My husband and I recently were in the market for a cheap used car for our daughter. The key word here is “cheap,” and that made all the difference.
In the past, we’ve had great fun looking on the Internet for used cars. We’ve also had some success at finding great bargains, buying from individuals and selling our own good used cars, motorcycles and watercraft.
This was a different experience altogether. We were under a time constraint because she had no car. And we made ourselves a budget that included one year of insurance, plus the tag and inspection and doing any minor repairs or maintenance to get her rolling down the road. What were we thinking?
The marathon car hunt is over now and I realize we learned a lot about cars but even more about people. Used car salesmen have a bad reputation for good reason.
We tried to stay away from car dealers. Because they have overhead to pay, in addition to making a profit, their prices are inflated. We did talk to a few, though.
One of them tried so hard to sell us a bright orange Saturn, my husband got angry with him. “I told you I don’t know anything about Saturns, it’s not what we’re looking for and I don’t want to test drive it! What part of ‘NO’ do you not understand?”
The salesman gave him a business card and boldly told us, “Sorry I don’t have what you want. We get new trade-ins every day. Don’t be ashamed to give us a call.”
I felt sorry for the next one. Daniel was exasperated and suspicious before we got there. This poor guy started up a Mitsubishi we liked, the belt produced a deafening screech and he shut it off to look under the hood. When he tried to start the engine again, it wouldn’t turn over, though everything sounded normal. Resignedly, he said, “What else should I expect? Things have been going like this all day. Sorry, folks.”
As we drove away, I speculated, “Maybe it’s just out of gas,” and we laughed about it. Sure enough, he called the next morning to tell us that’s exactly what was wrong.
The metro areas are inundated with what they call “car flippers” who make a living buying and selling cars from their homes. Without the expense of a retail location, their prices are comparable to that of an individual selling his own car. Most of them are mechanics or body shop craftsmen. They have become consummate sales people, though, and will say almost anything to get you to go look at their cars.
After driving long distances to see “flawless” vehicles with oil leaks, smashed bumpers and flat tires, we became very stern interrogators of the sellers.
“How are the tires?” “Are there any warning lights on?” “Does it shift smoothly?” “Is the upholstery clean?” “Has it been wrecked?”
Over the phone, one guy told my husband, “I don’t think you want my car, sir. You sound awfully picky.” Another young man whose car had a brake light showing said he didn’t know it was what I meant by a warning light.
I wonder if these people also deceive the ones with whom they have personal relationships. Is their character corrupted by their trade? What a sad thought!
Let me tell you, if we ever find an honest car salesman, he or she will have a couple of loyal customers for life and we will shout their good reputation from the rooftops!