I’ve decided to write about my latest car buying experience, which has been, even for me, an exhaustive, demoralizing trip through hell. (Oh, and a note to Plimco: call me)
I’ve been trying to buy a car for almost three months. For most of my life, car buying was pretty easy. After all, I was in the business, and I knew what a car was worth, which cars to avoid, and I could insulate myself from the arduous process that the average person must endure at almost any dealership. (A note to Plimco: call me)
Let me first clear up a misconception about a certain organization whose name ends in MAX. Yes, its true, there is no haggling….unless you have a trade (which most people do). Also, while the process is more streamlined and laid-back there, be prepared to pay between 1000 and 2000 dollars more than you should for almost any car they offer. I don’t know about you, but the thought of paying a thousand dollars more for something than it is worth, plus handing the State a tax of 9.75%, plus paying a “doc fee” for the privilege of buying the car rubs me the wrong way. (Speaking of rubbing, a note to Plimco: call me)
I will jump through some hoops when purchasing a vehicle. My friends laughed at me because a few years back, I had a friend drive me to the bus station in Nashville, where I caught an express bus to Atlanta. From there, I boarded an Amtrack train to Columbia, S.C., and hailed a cab to a nearby motel. In the morning, a friend from the Democratic Blog who I had never before met picked me up, and took me to the dealership that had a car I knew was undervalued. I bought it, and drove it back home, stopping in Knoxville along the way where I had a CD player installed while I ate dinner. I got home quite late. The next morning, I washed it, put a sign on it, parked it in my yard and sold to the first person who looked at it the very next day. After all expenses, I made 2000 dollars. Like I said, I’ll jump through some hoops. I spent the next evening driving to my friends houses, banging on their doors, and when they answered, shoving a fistful of money at them and shouting “LOSERS!” at them in my very best Jim Carrey impersonation.
So anyway, when I approached this latest purchase, I was of two minds. I wanted something both extremely reliable, and extremely good on gas. On the one hand, I could select something new, or nearly new, and finance it, but this economy has me wary of any long term debt beyond our mortgage. Or, I could buy something older, and pay cash. The trouble with a new or nearly new purchase is that you must also insure the vehicle against everything from uninsured motorists to bubonic plague, and it can wreak havoc on a budget. (You thought I forgot, huh? Hey Plimco! Call me)
The last car I bought was a 1997 Buick LeSabre, with 112,000 miles, leathered up, and in excellent shape. The car gets around 25-29 miles a gallon, (3800 series engine is an engineering wonder) and I paid the princely sum of 1800 dollars. In my mind, if I get two years out of it I am way ahead of the game. The air conditioning doesn’t work, so it will not be suitable to drive in the Summer, and I may not want to invest the cost of replacing the compressor. So, I started looking for another car. (Everybodys lookin for something. That said…Plimco, call me.)
By far, Nashville is the hardest place to buy a car…ever. I assume that the local dealers figure that most people will not travel into Georgia, Kentucky, or Alabama to purchase, and they may be right. I’ve been here over five years, and in that time, I’ve purchased 9 cars, only one of them here in town. The ones that know about the internet do a shitty job with it, and I can’t tell you how many dealerships in this area put no effort toward an online strategy whatsoever. But each and every weekend, they will buy horribly expensive full page ads to attract buyers, with no thought about what kind of buyers will respond.
I tried, Nashville, I really did. I talked to countless salesmen, none of whom saw fit to call me to see if I was still in the market. Here is a little nugget of wisdom for you area dealers: A “doc fee”, or “retail delivery fee” or “administration fee” is bad business. Heres why. On a new car, just about every dealership can and will arrive at roughly the same price. Why would I buy from yours when you charge a $599.00 fee, and the dealership down the road charges a $199.00 fee, or none at all? Yet, here in Nashville, there are at least 4 dealers that charge a $599 fee, and countless others that charge fees ranging from $199 to $399. (Imagine, ladies, that you go to pay for your 12 inch “personal massager” at the Hustler Store, only to have the clerk charge you a “customer service fee” of roughly 5%. You’d balk, right? That reminds me, Plimco, call me)
In the end, I decided on an older, but reliable used vehicle. Sure, its a roll of the dice when you buy a used car, but certain brands make it less risky. Knowing what to ask, and WHEN to ask can also mitigate your risk. I found a 1998 Toyota Rav4 in Huntsville, Al. One owner, and properly serviced in its lifetime. I paid less than 5000 dollars.
The Primary wife drove me to bus station on 8th yesterday, where I planned to catch an “Express Bus” to Huntsville. Tomorrow I should explain how that plan ended up with me driving down 65 South with Aunt B. It is difficult to maintain one’s proper speed and stay in one lane while simultaneously shielding yourself from splattering sneezes and soppy wet coughs coming from the passenger’s seat. I finally stopped at Lowes, bought some supplies, and wrapped her in a tarp secured by duct tape. Every once in a while, I leaned her out the window to spread her germs along the saturn parkway or whatever.
I should really start a site about car buying. I really should.
Plimco, you should call me, you really should.