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November 03, 2011

How I almost spent too much on a car I didn't want

I write to you as the proud owner of a...

1995 Nissan Maxima.

That's right. After a day of test drives and dealer chats, and several weeks of research and calculations, I drove away last Saturday from a Toyota dealership with my old car... and a big load off my shoulders. I started the day sure I'd buy a car, or at least come very close. What went wrong? It was a combination of 3 things:

1. I didn't get the price I wanted.
2. I didn't get the price I wanted.
3. I didn't get the price I wanted.

Mr. A and I visited four dealerships, test driving and talking numbers: Hyndai, Honda, VW and Toyota. Some salesmen were eager to negotiate, and others were as starchy as their shirt collars. The day ended in a Toyota showroom, where negotiations broke down over a big comfy Camry and we were invited into the sales manager's office for one last attempt.

"So you've been here for HOURS, TRYING to buy a car," the manager said, like the high school principal who pops in on detention challenging his problem students to behave. Drained, disgusted, but institutionally trained to persevere.

"Oh, and here I thought you were trying to sell us a car," Mr. A answered. Good one, amore!

"I see there's a difference of (he looked down, calculating)... of $500 between the figure you wrote down and what we're asking. Over the life of the car, that's $7 per month. Now you're a coffee drinker, right?"

"I am," I answered.

"So give up two lattes a month! You want to walk away over $7! That's NOTHING!"

"If it's nothing, why don't you go for the price we wrote here?" I asked, pointing to the figure.

"I'm giving you a great deal here."

"Not good enough."

"I'm not going any lower. That's my final offer."

Thoughts raced. Should I go for it? Was it a good price? It was so close to the price I told them I wanted. But it didn't feel right. Was I wrong? We'd gotten them to drop from $23,500 to $19,500. But the car had some features I didn't want, which I'd still be paying for. And it was a 2011 model, which I was confident another dealer would be willing to offload for less as next year's cars arrive. And, between you and me, I wasn't really into that car. Not enough to deserve spluring.

"Thanks but no thanks."

We walked out and I suddenly felt liberated. I had come this close to buying a car with features I didn't want for more than I wanted to spend.

Five minutes later, he called back offering to lower the price by $250. I passed.

In the next post, a few reflections, resources and suggestions.
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