Saturday, March 25, 2006
Breaking the new car fever.
For the past week and a half or more, I've been distracted by chasing sheet metal with a higher MPG rating than our SUV. Something that might ease our slide into the post-petroleum age of falling supplies and rising prices until social collapse and total anarchy finally arrives.
Okay, maybe that won't happen but whatever happens, wherever we're headed, we'll drive a little further into the future on a little less gas.
I was thinking about how each human totally replaces all the cells in their body with new ones about every 8 years. That's almost as long as we keep a vehicle, so that every time I go to buy a new car, it's like a whole new experience. I have to "wing it". Meanwhile, every car dealership I visit has been trading cars, many many cars, every day for those past 7-8 years.
Somewhere in my cellular 'rebirth' there must be some "goo" in the new molecular me that retains some memories however. Because, while I don't recall the specifics, I remember my last car buying experience as bad, just as the slightly vaguer memory of the time before that was bad also, ad infinitum.
But this time around, I did some very good things by watching keenly the salesmen from the three Honda dealerships. I still got screwed I'm sure. But it didn't feel too bad this time. And next time I trade, I'll do even better. If I just remember this time next time.
(Of course, all the prep by reading up on dealing with the pros, researching trade-in values, and deciding on which car's right based on your criteria is mostly done before you start--that's assumed here.)
Okay, here's a thing or two I did or did not do that I felt worked well. I involved three different Honda dealerships in the process. (I realize that's not always possible.)
THIS WAS NICE.
On the visit to the third dealership, I stopped by a Toyota/Scion yard, looked at 'em and procured a couple brochures. I added a PT Cruiser brochure from my next stop. Pulling into the Honda dealership past the vultures waiting to pick my bones clean, I carefully arranged these brochures on the passenger seat before getting out of my car.
THIS NEGATED WHAT I'D THOUGHT WAS NICE THAT I JUST MENTIONED ABOVE:
After the dealer drove/appraised my vehicle and gave me a bid, I noticed upon leaving that along with the brochures from different dealerships I'd left in the front seat, I'd forgotten and left my notes on visits to the other Honda dealers with their trade-in offers and different possible scenarios I might expect from my visit to this dealer.
So was it coincidence their trade-in offer matched exactly one of my worksheet estimates, which coincidentally, was one of my low ones? I think not. This was a dumbest ass thing I did in this process. It negated all the brochures I coulda stacked on the passenger's seat.
I don't know if this is an example of why a hungry man stopping for a meal and shelter should not accept the farmer's post-dinner offer to stay the night in the only place he has to sleep--in his daugther's bed. It could end up getting you shot! Nah, that's probably a bad analogy, huh?
"HERE, TAKE IT HOME FOR THE AFTERNOON!"
Never, ever do this unless you knowingly have a "KICK ME" sign taped on your ass. My wife delegated the car buying to me. So, they were nice enough to loan me "our" new Honda to drive home and show her.
I don't know if this is an example of why you shouldn't sleep with the aforementioned farmer's daughter but if you do, you're gonna marry her. You can pretty well place your money (and lots of it) on that. (Hmmm, I think the analogy's improving?)
FOR ME, THE BEST WAY TO HANDLE IT.
Once you've permitted the dealer time with your trade-in, away from you, and he gives you his estimate, leave! I got appraisals from 2 of the 3 dealerships. The third dealer which was the first we'd visited and whose salesman (our favorite) was a young marine reservist home between tours in Iraq, was off the job for the next week when I called and tried to involve him. He was getting married this weekend. (Perhaps because he'd slept with a farmer's daughter?)
Anyway, once a dealer's appraised your trade-in, there's no way they need you to "come in and talk about it" any further. For me, I can now use the phone and negotiate it from there, in my jammies if I want. And they can't work me over by pulling in their sales manager while you're staring out a lot full of shiny new sheet metal. As I told my wife while I was negotiating with these dealers over the phone, "Next one who calls, maybe I should ask, 'What can I do to get you to put me in one of your cars today?'"
I don't know how many hundreds of dollars more I could have saved ourselves if I'd just stuck to this strategy.
But yesterday morning was nice and I told the wife I'd take her by the Chrysler dealership to see that bright yellow mustard colored Route 66 PT Cruiser that doesn't get the mileage of the little Civic, nor have the *5-star* crash safety ratings of it either. Before that, however, we'd drop by one of the Honda dealers who'd called and said they really worked up a much better deal for us. We didn't make it over the see the PT Cruiser. And we ended an ordeal, hopefully, til the end of Oil Age or I at least replace all my body cells, whichever comes first.
Oh, and by the way, we're tickled like most new car owners, at our new baby. I'm sure it will get even better once we get used to the absence of a hood (engine?) and begin enjoying going farther on less.