Monday, July 21, 2014

Thoughts on Buying a New Car

There are a lot of things I don't enjoy doing, but near the top of the list - which also includes root canals, figuring out our taxes, dealing with telemarketers, and chasing itinerant preachers away from the door - is buying a new car.

Buying a car is unlike buying anything else. You can't just go to the neighborhood car store, browse the aisles, pick the car you want, have the checkout person run a bar code over the scanner, and be on your way. No, car-buying is a dance rivaled in complexity only by the finest classical Japanese Kabuki, an intricate gavotte in which simple people seeking affordable personal transportation perform intricate maneuvers with a team of sales representatives, deputy assistant managers, assistant managers,  managing managers, executive managing managers, finance officers, finance managers, and senior finance managers.

It's not easy to get all those people into one small room, but they manage it.

I bring this up because Agnes and I have just purchased a new automobile. This was difficult for several reasons, not the least of which is that all of the cars in which we were interested cost the equivalent of the GNP of an average third-world country. Which brings up the subject of price ...

Nobody can tell you what the car you want costs. There's the price advertised in the newspapers and screamed in hard-sell television ads. Then there's the "internet price," the "sticker price," the "invoice price," the "Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price," and the "sale price," none of which are the same and none of which is the real price. No matter what price is quoted, you must add taxes, tags (licensing fees), freight, "dealer preparation," assorted fees, surcharges, ma'am charges, and light brigade-charges. The actual price requires negotiations of the sort usually observed in the finest of middle eastern souks, and nobody with whom you speak directly is empowered to agree on something with you ... they must always check with their manager, who must check with his manager, who must then - from her Olympian heights - send back the stone tablet on which is graven the approved numbers, which are presented to you in order to start yet another round of negotiations.

Price negotiation is but one of the hurdles that stand between you and your new chariot. You must also find a car that has the features and accessories you want ... most of which can only be obtained as part of "option packages" which include a lot of stuff you don't want*. For instance, if you want an AM/FM radio, you have buy it as part of the "entertainment package," which includes DVD players in the back seat and a fold-out stage in the trunk on which optional midget performers can present shows at tailgate parties.  Want a sunroof? It comes with the "exterior prestige package," which includes the xenon quartz halogen cyber-infused security light package (only another $1750). And don't forget the trunk monkey.

In the good old days, the "Navigation Package" was a cheesy plastic envelope full of maps from the local Sunoco station. Nowadays, it's part of a nightmarishly complex multicolor video screen that also allows you to program your radio, answer your phone, play music, and adjust the trajectory of the Cassini spacecraft as it orbits Titan. And it's only an additional $3,675.

Okay, now you have found your car and it's more or less what you wanted. Now you have to deal with the finance department.

Considering that an average new midsize car costs about as much as a house**, the financing of the vehicle is very important, and the dealer - reasonably enough - wants to know that you are able to pay for this fine mechanical steed. Thus, you need to fill out the application for a credit check, submit a liter of blood for testing, and leave an arm or a leg (your choice) and your firstborn child as collateral. The finance manager submits all this information, pulls the lever on the side of his computer screen, and ... if three cherries spin up ... you are granted the right to bind yourself to indentured servitude for the sixty months it will take to pay off your car***.

Car buying. Just shoot me now.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* In this respect, buying a car is much like getting cable television services, which requires you to buy 700 channels (including Professional Fly-Fishing Highlights and the Sewage Pumping Channel) in order to get the half-dozen channels you really want to watch.

** As a comedian once said many years ago, "I never thought I'd have to pay $20,000 for something that didn't have a doorbell." You can tell how old that was.

*** By which time it will be pretty much of a wreck, anyhow.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

I feel for you, Bilbo. Buying a car is like some shell game. There's a lack of transparency in the process. All that prevarication! The salespersons leave snail trails!

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Car dealers draw people in with their ads; but they make money on the accessories. Good luck!

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

When I was a kid I was taught to never answer the question, what do you wish to pay monthly? My Uncle convinced me that the cost of the car wouldn't matter to them after my answer, they would just make sure my monthly payment was close to what I wanted. My first car was 2,800 until I got the 8 track and fm radio. Then it was a whopping 3100. 1974 VW Bug brand spanking new.
But now as an adult I only buy at Carmax. No Manager and I have always had the best of luck. I don't mind a car that is 1 yr old. It is worth no longer having the hassle of negotiating and dealing with "the manager" I have gotten 5 cars there and would now never go anywhere else.

Banana Oil said...

I'm with Margaret on Car Max. Having lived in North Dakota, I learned that weather takes it out on a car. We have a different kind in FL; but it means not expecting a car to last long and look new. May you have a successful hunt!

Linda Kay said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the car buying. Our car is now almost 5 years old, but when I look at the new cars that are the same model (Ford Edge...which I love!), they look just the same as mine. So no one would even know I had a new car. I guess we will just drive this one til she drops...

Insane Penguin said...

Buying a new car is always an expensive headache, coming from the sense that one is getting screwed!

Mike said...

150,000 miles on my van, going for 300,000.