I mentioned that we went shopping for a new car about three weeks ago, and when I said “shopping,” I meant we drove to a dealership and took a test drive in a Subaru Forester. Why that particular car? Because My Darling B’s coworkers drive Subarus and they just love them to death. That was the extent of our research into buying one of the most expensive things we will ever own. We knew nothing about Subaru Foresters going into the game and, practically speaking, we still don’t. One of B’s friends drove a model she vaguely remembered was named “Cross Track” (it turned out to be “Crosstrek,” whatever that means), but that was a smaller, sporty-looking car. The Forester looked more like the kind of car we would be seen driving, so that’s the one we took for a test drive.
I hate the process of getting a new car so much that I was willing to buy the Forester the minute I laid eyes on it, but of course the sales staff would never let you do that. B and I both had to drive it around while the salesman described the engine and the transmission, as if those were things either one of us ever concerned ourselves with. My one and only question about a car’s engine would be, “Has it got one?” If the answer is yes, fine. If no, then I don’t want to buy that car.
After driving the car around for a while, we went inside to the salesperson’s desk to “talk about a price,” as if they have no idea what the damned thing costs. The salesperson scribbled numbers on a very official-looking worksheet, explaining that he had to add so much for options and take away so much for special discounts. The final price looked pretty good, but B wanted a day or two to think about it, the salesperson said no problem, we shook hands and that was all the shopping we did that weekend.
For the next three weeks, B would fill a quiet space in the day by saying, “We should probably buy a new car before the snow falls.” And I’d say, “Okay, let’s go buy a car now.” And she’d say, “I want to do some more research first. I don’t want us to buy the first car we test drive.” Which sounded very reasonable to me, so I’d say, “Hoe-kay!” Then two or three days would pass before B filled a quiet space in the day by saying, “We should probably get a new car soon, if we’re going to get one.” And I’d say … well, you know. Procrastination: It’s a skill that we’ve developed into an art form.
Then last Friday morning while we were still in our jammies, sipping coffee while the sun slowly rose over the back of the house, she said, “We should do something about getting a new car,” and I said, “Okay, let’s get dressed and go buy one now.” And she said, “Hoe-kay!” You could’ve knocked me over with a feather.
So we showered and dressed and drove back to the dealership we visited the first time, because we hadn’t done any research in the three weeks since the last time we made a serious move toward buying a new car, so we really didn’t have any reason to look anywhere else. The salesperson we saw before was there, even remembered us from last time. When we said we wanted to talk about what it would cost to buy the Forester with a certain option, though, he wanted to find a car with the option installed and take it for a test drive. God DAMMIT.
After we came back from the test drive, we had to go “talk about the price” again, and that’s when things got weird. First, they added a bit more than nine hundred dollars to the cost for crap like floor mats and bumper guards that we didn’t ask for but were installed in the vehicle after manufacture. Then then gave us a customer discount that was less than the amount they quoted us for the basic version of the same car. When B asked him how they got that amount, they shrugged and, I swear I am not making this up, said they didn’t know.
But the part that made us grumpy and eventually convinced us to walk away from the deal was when they offered us fifteen hundred dollars for our trade-in, a ten-year-old Toyota Camry with one hundred ten thousand miles on it. It wasn’t in immaculate condition any more – I’m not the kind of owner who washes and waxes his car every Sunday afternoon – but it was worth one hell of a lot more than fifteen hundred dollars. They wouldn’t budge on their offer, though, so out the door we went.
But we still wanted a car, so we went to a Toyota dealership to see what they would offer us, where we met one of those super-aggressive car salespeople who kept saying things like “So, can we write this one up for you now?” and shoving a contract and a pen at us. We took a test drive in a Rav4 because she wouldn’t let go of my leg unless we drove something, but we frankly didn’t think it a very good car and once she let go of my leg, we got the hell out of there.
It just so happened there was another Subaru dealership right next to the Toyota dealer. I mean, it was *literally* right across the street. B wanted to go there to test-drive a Forester again so she could compare it to the Rav4. I wanted to go home and drink gin, but I said we could go for one more test-drive if we could head straight home after that. She agreed.
While we were out for our drive, B told the salesperson that we came within a handshake of buying a car from the Subaru dealer on the other side of town but left empty-handed because we weren’t satisfied with the service. The salesperson wanted to know what was unsatisfying about it. “Well, to be perfectly honest, we weren’t happy with the offer they made for our trade-in.” Back at the dealership, he asked for our car key so he could have it appraised. I don’t know what they did to appraise the car at the other place, but here they gave the key to the dealership owner, who got in our car and drove it around the block, then spent five minutes talking with our salesperson.
“Out of curiosity, what did they offer you at the other dealership?” the salesman asked. When B told him, “Fifteen hundred,” he seemed genuinely surprised, then offered us three thousand. I was suddenly a lot less grumpy and a lot more ready to buy a car, but B was still cautious. She asked the salesperson to write up offers on the basic Forester, the mid-range Forester, and the mid-range Forester with lasers. (Yes, lasers. I’ll tell you about it later.) They happily agreed and spent about a half-hour printing out window stickers and filling worksheets with lots and lots of numbers.
After talking it over, we went back the next morning to buy the mid-range Forester without lasers. And it still took all day, because of course they had to draft a big pile of paperwork, then make us sign each page in three places, and then show us what all the knobs and buttons in the car were for. Seriously, cars are as complicated as space ships these days. The salesman spent a half-hour with us in the car just to give us the quick & dirty version of how everything worked. The owner’s manual for just the radio is as thick as a phone book.
But when the last paper was signed and the last button was explained and we drove off the lot, it wasn’t over. Somewhere on the other side of town, as B was finishing up her shopping and opened her purse to pay, she found the check book and wondered to herself, “Did I write a check for the down payment?” It’s one of those things you ask yourself even when you already know the answer. She didn’t. We had to drive back and write a check so the finance officer wouldn’t get in trouble with his boss. I guess even those people get a little dazed & confused by all the paperwork sometimes.