Friday, January 18

Confessions of an inexperienced car buyer

This week has been a big ball of suck with little chunks of awesomeness stuck to it. I'm busy picking the awesomeness off and putting it in my pockets for safekeeping. And then I'm going to toss the ball of suck and pretend it never existed. Ugh.

So, I found out Tuesday that my rental car needed to be returned Thursday. This came as a shock because I had been told this whole time that the rental was open-ended until I got a new car. No one gave me an end date. My insurance policy states that I get up to 30 days in a rental, so I wouldn't have dared push it past that. But I was taking my time, evaluating different cars online and making trips out to dealers to test drive. I didn't want to rush into anything.

And then suddenly the insurance company drops a bomb on me and says that I have two days left with the car. At that point, I had not even settled on what make or model I wanted to buy, much less the specific car. So Wednesday morning I hightailed it to Covington Pike (for the fabillionth time this month, I swear) and began at the Chevy place to test drive a Cobalt (my dad had found a decent, used Cobalt in Savannah that he thought might work if I couldn't find something better) to see if I even liked it at all. I wasn't terribly impressed — the generic GM interior is shockingly unattractive for what you pay, and the gas mileage isn't great — but the car drove well and I knew I'd be content with it if I couldn't find anything else I absolutely loved.

While I was on the lot, I wanted to look at some Aveos — both the sedan and the hatchback. Aveos are really inexpensive, especially the bare-bones Aveo5s. But the problem with the Aveo is that it feels cheap. I drove both a sedan and a hatch and they're both cute cars — the interior in them, while being made of super cheap plastic crap, is actually a lot more stylish (and youth-oriented, I guess) than the Cobalt interior. But they feel like go-karts and the hatchback was sooo whiny that it felt like at any moment it was going to crap out on me. Do not want.

I appreciated the patience and non-pushiness of the Chevrolet salesman. He ran and got keys three separate times for me, and a new battery for the Aveo5 that was lacking one. He didn't try to get me "in the box" and start talking numbers. I was in control of that visit. It was awesome. I took his card and told him I had some other lots to visit, and hopped over next door to the Nissan lot to check out a Versa, based on ML's recommendation in the comments of an earlier post.

The Versa impressed me, even if the salesman was kinda weird and didn't know much about the car. I drove a hatchback around the block and really, really liked it. The interior didn't look like cheap crap (and I'm not saying that I'm looking for a luxury interior; I'm just looking for an interior that my kultzy ass will not destroy within a week) and it was roomy as hell. I liked the ride a bit more than the Fit, but the sticker price struck me as being out of my target, and the gas mileage was slightly poorer than the Honda, so I sort of put it on my extended list and went next door to the Honda lot to check on a Fit again.

Serendipitously, there was Larry, hanging out on the front stoop, smiling as he saw me pull up. Ugh, that made me feel dirty. It was like a shark had spotted some chum dripping from a bucket. We walked on back to the Fits and I quickly found the one with the cheapest sticker price and we got in for another test drive. I tried to be more critical of the car that time around. Some things I didn't like: The seats seem cheap and rigid. The acceleration is a little goosey, and the gas pedal seems higher off the floor than it needs to be. The engine didn't seem quite as powerful as the Versa's (of course, that's a tradeoff for better fuel economy). But I really liked the instrument panel and all the different ways you could configure the seats.

After the test drive, I went into Larry's depressing office — which showed no signs of his humanity (pictures of his family or friends, a beach calendar, a real plant, nothing) and we started talking numbers. Although I had told him earlier that my ideal payment would be about $180, he asked, "So you're looking to get something at around $250?"

And there began my hour of hell, during which Larry tried every trick in the book on me. I'd talk him back down and finally settled on $200 as being my max, and he kept saying, "So, what would it take to get you in this car today? If I can get these numbers down to your numbers, are you telling me you'd take this car off the lot today? I've got to have some light at the end of the tunnel, here."

And I was just thinking, Dude, there's a light at the end of the tunnel: It's the door at the end of the hall and I'm about to walk right the fuck through it. But I remained polite and told him that no way was I making any promises and I needed to know their best offer before we could move forward. Up until that time, he was sticking solely with sticker price. I don't think he ever moved off of that, even a little. I know that small cars don't give dealers quite the profit leeway to play with that bigger cars do, but I don't give a shit. Their profit is not my fucking concern.

Larry wanted to run my credit, which I was unsure about, so I told him give me a minute to consult with my adviser. Ha. I went outside and called my dad and he seemed to think that if I was semi-serious about this car, that it would be OK to let them get my numbers so we could get a more accurate picture of what interest rates my numbers would earn me. I'm just paranoid and don't like a lot of hits on my credit report.

I went back in and Larry ran my numbers and told me I could get the car for $270 a month. My heart sank. That sounded really shitty, considering I have pretty good credit. Turns out they don't finance for the amount of time I was looking for unless you're financing more than $15,000. Larry then turned me over to the financing dude, who ticked out some shit on his computer and made stupid jokes to me about how he never sees payments as low as $270. "My payment on my motorcycle is higher than this!" It was at that point that I mentally checked out and just started texting people while the financing dude turned me over to yet another dude, who tried to be laid-back and cool to earn my trust. Fuck that. They kept leaving the room for ten minutes at a time to "call the banks" to shop for loan terms and get the payments down to my absolute ceiling, which was $220 (or so I told them). The lowest they could get the payments was to $240. They weren't working with me at all. They were just doing their silly salesman dance. Give me a fucking break. I know nothing about this process but I could see right through all of it because they don't even try to hide how shady they are. So I told them that if we couldn't make it work, we couldn't make it work. I saw them give up. I got a pat on the shoulder from the cool dude as he scowled and left the room.

And just to show that I have a superior sense of humor, as I left, I told the financing guy, "Thank you for your patience!" Ha. I crack myself up.

Anyway, that afternoon, I read this, and flushed the rest of my hope for humanity down the toilet.

The good news, though — and there is pretty effing good news — is that I mentioned to my dad that I was impressed with the Versa, and he checked out the Savannah Nissan place to see what they had in terms of deals on those (or even used ones, but they're too new to be popping up as used in most places). And I'll be damned. I'm going to buy my new car Monday (my first new car ever). Granted, I didn't do the haggling on it, but at this point I can swallow my pride and go fork over my money and take the deal. My dad's awesome and that's all there is to it. I think helping me out like this has actually helped him feel better than he's felt in a long time. At least, he sounds excited when I talk to him. So, everyone wins.

Except Larry.

Labels: ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, you make me laugh. I am about to put the finishing touches on a blog devoted to the insane practices of the car dealers in nashville. Feel free to look at it, but right now, all of my posts are drafts. I spent years in the business, and some local people have used me to find them cars or negotiate for them, so i decided to try and tell what i know to everyone. Anyway, good luck with your new ride! Be well.


Fri Jan 18, 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger Jerm said...

Woo car! Glad to hear that you've gotten that (for the most part) taken care of and behind you. Sorry to hear it was such a pain in the ass.

Fri Jan 18, 02:24:00 PM  
Blogger nashgirl said...

I did most of my searching online, but I had the model already in mind. So that cut down on the interaction with assholes. I luckily found a great used salesman just outside of Nashville that set a good price and my credit union did an outstanding job of making it easier on me. But at least you got what you wanted and Dad doesn't feel useless.

Fri Jan 18, 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Congrats on the new car!! I love new cars. I just hate the buying process.

Sat Jan 19, 09:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay, the Versa is so cute!! Are you going with the hatchback? Good job on walking out on those asshat salesmen, too. What a bunch of snakes.

Sat Jan 19, 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger fearlessvk said...

congrats on the new car!!! also, i'm impressed with your standing your ground at the dealership - you shoulda seen me buckle within 10 seconds of the "haggling" process when i bought my current car.... i'm sure i got ripped off to high heaven. there is probably a little picture of me hanging in the honda dealership in oakland, ca somewhere, with a caption like "biggest sucker ever!"

Sun Jan 20, 10:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats! She looks really cute. What color is she?

Sun Jan 20, 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I bought my car from Larry at Dobbs Honda. He was an asshat.

Sun Feb 24, 04:36:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home