Whatever happened to …

… the joy of buying a new car?

It’s been over a month but it seems like forever that we’ve been looking for a new car for my daughter. It sure isn’t like the old days.

In the old days, we had one dealership in town and another independent that sold used cars. Since it was a small town, they knew us and importantly our budget and directed us accordingly. It sure hasn’t been that way this time around – we’ve been to many different locations across three counties and are still looking.

It’s a big decision; next to buying a house, it’s probably the biggest thing that you’ll purchase.

The language has changed. What used to be “used” are now know as “pre-owned”. And, in this day and age, the price of cars have gone through the roof just like anything else. A selection of used, er, pre-owned is pretty slim anywhere we went. I suspect that people are making their vehicles last a lot longer.

Even the experience is different. At some places, it’s difficult to even get to talk to a salesman. On a recent outing, we had a gentleman come out while my daughter was going over a car and I was doing something else. He came to me and asked if he could help me.

“No, but you could help her.”

We did find a vehicle that looked decent enough and the three of us went for a test drive. He was pointing out the features and even noted a USB port in the back seat.

“You could plug your makeup kit in here.”

I gasped and she gave me the look “Dad, don’t embarrass me.” I couldn’t keep quiet though and said “I don’t think you should have said that.” Needless to say, we won’t be back and my daughter has promised to send a note to the dealership.

We got a person to talk to that time but there were other places where we walked the entire lot and talked to nobody. We ran into some places that closed at 5 and weren’t open on the weekends. When are working people supposed to go vehicle shopping? We had a couple of cars that even had to be jump started to get going.

When you live in one town and work in another, having reliable transportation is not negotiable. I even got an observation from my wife “see, this is why we still need to have two cars.”

I will confess to still having a mindset from my youth. 100 000 is a lot of mileage but it doesn’t mean the same in a country that has the odometer measuring kilometres. There are web resources that do indicate that modern vehicles can still be reliable even at odometer readings of over 200 000 km.

Digital has changed the entire experience. CarFax has been a great research tool to see how vehicles have been maintained. It’s so easy to sit at the computer and browse dealer websites looking for vehicles. The whole family is helping the cause and sharing links like crazy. One family member writes them down on paper so we all help out where we can. Many of the sites claim to have live pricing and monitor what is being sold and for how much in other places and supposedly adjust themselves. You can even buy a car online, it gets delivered on a trailer to your front door, and away you go.

Her repair person is a fan of Japanese branded vehicles and I am now more aware of Nissans, Toyotas, Hondas, Mazdas, etc. than I ever thought that I would be.

I had no idea that there was such a thing as a Nissan Juke. But, I do now. It’s in the category of sub-compact SUV.

With all this, as of this writing, we’re still looking.

And there really is no joy other than spending quality time with family.

For a Sunday, your thoughts …

  • when was the last time you bought yourself a new vehicle?
  • was it used, er, pre-owned?
  • do you have a brand loyalty when it comes to vehicles?
  • is there a magic odometer reading that you would never consider in a vehicle purchase if it was over that?
  • have you ever had challenges with a car dealer?
  • do you trade your vehicle in regularly? are you planning to make it last longer in this economy?

Things used to be so much simpler. And, there was a real sense of joy and accomplishment once you sealed the deal.

I’d love to read your experiences and thoughts in the comments to this post.

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  1. Nice piece, and I agree with most of it. I’ve not bought a motor for a while now, but in the past have bought at auction. The first time was maybe 40 years ago, and I picked up a really nice motor, ex-company car, full service history and reasonable mileage, for a song. I ran it for a good three years problem free, and even got a decent part-exchange price for it against a new model company car (my then employer was grateful as it reduced his costs). The second time, I had moved out of England and bought a Toyota at a German auction that needed a little repair work, that delayed delivery, that turned out to be money well spent – it was 20 years ago, the car was a couple of years old then but I’m still running it regularly (although it is admittedly reaching the end of its useful life now). Third and last time was done through a local dealer, ten years ago, and he picked me up, again for a song, a 9 month old Volvo that again needed a bit of body repair. There was a delivery delay too, since the auction had been in California (I live in Poland) so freight and import costs needed to be covered, but once that and the repairs were done it’s been running without a single problem ever since – again, overall it’s been good value.

    Sure, there are risks with auctions, but I would argue the risks are no different to any other pre-owned purchase, and can be avoided if you’re careful and take good advice from someone you trust. Something for you to consider perhaps? Anyway, good luck – and I hope your daughter likes what she ends up with!


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