It finally happened.
My 2005 Chrysler Pacifica left us on the side of the road (again), and our mechanic delivered the news that I knew would eventually come: this fix was going to cost more than the car was worth.
After all these faithful years, my Pacifica (affectionately named Tracy) decided to kick the can on the tail end of a chip shortage and smack dab in the middle of inflation. So what’s a girl to do?
I prayed. I meditated. I practiced deep breathing. Then I set out car shopping. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad.
Before the day was done, I’d been to four dealerships. In fairness, half of those were cringe. The other two, however, were so easy it gave me hope that car buying is moving in the right direction.
I knew what features I needed in a car and was open to suggestions on what would work. First off, I’ve got three kids and three car seats. I preferred second-row cabin chairs so the kids could easily walk through and a third-row big enough for a real person. And leather. Please make it leather! I went in with a rough yet flexible budget.
When I pulled up to the first store, a group of salespeople were standing outside and started circling the area. I sat in my car for a few extra minutes, watching this phenomenon from my side mirror. Before I’d stepped all the way out, a salesperson had pounced. It didn’t get much better after that. One of the cars I’d seen online was mysteriously missing. The second looked promising until I saw the third row. Legroom big enough for a Barbie doll. Why do they even make them like this?
I moved on to the Honda dealership next door. At this store, I walked the lot, peering in the windows for five minutes before anyone came out to greet me. I loved it.
When my salesperson did approach, he was as casual as they come. He asked a few questions, made a few suggestions, and I didn’t even hesitate to follow him inside to search for some more inventory. In the end, he couldn’t get in my ballpark budget with the inventory he had available, and he didn’t make it stressful for me to leave the store. I got two follow-up texts from him with some ideas, and then he left me alone.
I was on to the third store. My salesperson was lovely. He was so respectful, helpful, and patient as we peered in car after car. One wreaked of cigarettes; another had cloth seats. I knew I could upgrade to leather, although he never mentioned it, which I thought was interesting.
I really felt terrible for him when the General Manager pulled him aside, and he came back looking uncomfortable. He said he had something else to show me and brought me over to a car that was $30,000 over my budget. I asked him why in the world we were looking at this? Nervously he said, “Well, my Manager says we can take care of you and give you a good deal.”
Call me crazy—I doubt the GM was looking to take $30,000 off a brand-new SUV. I made sure to let the salesperson know he’d been great, and it was in no way his fault that I was moving on to the next store.
Finally, I arrived at the fourth dealership, where I ultimately bought my car. It was a smaller mom-and-pop type store, and there were only two salespeople on the floor. The guy that sold me my car was as laid back as they come and knew every button in the car. I didn't get the feeling that it mattered to him if I bought the car or not, and those relaxed vibes made me relax enough to really look and think it over. Once he told me the price, I counter-offered, and he said they’re a no-haggle dealership.
So I did what anybody would do - I walked out and waited for his phone call, which came about 20 minutes later. We had a deal. He even delivered the car to me (in the rain). Not bad. Not bad at all.
I have only one grievance. The car they sold me didn’t come with any floormats at all, and even if it had, I would have paid more for all-weather mats.
Except he didn’t mention accessories at all.
I was ready to pay for a roof rack, too, and had the price been right, I wouldn’t have hesitated to add a bike rack. It’s been a few months, and I still don’t have the accessories I wanted because life got busy. It would have been a lot easier to buy them the same day and have them installed shortly after.
Instead, I went without them. And, when I do get around to buying them, it’ll be off eBay.
Maybe I should have just asked him for those add-ons right then. In the end, after a full day of car shopping, my brain was just fried.
I like my car. I could have loved it. I had a pretty good experience that could have been a great one. My guy was up for five stars but ended up with four. And I’m still throwing bicycles in the trunk. Ugh.
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Guest post by Whitney Williams