Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Buying a car

Bought a new car today, or rather, a new used car.  We never buy new cars--it's one of the immutable rules of car buying.  Anyway, we had a good time.  I'll confess it: I like buying cars.

When my daughter started driving, we knew we needed a new car, one that she and I would more or less share.  I needed a car to take me up to school, on days when I didn't ride up with Annette; rest of the time, it was hers.  I am very large (see previous post), plus have the normal Dad paranoia about teenaged drivers, so we got a Dodge Durango, first 'cause I could fit in it, and second, so if she were in an accident, she'd win.

It's two years later.  I'm disabled and home all day--only need a car sporadically, and can take Annette to work and keep the car on those days.  And Lexie is sick of filling her car up with gas every third day, at 80 bucks a pop.

So we went shopping.

I like car shopping so much I wrote a play about it once.  True story: the play is called Borderlands, and it's set in a used car lot. A play about impermanence, about fleeting attachments and self-definitions.  I figured, where better to set a play on those themes than in a used car lot?  It was produced at Salt Lake and won some awards and is still one of my favorite things I've ever written, plus Kirt Bateman was a tremendous used car salesman. 

So we started off at KSL.com, which has a great used car classified ads thing on-line, and weeded out some obviously fraudulent deals, and noticed that a lot of the cars we were interested in seemed to come from the same lot: Car Depot, in south Provo.  So visited them, didn't find much, but every week or so, we'd stop by again.  We test drove a dozen cars, bargained seriously on two.  But when the deal wasn't exactly right, we walked away. 

Last time there, we found a really slick little Mitsubishi Lancer.  In good shape, lowish mileage, a few things wrong with it, like it was missing a hubcap.  They were asking 4500, which was high, I thought.  Finally got them down to 3000, plus 1300 for the trade-in on our Durango--so 1700.  Took that price to the bank, and got them to roll the loan into what we still owed on the Durango--about 2500. 

So we started with a Durango with lousy gas mileage we still owed 2500 dollars on.  Traded it for a Lancer with phenomenal gas mileage.  But car loans right now are at 2.5% interest.  Which means our monthly payment dropped forty dollars a month. 

And I made a friend.  Of course all car dealers are friendly guys--that's how they make their living.  But I'm a pretty friendly guy too.  And bargaining, the give and take--it's fun!  Just be honest with them about what you want, and prepare to walk away from the deal if it doesn't work for you.  By the end, Lexie had become a terrific little bargainer--the final deal was as much hers as it was mine.

Know what you want, walk away from any deal that isn't that.  Stay cool, stay focused, be honest.  Always be prepared to ask them to drop it another hundred.  It's really a lot of fun. 


  1. You make it sound so easy, but I always panic. Next time, would you mind if I called you before buying a car for a pep talk?