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Shut Up, Sit Down and Buckle Up!

I bought a car yesterday. It’s a bitchin’ car actually. It’s a car worthy of a midlife crisis if I were to have one.

It looks just like this. It’s my first convertible, and if I say so myself, I look damn cute in it.

But here’s the thing. It’s been years since I bought a new car and the last time I did, I never had an experience like this. And it wasn’t good. I almost walked out of the showroom a half dozen times.

My husband and I did our homework. We knew ahead of time which model we wanted, which features were standard (and which we were willing to accept and for how much) and, most importantly, we knew what the car was really worth. Forget the sticker price. We knew what their markup was. We knew what we were willing to pay.

In spite of that, or maybe because of that, it had to be one of the most exasperating experiences of my life. Once we committed to negotiating, the battle began. And it was an epic battle.

Our salesman brought out what they call the “4-square work sheet.” If you’ve ever bought a car, you’ve probably seen this. As the name implies, the sheet is divided into four sections. The salesman writes your info at the top with all the car’s info—the make, model and serial number. The salesman also writes the sticker price of the car at the top. Then the game begins.

They try to get as much info out of you as possible—down payment, how much you want to pay each month, if you have a trade-in, etc. Once this was all filled out, they tried to lock us into payments without even telling us what interest payment they were charging. The salesman said, “What do you want to pay each month?” and pointed to some generic payments on the sheet he got from the finance guy. Fortunately, because we priced everything ahead of time, my husband said, “We want to pay X-amount for the car. Period. You can either meet it or not.” Thirty minutes later, they agreed to meet it. But not before telling us how we were robbing them and they weren’t making any profit. Like I care. Then they tried again to lock us into monthly payments without even telling us the interest rate. They wouldn’t answer directly. Finally, we pushed hard and they admitted they just typed in 15% interest. 15%!!! Nope. Try again. I wonder how many people don’t even ask.

After more back and forth, we agreed to a number. Verbally. Our mistake.

Because once we got into the finance room the terms and everything else was different from what the salesman agreed to. Longer terms, higher payments, jack-up add-ons. So we had to start all over again.

Five hours later—no shit, it took that long—we got what we wanted. But it was brutal. The salesman was playing good cop to the finance guy’s bad cop. I was playing good cop to my husband’s bad cop. The salesman was running back and forth to tell the finance guy we said this, then he’d come back and tell us the finance guy said that. It was like the most fucked-up game of telephone I’ve ever played.

They did thank us for being nice about it. I gather that a lot of people go in there terrified that they’re going to get ripped off—and it’s very possible that they are—so they get nasty and mean. I saw a little of that while we were waiting—couples storming out, people yelling at salesmen.

By the time we left the dealership, I had a migraine and was too tired to even take the damn thing for a spin.

I get that they’re trying to make money; we were trying to get the best deal possible. We’re lucky that we can actually do this in this economy, and I know they’ve probably had a hell of a time moving cars off their lot in the past couple of months. We all want the same thing—I wanted the car and they wanted to get rid of it.  But there has to be a better way. Next time I buy a car, I’m going to go through a broker. It’s worth a few hundred dollars to have someone else do the leg work.

Of course, it rained this morning, which it never does in Southern California, but weather be damned I put the top down this morning.

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10 Responses

  1. I *hate* going car shopping. For precisely this reason.

    But the good news is you guys knew exactly what you were doing and were prepared to “play the game.” Good for both of you for playing both smart and nice. 🙂

    So… you gonna take us for a drive with that new beauty up there? 😉 Loooove it!

    P.S. Drop by Muthahood Crib when you get a chance, k? I’ve got somethin’ for ya =)

  2. This is exactly why I SWEAR by a car broker! Which I’ve told you but, like everyone else, you never listen to me. 😛

    I got my last two cars that way and it was awesome. Painless! Test drive, leave, say, “I want that one” to your broker and they do all the work. Then, the pretty shiny car shows up in your driveway. WOOT!

    Niiiiiice. Is it that color?

  3. I know—once again you were right, but apparently I need to learn the hard way. The broker is the way to go.

    Repeat after me: “Lesley is always right. Lesley is always right.
    Lesley is always right. Lesley is always right. Lesley is always right. Lesley is always right. Lesley is always right.”

  4. OK – not the point of your blog – but I bought my first convertible in Cleveland OH on a 50 degree day. The sun was out – first time we’d seen it in a week. I put the top down and the heat on and drove that bitchin’ car like I was 16!!!

    Also, I was married in SoCal….we were the first plane to land when the fog cleared. They said, “you’ll never get married outside tomorrow” and I said, “Isn’t it always sunny and 70 in San Diego?” Thank God it was!

  5. I love the car! I can just picture you and Gracie, cruising down the highway, blonde hair blowing all around! 🙂

  6. MammaDawg: I will definitely check over there today! If I can get out of my car long enough to get online!

    Amy: There IS NO POINT to my blog so it’s all good! Like you, I will totally drive this thing with the top down even when it’s 50 degrees. Just crank the heater and put the scarf on. San Diego must have been a lovely place to get married. I’ve never been there when the weather was bad. How did you end up here (or there?)?

    Debra: Most likely Gracie’s white hair will leave a trail down the freeway—and in my eyes and in my mouth.

  7. The wind, the wind! The wind will keep alll of Gracie’s hair out of your mouth. Probably can’t say the same thing about YOUR hair though.

    (P.S. You have FINALLY figured out the Lesley is Always Right Thing. It only took you about ten years. NICE.)

  8. Lesley: When you see tomorrow’s post (which is taking FOREVER) you’ll see that there is, once again, a Lesley was right comment. Without you, I”m nothing.

  9. Ooooh. Nice Post Teaser!

  10. Hmmm – I’m pretty sure buying a car in Canada isn’t that much of a freak show. I’ve only ever seen stuff like this on American TV and thought they were exaggerating. Yikes!

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