Thursday, July 23, 2009

10 Things That Suck About Buying a Car

10See full size image) Sales Guys

I didn't see any women in the sales trenches, only men. I feel sorry for most of them. It can't be easy. They are rumpled and unkempt, some extraordinarily so. Many are overweight. When you see them alone at their desks, they are scarfing candy and look lonely and nervous, ready to jump out of their own skin. As far as appearance goes, I guess it's a combination of a)declining dress codes everywhere--men in most jobs these days look like they're going to a barbecue b)they want you to know they are "just folks" with bills to pay, which leads to c)sympathy element. If you leave without buying, several of them including the boss, will surround you, sort of like sorority "hot boxing."

9) Explanations of timing belts

Of course I'm the one who asks--why should I buy [this brand] rather than [that brand]? But when they start in on their spiel, I'm sorry I asked. Some of them really don't seem to know. Every one of them says their brand keeps its value the longest. Sigh. Every web site says something different. Consumer Reports makes my brain hurt. In the end, you just want to sweep all the info off the desk and onto the floor. LET'S TAKE THIS OUTSIDE, OKAY? MANO A MANO. I can see why guys revert to brute force. SHUT THE FK UP!

8) That horrible question--what will it take for you to buy this car today? Well, I don't really want to buy today. But there must be some number that if you hear it, you will buy. Isn't that right? Oh god, please help me.

7) The Veiled Hint.

This happens when you are about to leave and they suggest that they could do better when you're ready. "Don't buy a car until you call me, okay? Will you call me and let me get in on the bidding?"

6) Freezing cold showrooms

5) The test drive. I don't want to test drive it. I wouldn't be looking at this car if I didn't have confidence that it has a good ride, nice dashboard, yada yada. Salesmen have a hard time dealing with this. I compromised with one of them and let him test drive it. That wasn't bad.

4)Consultations with unknown "boss." I sit there twiddling my thumbs while Sales Guy disappears to speak with Grand Wizard. Why don't they set up showroom like Wizard of Oz with smoke and special effects? I AM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL OZ. Blah blah blah.

3) Tearful farewell.

They do NOT want to let you out the door. Each Sales Guy has his own version of this. When I get back into my car (soon to be heartlessly dumped), I am emotionally drained.

2) Trying to decide which car is better.

Maybe this price isn't so good when you consider blah blah blah. It's easy to decide which Sales Guy is better. Some of them are not professional at all. One told me that the car he was offering me would match my hair. Hmmm, now there's a reason to buy.

1) The deals, the games, the subterfuge. I'm not a car person. I'm not like Californians who ARE their cars. They love their cars and identify with them to an extraordinary degree. I just want a car that starts. You know? I don't want a status car like a Beamer or a Lexus. My friends all have those and you know something--they seem to be in the shop often. Every time they are in, it's five hundred bucks for whatever it is. That's why I'm looking at the three I'm looking at. These dealers need to understand that women are shoppers. We like to look around and compare. It's also very much a popularity contest and that isn't right. But the car that I originally thought and still think is probably the best of the three is the one I'm definitely not going to buy. Why? Didn't like the guy.

HELP! And I want to buy before the sales tax goes up on Aug. 1. Although if they have another one of those tax-free days like they did last August, that would be a HUGE savings for me. What to do...........
Brain cramps, dear reader.
A bientot,


At 11:55 PM , Blogger sandman1 said...

I am a car guy, and I hate buying cars. My mother's car died on our way back from Christmas last year so we had to shop cars in a hurry when we got home. From that I can suggest a couple things. First, I think it's very important to test drive it. You learn things you wouldn't learn otherwise. I know someone who dislikes cars and years ago she decided to buy one completely through the internet, sight unseen, no salesmen to deal with. That was all fine, but when she got it, she found the seat uncomfortable, and said she should have gone for test drives. It's better if the salesman doesn't come with you -- they're just a distraction. Bring a friend who can help you compare things if you're alone or keep the salesman occupied if you're not. Things like how the seat feels and how windy is it with the windows down and how the pedals feel could bug you if they aren't right.

For my mother, I did a lot of research online with ConsumerReports and so forth, mostly focusing on trying to avoid known problem cars or brands. That gave me a list of options, used and new (trying to keep to a mid-teens price). Then we forced ourselves to go out and drive things, as many as she could stand in a day (three or so).

We ruled some out because of dealers -- that's fine I think. Although it's actually more important to think about the service department, if possible, because you'll never talk to sales again but you'll see service a lot. We also skipped one brand that's got a good reputation because the local dealer is said to be crooked -- grudges are fine too! There are plenty of good cars out there.

For used cars, CarFax seems great to me. Dealers will sometimes provide it for you, sometimes you can see it free online. Note that I've heard that the used market is actually a bit pricey now because many people have gone used instead of new and thus driven up demand.

In our case, we ended up somewhere unexpected, with a new Subaru, which wasn't on my initial short list. But the dealer was good, the car was good, and it was what we liked best of what we looked at. I couldn't believe how great the purchase itself was -- very nice people, very easy, good price with no nonsense. Polar opposite of my own last purchase, which was almost complete nonsense. A plus is that apparently Subarus tend to hold their value, so if after a couple years she decide sit isn't the right one for her, it'll hurt less to trade it.

We also looked at recent-used Accords and Camrys like you have pictured -- the Honda's prices were crazy high I thought. We liked the Hyundai Sonata quite a lot -- it was our second choice but had pushy salesmen, worse value used, and only automatic transmission (Mom wanted a stick). We drove a rented one 500 miles when our car died, so we knew it was pretty good from that.

We didn't drive the Altima -- didn't get around to it I guess. Personally I think it's quite nice looking though, with a lot of French influence (now that Nissan and Renault have merged). The new Mazda 6 (wasn't out then) is pretty good too, though I don't have any Mazda dealers I like (my car is a Mazda) for service... And I haven't been a fan of domestics for a while, but the Fusion isn't bad (though we didn't like the older one we drove very much), and the Malibu is said to be competitive, and it might be possible to find good deals on those.


PS That rabbit picture is freaking me out a bit...

At 7:30 AM , Blogger Becky Motew said...

WOW, sandman, you have given me a lot to think about! I guess you're right about the test drive. Ugh. I'm currently looking at Altima, Accord, and Camry, as pictured. Maybe I should look at Subaru....hmm. THANK YOU. b

At 7:31 AM , Blogger Becky Motew said...


Most of these cars are telling me $18 or $19, in that vicinity. Does that seem good to you?


At 10:39 PM , Blogger sandman1 said...

I'm not so good at the money part or knowing a good deal when I see it. Those are lower than sticker prices for sure, which are more like $21k+. Consumer reports says the invoice price for the cheapest Accord or Altima is about $19k; Camry is lower at a bit under $18k. All of those are manual transmission, so add several hundred for an automatic. But, that's just one price point -- I dunno about rebates or current demand. CR (and others) will sell you some pricing product that factors in those other things, which might be worth it. The Hyundai Sonata is also about $19k according to CR, but in January we were offered prices under $17k.

The other money-related exercise I did with my mother was to compare the blue-book value of used versions of the cars to try to guess how the value might be retained; I don't have the data here, but I remember the Hyundai lost more than average and the Subaru less -- that matters more if you're going to trade soon, less if you keep it 10 years. Conversely, the Hyundai warranty is very long (much longer than Honda/Toyota), which is better for long-term owning (and offsets the value loss if you have to pay for repairs on a competitor).

As for the options, the Subaru Impreza is definitely smaller and cheaper than the Accord/Camry/Altima (it's a class down), though they just came out with their all-new larger car (Legacy). During this weak car market, Subaru has often been nearly the only company not losing money or sales, interestingly. The all wheel drive is good for snow but less good for mileage and costs.

Sometimes car magazines do big comparison reviews -- I've found those useful occasionally when they bring attention to something you might have overlooked. Here's a couple:
2008 Car & Driver
2008 Motor Trend
2009 C & D large hybrids

At 7:19 AM , Blogger Becky Motew said...

Thank you again. Those prices include my trade, by the way. It's kind of a clunker, 99 Honda Accord, 149,000 mi.


At 2:02 PM , Blogger sandman1 said...

Well I was going to say you wouldn't get much for it, but I checked Edmunds prices just now and it might be worth more than you think. If the condition is average and it's a DX, they say $1000 for trade (higher for private sale and other models/options). For me the hassle of selling privately isn't worth the extra money, but that's me being lazy; at any rate, it's good to insist that the dealer pay book value and then try to negotiate the new car price separately.

At 2:33 PM , Blogger Kristina said...

I love that freak-out-bunny picture, and I'm sure I make the same face when anyone mentions timing belts to me.

I say there's nothing wrong with punishing an unlikeable salesman by not buying from him. How else is he to learn?

I spurned a Realtor in my house shopping days because the young man (my age, you'd think he'd know better) listened to every question I asked, then turned and addressed every answer to my husband if I didn't speak the language. Made me furious.

At 3:10 PM , Blogger Becky Motew said...

Ooooooh, you are so right, Kris. GRRRR on that guy.

At 8:14 AM , Blogger Kay said...

What Sandman 1 says!!! :)

Guys! They just don't get it ... (Apart from Sandman 1 that is!)

Good luck - you'll make a good choice; I just knows it.

At 8:39 AM , Blogger Becky Motew said...

Thanks, Kay. I am having a very strange experience with a car dealer right now. I'll post on it as soon as I can.



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