That's What She Said: Tips on buying a used car
- Dawn Dumont | August 18, 2017
I’m cheap or, for the delicate amongst you, “frugal.” So it is pretty difficult for me to rationalize buying a new vehicle, driving it off the lot and promptly losing 20% of its value.
Of course, how many things don’t lose value when you buy them? It’s not like those $15 Lycra stretch pants I bought at Urban Planet are appreciating in value. And my Sephora purchases have not yet had a positive impact on my investment portfolio (though I have accumulated enough points to qualify for a free lecture on proper make up application by an 18 year old with perfect skin and unlimited free time.)
But if am in the mood to delude myself that there is a good option when buying a car, I prefer buying used or for the delicate, “pre-owned.”
I’ve been looking through the used car ads, enjoying the descriptions. The term, “lady-driven” always makes me smile as I recall all the times I’ve driven over the curb at Starbucks, emboldened by sheer impatience and over-confidence in my tires.
Buying used forces you out of your comfort zone. You can’t just put your wallet in the well-lotioned hands of a car salesman, you have to foray into the land of kijiji strangers. I don’t know about you, but everyone on kijiji looks like an extra out of Mad Max Fury Road. I have to remind myself that good people do sell cars. For instance, I sold a car once (and I’m a good-ish person). As the seller, I was honest about the cars shortcomings – “As soon as it goes below minus ten, you must plug in, wrap it in a blanket and murmur heartfelt words of encouragement before starting. Also, the tires are Mr. Clean-bald.”
Other good people also sell cars. About six months ago, my sister bought a used car. A couple days later, it conked out on a minus 30 day. The previous owner drove into town, fixed some cables, boosted her, and got her back on the road. My sister totalled the car a month later, but I appreciated the good service the sellers gave her while the car lasted.
Buying a used car is like meeting a guy in the bar – some of them will be lemons, another might turn out to be the father of your children. Your instinct may be to stay out of the used car market to protect your pocketbook (and your heart) but guess what – you gotta get out there and kick a few tires or you’ll never find your special match.
Although my feminist side disagrees vehemently, it is integral that you factor in the Y chromosome. By that I mean, bring your boyfriend, best guy friend or dad to the sale. Any man-looking person will do, even if they know nothing about vehicles. Once I brought my dad who literally said nothing the entire time we looked at vehicles except, “can I smoke here?” and “where can I get more coffee?” He knows less about cars than me but his mere presence ensured that I was able to pay a little less than asking. Nowadays I bring my partner who actually looks at the engine when they open the hood whereas my eyes glaze over. (What the hell are they looking at? To me, it looks like a bowl of metal spaghetti.)
And remember that you’re in the power seat if you’re willing to walk away – in some cases literally because you don’t have a vehicle. Even if that car represents freedom from bus rides and hitching rides with your friends in their filthy cars, you can’t let the seller know that. You have to act like you have five cars at home, all of them lexuses (lexi?). When the seller says, “take it or leave it,” you must have the confidence to look them in the eye and say: “I will leave it…by the way, how much do you want for that bike in the corner?”