Monday, September 2, 2013

Car Shopping Was Invented by the Devil

I know he's not selling a car.  Shut up!
It's an old, boring cliche that used car salesmen are sleazy, seersucker suit-wearing greaseballs whose only goal is to take your money and/or chain you to a series of high payments on a piece of shit that will crap out when you're just down the road from the dealership.  (And of course, if you try to take it back, you'll get "I'm sorry, but you bought it as is!")

I try not to deal in stereotypes when I can.  Just because many of the Republicans in Congress are some of the most backwards, mentally unstable, childish people I've ever seen and I shudder in horror that they are the ones behind the wheel of this country doesn't mean that I think that ALL people who identify as Republican are crazy.  That would be silly.

Ignoring car salesperson stereotypes, car shopping is still a stressful experience.  The salesperson wants you to buy a nice car--and the more expensive the car, the better their commission will be.  You want a car that's nice enough, but that's also affordable.  And if you're not a mechanic, you have to do the Mexican Hat Dance of trying to glean through psychic vibes and strong intuitions if the car is a lemon--if there's anything wrong with it mechanically.  There have been several times that I've opened the hood of a car and just stood there looking at the tangle of wires and metal with horror, like I was staring into the belly some metallic Lovecraftian horror.

Art by c-dane of DeviantArt
Ia, ia! Hyundai fhtagn!
Virtually every time that we have tried to buy a car, when we went to the dealership, we had to deal with a salesperson that would flat out make things up.

We have been looking for a small car in decent condition that gets relatively good gas mileage.  My preferred car would be a hybrid because they get somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-60 mpg, and that's fucking amazing.  However, 35-40 is acceptable.

Car dealers seem to think small = good gas mileage however.  Just because it's vaguely Smart car shaped doesn't mean that it runs like a Smart car guys.

We went to a dealership where we wanted to look at a Ford Focus.  When we started it, it squealed and squawled and shook like a banshee was locked under the hood.  Instead, the salesman told us he wanted to show us a Hyundai that got just as good, if not better, gas mileage than the Ford.  Red flags began to go up immediately when I--not the most automotively savvy, I guess--noticed that the car was CLEARLY a Nissan.  You know the Nissan symbol?  It's the one with "Nissan" printed on it.

Image from
What brand is this? Hold on, give me a moment.  It'll come to me...
He started claiming outlandish mpg.  My wife already had her Android out and checked the listing on fuel and behold, it got much fewer mpg than the guy was claiming, and much less than we wanted.

When we brought this to his attention, he hummed and hawed around, making excuses, talking about what the people that traded it in reported.

We left.

Another time, we went to a dealership where we wanted to test out a Chevy Aveo.  It had quite a few miles on it, but it was a nice price, and it looked like it was in pretty good condition.  After testing it out, we didn't really like it--the engine knocked a bit when shifting gears, and the brakes didn't work right.  The salesman was obsessed with getting us in a newer car, one with fewer miles, because he said we could get a better deal on insurance. He kept pumping this Suzuki Reno over and over and over, repeating the same spiel incessantly.  I agreed to drive the car--1) because I like to be open minded and see if they actually can get me in something better, and 2) to shut him the fuck up.

One red flag came up when he didn't want me to drive it as long as the other car.  The other car, I had driven it down a back road to an area where I could open the engine up to highway speeds.  He had me turn around before I could with the new one.  While we drove, he continued the same speech again and again, "I'm trying to put you in something newer with fewer miles.  If you guys are willing to upgrade to a newer car with fewer miles that's just a little more expensive, you can get a much better deal for your interest rates."

When we returned from our very short trip--essentially, he only let me drive it around the block--he ducked off to return the key, and I talked to me wife.  I liked it well enough, but it was more expensive, and we weren't sure we could make the payments.  While discussing it, we noticed something else:  the door handles were a different color than the rest of the car.  The car was blue.  The handles were white, with little traces of the old blue paint around the edges.  Another red flag.

I've had experience buying cars with damaged titles before.  I don't necessarily mind, because if they've been fixed properly, they're pretty much new again, and you can get a practically new car for a significantly reduced price.  However, I'm only willing to consider it if the're up front with me and explain what the damage was to the car, how extensive it was, and what they did to fix it.  One car I bought previously, the dealer did just that, and it was a great car.  The other car, the dealer had illegally cleaned the title, and we didn't find out until much, much later.

Photo from bradleygee
"For sale: one car.  Minor dings in roof.  Great engine!"
When I brought up the door handles to the dealer, he told me, "Oh, well, that's no big deal.  You can just take that to a body shop.  They don't have to repaint the whole car; they can just do a touch-up.  It'll cost you maybe $100-$200?"

"Okay," I replied, "but what happened to it?"

"I don't really know," he said, "but you know, when the dealer buys these cars, they want you to buy them 'as is.'  The dealer just buys them and sells them back to the customer, they don't fix anything on them."

This, I know to be bullshit, because, again, I've purchased two cars that were previously damaged from two different dealers--and looked at two others from two different dealerships.  Hell, my wife and I saw one before it was fixed--it was a sporty little yellow car that looked awesome.  It was in the dealer's garage, getting repaired.  We could it would be a good car once they finished fixing up a door and repainting it, so we told them to give us a call when it was ready.

Now I had alarms going off in my brain like crazy, but we pressed on anyway, waiting to see how this would play out.  After all, those dealerships that I bought my cars from were smaller.  Maybe the bigger dealerships didn't fix them up?  Sure, a bigger dealership had offered to buy one of my cars that was missing a trunk from an unfortunate accident involving a preppy, douchey rich kid with connections.  They said they could fix it.  But still, I don't know everything in the world.  I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt--even if this car looked like it had been fixed up by the dealership, and just wasn't finished yet.

Determined to sell us this car, the salesman started telling us about the engine size, how amazing the gas mileage was, especially compared to the Aveo, how the engine size was the same, and again, how the lower amount of miles would mean a better deal when we financed.

While he went to get the paperwork and look over our own car to see what the trade-in value would be, we looked up the information on as well as Suzuki's own site.  The Suzuki's engine was 1.25 times bigger than the Aveo, cost almost ten bucks more to fill up, and got worse mpg than the Aveo.  He was just making shit up as he went along.  The Reno may be a good car, but he either had no clue what he was talking about, or was out and out lying to us.

We left because I don't feel like buying from a salesman that will fucking lie to my face.  That's not a way to build a trusting relationship.

Thankfully, this story does have a happy ending.  We found a car that is in our price range, that gets the kind of mpg that we want, and we got it with the payments we wanted AND a 3 year warranty.  Our saleswoman let me take it out on the interstate feel how it handled at higher speeds.  She was awesomely blunt, but also extremely willing to try to work with us to get what we wanted.

Say hello to "the Snowberry," aka, "the White Bullet, aka "the Tardis" because it's bigger on the inside.

1 comment:

  1. Car shopping is definitely not something I'd call fun. I think a lot of salesmen fail to recognize how much information is at the palm of our hands. That aside, glad that you were able to find a happy ending. I think I'd rather call it Tardis though. It just sounds cooler. Ha! -Prince @ Lexus of Ann Arbor


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