Yes, it’s true.
Car shopping could actually be the bane of my existence.
Well, hold on.
Car shopping used to be the bane of my existence.
As I was formulating the brilliant words for this post, I was all set to recount some of the horror stories of Car Shopping Through the Years.
Like the time I went to the dealership when we desperately needed a van to fit us and the five kids. Our budget was tight and I needed to leave with a payment that was a certain amount and not a dollar more. I can’t remember what that number was. $150 a month maybe? $200? I don’t remember.
I do remember the salesman coming back from his manager’s office with a number that was not my number. It was significantly more than what I wanted to pay. I matter of factly told him that was too much and was ready to leave.
The guy went back to his manager and — lo and behold! — they met my price. Exactly.
I was a terrible negotiator. I didn’t know how to do it. I just knew what I needed to happen.
Or the time when we were at Arlington Nissan, ready to buy our first brand new van. As part of the process, I was also talking by phone with the owner of the old Nissan dealership in Gurnee. Simply trying to exact the best deal. The guys at Arlington sweetened their offer. So I called the guy in Gurnee back.
“I know what you’re doing and I’m not playing your game any more.”
What game was I playing? What was I doing?
I stunk at negotiating. Or so I thought. All I thought I was doing was trying to get the best deal. The most vehicle for my money. Which was still a precious commodity.
In retrospect, I guess the Gurnee guy had gone as far as he could. He couldn’t match the Arlington offer.
Did that make me a good negotiator?
Heck if I know. I was just trying to get the best deal.
So, Arlington won. But then we had our encounter with the finance manager.
And that took, well, forever.
I remember stopping at the Burger King in Libertyville for dinner, with our three youngest kids. After 11 PM. Close to midnight.
Yeah, that was a late night. Poor kids (he says, chuckling).
Even the last vehicle we bought. An all day affair. This dealership. That dealership. Test drives. Listen to the bull$@!&. Play the stupid game. Make the deal. Get surprised by another hidden charge.
Then dance with the finance manager.
I hate car shopping.
Did I ever mention I hate coffee?
55 years of my life, I had no need for a jolt at the beginning of the day. As a kid, I woke up when my dad woke up to get ready for work. He worked an early shift. So he was up early. So was I.
Remember the test patterns on television? Before every channel was a 24-hour channel? When TV stations signed on and signed off the air? When WGN began and ended their day with The Star Spangled Banner and Five Minutes to Live By?
Yeah, I remember those days well. When I woke up, my brain was already stimulated. No need for coffee.
Then, last year happened. Dad went to the hospital. And it seemed like he was there for months. Oh yeah. That’s ’cause he was.
My body still hasn’t recovered.
My metabolism switch flipped (theme for another day). And averaging four to five hours of sleep every single night… day after day… week after week… finally caught up with me. The guy who never needed coffee to be fully awake suddenly needed a ton of coffee to get and stay awake and alert.
I still don’t need coffee first thing in the morning (still a dangerous thing), but I’ve become addicted to the caffeine and its effect on my neurotransmitters. No caffeine: tremendous, debilitating headaches. Caffeine: no headache, but too much of it and I bounce off the walls.
Today was one of those days. Way too much caffeine. Too early. Not enough food.
And it was a car shopping day.
Kathy’s car needs work. Nothing major. But expensive. Four new tires. A brake job. Probably needs new rotors all the way around the vehicle. Car just turned 69,000 miles.
That got me to thinking. What would it take to get into a new vehicle? Same model. But new.
Momma gets the new car. That’s the way it’s always worked. I get the reliable used car. Definitely more grunt work to find the right animal there. So I guess I’m complaining a whole lot about this process, but her purchases are simpler.
But not easier. All I need do is recall with fondness all the anxiety attacks of dealing with car salesmen and finance guys.
Kathy’s day off today. So here I was, all caffeined up, working the numbers, bouncing off the walls. Doing the nerdy thing recovering accountants/CPAs do. A spreadsheet, naturally.
Car Shopping and Coffee. Lovely.
What number makes sense? What can we afford to pay and how does that compare with what we have to do to her vehicle now?
And can I sit still long enough to figure it all out?
I had paid a visit to the dealership last Thursday. Joe, the internet sales manager, offered a test drive, a quick look at our trade, and a quick number crunch. He promised to have me out the door in half an hour. It took closer to an hour. The numbers didn’t look promising. We parted company amicably. He thanked me for stopping in.
I did a little internet research Thursday and Friday to see what other dealers were offering for the same vehicle, similarly equipped. Was there enough wiggle room in the price to make it all work?
Saturday, on our way to my niece’s Sweet 16th, I got an e-mail from Joe.
The deal was suddenly much sweeter.
Yesterday, I sneaked onto the lot of another dealership, undetected by any salesmen, to spy on their inventory. Just wanted to see what was out there, on the lot. In case Joe’s numbers were too good to be true.
I’m a tire-kicker.
After phone calls to two other dealers, Kathy and I headed over to see Joe. It was 1:00.
At 2:05, we were on our way home. Deal was done. New car, to be delivered from another dealership, on its way. 2015. Much nicer than our present model. Lots of high tech bells and whistles. And not much more per month than we’re paying now.
And no out of pocket for the tires, the brakes, an oil change, this month’s payment.
It was painless.
I hate negotiating. I hate car shopping. I hate coffee.
But today, all three converged and created a surprisingly sweet experience.
Am I a good negotiator? I know what works for us. I didn’t persuade anybody to do something that wasn’t comfortable for them. I don’t think I changed anybody’s mind.
But I think we got a good deal.
For us, at least.
On the ride home, I suggested to Kathy that I should start a car buying concierge service.
“Yeah. Why don’t you start something else?”
Okay, okay… I’ll temper my enthusiasm. I’ll stick with writing.
I’d be remiss if I ended this without acknowledging Joe Matellanes at Ziegler Nissan in Lake Villa, Illinois. Joe, this was the most pleasant car buying experience I have ever had. I told Kathy on the way to the dealership that of all the folks I talked to, you were the guy I wanted to do business with. Thanks for making this painless.
And now, if I get to sleep in 13 minutes, I get four hours of sleep.
Tonia, Melinda… I still owe you blog posts. I haven’t forgotten.