deal with a number of dealerships.
In January, I decided to go to our local car show to help me narrow down the choices I was considering. While this is certainly not a big auto show and some of the brands do not even participate, it still helped me to eliminate a lot of different options I was looking at. After coming home from that show, I really had it narrowed down to just two possibilities. Thankfully that meant I would only have to deal with two different dealerships.
But still it was a hard choice as it came down to a decision between a modern version of a 2-door muscle car…
…and something more practical, a car with 4-doors to better equip me moving into my Granddaddy years.
For months I went back and forth. One complicating factor was that since I wanted a manual transmission (in my opinion, the only way to drive), one of the two dealerships didn’t even have a manual transmission car on the lot that I could test-drive. But finally one came in and after test-driving it that clinched the deal for me.
In the end, I didn’t get the less practical muscle car; I got something even better, all the fun and power of a muscle car, but with four doors—a sporty 270 horsepower Subaru WRX.
And since I was able to deal with the same dealership my wife had bought from, I had a similar pleasant Internet buying experience that was made even better by the fact that I took delivery of it on my birthday—my 60th! (Interestingly, this car replaces my 2006 Mini that I took delivery on my youngest son’s birthday 10 years ago, not long before I turned 50.)
So now when I take my grandkids out for a fun drive, I won’t be straining to get them into the back seat of a 2-door car. No I’ll easily strap them into their car seat in the backseat of my sporty 4-door car and off we will zoom, celebrating not only my milestone age of 60 in a new toy, but giving a dual meaning to the phrase “going from zero to 60” very fast!