I just went through that unpleasant periodical ritual that most of us experience at least several times during our adult lives: Searching for a new car to replace one that is coming to the end of its road-worthiness.
In my case, my 2004 Honda Accord V6 still runs and looks great. And it can still pass just about anything on the road 14 years after I bought it new.
But, lately the service and repair bills have been increasing in frequency and in cost. I guess it’s what inevitably happens when products are built for planned obsolescence in our consumer capitalist society.
So, it was with the usual trepidation, I started doing my research for a viable and affordable replacement.
The first thing I noticed was that to replace my car with a comparable new Honda Accord would be tantamount to buying a new house and with a monthly payment to match any mortgage. Something I am not prepared to do as a 67-year-old retiree.
Indeed, I’m not even sure a car dealer would finance me for the full length of the so-called incentive packages they offer these days – up to 84 months (or 7 years)!
The second thing a potential new car buyer needs to know is that the MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) just applies to the basic model, and it doesn’t include taxes, freight charges, licensing and all of those other extra charges dealers pile on the cost of a new vehicle.
Add all of these charges, plus the charges for financing if you go that route, in and you’re looking at thousands of dollars more than the MSRP.
And, finally, third, there is the whole negotiating process or “dance” you must endure with the dealership once you have decided on a potential new vehicle purchase.
The closest thing comparable to buying a new vehicle is the purchase of a house. In both cases, it’s Caveat emptor or Let the buyer beware.
Now, with all due respect to Car and Real Estate Sales Reps (or Specialists, or whatever the current job label is), I know you have a demanding (some would say shitty) job that requires you to prey upon the emotional insecurities of your customers. But haggling with you over thousands of dollars on the purchase of a home or new car is not a pleasant experience for most buyers.
For some buyers, it can be downright stressful and intimidating.
In a word, the whole appraisal of your trade-in, make us an offer, let me check it with my manager and so on process, well, sucks.
In my case, I settled on a 2018 demonstrator HRV at a local Honda dealer. It was the perfect vehicle for my needs at this time and I figured we could grow old(er) together.
During my first meeting with the sales rep, we reached what I thought was a reasonable price for my trade-in, figured in all available rebates and discounts, and came up with a “Final” price, open for further negotiation.
I told the rep, who was an extremely helpful young man very interested in working with me to make the purchase happen, I needed some time to think it over.
Four days later, I made my second trip to the dealer armed with my “Final” offer based on a cash purchase.
Well, after submitting my offer and asking for a simple Yea or Nay, the sales rep said he would have to clear it with his Manager. He suggested I take the sub-compact SUV for another drive while he did that.
Upon my return, the sales rep was waiting for me with two sheets of paper in his hand – one a revised appraisal on my 2004 Accord, and the second a revised “Final” cost on the HRV.
Well, lo and behold, my trade-in was now worth almost $2000 less than it was four days earlier and the new bottom line was almost $2500 more than what we had agreed upon.
I informed him that was not good enough and walked away from the “deal.” I could tell that he was exasperated, but in the end: “The customer is always right.” So I didn’t waste too much time worrying about it.
Minutes after walking out of the dealership, I felt like a 500 pound gorilla had been removed from my shoulders. I had not purchased emotionally or impulsively and I still had a car that was road-worthy and probably good for a couple of more years thanks to Mike and the good folks at Village Auto Care in Wortley Village.
Will I revisit the whole ritual at some point in the near future? I guess I’ll have to monitor what those repair bills look like in the next twelve months.
I would like to hear about your experiences buying a new car. Were they similar to mine? Dramatically different? Whatever.
Rick Young, January 27, 2019.