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Car Buying and Dating….Good Grief!

I promised myself that this would be a year of change. New Year, New Me, New Space. And while I wasn’t entirely certain of what this meant, I knew it meant trying to move forward in this new life. In my head, I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish this year; not necessarily New Year’s Resolutions, but things I wanted to accomplish for me. Some of these things are necessary items in an effort to take care of my home, some are things I consider a way to simplify my life, and some, just “stuff”. So here’s my list and status of each:

  • Get rid of the rampant mole issue in my backyard – Done (don’t ask how)
  • Update the house with hardwood floors – Done #wood
  • Landscape clean-up – Done – it’s an annual thing anyway, but on the list
  • Replace backyard fence – Done – the old one would not have made it another winter
  • Sell boat – Done
  • Sell Ed’s truck, my car and get one, new vehicle – NOT DONE

When I look back at how much I’ve actually gotten done this year, I feel pretty good. These projects were no small tasks, and I got them done. It’s that last one that’s getting me. Let me explain.

When it came to the boat and the vehicles, Ed and I had many conversations about what I would do after he passed away. We discussed the fact that I would not be able to manage the boat myself. I would need to sell it. Once the boat was gone, I’d no longer need two cars, so I would sell his truck, my car and buy one vehicle for myself. It would be an Acura MDX because my Acura TL has been so good to me (I still love driving it as much as the day I drove it off of the lot). And so with life, plans change. I did not sell the boat immediately, rather, I conquered it. And then I was done. When I did finally make the decision to sell, it was at the right time to the right people. As bittersweet as it was, it was the right step. I felt good about it. Then, I was up to the last item on my list…consolidating vehicles. It was on this list, so the next thing to do. Easier said than done.

Off I went to start car shopping, something I realized I had not done in a very long time. My Acura is a 2004 TL with 102,000 miles and still drives like new. It is the last car I purchased 11 years ago. The Acura MDX was “the plan” that Ed and I had discussed, so I went and test drove one, but I knew that I needed to make sure this was the right car for me. I didn’t feel right selecting something at this price without really doing my due diligence. A lot of people told me to go drive EVERYTHING; it’s all part of the fun of buying a new car. I saw nothing fun about this time consuming process, and once I started, I got a funny feeling that dating, when I even think about it, is going to be a similar experience. I haven’t dated in a longer time since I bought my last car, so I can’t be sure. I think if I compared the Acura “date” with actual dating, I’d say this was “a set-up” – seems like a perfect fit, but almost too perfect. But this one would be there for me whenever I wanted it. No need to commit now.

I had my doubts about the MDX so I went and test drove it again. I really, really liked it, but wasn’t sure. The MDX I’ll compare to “the nice guy” – reliable, always-going-to-be-there-never-going-to-let-me-down, a solid choice. An absolutely good looking car with a great personality. I have a few friends who own one, and rave about. So I started finding reasons why this was not the right choice; little nits that really don’t make a difference. But when I’m about to spend this much money, I need to be sure. I drove a few, comparable SUVs and this was the best of the ones I drove without doubt. But I stopped to ask myself, “What do I really want and need in a car”? I realized that after driving Ed’s truck for the past three years, I have become very accustomed to this vehicle and what it offers; amazing power, the ability to drive through anything, haul anything, and the a certain feeling of safety and security. Should the zombie apocalypse hit my geographical area, this truck will be what saves me.

Could I have changed so much in the past three years that I am no longer a luxury vehicle personality but have converted to a truck kind of gal? Perhaps. I decided that what I wanted and needed in a vehicle was a cross between the luxuries my Acura offers, and the durability, stability and power my truck offered.

I turned to the Interwebs for my research and found what I thought to be the perfect fit – A Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited. From a dating comparison, I’m going to guess this is what on-line dating would be like; lots of pictures, good background information, positive reviews etc. etc. From what I found on-line about this vehicle, it seemed this would provide me with the creature comforts and luxuries I was looking for in a car, all with a decent amount of towing capacity (which I likely would never use), a good amount of cargo space for the dogs (my primary reason for needing a larger SUV), and four wheel drive allowing me to drive through just about any terrain. So I went and test drove it. I loved it! So good looking and smooth on the road…and then I went home and did more Google searches, and the vulnerabilities were uncovered – known for transmission issues and oil issues. I had to remind myself I owned a Dodge Durango that suffered from both. And I’d never own one again. This was like an old boyfriend trying to get me back saying “I’ve changed, really, I have”. Or it was the Don Draper of cars; handsome and rugged, with all kinds of vulnerabilities under the hood that would come out after the honeymoon was over – about 25,000 miles into ownership? I keep trying to tell myself one thing or another to convince myself that this car would be different. It has changed, and is improved. Lots of people own these with no problems. Why won’t it be like this for me? This car also has a great warranty so if something does go wrong, it’s covered. But I know better, and had many, many friends tell me that this was probably not the way to go. Ultimately, I’d be disappointed. And I know they are right. So I moved one, but I still think about this one.

It was suggested by a friend, that if I was really that interested in the Jeep, I should check out the Toyota 4Runner. This would be a lot of truck, a good balance of car – but probably not all of the creature comforts and looks of the Jeep, but very, very reliable. This was not a car that was in my view, so I’d compare this to “a blind date” – new, unfamiliar (although before I met Ed, I did have a Toyota Celica which I loved), and not something I would have thought would be a good fit. I had nothing to lose at this point, so I went on “my date” with the 4Runner. I was pleasantly surprised. I was highly impressed with the cargo space for the dogs. And the best part? The back window on the lift goes down so they can stick their head out 🙂 The creature comforts were definitely there, although certainly not as luxurious as the Acura of Jeep. This was definitely more truck than car, but stuck the right balance. I agreed to come back with Ed’s truck to get an idea of what they would give me for a trade – something that both of the other dealerships fell slightly short on, and I took more than personally. Agreeing to this next “date” felt kind of like a big deal. It felt this this could be “the one”. A bit too real.

A few days later, I went back I went to the Toyota dealership in Ed’s truck, having a hard time believing that this could be the last time I actually sat behind the wheel of his truck. If everything went right, I would be coming home with a new, Toyota 4Runner. I wasn’t overly excited about this as it was very emotional for me. Parting with Ed’s truck was a big deal to me. And while I realize it’s only a car, and it’s just a physical thing, it still hit me fairly hard. This was going to be a big change, and once I did it, there was no going back. Was I making the right decision? Did I feel good about this? Is it the right time? Do I need to do this now? What was my rush? What did my gut tell me? None of these questions were ones I could easily answer, yet, no one could answer them for me. I told myself just to see what happened. I was not committing to anything. I could walk away at any time. The deal just might not be right.

And then the joy of the real “courting” began – the negotiations. Kind of speed dating maybe? Let’s really see how serious we both are about this whole “relationship”.

I gave the keys to the truck to my sales person so she could give it to her manager to determine what they would give me on the trade in. Of course while they were doing this, we could go for another test drive. Not a bad idea as I really did need to make sure this was the right car for me. This was also the start of those dreaded words you really think is a myth in the car buying business, but learned that in fact is not. The dreaded words “let me go talk to my manager”. And so it began.

We came back from the test drive and “the manager” came out. He was everything you’d picture – fast talking, number shuffling, appreciative of your being there and what-needs-to-be-done-to-move-the-inventory kind of guy. He seemed nice enough, and this is his job – move cars off the lot. I can’t fault him for this, but it also didn’t give me a great feeling. So we went through the whole process that I had really hoped was not how car buying really was. He came out with a decent number on the new car – a number I told him to meet. But then he naturally, stereotypically mistook me for someone who didn’t know what I was doing – and low-balled me on the trade. I of course took this personally and was going to nicely let him know this was not how we were going to roll. He played the “let me go talk to my manager and see what I can do” and came back with “well, I got you this, but my manager is not happy about it”. He proceeded to scribble a bunch of numbers very quickly trying to mask the massive “screw you” price on my trade. So I paused. I said “give me your pen”. I proceeded to write down the number I wanted for my truck. Period. Hard Stop. He then played the “let me go talk to my manager” card again, and came back with a better number, and include the proverbial “my manager doesn’t even know I went up to this and he’s going to be pissed”. Seriously? Do I look like I fell off a turnip truck? Good grief. So I informed him that I appreciated everything he had done, but that number wasn’t going to do it. I asked for me keys back to the truck (yet another tactic to keep you there – keep the keys so you can’t leave) and I left. Walked out of the deal right then and there. I was mildly disappointed, but it was fine. I do not have to sell my truck or my car or anything else. There is no one and nothing pushing me to do this but me and this crazy list of things I want to accomplish this year. The earth will not stop turning if I don’t get this last item checked off of my list this year. But what does this mean for my goals for moving forward?

Surprise, surprise – guess who called the next day with a better offer on my truck? It was the sales manager of course – predicable. The deal was just about done. All he had to do was find me the color I wanted because they didn’t have it in stock. He was going to call me back in 30 minutes as that was all it would take for him to track it down. I had a lot of confused feelings at this point. What a tumultuous ride I feel like I had been on, yet I wasn’t entirely excited about what was supposed to happen next. All of those same questions kept coming back to me, and I still couldn’t answer them. I reached out to a friend to help me sort this out, and she did. I felt much better about the idea of parting with Ed’s truck and getting this new car. Felt better, but not excited.

The sales manager never called back. For real – he never called back. It’s that date that said he had a great time and he’ll call and never does. Should I call him? Is he really not interested? What the heck happened? I thought it went so well. God help me if this is really how dating goes.

For a moment, I was relieved. I wasn’t going to pursue it further because something still didn’t feel right about it. Maybe I was playing hard to get. Maybe I just decided I didn’t want to deal with it any longer. Trying to spend this much money shouldn’t be this hard, and I should be really excited about a new car. So I paused. Reflected on the whole thing and what I learned was this – I very successfully negotiated a great car deal. I was incredibly afraid of the process because of all of the dread that comes with buying a new car. All proved true with this experience, yet I got through it. I conquered it. I wasn’t the one that didn’t close the deal. I also realized that I do need to let go of the truck. While I don’t have to do so, there is no reason for me not to do so. If not now, then when? And why not now? What is really stopping me? The zombie apocalypse is actually not coming 🙂

My head is clear and my heart is calm. When I am ready to buy a new car and part with the truck, I will do so. Not a moment sooner.

Btw – the Toyota dealership just called to say my color will be in next week if I am still interested. They’ll honor the deal we struck. I’m still deciding on if I am going to call back or not 😉

Strength, Courage, Wisdom…Faith, Love and Hope – got me through this one for sure J



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