Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The trials and tribulations of used car shopping

My first car: a 1961 American Rambler, which I drove when it was 16 years old.
It was the antithesis of the muscle cars--Mustangs, Chargers and Cougars
popular when I drove this car in high school in 1976-78.
I'm about to use three words guaranteed to make your head ache, your stomach churn and your palms sweat. Ready?

Used car shopping.

Ick! Is there any task less appealing?

Who looks forward to wading knee deep through the doo-doo of deceitful used car ads online? Who relishes the thought of dealing with commissioned sales people who descend hungrily upon you--teeth bared and grinning--like the great white shark in "Jaws?"

My daughter's 1993 Toyota Camry finally bit the dust. Thanks to a loan from her aunt, my daughter has a modest budget. However, we're not finding much in that price range.

But after doing research online and at the library, we girded our loins for battle and drove to a used car lot. The salesman was upon us before I turned off my car's engine. I brought a notebook and took copious notes. That made the salesman nervous.

On the entire lot, only one car fit our budget and other requirements: a shiny red Ford Focus. It had 86,000 miles, which was a little on the high side for my comfort level. My daughter was excited about the car, but I insisted we take it to my mechanic, Don Orange of Hosely Eco Auto. We dropped the car off at his shop for a thorough pre-purchase inspection while we walked to Uptown Village for lunch.

When we returned from lunch, Don greeted us with: "Don't buy this car. This is not a safe car. It hasn't been taken care of. You can do much better."

Then he gave us a three-page print out listing the car's issues and needed repairs.

My daughter and I were disappointed the car wasn't going to work out. We talked about being relieved to have not made a mistake in buying an unsafe car that needed multiple repairs and would have cost much more money in the long run.

My daughter summed it up like this: "They polished a turd."

We've been car shopping for a couple of weeks now, and after some other dead ends, are no closer to having found a car. However, we're much more skeptical of pretty, shiny cars and the sales people who push unsafe vehicles to unsuspecting buyers. Shame on them!

So this week it's more used car shopping for us. We're skeptical. We're cynical. We're running Carfax reports. We're checking the Kelley Blue Book values. We're kicking the tires. And we're relying on my mechanic to weed out the polished turds.

Meanwhile, we're looking for a reliable, safe sedan with a clean title, low miles and one or two owners--for under $5,000. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

1 comment:

  1. Wanted to thank you for letting me share my experience on your blog. I recently got a new truck and I really wish that I had done some research before letting the salesman push me towards this one. I love the way it drives but the interior has zero personality. You are spending all the time in the cab so love that cab first.

    Eleanor Nelson @ Performance Auto VA