Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Baudelaire Method for Ninja Car Buying and Whatnot

A co-worker and I both bought new cars this week.

I love my new ride, Benedict Cumberhatch, and I got him for a really good price and had a great experience at the dealership. My co-worker, to hear him tell it, did a shit-ton of running around town, getting into haggling death-matches with various salespeople, and seems to have ended up with a car he's not all that excited about.

This tells me that I'm a freaking ninja master at buying cars.

I do not wish the corrosion protection package.
I'm going to share my wisdom with you, partly because I know how difficult it can be to buy a car and partly because I have so little other wisdom to share.

You do not want me to share my wisdom about
handling sharp objects.
So listen up, and learn the Baudelaire Method for Ninja Car Buying and Whatnot.

Step 1: Know what you want.
It is much harder to define your perfect car than it is to define your perfect mate. For one thing, you can't bend a car to your will once you've reeled it in; it has to be exactly what you want without any goading from you. I know, right? Also, a car can't put itself into debt to make you happy. I know this sounds grim, but don't get discouraged. Cars and mates have a lot in common: in both cases, you want them to be reliable and easy to maintain,  they should make you look good, withstand a lot of neglect without showing dirt, and have a great sound system. All without bankrupting you, of course. Personally, I want to make sure mine looks good from the rear, but that's a matter of personal preference.

Step 2: Stalk your car.
When you're looking for a new vehicle, every parking lot, every intersection, every traffic jam becomes a car lot. Look around: like kids on a playground, you'll see every size, shape, color, and personality.  After a while you'll find that a particular type catches your eye and makes your heart flutter, and you'll start to imagine the two of you cruising around town together. And this is making the kids on a playground metaphor seem reall awkward. To be clear, I'm talking about being attracted to a particular type of car. Don't do any of what I've just described on a playground.

Step 3: Avoid human interaction until absolutely necessary.
With the exception of a suitcase full of cash, nothing makes car-buying easier than the Internet. (The same goes for sexual gratification, but I'm just going to stay away from metaphors for the rest of this post, OK?) I picked out Bene from a local dealer's website, downloaded his window sticker to check out his pertinents, requested an e-quote, got back a price that was lower than any offer I would have had the cojones to make in person, printed out the quote, took it to the dealership, showed it to the salesperson and said "I want this one," and drove him off the lot just a couple of hours later. The car, that is, not the salesperson. I didn't have to haggle, and more importantly, I didn't have to make small talk. Brrrrr, small talk.

For the millionth time, thank you, Allie Brosh.

Three critical things to remember about online car shopping:

1. Be completely passive. Don't make an offer, don't make a counter-offer. That may be hard for some of you, but trust me: Passivity is a life skill that anyone can learn. If the dealership knows what it's doing, it will give you a price that will render all that back-and-forth bullshit unnecessary. If the dealership doesn't know what it's doing, don't buy your car there, doy.

2. If you request an e-quote and instead receive any variation on "Why don't you come in and we'll see if we can put a deal together," delete the email and scrub your keyboard with antibacterial wipes.  You're done here.

3. Kelley Blue Book values are for chumps. Look up the fair market value (what people are actually paying) for the car you want, of course. Subtract 10-15%, then ignore any quotes for more than that figure. I ain't lying, people.

Step 4: Know what to look for.
When you're actually face-to-face with your prospective S.A. (significant auto), keep in mind that judging a vehicle is like judging a dog at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.* There are certain things you have to look for. For example, never buy a car:
  • With a dinky glovebox.
  • With a steering wheel that blocks your view of the speedometer.
  • Whose dipstick and washer fluid reservoir you can't immediately identify/easily access.
  • Without a center armrest.
  • (for used cars) Whose radio presets are all hard-rock or talk-radio stations.

* That was a metaphor, sorry. It had nothing to do with sex, I promise.

Step 5: Be nice.
Be an absolute hard-ass on everything else in this list. But smile and make self-deprecating jokes and laugh at whatever the salesperson/business manager/finance guy says. My co-worker tried to be Mr. Hardass, and now he's a 220-pound bear of a man driving a white (God help me), used Nissan Juke that looks like a albino frog and cost more than my brand-new Ford Focus hatchback that I love like PB&J trail mix.

Regular readers know how I love
that mess.
That's it. Choose wisely and well, is what it comes down to. And don't haggle. This is the 21st century; don't let the previous millennium drag you down.

Now go buy a car. Or, you know, the terrorists win, or something.

Also: In exchange for this sage advice, if someone could tell me how to afford a car payment for the next 60 months, that would be great, thanks.

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