Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How Low Can You Go?

Of all the varied life experiences that come my way, I would rank negotiating with a car salesman right there with back surgery and weed-eating on a hot day (something I just did, btw). Of course, this is just about the only legitimate American arena where the fine art of give-and-take is still viable. I really like the idea of CarMax, where every car's price is posted and non-negotiable.

It seems that every six years or so, I'm sequestered in a tiny office trying to buy a vehicle from a salesman who smiles too much and is way too friendly. I emerge from these discussions feeling absolutely dirty, as though I had spent the evening in a tavern filled with drunks and lifelong Ranger fans. The core of the seediness is the premise on which the car dealer negotiates: "I'm giving you our final offer. We simply cannot go any lower. After all, we have to make a little profit, you know." The truth is that they CAN go lower and WILL go lower if you stare them down and try to make your face look like a bulldog's.

The other problem with buying a new or slightly used pre-owned car...stop right here. Whoever thought up "pre-owned" is forever enshrined in the Auto Dealer Hall of Fame, a lovely structure just across the street from the Funeral Directors Hall of Fame, a place with a bust of the person who came up with "pre-deceased" and acted like it was a real word. Anyway, my other problem with the buying process is simply the amount of money that it requires. How many vehicles have I bought that cost more than my first house? Seven? I keep thinking about how I live in the world's richest nation and how I get caught up in vehicle envy sometimes and how I should really just worry about getting something cheap that gets me to work and back.

Carole and I spent 2 hours at a local Honda dealer last night. Went in to buy a used Ridgeline pickup that their website showed as being in their inventory. Got there and found out it had been sold, probably days ago. The salesman said that it sometimes takes a week to update their website...hmmmm. So we test-drove another Ridgeline which was a great vehicle, but I wanted black or silver and this one was "Tafetta White" or somesuch. We decided to just check and see how much a new 2009 model would cost, and that led to the inevitable "what would it take to get you to buy a new one tonight" game, the one which makes me feel like I'd rather be weed-eating.

I almost bought one, but decided to sleep on it. I woke up this morning thinking that the dealership had been reasonable and that I would accept their lowest offer. But when I called them, turns out Carole and I had misinterpreted their final offer and that indeed, they wanted a couple thousand more and so...I declined. I hung up feeling glad the process was over. I can go about my normal routine today and not feel so pre-deceased.

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