Growing up my family had a car we lovingly called the “Junker Clunker”. It was a small yellowish (I think it used to be white) hatchback that had duct tape holding the key components together. When I was younger my dad would put Simpsons puffy stickers on the dash to keep us girls entertained in the front seat. However, we still would hide in the seats and have our dad drop us off a few blocks away from school.
As I got older, I remember waking up at 5:30 in the morning helping my dad push this same car down our driveway hill to get the car started. Sometimes it took several times and I still remember my dad and I having to push the car back up the hill after a failed attempt. I remember the joy when I’d hear the patter of the starter and engine.
My first actual “nice” car was my Toyota Corolla. My ex and I bought this car during our marriage. I loved the doors locked with a clicker and it had no duct tape! During the next couple of years, we bought a couple other really nice cars. However, the Corolla always remained.
So when the tough decision of separating out assets came, I wanted a piece of this memorabilia (also no car payment since I wanted the house and mortgage). The nice new look of the car had slowly disappeared with time. Betsy weathered a hail storm and had the marks all over to show it. After my divorce my car then suffered even more set backs. A blown truck tire that did damage to my grill and then an “accidental” hit of a driving cone on the highway. While all of these damages were cosmetic old Betsy continued to drive and without any major issues.
So recently, I’m staring down the odometer and I realize a few things:
- I’m getting close to 200,000 miles
- I don’t like to ask for help so if I’m on the side of the road I’m going to panic
- I drive too much and too far everyday to be stuck on the side of the road
- I don’t want to get to a point where I feel like I need to buy a second car quickly without research
So with great hesitation I make the decision… I need to buy another car.
So I begin the process. I apply for a pre-approval and decide on a budget for the car payment. I look up car prices and begin to browse online for potential cars. I am excited about the process!
Then it hits me… I’ll actually have to deal with a Salesperson if I buy a car. It is at this moment I panic. Like legit panic.
I was chatting with my good friend from work telling her about my desire for a new car. I can feel the anxiety coming up while I’m telling her where I am in the process. I am trying to stop tearing up and instantly become overwhelmed… even just talking about it. We’re having a great conversation and she finally says “Jill, why don’t you just ask Jack* to help you?”
I instantly say No. I could not imagine asking him to help me. I begin to rationalize in my mind all the reasons why I shouldn’t ask him. I mean after all he’s very busy, has many people that depend on him, and is in a busy part of his life. Isn’t my job to help him feel relaxed?! Not add something to his plate?! But after a few minutes and a very patient conversation (on her part! she’s awesome!) I realized that he could be a GREAT resource to help me navigate the dealership waters.
So, the next date Jack and I have planned was an all day date. It started with a trip to the local market, then a park, and then a local brewery. We were having a wonderful time together, yet, all I can think about is this big looming question that I know I need to ask. So, after a few hours (and a few drinks at the brewery) I tell him “I really need to talk to you about something.”
His eyes get big… see picture of the baby above. I can’t even grasp what a dramatic opening that is because I am BEYOND nervous. I can feel myself shaking just asking. Then finally I say “Can you help me find a car?”
He laughs and says “Jill, I knew this was going to come. You didn’t know that you can just spend $20 to buy a new grill for your current car.”
I instantly feel better and we both laugh. I’m a smart woman in a lot of ways but cars and car shopping is not on that list. I have been very lucky to have great people in my life that tended to take care of these things for me. I wasn’t looking for Jack to take care of it for me but to spend the time to help me walk through it.
Car Experience #1 (the late night almost run in with the cops)
So the next week, Jack and I are driving to his house after dinner one night. It’s about 9:30 pm and Jack pulls into a car dealership. I tell him “Don’t stop here Jack! We are going to get busted by the police.”
He laughs and says “Jill, I highly doubt the police are concerned with the couple driving around in the family SUV looking at cars. Trust me. I got you boo” I’m telling you… that guy is hilarious! I’ll admit it…he had a good point.
So we proceed to drive around and stop and look at cars. After each car, he asks me what I think about the style. If I like the car then we look at the gas mileage and actually look inside the windows. He does a great job of asking me questions and not really inserting his opinion unless I ask him a question.
We drive around a few car dealerships in the area and head back to his house. It was a perfect toe dip into the car buying experience.
Car Experience #2 (the all day excursion)
A few weeks later, I ask Jack to go with me on a Saturday to actually see the cars in the daylight. I research the night before and find a couple cars I’m interested in. We drive in his car to avoid any “trade-in temptation” because I knew I wasn’t ready to buy. As we’re driving to the first lot, I can feel the anxiety creeping in. I am trying to carry on a conversation with Jack and my arms literally start to go numb. To be honest, this was the first time that I’ve had a real anxiety moment in front of him. He is very sweet and holds my hand.
As we’re pulling in I look at him and say “Can you talk to the sales guy for me?” Of course he agrees… this is game time for him 🙂
We pull in and Jack takes the lead. He tells the sales guy “Hi, I’m (insert real name here), but you can call me Jack.” (He likes to mention that he has a pseudonym in my life) ♥
Together we drive several cars. It’s funny how much we agreed on the cars and his feedback was spot on! He even noticed a mechanical issue on one of them and the sales guy agreed that was the issue (I would love to tell you what it was but yeah no idea). After a couple cars, I finally found one that I loved! The price was a little high, so I decided to sleep on it and search for others of that make and model for a better deal.
Car Experience #3 (the test drive)
I found another car a week later that was the same make and model and cheaper in my area. I set up a time to go do a test drive with my kid. I wanted her opinion about the make and model before making any decisions. I call Jack ahead of time and we practice what I need to say if I start negotiating. He was very patient explaining what could be considered basic adult activities to me. I figure we all have our strengths *shrug*
I am greeted by a friendly sales guy in the parking lot. He’s a young guy, seems genuine enough to be new, and commanding enough to know his stuff. He brings me into the dealership to sign papers for a test drive. It is at this point that I am begin to feel the anxiety come up again. It felt like some intense frat house… but with snakes.
The sales guy, my kid and I go for a test drive. We enjoy the car and agree to come back and test drive the car later that week. I wanted Jack there for moral and common sense support before I have to start negotiating.
Car Experience #4 (the let down but a date on the up & up)
This is a quick one… Jack drives the 40 minutes for the mid-week test drive and dinner. The sales guy calls me 10 minutes before our appointment and says the car I liked sold that morning. He recommended another car to me but I passed. I felt bad that Jack had driven so far, but, he was grateful because he was hungry. It meant we ate a lot sooner! (Again a man after my own ♥)
We have a great dinner together at a pizza place with delicious pizza and beer… seriously how could I even be disappointed about a car when I have a hottie with me?!? What car?
Car Experience #5 (the slow death)
So after the disappointment of the sold car I hit the online shops again. I found another car at the same dealership that I LOVED! I mean really loved! I quickly set up a meeting for that Saturday morning and stalked the car to make sure it didn’t sell. Jack was going to leave on a family vacation, but I couldn’t miss this car, so I decided to go alone… it was NOT a good decision.
I don’t want this blog to go in a negative direction so I’ll give you a few insights to my car buying experience:
Apparently, the sales guys at this dealership cannot do anything alone and so a “big man on campus” type sales manager needed to be involved. So the friendly sales guy that I talked to before turned into a tag team duo. Good Cop & Bad Cop.
I told both of these men that I was torn between two cars. Their car and another at another dealership. The other car was $1000 less but it didn’t have the heated seats I really wanted. (I’m telling you cheek warmers are essential) The sales guy also pointed out to me the difference in the mileage. This difference was about 10,000. To put that into perspective that is about 6 months of my driving (I have a long work commute). I told them that the miles difference was not a big deal, repeatedly. I told him approximately 10x he listened to me approximately 0x.
Quotes from the sales guy(s) during my car buying experience:
- “Oh come on Jill, I’m just kidding”
- “Jill, here are the benefits of Pre-Certified ownership. (pulls out a pamphlet) I can take these away if you need the car cheaper.”
- “My job is not to put together information for you to take away and research. My job is to sell cars.”
- “You’re the one deciding to haggle here. You can imagine we are a CarMax. Just imagine there is no haggling here either.
- “Well Jill since miles don’t matter to you, I have another car with 80,000 miles on it for cheaper. Would you like to take a look at that one?”
Now a cliff notes version about my time there that I think are very important to note:
- I asked for a total discount on the car of $500 (meeting in the middle and was worth the heated seats)
- The sales guy never told the sales manager the amount I was asking off. So the sales manager proceeded to hard push me. He made a couple of the comments listed above while talking about my cheapness which resulted in a 10 minute rant from me. This rant may or may not have included me welling up trying not to cry.
- The sales guy felt bad and got me water mid rant
- When the sales manager realized that I only wanted $500 off he apologized (I’m sorry I upset you Jill) *eye roll*, threw the sales guy under the bus, took $650 off, and brought me over balloons from a birthday several days earlier.
- I was pre-approved for well over the car amount with a large financing company that they use “a lot”
- I test drove 1 car
- I test drove that 1 car about 20 minutes
- I was there for OVER 5 hours
- I’m still waiting on a call back from their Customer Service Manager
- I will never walk into that place again
Now, I know what you are thinking… I should have left. I know I really should have now. At the time I kept thinking that this was maybe the way that car buying went. I have heard about those creepy car dealership guys with their high pressured sales. Plus, did I mention my anxiety?! Sometimes it can make me not be able to think clearheaded and make good decisions.
Car Experience Learns
- I need to be vulnerable and just ask for help. It was really tough for me to ask but really made me appreciate Jack and our relationship more.
- I will go to a no haggle place in the future.
- I am beyond grateful for Jack! The entire experience made me feel like I can really count on him. Plus I told him that if this works out… he can do this from now on!
- I love my new car! It was a celebration about an hour after it was over. I needed to take an hour to unwind then had the WOO HOO! moment!
Congrats on the new car! I’m surprised you’ve had such harrowing experiences with car buying. My dealership experiences have always been super fast and hassle-free… and they weren’t even at a CarMax.
I bought a used Prius last summer. I secured a personal loan (1.99% interest rate due to my flawless credit) and got the cash transferred into my account before I went to the dealership. When I walked into the dealership to buy the car I wanted, I told them I was paying cash. I went in there 1 hour before closing and walked out with my new car 1 hour later. I even had a trade-in! It was all super fast. What took the most time is getting the trade-in value assessed.
I was under a time crunch because I had concert tix for that night. I would have walked out if necessary! (But I’m glad it worked out because I really, really needed that car – Prius’ are hard to secure in the bay area and this was the first dealership that actually had . All the others were getting sold out from under me!)