About 6 days ago (well, exactly 6 days ago), I bought a “new” car. That’s it above. Well, that’s not EXACTLY it. But it’s the same make, model, color and class as mine. Silver Mazda 3. Fine car. Very highly reviewed by all.
Automatic transmission, so that, with my partially torn right shoulder muscle, I don’t have to keep reaching across to shift with my left hand. Keyless entry. Keyless lock. Push-button start. Better handling, breaking and acceleration. Quieter. No transmission bearings going. So choice.
Well… not that choice….
First off, let me say that… being very attentive to reviews doesn’t make me incapable of having my own opinion. That’s often one of the first responses I get from people. Something like “Well, I like to make up my own mind.” Well so do I. But I also have VERY limited time and money, and I like to pay attention to the thoughts of those “in the know” to increase the odds that I’ll spend my precious, precious, precious (Did I say “precious”?) time and money well.
I first started using that tactic for videogames. Then other things. Books. Movies. TV. Etc. And now a great baseline is the wonderful website Metacritic.
Again, it doesn’t dictate my opinion. I’m not a slave. I’ve been left cold by many a highly rated thing, and loved many a lowly rated thing. But it does increase the odds of success. And doing stuff this way, including car shopping, does not threaten my sense of self.
But I was talking about buying cars….
I looked at about 5 cars, after perusing the following “5 year cost to own” awards, because the cost-effectiveness of a car is not solely based on fuel economy but based more on maintenance, dropped value, insurance, and other factors. It is about MORE than fuel economy.
(Yes I’m talking to you, Prius.)
Anyway, here’s the very useful awards, which Mazda won the “best brand” award for.
Very informative, if you’re looking to buy a car.
So anyway, I made a list of about 5 cars to check out. They were all cars that showed up on the lists, at the top or near, in the “cheaper” categories, like “compact” and “sub compact,” though I felt curious about electric cars and hybrids too.
(Yes I’m talking about you, Prius, but also about the f***ing-only-available-in-California-and-Oregon Chevy Spark EV.)
In addition to the Mazda 3, I looked at a sub-compact Chevy Spark.
Surprisingly decent for a car the size of an unripe lime.
Then I looked at a 2014 Toyota Corolla.
I did that because it won the KBB 5YCtO “Compact” award, and because the last two cars I’d owned were the 2007 Corolla and the 2009 Corolla (each from separate design cycles). And I only got the ’09 because a fella lost control in winter and totaled my ’07.
Then I checked out a Hyundai Veloster, and it certainly had cajones.
That would’ve been a good car for my job delivering pizzas. Power. Cornering. Braking. Style. But alas it was not to be.
But I do have to tell you I had trouble, damned lot of it, remembering the name “Veloster.” Every time I tried, I drew a blank, and then said to myself “Wait… Velociraptor???”
I even checked out a Kia Forte.
It felt badly engineered on a deeper level, especially for a car having a sticker price (at a dealership I later heard bad things about) of almost $20,000. Hitting the brakes was like driving through a puddle of Crazy Glue. No dice, fuzzy on the mirror or otherwise.
But, in those first few days, I realized I was having a lot of fun. There’s a particular sense of… power that comes from being fawned over by sales people, especially when you have the strength to resist the “I do not want to let you leave without buying a car” skills they throw at you.
We all know the car salesman stereotype….
Right. Tricky. And, after finally getting my Mazda 3, I had a sadly belated conversation with a coworker, a man who’d once been a car salesman. He told me some things I’d wished I’d known. “They’re always lying about something.” “If there’s no sticker price, turn and run.” “They’re always assessing how gullible you are.” “Low credit means they pretty much know they’ll be able to convince you that you have no way to negotiate.” “If you’re not asking for $2000- $3000 off the sticker price, you’re getting hosed.”
Did I say low credit? That turned out to be the issue. I mean, I was just under 600, but it was by then technically “sub prime.” For over a decade I’d had a credit rating over 700, and I’d never expected that the bad last few months would’ve harmed me so quickly. But luckily I have a fair amount of debt, so I should be able to quickly re-prove that I’m “good for it.” And that’s what a credit rating is all about: lots of debt you’re good for.
But low credit, and being underwater on my car loan, threw me off my “I’m in control of this game” game.
Right. I was “underwater” with my car loan on my ’09 Corolla. By about $4000. My work friend told me that the big drops in value on a car come at 50,000 miles, 80,000 miles, and 100,000 miles. And I was at 117,000 miles… with some body damage.
But I had a bearing in my transmission going too, which could’ve cost me $2000 to fix, while in the meantime the tension-inducing noise in my engine would’ve grown louder and more tension-inducing.
And they didn’t check for that. So I “felt” like I “got away with one.”
On a shark? Maybe….
Did I say I got the car at a certified Mazda dealership? Seacoast Mazda, in Portsmouth NH? It’s part of the reason I hope I didn’t get secretly shafted with a car that has problems, because, by Kelly Blue Book, the price I got was very good. I suppose they had to give me a good price, though, so I could get the loan.
With a kind cosign from my father. Thanks Dad.
But I did have fun, before realizing I had the low credit. What a thrill, “making salesmen jump.” Power position. A high. Felt like a god trapped in a mere human body.
I’m not someone who usually has much power to toss about.
Not much in charge.
That’s Nick Nolte “going electric” in Ang Lee’s “The Hulk,” by the way.
And was I high to get a car? No. Actually, I enjoyed the search enough to know that, once it was done, I’d feel somewhat sad. I’d have nothing to show for the end of the search but a fine car….
Anyway, I actually had a plan for an on-the-phone bidding war, between the sales people. Seems silly now. Now, I’d wait for improved credit, go in, and say “If you can give me this car for $2500 below the sticker price, we’ll have a deal. Otherwise I’m walking out.”
Oh well. Next time. Just before my fine Mazda 3 hits 100,000 miles.