Buying a car is typically a person's second largest investment (after a house, of course). I've heard women tend to get screwed more on car deals than men. Allegedly, we don't negotiate as much (or even at all), especially when it's in an unfamiliar realm. I don't think I am going out on a limb when I say the majority of women aren't into cars the way many guys are (my bestie, Marge, is definitely an exception... the only person I know who subscribes to Car & Driver!). I am embarrassed to admit this publicly, but I am one of those people who looks for 1) style and 2) color when picking out a car.
I mean, come on, what's a Hemi anyhow?
I was thrilled to see this recent article from Forbes and thought to myself, I can do this. I can buy a car, without my dad or Beyonce there to "guide" me through the process. I have all the tools necessary to get a good deal on the car I want. And the second part of that sentence is the biggest thing... the car that I want. Not what Dad wants (which would probably be a big, honkin' gas guzzler that he sees as safe) or what Josh wants (which would probably be the same as what I want, but a manual not an automatic). But it's my car and I want a gray or black one!
I can admit that I'm easily led.
I'm fairly certain the right sales person could talk me into buying a used bandaid if he/she offered the right argument. So, it was essential that I had my criteria down pat before heading into any dealership. The basics: I wanted a car with decent gas mileage, preferably a grocery getter (aka wagon... have always wanted one!), with a moonroof, heated seats and pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top an auto start. I also put high importance of driving something that feels safe and solid on the road and offers a satisfying sound when you shut the door. In black or gray, please.
I test drove a lot of cars and I did it by myself (#133).
I tried the Subaru Impreza wagon (liked the look, but just didn't feel right to me), an Audi A3 (at $30,000 for a used one with 35,000 miles, that puppy ought to come loaded... possibly with a happy ending. I loved how it handled, but no bells, whistles or cargo space made it a no-go), a Ford Focus (loved everything about this car--navigation, Sirius, a backup camera!-- except it lacked that solid feel I craved... plus, according to the piss-poor sales guy, 'it's the most common car in the world!" Psssht... not appealing), and a Ford Fusion (again, liked it, but felt like something one of my uncles should be driving (no offense, uncles). Same sales guy: "The trunk can easily fit your golf clubs AND it's styled to look like an Aston Martin!" Dude, read your audience!).
Finally, I headed to West Side Volkswagen.
This is the same place I bought my last car-- a quirky but lovely Saab 9-3. I've loved that car, and actually enjoyed the car buying experience there (I was with my dad). They have a no haggle sales policy, tons of cars in-stock (new and used), AND I knew a few people who worked there. I asked my sales guy, Rick Larch, about a used VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI-- a roomy grocery getter with a diesel engine (great gas mileage), enormous moonroof, heated seats and navigation... for waaaay less than the A3 with comparable mileage. I drove the car. I loved the car.
I bought the car (#134).
Because they are a no haggle dealership, I knew the price wasn't going to budge much, if at all. However, my trade-in offered some wiggle room. I'd done my research about the value of my car, so when they made an offer on my trade-in, I knew it was about as good as I was going to get. And then, I did something pretty darn smart: I asked about that autostart I so desperately wanted. I knew about how much one would be if I bought it retail, so I negotiated that into my car buy, which made for a less expensive deal.
Then came the most awkward situation: meeting with the financing guy (#135).
I already knew exactly how I was going to pay for it, so there was no wheeling or dealing there. But then, there were so many GD warranties! There’s a tire one and a chipped paint one and a 100,000 miles one. And the guy made me feel like a complete idiot for even questioning whether or not I should opt in... like only a bozo would skip out on a deal this good! Talking about playing to my insecurities! I think he even tried to sell me a used bandaid. I felt overwhelmed and weak. I told him I "had to call my fiancé to discuss," knowing that my gut told me I didn’t want to buy an extra warranty.
In that unfamiliar territory, I did not call my man.
Instead, I called Car & Driver Marge, who used to sell financing herself, & explained the situation. We both agreed none of the extended warranties were great for me, she suggested I politely sit through the dude's sales pitch, then decline everything. It was awkward, but I walked out extended warranty-free and felt great about it.
I drove off the lot that day, Saab in my rearview mirror, feeling confident that I'd scored the best deal possible.
And then I did maybe the scariest thing of all: drove my brand new car onto a frozen lake (#136). 'Cause in Minnesota, that's just what you gotta do sometimes.
It was magical.
P.S. I've noticed doing things by yourself can be extra scary. For example, eating dinner at a restaurant by yourself (especially if you don't tool around on your phone the entire time). Same goes for walking in the woods solo. Or jumping your car without help. But it's 100000x more satisfying. Fly solo sometime. You'll like it.