Fact: shopping for a car is a nightmare, especially if you’re car-illiterate like I am. There are so many different types of cars (within each model at least three sub-sets, basic, intermediary or “all the bells and whistles”), and so many factors, like miles per gallon, hybrid, electric or regular, 4 vs 6 cylinders, 2 vs 2.5 liter engines, financing rates (APR), and so on. You must choose between buying new or used. If the latter, from a dealership or private owner. Either way, unless you’re rich, you have to haggle, something I’m terrible at.
I purchased my first car, a 2-door hatchback, at age 24, one week after getting my driver’s license, from my mother’s mechanic, an old family friend. Still, my older brother came with me to ask all the proper questions. I had no idea what I was doing. I barely knew how to drive. Did that stop me from driving across country to Los Angeles alone? No, it did not. In fact, that was how I really learned to drive, especially on freeways. Several years and road trips to Las Vegas and San Francisco later, the hatchback died in a junkyard on the outskirts of the city.
I bought car #2, an old, clunky, American sedan, from my L.A. mechanic. When I picked up my New York City relatives from the airport, the kids exclaimed, “It’s like riding in a car service car!” It did feel like I was driving a taxi most of the time. That car didn’t even make it to the junk yard. It died on the side of the road in North Hollywood.
After that, I got a Toyota, used but looked like new, from a dealership. I drove it all over the place and took so-so care of it, but the year Kaz was sick I didn’t do much more than gas it up. The day I finally took it to the shop (after he died), my mechanic told me it wasn’t just low on oil – it had NO oil. No wonder it sounded like a lawn mower.
To its credit, the Toyota hung in there. I don’t know how long it had no oil, but apparently not long enough to completely destroy the engine. To be on the safe side, I didn’t make any super long road trips, had it tuned up regularly and said many prayers while on the road these past two years. When I got the puppy last year, she took some of her teething frustration out on the backseat seatbelts, one day giving me the fright that she had actually swallowed a portion (she hadn’t). Needless to say, the Toyota went through a lot.
Part of the “get my shit together” quest has been to acquire a new car before my current one ends up dead on the side of the road like its predecessors. I actually started looking a little over a month ago. I didn’t want to blog about it until the process was behind me. Well, now it is.
After five weeks, dozens of test drives with all types of car salesmen using every trick in the book to try and convince me to buy, I finally found my car – a 4-door hatchback with a sun roof! This time both my father and brother helped me. I actually called my brother from the dealership before signing the papers (waking him up on the east coast), because the salesman had just pitched me an additional warranty at the last minute for “only” an extra $1650 (he advised me to pass).
The nightmare is over. I can get back to writing on the weekends, start taking road trips, maybe even go camping. The only thing is I forgot the garage clicker in my old car, so I have to drive back to the dealership tonight to retrieve it.
Do you have a car buying story/experience?
This post is part of the the Daily Post’s “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” prompt.