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The joy of buying a car

May 19, 2008 - Brian Ferry
So, there I was, down to a couple of days before my car's inspection wore off. What had once been my prize ride was about to turn into a pumpkin.

Since I wasn't so attached to the car that I would spend the equivalent of a younger, better-functioning car to make it run for another year, I decided to find a "new" car.

I looked high and low. Some places much lower than others.

I tried the place where I had gotten my last two cars. No more cars. Sold every last one.

Rats.

I checked the classifieds. I didn't really want to sell to a private owner because they wouldn't want my car in trade and I didn't want to try to sell an uninspected car to a real person.

I tried some dealerships. They have cars, after all.

I looked over the goods at some used car lots and some reconstructed vehicle sales places. They have cars and I might be able to afford them.

This was not fun. I'm sure there are people who enjoy this kind of thing, but I did not.

One place in particular irritated me during my car hunting process.

It had lots of cars and prices that included my range.

The first time I was there, they quoted me some prices and mileages.

I took that data home and plugged it into some of my favorite Internet used car buying applications.

I narrowed their offerings down to two, one I'd take if the price came down significantly, and one I liked at about the given price.

Their offer on my about-to-not-be-inspected car was pretty good.

I went back to chat, and hopefully buy a car that had a functioning heater.

My inquiry about the better car with the higher price resulted in the "lowball."

The price I'd heard a week before was $1,000 lower than the "new" price. The mileage had also magically gone up more than 30 percent.

I complained, but I needed a car, so I switched to Plan B.

The price was the same I'd heard before. Good sign. I hopped in the car and headed for my mechanic. I don't know enough about cars to realize one is about to fall apart beneath me.

It wasn't an exciting car, but it ran, everything sounded about normal, and the heater worked.

I got about two miles from the dealership with a bunch to go and finally looked at the fuel gauge. The needle was pointing somewhere south of empty.

I called the dealership. "Put a couple bucks in and bring back your receipt."

I did. I put in $10. Money doesn't go as far as it used to, especially in terms of gas.

The dealer had warned me, probably because he knew I would be annoyed if my mechanic pointed out something that he hadn't mentioned, that the power steering line and fluid would need to be replaced.

I got within two blocks of my mechanic and tried to turn the wheel. Power steering no longer operative, captain, switching to impulse steering. I'd forgotten how much more fun power steering was.

Did I mention that I looked at the odometer at about the same time I looked at the fuel gauge? The number there was almost 50 percent higher than the number I had been told. If it had been a tiny number (I wouldn't have been looking at such an expensive car) I wouldn't have been too worried. It was a pretty big number.

So, I have a nice chat with my mechanic, don't bother having him look at the car, and drive back, getting a workout every time I was going slow and needed to turn.

Everyone is gone when I get back, so I (foolishly) leave the receipt with a note on the visor with the keys.

Then I hopped in my car with its known evils (including the absence of heat — it was really cold that evening) and drove home, another day closer to expiration, but having survived the "lowball" and other, nameless tactics, to buy again another day.

 
 

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