Used Cars and Oxy-“Morons”

I’ve been searching for the perfect used car now for over a month. I’ve been looking for a wagon – Volvo, BMW, Audi, or Mercedes. Just a simple used wagon. But there is one other problem. I’m frugal. So, I find wagons and they’re out of my price range or I can’t negotiate the price I want. Or they’re too old. Or, and this is the most common killer of me finding my dream car, they smell like smoke or the chemical used to cover up the smell of smoke. That’s right. I’ve come close to buying several wagons, most of them BMWs, and guess what’s stopped me in my tracks – smokers. There’s a twist of fate there when people ravaging their lungs with cigarettes prevent me from getting a car. Every decision in my life is connected to breathing or someone else’s breathing, or so it seems.

My wife found this wagon for me, which tells you a little bit about her rubbing salt in the wound and the neighborhood we live in.

I also have the pressure of making sure I buy a car that is safe and reliable because should something happen to me the car I choose will be driven by my wife with my daughter riding in the backseat. They’ll also be driving and riding in it now, too, so it needs to be road worthy, unlike the 13 year-old Ford I’m driving. I don’t like them in the Ford and thus the reason for a new used car. This situation creates a mental hell for me when I find something older and inexpensive, which is easy on the bank account, versus something newer and more expensive. Can I take the chance on the older car? Then, I’m conflicted with the following logic: “well, I’m going to die soon anyway, so I might as well get a nice car and spend the money.” Argh, double argh.

During the last month, I’ve dragged my daughter to dealerships all over Los Angeles. We’ve had some fun, like finding an IHOP near a dealer in Santa Monica and having pancakes for lunch, which she loved; and discovering a cool outdoor shopping area in Glendale with a store full of robots. My wife gave us a strange look when she asked us what we did that day and we replied: “we had a robot fight.”

I wish the past month had been all fun and games. I’ve had some of the typical negative car-buying experiences, but I’ve had good ones, too, with very nice, honest sales people. I have plenty of stories, but here’s the one that best typifies the conundrum of my used-car buying experience – so far.

I called a woman selling a 2002 Volvo wagon. When I asked her for the VIN so I could run a CARFAX report, she told me I’d see a few minor fender-benders listed. However, because she worked for an insurance company, she was able to get the damage fixed and, as a bonus, had manipulated the insurance report to include getting minor dings and nicks repaired. She was proud of her cleverness, though some might consider getting your employer to cover repairs not normally covered to be a gray area of honesty. This became more confusing when I told her I was looking for a car free of damage and she replied with “at least you know I’ve been honest with you.” Yes, I thought. Yes, you have. But why do I feel one or us needs a shower right now?

And the search goes on. And on. And on.