When I saw the final contract spread out across the accountant’s desk, I felt my heart rate increase, my skin get hot and my bladder fill. Anxiety was coursing through my fingers as I initialed on several lines down the form to a final space for my signature, relinquishing the title of the vehicle to myself along with 5 digits that are now a debt to my name for the next several years. I felt like I was getting married, standing in court with a person I barely know and planning the future of our children. Except instead of baby names I was contemplating the aluminum wheels and performance exhaust I would someday purchase.
Here are Six Absolutely Essential Rules To Follow When Buying a Car - based solely on my experience.
1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If you’re one of those assholes that has anything close to something termed ‘collection’ to describe the automobiles in your garage, then you’ve likely broken the first rule. Nobody should buy a car unless they need to. I don’t know if you’ve seen the prices on these things, but they’re freakin’ expensive! There’s no reason to spend thousands of dollars on something that isn’t replacing something else. By all means, if you have that kind of cash to burn go ahead and waste your money on all the insurance and registration fees. Having a weekend car isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you have a perfectly good piece of machinery to drive to work in, save yourself the trouble and don’t buy a car until you break what you’ve got. I broke my car a few weeks ago when the rear shock absorber on the driver’s side punched up through the frame of the car and made a sound so loud I thought I was going to die.
2. Use caution in small dealerships. Nothing is scarier and yet somehow more appealing than finding a super-awesome deal at a small private dealership; especially a dealership that spells their company name with a Z instead of an S. These private outfits are professional alchemists. The car’s all smell like Armorall and the salesman smell like Dolce & Gabbana. They wave horrible Carfax reports in your face and dare you to challenge what’s directly in front of you, which usually looks tricked-out, shiny and fast. It’s a totally reality fuck because you test-drive the car, live to walk inside the guy’s office, and then he tells you he’ll lower the already low price if you pay cash. Everything on the surface seems amazing and safe. I was so close to being sold on one of these mirages that I even took the car and had it serviced at a third-party dealership to have a thorough inspection done. The car came back clean, but my gut was telling me that it was too good to be true, and I backed out at the last-minute. Listen to your gut.
3. Never go alone. I can’t stress this enough. Weather it’s a big time dealership or a small shop called Auto Proz, if you’re a woman bring a man, if you’re a man, bring a lady. The way car salesmen talk to women is ridiculous. They assume you don’t know anything; and when you do, they challenge you on everything, looking for a flaw in your knowledge to exploit while they provide all the answers you didn’t ask for; giving you a false sense of safety. Likewise, if you’re a man shopping for a car they will challenge you with upgrades and special features that appeal to your ego but not your wallet. Bringing your gender counterpart will balance the salesman’s attempts to capitalize on either set of characteristics, forcing them to pay respect to both which will generally lead to better and more thoughtful questions and answers from both parties. I brought my dad. We played a more advanced game of good-cop, bad-cop; or, hard-ass father figure and doe-eyed clueless daughter, rather. While I was busy drooling over new paint jobs and flashy rims, he was reading over every word in the warranty manual and demanding we get a discount for buying the car after 5:00pm on a Sunday. Bring a buddy, and don’t get jerked around. Or, in my case, just bring anyone who knows what the hell is going on.
4. Don’t listen to what anyone fucking says. I can’t tell you how many people acknowledged something I had already decided, or how often they told me something totally contradictory. Bottom line: if you want something, whether it’s a particular car, price, color, make, model, millage… whatever, don’t listen to anyone who offers you advice, council, confidence, support, warning or any other similar vocalization. Everyone is entitled to an opinion but for whatever reason, when family and friends discover you’re in the market for a new automobile they suddenly feel compelled to tell you every detail of every bad experience they ever had when purchasing a car. I’m not saying flip them the bird; listen to what they say with grace and nod occasionally, but don’t take anything they say to heart. Not even the good stuff when they express excitement for you. The second my new ride breaks down, I’m going to think of every person that supported my choice to open up this line of credit and cry out their names in vain. Well, not really, but you get what I’m saying. This is a big decision and it doesn’t need to be clouded up with other people’s considerations that won’t matter when you can’t make the payments or when you break down on the highway. Do your research, come to your own conclusions and stick to your gut. I think a lot of people thought it was audacious of me to get a sports car. They reminded me that up-keep is more expensive, that it doesn’t have cargo space; that my insurance will go up, blah, blah, blah!
5. Get a vehicle that fits your future. If you are buying a relativity new car, then you’re probably planning on having this car around for a while. Payment plans can be an upwards of 7 years! So when you are deciding on a car, think long and hard about where you will or won’t be in the future. Consider your career path, your potentially growing family or how many bodies you need to comfortably fit in the truck. Don’t be so impulsive that you miss the target altogether and end up with debt attached to something that won’t work for you in the long run. You will save money if you plan ahead. For myself, there were several considerations I made when selecting my car. I wanted to make sure that it was a coupe, preferably with no back seat so that people don’t ever assume I am driving the group anywhere. There’s no place for a car seat – guess I’m not having any babies anytime soon! I also wanted something that looks and feels like a space ship so that when I listen to progressive trance music I feel like Jean-Luc cruising into the Next Generation. This is what’s important to me right now and this is what will be important in my future. I don’t give a bleeding rainforest about my emissions or the price of premium gas – I recycle! But you might care and these are things to consider. However, if you’re paying attention, please see rule number 4 and disregard this advice altogether.
6. Freak the fuck out. If you don’t have an irregular heart palpitation, seizure, anxiety attach, stroke, mild chafing of the upper lip, cold sore break-out, acne explosion, or some other bodily excretion when you sign on that insanely long doted line, you had better check your pulse and make sure you are not dead, or personally wealthy. I hope you discover the later and are lucky enough to NOT be included in Mitt Romney’s 47 percent. But if you’re like me, avoiding Federal Income Tax, you will likely experience a mild shock induced coma. I’m now watching every penny and looking for ways to cut financial corners. I may take up sewing so that I can darn my clothes as I wear them into loose fibers. Or maybe I’ll learn to extract all of my nutrients from the sun through photosynthesis. Needless to say, I am very excited to have a new car, but I am looking around for the first time ever with debt attached to my name and I feel very uncomfortable. I have no idea how so many people do this and on so many different financial levels. If this is how crazy I feel after buying a car, I can’t even begin to imagine what buying a house must feel like. I’ll likely write another set of rules when I do that and call it something like:
Six Ways to Give Yourself Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation.