Thursday, March 08, 2007

Every Journey Begins With A Single Step: Help My Husband

Bless his heart, my husband is trying to buy me a car.

Most of you are probably reading the above sentence and thinking so what? Or, better yet, you might be thinking She's so lucky! I wish *my* husband would buy *me* a car! Or, if you are a careful reader, you might be homing in on the verb "trying." There you go: that's the key right there. For, dear Dept. readers, buying me a car is a journey fraught with considerable peril for so, so many reasons. Strap in--because I'm about to take you along with Rick on that virtual journey just for a moment. He feels so very alone right now, and he needs your help.

Mile Marker 1: The Start. My car is 11 years old and I love it. I hate to drive; no, I detest driving. But this car, a 1996 Ford Explorer XLT, loaded, electric and automatic everything, is a pleasure to drive. (That's a picture of the model up there.) It has everything I require, including a little thermometer above the rearview mirror that tells me the temperature outdoors so that I can complain about how cold it is or marvel at how warm it is in comparison to the ambient temperature inside my wonderful car. The outer mirrors are fully and completely adjustable with a mere push of a button from inside my vehicle. My power seats inflate or deflate to cushion and conform to my derriere. They also move forward or backward, electronically. I have the cruise control resident on my steering wheel. Even though Captain Audiotronics (Sam) replaced my factory radio with an unnecessarily complex one, I can find the buttons I require and "work" the CD player if necessary. This car has cost us less than $1500 in repairs, lifetime. I get decent gas mileage and only drive 5 miles roundtrip to work, Monday through Friday. We take 1-2 trips to Canada a year, and 1 trip to Maryland, near D.C. a year. It has been paid off for 8 years. We have no car payment. Did I say I love this car?

Mile Marker 2: Pothole Rick says, "This car is 11 years old. It's like shooting craps in Vegas. Pretty soon, our luck will run out. I am nervous driving long distances in this car. You are retiring in 4 years. Why not get a new car now, when there is 0% financing, and have it paid off when you retire and then have no car payment when your salary is reduced? You are making an emotional decision. We can get a more fuel-economical car. You are driving me crazy."

Mile Marker 3: U-Turn I remind Rick that in order for me to be completely comfortable driving, I have to have an SUV. I am tiny and have to be able to sit up above other cars. I have to feel like I am in a freaking tank. In order to reconcile driving an SUV with my personal, moral, and political convictions, the SUV must therefore be a hybrid and must, of course, be American. Rick sighs and sends Jared to the basement for beer. Correction: beers.

Mile Marker 4: Detour I have successfully, I thought, derailed the talk of buying a new car. Rick agrees to take me to the only Trader Joe's in the area--25 minutes away--so that I can get organic eggs and other quality foodstuffs. On the way, I notice we are not going to Trader Joe's. I have been ambushed. We spend the next 2 hours at car dealerships where there are no hybrids on the lot. Rick tries to get me to look at a reprehensible vehicle called an "Edge." It looks like a hearse and I tell him and the salesman this. They stare at me. I do not recapitulate. We find a dealership with a hybrid Ford Escape. It drives nicely and is very like my beloved Explorer. But we are misled by a previous dealer who had told us that the '08 models are at 0% financing; they are not. We say goodbye.

Mile Marker 5: Scenic View We stop at a Lincoln Mercury dealer who has a Mercury Mariner (?) to look at. But it is not exactly what we are looking for. By then I am cranky and cold and fussy, but I am heroically and stoically quiet. (Really! I was so proud of myself.) We do not drive it, but leave our names and Rick's phone number for when an '08 comes in that is what "we" want to drive and consider. They say they offer 0% financing on the '08s. Rick feels proud that he can just walk away with the upper hand at all of these places. I feel overwhelmed and confused and more attached than ever to my underappreciated Explorer, who has done nothing but give me practically uninterrupted service and unstinting loyalty for more than a decade. And this is how we thank it.

But I digress.

Mile Marker 6: Rest Stop We are now at a standstill. We have called friends whose opinions we value, we have talked and talked, we have slept on it, and we have sighed. And now, we don't really know what to do. The Lincoln Mercury dealership called yesterday. They have the car for us. We are going to go out and drive it Saturday. Then what? I have no idea. Today, my car, which makes a little honking noise sometimes when the heat or a/c is on, made it again, and all I had to do was rev the accelerator again a tiny bit to make it stop again. It's just a tiny little thing. Imagine having NO car payment. For SO LONG. And then having one. FOR SOOO LOONG.

My husband, I must say, has never made a bad financial decision for us. When we hash these things out and I cannot bear it anymore and announce exhaustedly, "I just can't make the call here. It's whatever you say. I trust you," it has always turned out excellently. So why, you are saying, can't you just let him go on this one? Because I am cheap, frugal, a spendthrift, and can't stand to go from NO car payment to A car payment. Period.

Update: Car salesmen are big, fat liars. Rick just told me he stopped at the Lincoln Mercury dealership today. The salesman casually mentioned that "oh yeah, the '08s aren't coming in at 0% after all, but we do have some attractive financing and the hybrids have some tax incentives---". Rick cut him off with a few words and left. We have found this with every dealership. Car salesmen have the credibility and integrity of the current Vice President and the rest of their ilk. Aaaargh.


  1. I knew you loved your car (and that you hate driving), but I had no idea how fancy it was with all the gadgets!

    I can understand your desire for an SUV. I've mostly only driven my mom's minivan (the "mom-mobile!) and I can't stand driving our car. When I finally get my own car, I want something that sits high whether it be a van or an SUV.

    And come're retiring in 4 years?! No way, you're not old enough to retire!!!

  2. When I bought my car, I negotiated the whole thing over the phone. I called a bunch of dealerships and the ones that wouldn't give me what I wanted, I crossed them off my list. That way, you won't have to make the trip until you are actually signing the paperwork.

  3. I remember seeing your car in the parking lot back in tenth grade. I can't believe you still have it!

    As much as you don't want to hear it, it would be better for you to have the car payment now, before you're on a limited income. And having the car payment now will help you adjust to living on a limited income.

    Or you could just cut me a check. That would also help you get adjusted to a limited income ;)

  4. *sigh*. I know. My car is 10 years old. I need to replace it, know...I'm afraid to get screwed.

  5. jenomena--while i always welcome shameless flattery at The Dept., you are most decidedly not helping! LOL. i am registering you as a "keep your car" supporter.

    anali--we bought one of the boys' cars that way. but, we were "shopping" for this one. i'm just aghast at the baldfaced duplicity we encountered.

    ih--you were making a ton of sense, and i was with you...until your last paragraph. then you got all squirrely on me. LOL.

    wordgirl--do you love your car? do you? or are you just holding onto it because you fear the big fat liarheads who sell cars? because, i'm not afraid of corrupt scumbags, i just love my car. i will fight the evildoers as long as i live!!!! (cue the music...!)

  6. is it ok with you if i call sam "captain audiotronics"?

    when i bought my car i ended up staying at the dealership past close. not on purpose, but i got what i wanted for the trade-in and lower price on the new car. irritate them into giving you the financing. if you can.

    if you can find a new model that does all of the things you listed AND has heated seats, i'd say get new. otherwise i say keep the old because i would LOVE to be payment free right now. it will be an enormous burden when i go away to school in fall.

  7. I shred car salesmen when I shop. I hate them with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. They should be spayed and neutered and kept in cages.

  8. dch82--Oh, sure. He has a ton of nicknames; one more won't even faze him. heated seats, yes, I know. would consider that a major luxury that I would adore.

    brookelina--car salesmen are on par with Angel of Death and Darth Vader and all of their administration in DC. I now will wear a necklace of garlic and will have just EATEN SAME before I ever go car shopping again. Seriously. Perhaps I will put you on speed-dial also.

  9. V-Grrrl3:08 PM

    I hate big cars. I don't like SUVs. I've driven a big honkin Oldsmobile sedan that we purchased from E's mom when she stopped driving a number of years ago. It has lots of bells and whistles, but Consumer Reports gave it the big black dot years ago. E loved the car with its leather seats and techno crap. I didn't want it. We bought it anyway, and in my opinion, it's been a cash drain and a lemon. It didn't even have 30,000 miles on it the first time it just died on I-95 outside of D.C. ON THE WAY TO THE AIRPORT. It needed a new ignition coil. That was the first of many repairs. Right before we moved here, when the car had 75,000 miles on it, it required almost $2,000 worth of work. It costs us $1,500 a year in road taxes in Belgium because of its ozone killing V8 engine. We had to replace the air conditoning system. We have paid for this piece of crap car more times than I can count. GAH! I could go on and on about how much I hate this stupid car!

    Let me just say this: E recently bought a Volvo V50 and I love it. Good things come in small packages and heated seats? I'll never live without them again!

  10. You just described what L. and I got stuck doing all last summer. I had a nice little Toyota 2001 that I bought used, completely paid for with decent pay off from the insurance company and some of my savings. Never had a lick of trouble with it. Oil changes and new tires, that's it. Until somebody smashed it to pieces last June and I had to start dealing with Car Salesmen. God, I hate 'em.

    Here's what I did: after 6 weeks, I knew what I wanted to buy, what all the rock-botton costs were, what the hidden costs were, TTL, you name it. I had it nailed. And when another careless driver rear-ended the spare jalopy I was driving, I no longer had an option. So instead of screwing around with the car dealers on the lot, I put together an email with my request, my price (I was actually willing to go a bit higher), and emailed every dealship in town that had the car I wanted. Said "if you can give me these conditions for payment and this price, give me a call." Over half did not respond. Of the ones who did, there was one who gave me an honest appraisal, said "I can't give you that price, but I can get it for you for $300 more." No pressure, she said. Did I say SHE? Yes, the best deal I got, and it was a deal, was from a WOMAN.

    Nuff said. Happy shopping!

  11. V--Oldsmobiles, dearest. Do NOT get me started. Look at the first syllable and therein lies the descriptor of that whole...breed. Those cars are just...awful. As teeny as I am, you should have seen me back in 1980, driving a 1971 Lincoln Continental--my dad's car! What a riot. It was like piloting a yacht down the street. And it was all front end. And banana yellow with a forest green leather interior. My father was going through some sort of odd big car fetish at the time. An odd, big, UGLY car fetish.

    Ortizzle--At least we have that woman in our corner! There is at least one who is not busy touting lamp logos and chrome accessories (see next post). Well, my car shopping is on indefinite hold, thank goodness. We just took my wonderful 11-year old car to the laser wash and it looks so nice! Who would even think of trading it in!?

  12. Have you thought of doing your shopping on the ground and then buying online? We bought our last car through, I think. Easy peasy. The car was delivered to a local dealer who then took over the process and services. No haggling or messing with salespeople. But it sounds like you've already made the decision to wait. I know what you mean about car payments. ILOVEIT that we don't have a car payment. But more than that, I love that we don't have to go through the stomach-churning negotiation hassle. It is so primitive.

  13. V-Grrrl10:24 AM


    Having a good laugh imagining you PIMPING around town in the big banana. Ha, ha, ha.

  14. RD--Welcome to the Dept. I don't recall your moniker in my comments before, so thanks for stopping by!
    We've kind of done that, but you know what it's like the minute you step foot on Car Lot Soil--they are out there smelling fresh blood.

    V--Oh, yes. I was the talk of my town. They used to ask to see my booster seat.

  15. Jody Devere2:45 PM

    I would love to reprint your article on - Please email me with permission. - Automotive Advice for Women


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