Saturday, November 20, 2010

Buying a New Car

Katie and I just went through the new car buying experience and came out the other side with a nice car, but we’re hoping not to have to go through that agonizing process again for a long time. We’d been talking about buying a car for a while now. Our Ford Focus was still running strong, but had almost 140,000 miles on it. We researched various cars and decided we wanted a small hatchback that was dependable, safe and got good gas mileage.
Last Saturday I went up to Tucson on my motorcycle to pick up a part I’d ordered. On the way home I passed by a Toyota dealer and decided to stop and see if they had any cars we’d be interested in. I was hoping to just look around a bit without being bothered, yeah right. A salesman swooped in on me before I took two steps on the lot. He was a friendly guy, of course. He asked me what I was looking for and I told him. He showed me a variety of used cars, but they were either too expensive, too old, too big or too something.
This went on for some time. We drove around a very large block in heavy traffic in several different cars, but nothing caught my fancy. Then he remembered a car they had just gotten in. He left me for a while and came back in an almost new Toyota Yaris. It was a strange color, appearing to be an off shade of purple. I got in and the salesman drove it out into the traffic, down the street until reaching a big deserted parking lot where he pulled in. He stopped the car and told me to try it out on some tight turns. I whipped the little car around the lot, swerving one way, then the other. I was having fun. It was like driving a large go-cart. It handled well, had good power and was comfortable.
I repeatedly told the salesman that I couldn’t commit to buying a car unless my wife liked it too. He said, “Not a problem, take the car home, keep it for the rest of the weekend and bring it back on Monday. If your wife doesn’t like it, just turn it in and walk away.” I was getting tired and had the thought’ this will be fun to drive around for a couple days, so I agreed. Then another fleeting thought, she’s never going to gofor this color.
But it wasn’t as simple as just driving the car home. My buddy the salesman added, “First I need you to fill out some papers before you go.” OK, I understand that they can’t just let me drive away in this almost new car. But I didn’t realize I had to go through the entire paperwork process as if I were actually buying it. What had I gotten myself into? First I waited for the financial guy to be able to see me, then they ran a credit check and I waited for the results, then I signed papers until my hand started to cramp. I kept asking the financial guy, “Are you sure I’m not actually buying this car?” and he kept reassuring me, “No, don’t worry, this is just a formality.” I made sure there was a paper saying that if my wife doesn’t approve of the car, the deal is off. The process took several hours and the whole time I was thinking, what in the hell am I doing? She’s not going to like the color.

During a break in the paperwork action and on my way to the bathroom for the umpteenth time, because the salesman kept showing up with another free bottle of water and I kept drinking them, I stopped off to take quick look at the car. The sun was now setting and when I stepped out the front door of the dealership, there was the little Toyota, a deep brown color, the shade of root beer. Silly me, my mind must have tricked me into thinking it was a putrid purple color. I think she’ll like it after all.

I went back in for the last round of paperwork signing and then finally was free to leave. We stashed my motorcycle in the back of the dealership and I took off for Green Valley in the root beer colored Toyota. Even though it was slightly “pre-owned”, it still had that new car smell. When I got home it was pitch dark. After my long winded answer to the question “You did what?” Katie decided to wait and look at the car in the morning. In the morning light we walked out to the parking lot and there it stood. But it wasn’t root beer colored anymore and wasn’t purple either, but of sort of a sickening shade of mauve. Katie’s first comment was “It looks like the color of a corpse.” We walked around it until I found an angle where it looked root beer colored again, but any slight movement to the right or left turned it into a rolling cadaver. “And besides”, she pointed out, “ it’s a two door and we decided we need a four door.”
How had I gotten sucked into bringing home this ugly colored little car? Why did I allow myself to go through all the waiting and paperwork hassle? If I had thought about it, I clearly would have realized this was not the car we wanted. These questions may never be answered. My conclusion is, I cannot be trusted to go into a car dealership on my own. Katie refused to go back with me to return the car. The unspoken words were you got yourself into this mess and you can get yourself out of it. I thought I’d learned my lesson.
When I took the car back on Monday, the salesman was surprised that it had been rejected. I told him we liked the car, but it was the wrong color and we needed 4 doors. He didn’t miss a beat, “Wait here just a minute, I think I have something you’ll really like.” and he took off before you could say, “Oh shit here we go again.” He showed up minutes later in a white Toyota Corolla. It was a lot more money than we wanted to spend and neither of us wanted a white car. But I drove it and liked the feel of it, it had good power, handled really well and had a huge trunk with fold down back seats. Again, I was ready to consider another car that wasn’t the right one. I told the salesman I was not going through all the rigmarole I went through the other day and that I needed to get my motorcycle out of the back and go home. He said, “No problem, I’ll follow you down to Green Valley and we can show the car to your wife.” In a brief moment of sanity I said, “I’d better call her first.” which I did. I told her all about the car and she listened very patiently and then said in a calm and authoritative voice, “Get on you motorcycle and come home now, without the salesman.” So I did.

Even though I told the salesman we’d be back the next day, we didn’t go back, Instead we went to a different dealership and found a car that fits all our criteria. It’s an arctic blue Nissan Versa and it continues to look Arctic Blue no matter what angle you happen to be examining it from. Katie mercifully went through the paperwork process while I zoned out. I couldn’t face doing it again. We are very happy with our new car.

I had spent a lot of time with that Toyota guy. I knew where he was from and why he and his wife moved to Arizona. I knew that he had a problem with his lower back and that he’s going to have it operated on soon. He hopes to buy another motorcycle, a Honda 1300. He was in the Navy, and just missed going to Vietnam. Well he called me the other night “How are you doing? How’s your wife? Did you get home alright the other night on your bike?” Have you been car shopping again?” “Yes,” I told him, “We bought a Nissan and I started to tell him why and that I appreciated all of his efforts to find me a car, but right in the middle of my sentence he said, “OK then.” and hung up. So much for our bonding experience the other day.


  1. I can really relate to this. I have a basement full of things I never intended to buy and just bought a car that I never intended to buy from a guy who gave me the deal of a lifetime. He had exactly the same car himself.

  2. I helped one of a daughters buy a new car last month and it unlike any experience I had ever had: it was quick and painless. Apparently this Ford dealership has figured out people HATE BUYING A CAR.

    Your story is much closer to what I expected. Imagine my surprise when it wasn't.

  3. I have bought precious few cars in my lifetime and each one from a dealer was torture. I think I would slit my throat before even visiting another dealer. Over 200000 on my SAAB. I don't know how much longer it will last.