Buying a Car 2013 Style

RAV4

Now that my husband has retired, we decided to take a lot of car trips around the Western United States. The only problem was our car situation. I drive a two-door RAV4 that’s wonderful around town since I can easily park it in any postage stamp-sized space. It’s not a road car, however. My husband’s sedan-sized Honda was just a little too low for either of us to get into comfortably considering we’re both starting to get stiffness and a little pain in our knees. So it was definitely time to get a newer, higher car for those road trips we’re anticipating.

Since we’re Consumer Reports subscribers, we got out the magazines and the hunt was on. We quickly decided on four cars that seemed to meet our needs, all of them small SUVs. Since there’s an auto mall about ten miles away with dealerships for all four makes, we set out thinking we would take two days to find out more about the cars and test drive each one. We started at the Honda dealership.

Fortunately, we shopped mid-week which means that the best car salesmen weren’t there to pressure us. The Honda representative was an Arab immigrant who we thought at the time was the most low-key salesman we’d ever met. We test drove the car and spent the morning talking about Honda SUVs. We were impressed, and talked about our likes and dislikes during lunch.

Next, we went to the Mazda dealership. My bother has a Miata which he adores, and although I think he’s crazy because the car is tiny and for me difficult to get into, Mazdas did score high on the Consumer Reports scale. The Mazda salesman was a pleasant young man who was incredibly excited about the 2014 SUV model. We were too since it had a backup camera which shows what is in back of the car while it is in reverse. It also had an indicator on the sideview mirrors when cars were nearby. We went home with two very good cars to consider.

The next morning we went to the Toyota dealership where we were stunned to find no salesmen because they were all except one in a weekly meeting. Linda, a Vietnamese immigrant, was the lone salesperson on the lot. She gave us the run-down on the new, larger RAV4s that had grown from the mini size that I was driving to SUV size. It was as if a mutant gene had gotten into the car making it grow exponentially with each season. But even in its puffed-up size, we liked the car for its backup camera and other features. Now we had three cars to discuss over lunch. One more dealership to go.

We arrived at the Subaru lot well-fed and ready for our fourth salesman and test drive. We were met by the strangest car salesman we’ve ever encountered. All the rest of the sales people had immediately gotten our names and listened to what we were looking for in a car. This guy hustled us inside and sat us around a table. There he started the spiel we had been expecting: why Subaru was the car to buy.

But then it was as if we’d fallen through the rabbit hole. Suddenly, in the middle of drawing the Subaru drive train on a napkin (!), he started telling us how American-made cars were unfairly maligned. In fact, according to this Subaru salesman, Chrysler made some of the best cars on the road. He went on to tell us about the Chrysler he owned and how much he liked it. When my husband broke in and asked if we could test drive the Subaru model we’d come to look at and could see sitting outside the showroom window from us, the salesman said that there weren’t any left to test drive. We were stunned. What about all the models standing on the lot outside? But he insisted there were no cars available.

At that point, we got up, my husband motioning me to the door while the salesman kept comparing foreign-made cars to Chryslers. When my husband stopped at the Subaru model we had originally come to see, I refused to get into it, thinking that we were wasting our time with this sales person. We needed to either go to another Subaru dealership or forget Subarus since we hadn’t seen another salesperson in the dealership where we were.

After I’d gotten into our RAV, the sales manager ran out of the showroom and managed to get my husband’s attention, trying to salvage the deal we guessed. It didn’t matter. As far as I was concerned we had three perfectly good choices for our new car; we didn’t need to see the Subaru.

We discussed, discussed, discussed the three cars, and finally made a decision. We bought the car in the photo. What is it? A RAV4, and it looks like the bigger brother to our original small car. We’re happy with it, but we’re still wondering where we landed when we thought we were at the Subaru dealership.

Have you ever had a buying experience like that? Or are we the only ones who visited another planet on a major shopping trip?

Pat Henshaw

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7 Responses to “Buying a Car 2013 Style”

  1. LeeB. says:

    Wow, that is really weird about the Subaru salesperson. Have you called to speak to the manager?

    Congrats on your new car!

    • Pat says:

      LOL, Lee! As I said, the sales manager literally ran after my husband as he was walking back to our car, and he’s been emailing us ever since, apologizing and apologizing. We still can’t understand what happened and whether the pseudo-sales person was real or not. Our daughter says we were on Candid Camera. It sure felt like it.

  2. Wendy says:

    Timely blog for me, as I’m looking for a new car, too. Maybe that salesman was a plant from another dealership and didn’t actually work for Subaru?

    Your new car is darling!

    • Pat says:

      Like I said above, our daughter’s theory is Candid Camera. Who knows?

      Good luck in your car hunt. My only piece of advice is that if you’ve decided on what kind of car you want and your price range before you step onto the lot, that cuts down a lot of chit-chat and unproductive upselling. Be sure the “price range” you give them tops out at the bottom of your actual price range. Then when they upsell, you’re still within your price range.

  3. AARJenna says:

    We went car shopping earlier this summer, looking for a seven-passenger SUV crossover to replace our aging minivan. I’m finally done with the minivans! Anyway, I was happy that after driving about 5 different models, only one salesperson has proven to be annoyingly bothersome about calling us constantly to ask us if we’ve made a decision. We haven’t – we’ve narrowed it down to two models (I love the Toyota Highlander and my husband likes the Ford Explorer). But then we decided to see if we can get a few more months out of the minivan, which leads us into fall. And I really don’t want to buy a shiny new car in the fall when we are facing a slushy, messy Chicagoland winter! So next spring, we are already half-way done. It’s not a fun process, especially the actual buying part when you have to spend hours in the dealership office. But afterwards, it’s so nice to see that pretty new car in the driveway.

  4. Pat says:

    AARJenna: We went car shopping earlier this summer, looking for a seven-passenger SUV crossover to replace our aging minivan. I’m finally done with the minivans! Anyway, I was happy that after driving about 5 different models, only one salesperson has proven to be annoyingly bothersome about calling us constantly to ask us if we’ve made a decision. We haven’t – we’ve narrowed it down to two models (I love the Toyota Highlander and my husband likes the Ford Explorer). But then we decided to see if we can get a few more months out of the minivan, which leads us into fall. And I really don’t want to buy a shiny new car in the fall when we are facing a slushy, messy Chicagoland winter! So next spring, we are already half-way done. It’s not a fun process, especially the actual buying part when you have to spend hours in the dealership office. But afterwards, it’s so nice to see that pretty new car in the driveway.

    Ugh! You’re right about the actual buying of the car. It was absolutely awful. And I don’t understand why it has to be that way. If they’ve already checked out whether you can afford the car or not (which I assume they do right away since they have your name and phone number and can do online credit checks), why should you be held hostage for several hours just to complete the transaction? So annoying!

  5. Jo-Ann W. says:

    Good luck with your new car! It looks great.

    One time we went to a Ford dealership to test drive a car we were interested in. It was a Saturday and the salesman said he couldn’t afford the time to let us test drive unless we committed to buy it that day. What??? We left and ended up buying a Nissan, and haven’t bought any Fords since.