Buying a Car

All that time, trouble, effort, and researching choosing a new car that can fit the whole family:

It’s a Scion XB, and I love everything about it.
……And then we brought it home, and I realized how clean it is, and how shiny and nice-smelling it is, and I don’t want to even let my kids inside it, let alone a large, hairy dog. 
Ah, yes.  Irony.

Anyways, last Friday, as the boys were waking up from their naps, I took a glance at the clock…. and then started texting people to see if anyone would be willing to babysit the boys.  If I really hurried, I could probably make it out to two dealerships and test drive their vehicles before they closed… heck, I might even be able to make three dealerships, if I really hauled buns.

I struck gold when Jame volunteered (even though it was her birthday!), so I threw the kids into the Civic, stopped at McDonald’s for some chicken McNuggets and Sprite the local food co-op to pick up some organic spinach sprouts and free-range turkey nuggets (I can’t decide if that sounds really gross, or if it sounds like the world’s greatest insult:  “You bigoted jerk!  You disgusting, free-range turkey nugget!”) and sped off to Beaverton.

Once I was on my way I called The Bean to see if he could leave work a little early and meet me for a couple of test drives…… only to have him inform me that the dealerships closed at 8.

 Crap.

It was already after 6, and I still had about 30 minutes of driving to go before I could reach Jame’s, let alone the dealership. The dealerships down in SoCal are routinely open until 9, so I just assumed that all dealerships stayed open that late.

Oh well. I probably had time to do one test drive before they closed – and since I already had the kids loaded up, I felt kinda committed to the cause. 

Between the comments from my blog and some of the reviews I found online we decided over the phone that the Kia Soul probably wouldn’t be big enough.  We made a plan that the Bean would peek in and check out the cargo space on Mazda 3 (I’d driven one previously, and JOY OF JOYS there was no good lease on the Mazda 6 MINIVAN, so that was out of the equation) and then we would meet  at the Scion dealership. 

By the time I dropped off the boys (Hi-Jame-wow-you-look-fantastic-here-is-food-thank-you-hey-gotta-distract-the-boys-so-they-don’t-see-me-leave-and-avoid-any-crying….boys-look-at-the-kittens… ) and darted off to meet The Bean at the dealership, it was after 7.

Let’s skip the boring parts – the part where we realized Artemis wouldn’t really fit that great on long trips in the Mazda, and the part where I realized I totally loved the Scion, and the part where it was pretty amazing that they actually had the model I wanted (the cheap one!) with the color I wanted (not white!) with the manual transmission I wanted (woohoo!), right there on the lot. 

Let’s skip straight on to the part where I realized I absolutely hate car shopping.  It takes forever, and it’s INCREDIBLY BORING.

I know, I shouldn’t complain.  I mean, car buying can’t really get any easier for me.  I’m married to a guy who used to sell cars.  The Bean sold cars for years – many, many years.  He started selling cars back on 2001 (2002?), long before it became the norm for people to do all of their research on the Internet and come in having any idea what was going on.  He started out selling used cars back when the industry was still in “the good old days”, and he has seen and knows of every trick in the book used to inflate payments, or try to “close” a potential deal.  He knows of the legal tricks, and he knows of the not-so-legal tricks.

The other thing you have to know is that The Bean was very good at selling cars – very, VERY good at selling cars.

Heck, he’s pretty good at selling most things – I mean, when I met him I was a happy, carefree, penniless college student twittering her way through life….. and six months after I met him I was married,  knocked up, and balancing my check book for the first time in my life. 

The guy could sell ice cubes to Eskimos and have them thank him for the opportunity of doing business with him.

That knowledge, combined with the fact that The Bean is the financial brains in the family, made my job in the whole transaction really, really easy.   It was pretty relaxing, actually.

All I had to do was set feminism back about 60 years and defer all questions and conversations to my husband.

Occasionally I murmured something along the lines of, “Whatever you think, dear,” or “Well, it seems a bit high….. we could always go check out the Kia Soul….”, but mostly I just doodled on the papers in front of me and tried not to go stir crazy from boredom.

The entire process took 3 hours – about 2 hours and 30 minutes longer than it should have, in my opinion.  When I texted Jame at about 8 to let her know that we were starting the paperwork on the car and would be a few minutes late, I figured we would be done by 8:30, and home by 9 – an hour later than I’d anticipated, but the new car and lack of return trip would make it worth it.

Ha.  Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

We didn’t drive off in the car until after 10 (I know I’ve already said it, but I am so, SO sorry Jame!).  I was exhausted beyond belief….. and that was with the salesman smiling and saying, “This was one of the fastest, easiest transactions I’ve ever experienced!”

The entire car-buying experience is designed to wear you out – if you spend 4-5 hours with each salesman, eventually you’re just going to quit carrying about haggling, and settle.  I hit that point pretty early on. I probably would have paid $300 a month to rent a pogo-stick from them, if it meant that I didn’t have to sit still in that stupid chair any longer.

Boredom aside, it was actually kind of neat seeing the Bean in his element.  The only other time I’d seen The Bean haggle a sales transaction was when we were buying our wedding rings, and that embarrassed me so much that I actually drifted away from the counter and out of the store until the process was over.

For the record, he got several hundred dollars off of the price – thanks baby!

Anyways, other than that one time I’d never actually seen The Bean in action, but it was immediately clear that he knew more about selling Toyotas than the actual Toyota salesmen did— and yet they were still trying to use their “sell” tactics on us. 

Salesman:  “So, where do you want your payments to be?”

Bean:  “Well, that’s not really important.  The payments will be a factor of the residual loan…blah blah CAP costs… blah blah percentage down, blah blah payment, blah.” (Sorry – I kind of tuned out the boring words.) “We just need to agree on the trade-in value as well as the money factor.  The payments will just be factor of that, and then we’ll have a deal.”

Salesman:  “Uh… okay.  Uh… I don’t know anything about money factor, but where do you want your payments to be?”

The salesman was nice, but it wasn’t very long before we’d bypassed him and The Bean was speaking directly to the finance manager. 

That’s when it got interesting.

Even though The Bean was up front and honest about the fact that he used to be a General Sales Manager at an extremely high-volume Acura dealership, they still tried a bunch of tricks on us. 

The finance manager wasn’t exactly my favorite person I’ve ever interacted with.  A huge man, maybe 6’4″ and built like Mr. Incredible, he loomed over both of us as he approached the table.  As he greeted The Bean, I watched them trade hand shakes – both their grips firm and businesslike.

When he extended his hand to me I grasped it firmly in my hand to shake it—- and instead I just kind of jiggled his limp, flaccid, dead-fish hand. 

Dude.  I get it.  You’re a great big manly man.  I’m a tiny, feminine, delicate little 5’8, 180 pound featherweight of a woman.  Still – I promise it’s okay to actually shake my hand – the bones in my hand won’t automatically crumple into a million different pieces from the force of your brute, manly strength.

Lack of handshaking ability aside, Mr. Finance tried too hard – using obvious sales lines that lacked any natural charm behind them.

Mr. Finance:  “So…. you’re here to buy a car, huh?  Congratulations!  Let’s see this paperwork here—“

Bean:  “Let’s just cut to the chase, and save us both some time so we can get home to our families.  The residual on the Civic is $11,100.  You’re offering me $11,500 for the Civic.  I want to get $12,300, and use the difference as money down.”

Mr. Finance:  “Well, okay.  I’ll have to go see about that.  Just one moment – I’ll be right back.”

Mr. Finance:  “Well, see, the guy outside went out to recheck your car, and they think the $11,500 was a little high, and now they want to offer you $11,000.”
Bean:  “Are you kidding me?  You want to pissback on the deal?”  He shook his head and laughed.  “Seriously, that’s the way to lose a sale – you can’t do that.”
Mr. Finance:  “Well, that’s what I told him.  So I discussed it with him and he finally agreed to keep it at $11,500 for you, as a favor to me and as a good faith gesture to you.” 

<cough, cough, suuuuuuure.>

Bean:  “Well, okay for now, but we’ll come back to that in a second.  The other thing is… what’s this number right here?  Is that the money factor?”

Mr. Finance: “Huh?  Which number?” He stared blankly at the paper for a moment, eyes darting sideways to look at The Bean in surprise.  “Oh, yeah.  That’s the money factor there.”

For those of you who don’t know (and I didn’t know until last Friday) when you lease a car, instead of just stating “interest rate” up front, the dealerships have it hidden on the paperwork as a “money factor” – and that “money factor” is actually negotiable.

The money factor chart differs per dealership, but at this dealership the first offer was something along the lines of .00029.

Bean:  “That’s a little ridiculous, don’t you think?  I mean, that money factor is, what…. 9%, when you do the math?  Why don’t you go back over the numbers and come back with something reasonable.”
Twenty very boring minutes later, Mr. Finance returned.
Mr. Finance: “If you’ll take a look at these numbers….”  
A quick glance at the paper showed me that the money factor had been dropped from .00029 to .00018 – nearly half the percentage it was earlier.

Bean:  “That’s much better.  Now, how about the Civic….”

A few minutes of haggling later, Mr. Finance left again.  I admit, my brain kind of checked out on the exact details of what he was supposed to do,  but I did manage to understand that the monthly payment he was going to return was supposed to have about $400 of our money (the amount they agreed to pay us for the Civic above what we owed on it) as a downpayment,  therefore lowering the monthly payment.

Twenty-five excruciatingly boring minutes later, Mr. Finance returned.

Mr. Finance:  “Well, as you can see, the $400 helped, but the payments only changed a little bit….”  Mr. Finance used his pen to tap the paper busily over the payments box, drawing our attention to the bottom left corner of the page….. and away from the tiny right-hand column of figures.

The Bean plucked the paper from Mr. Finance’s hand so he could read it without distraction, setting it side-by-side with the previous quote.  It only took a few seconds for him to notice it – something I freely admit I never would have noticed on my own. 

“What the hell is that?”  The Bean pointed at a line on the right, showing a new amount typed in on a line that was previously blank:

$400 General Accessories

We hadn’t asked for $400 worth of general accessories on the car.  They’d packed the payment with fake options to offset our $400 downpayment.

Mr. Finance’s face went studiously blank again.  “I’m sorry?”  He picked up the paper, and glanced at it a moment, as if seeing it for the first time.   “$400 in General Accessories – that’s interesting… Oh, that’s uh….”  He flashed a sideways glance at The Bean.  “I’ll be right back – I’ll go see what that’s all about.”
As he departed The Bean turned in his chair and dropped a little bit of his good ol’ boy charm, eyeing the salesman.  “See, now I’m starting to get a little insulted.”  He leaned back in his chair, letting that statement sink in, interrupting the salesman as he opened his mouth to speak. “I was up front with you guys about my background – I would really think that you wouldn’t try this kind of crap with me.”
The salesman nodded, murmured a few things as he tried to smooth things over…… but eventually he drifted away from the table and off into another part of the dealership, ostensibly to check paperwork.

Twenty or thirty minutes later everyone returned, and the paperwork began to make a lot more sense.  There was a little bit of back and forth, and by the time we had finished, Mr. Finance was no longer smiling or even pretending to be jovial.  The payments were still a bit higher than we had originally dreamed of, but judging from the I’ve-just-sucked-on-a-giant-lemon expression on Mr. Finance’s face, they were as low as we could hope for.

“If you throw in a cargo tray, then we might just have a deal…?”  The Bean held his hand out to Mr. Finance,

“Absolutely not.”  Mr. Finance shook his head and folded his arms over his chest, refusing to shake.

And with that, the deal was done, and I got to enjoy the experience of shaking Mr. Finance’s flaccid hand all over again.

In between agreeing to a deal and actually driving away with it is a fun little thing I like to call “Sign 400,000 forms”.  That’s where being married to The Bean came in handy again.  Although the paperwork was handed directly to me, I waited for The Bean to give a discreet nod before I actually signed where they told me to sign.

Everything went nice and smooth until we came to an especially long piece of paper – a paper that The Bean grabbed out of my hand before I’d even checked for his nod. 

…And there it was:  $400 of GAP insurance, hidden amongst a bunch of boring paragraphs.

The thing is, GAP insurance comes packaged standard with a lease (if you total your car it covers the difference between what your insurance pays and what you owe the dealership), so it was a redundant charge.

We declined the insurance, and voila – our payments dropped to exactly where we wanted them.

“You know, I’m pretty sure they’ve actually sent some people to jail for stunts like that,” murmured The Bean, while the guy went back to reprint out our paperwork with our new, lower payment. 

Eventually it came time to switch everything from the Civic over to the new Scion, and head off in my brand new vehicle to pick up the boys from Jame’s place.

The boys reacted pretty much how I figured they would:  upon finding out that we had a new car, they promptly burst into hysterical tears that we’d gotten rid of the Civic. 

They way they carried on, you would have thought I’d announced that I’d dragged Artemis out into the front yard and put a bullet in her head.

That pout isn’t nearly impressive enough, DragonMonkey.  Tell us how you really feel.

It burns us with its new car smell!  It burns!  You can’t make us stay in it, gollum, gollum! 

Anyways, it’s been a couple of days, and I love this Scion a little more every day.   There’s TONS of room for Artemis in the back, and the other day I actually had two adults, two kids, about $300 worth of groceries (maybe 20 bags?), a large stroller and a kids’ bike all stuffed into it and there was room to spare. 

Plus, it comes with Bluetooth so any time I want to talk to someone while I’m driving, I just push a button and speak straight to the car.  Whatever – I know that’s old technology to some of you.  I still get a kick out of it, though – I feel like I’ve traveled to the 1950’s version of the  future, as I sit there and talk to my car (or rather, the person’s voice coming through the speakers on my car.)

Also…. WOOHOO!  IT’S NOT A MINIVAN!

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10 thoughts on “Buying a Car

  1. This is, hands down, the GREATEST car buying post I've ever read. And I even learned a little something in the process. The cherry on the cake was totally the gollum reference – ohmygawdfunny.

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  2. I will admit I didn't follow most of what The Bean did or said. I still like my way of knowing what I want before hand, what it's basic value range is, and then being a biotch until I get my way. And I do crawl underneath and check nothing is leaking, because, well, ya know…

    I am glad you settled for something sizable and suitable for the whole family including Artemis. 🙂

    AS for my new car (copy cat!), I love it! I've been getting to drive twice a day since Muse got here and I'm so in love with it! Nick keeps trying to say it's his, but his is in the garage, waiting for him to have time to take it from project to complete, right? Right! MINE!

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  3. Fantastic! That is some seriously good vicarious satisfaction reading this whole exchange with Bean and the salesman. 🙂 Congratulations on your NEW car!! I am officially jealous that you get a manual transmission–in fact the reason I really liked the Mazda 6 a few years ago was that it came in manual. I've gotten resigned to not having a stick for a while, but I console myself with automatic door 😉

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  4. I don't think you set feminism back. You guys went in there as a team and owned that finance guy. It must have been incredibly satisfying.

    Congrats on the nice new car 🙂

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  5. Love your car!! Loved the story too. I went in to the dealership at 9am, knew the exact car I wanted to look at (saw it on the web), had pre-approved financing through my CU, the price haggle took less than 10 mins, but I STILL didn't get out of there until 1pm – then had to go to the CU to finish up the papers there. It's really ridiculous how long it takes when you know what you want and everything.
    Enjoy your new car! I hope the boys are growing more fond of it now! LOL!

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