Let’s say for a moment that the mechanical repairs will be $1500 (the fan alone lists for over $400 just for the part itself); add the worst-case scenario for the body work and we’re at about $3500. That seems like an awful lot of money to spend on a vehicle that’s sitting on the north side of 222,000 miles. But, the alternative is to buy another car. I can’t afford new, so I’m looking at something in the 2011 and newer range. There are a lot of cars available that are from those years and retail for around $15,000. There are plenty that are cheaper, but I want to try and keep the mileage as low as possible, hence the $15K.
In the interest of full disclosure, there are few experiences I hate more than car shopping but, as you can tell, I don’t do it very often. In all honesty, I’m just not that good at it. And I hate dealing with pushy salespeople. This time, though, it’s going to be different. Or so I thought. I plan to pay cash, thinking that would give me all sorts of leverage. That and the fact that there are TONS of car dealers out there and tons of cars available.
The first thing I did -also the first mistake I made- was to fill out a form online to get a price on a brand-new Nissan Altima. I know, I said used, but their commercials make it sound like their “end-of-model-year deals” are too good to miss. So I went on Nissan’s website and filled out a request for a price. Within MINUTES, I was contacted about my request - by 5 different dealerships. 5! Why Nissan would put five of their dealers in direct competition with each other is beyond me. All I know for sure is that, as annoying as it is to have one person hounding you with phone calls and emails, it’s WAY more annoying to have ten people doing it. Yes, I said ten. Five salespeople and five sales managers. The first thing I decided, my first decision in this process, was that I WASN’T dealing with Nissan.
At this point, I went back to looking for a used car. I visited a CarMax dealer, thinking it would be a good way to check out a lot of different makes and models, and it was. But, listed on each price sticker are the words, “No Haggle Price”. I don’t want to haggle. I HATE to haggle. But, fool that I am, I mistakenly thought that, since I was paying cash, I held all the power. My plan was to walk into a dealership, find a car, give them a low-ball offer, and then negotiate from there. Perfect, right?
Not so much. My second experience was to search online (Cars.com, AutoTrader.com). I found a car I liked at a dealer I hate. My son bought a used car from them and had nothing but problems, both with the car and the dealership. Another guy I know stopped doing business with them even though he bought his car there and it was, by far, the most convenient place to take it for service. I went there years ago to have a recall performed. When I arrived to pick up my van, they handed me a several pages long invoice of all the work they claimed it needed. I insisted they just do the recall work (which they hadn’t done even though they told me to pick the van up at X o’clock). When I left, I went straight to my mechanic and showed him the invoice. Once he stopped laughing and caught his breath, he told me I didn’t need ANY of the work on it. Not one thing. And, since he saw the van regularly, I felt comfortable that he would know. Some of that work has NEVER been done and that happened over 120,000 miles ago.
So, against my better judgment, I emailed the dealer about the car I was interested in. It was listed at $16,900. My email said, “Please let me know your absolutely rock bottom price on this vehicle for a cash sale, no trade.” Their response? $16,900. Their email also mentioned how “motivated” they were to have me as a client. I wound up receiving three emails from the internet sales manager. The first said how much they wanted my business. The second one said how they were going to bang me for an extra $1000 because I didn’t want to finance it THROUGH THEM, which they “require”. And finally, after she spoke to “the manager”, she offered the car to me for $16,900 (the original price) - $16,500 if I would forgo certification.
This is NOT how haggling works. Trust me on this one. You DON’T add to your price, then come back to the original price and expect me to say, “Wow, they knocked $1000 off the price!” I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night. At this point, I told her not to bother contacting me again and she didn’t. Somebody else did, though, once again assuring me how important my business was to them. Yeah, I can tell.
So, the search goes on. I will likely get the mechanical work on the van done and then do the body work myself. If we wind up with a new(er) car, we can use the van as a second vehicle. It’s been quite the hassle having only one with four people sharing it for the past year and a half. For now, wish me luck.