“So you want a car, brah?”

I thought I’d start the week off with our second guest blog post.  This one chronicles the adult milestone of purchasing your first new car.  (If you’re wondering why we needed a guest author for this particular milestone, see my post from September 8.  Or my dwindling bank account.)

Once again, I took the liberty of adding a few photos.  And don’t overlook the footnotes; there are some gems in there.

So you want a car, Brah?[1]

Upon graduation from the great University of Notre Dame, I knew it was time for me to put aside my youth and sally forth into adult life and all the responsibilities it entails. So I bought a $5 filing cabinet at a local garage sale. My second adult purchase, a car, required much more work.

Some people dream about what their first car will be. Most people have a decent idea of what they are looking for. And then there is me, who places the following requirements on my automobiles: ability to hit 90 mph without shaking uncontrollably; ability to cool-off the passengers, via windows[2] or A/C; radio.

Ability to pick up chicks is viewed as a perk but not a necessity, resulting in the Mini Cooper not making the final cut.

Maybe someday.

Since I’m cheap and conservative, not to mention legally 5’8” and 145lbs[3], I zeroed in on subcompact cars. We’re talking the Civic, Corolla, Yaris, Mazda3, Fiesta, Focus, Cruze, Accent, and so forth. Step by step instructions on shopping for subcompact cars are as follows:

  1. Do online research. Confirm that Japanese/Korean cars are the best, but actually American cars are pretty good.
  2. Visit your local dealer. Be baffled that no one has the cars you are looking for in stock. Because, you know, they are selling so fast, why bother to have them on the lot to sell to customers?
  3. Test drive cars at your local dealer. Confirm that the subcompact market is mature and saturated, so all compact cars are pretty much the same.
  4. Put up pictures of possible cars on the wall, and throw darts to make your decision.

Searching for (sub)compact cars is like visiting colleges.  The first one you visit, you are really excited about their research opportunities, low student to faculty ratio, great campus life, quality dining options, lots of awesome majors and offbeat classes, and how cute all the 18 to 20 year old co-eds are. By the time you visit your tenth school, you realize they are all saying the same thing, and most co-eds looks good to a 17 year old.

I test-drove six cars. And you know what? They drove like cars. The Mazda dealer was floored when I failed to notice the superior handling of the Mazda3 over its competitors. I only noticed one car to have slightly inferior handling/acceleration/drivability[4], the Honda Fit, which is fantastically cheap and pretty cool looking. But since I actually noticed something, I decided to axe it off my list.

Ford failed to furnish Fiestas in my 2 visits to the dealership.   The dealer at Toyota was boring, and the Corolla just felt lame.  The Mazda dealer was a little too friendly (please stop mailing me thank-you letters), and the fuel efficiency was not competitive. Hyundai also failed to actually have cars on their lot, and the fancy names they used to differentiate between options just confused me[5]. That left the Honda Civic as the last man standing. Throw in the fact that the Civic I bought was built in Greensburg, IN, and  I was pretty happy with my purchase.

Looks about as cool as the Mini Cooper to me.

The final step to buy a car is negotiating the price[6].This consists of my mother and I faking the following:

  1. We knew what we were doing. We did not.
  2. We were not that interested in the Civic. There was no way in hell I was going to go back to the wall and throw darts again. He could have jacked the price up and I would have bought the Civic.
  3. We were actively negotiating with the Hyundai dealership across the street, and they were giving us a great deal. Preposterously, I think they believed us. Or at least took us at face value. Or maybe just laughed at us after we left.

In the end, we got the price dropped by $100, which I’m happy with for under an hour’s worth of negotiating[7].

In the future, I think I’m going to borrow my dad’s technique and have my wife buy my car.

[1] Actual words spoken to me by a Ford salesman.

[2] Windows must go both up and down. Please see my ’98 Plymouth for an example of where you get only 1 or the other.

[3] Am I actually that tall or heavy? No, but my drivers license says I am.

[4] I was very excited when I found out this was actually a word.

[5] This is like Starbucks using words like “grande” and “trenta.” I still get nervous that when I order a “venti,” I’m going to walk out with twenty cannoli.

[6] Technically speaking, the final step is paying for the car. I have not yet done this critical step.

[7] Why an hour? Multiple stops for “I need to go check with my manager on this” or “May I speak to my mother in private” ploys. Necessary? Probably not, but it sure felt good.



Filed under Guest Commentary, Notre Dame

2 responses to ““So you want a car, brah?”

  1. Caroline

    Hilarious yet informative post. 🙂 2 comments come to mind:
    1. As soon as I saw that footnotes were included, I knew exactly who the guest author was…
    2. I bet the “may I speak to my mother in private” ploy is actually not that common. But I’m glad it worked.


  2. Laura

    Right down to the no cars on the lots (especially the Hyundai and Fords), and faking a $400 under sticker offer on a car from another dealership, this was practically my car-buying process. Except I bought the Fit, because the fantastic cheapness and cargo space won out over the minor handling inferiority 🙂

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