Thought I was going to buy a minivan today, but things got a little weird …
We’ve been looking at minivans in anticipation of my folks visiting (plus we’re camping, so we need more room for the full family). We thought we were going to get a Mazda MPV. We’ve test driven them twice, thought the dealership (Lee Johnson Mazda) was reasonable, and spent time searching for the right combination options. On Sunday, I talked to the salesman on the phone and we identified one that they could “trade” with and agree to a specific price above invoice. I had the expectation of going in, negotiating my trade-in, and driving home with the new car.
The commute to Kirkland wasn’t as bad as I had expected and I get to the dealership by 6:30. We’re sitting in his office as he’s thumbing through his notes essentially going over the stuff we already did on the phone. It’s apparent that he doesn’t remember me, nor did he get the specific minivan that I wanted. I express annoyance at having my time wasted and he says they could get the car delivered tomorrow. Thinking I might be able to salvage the evening, I suggest that we go ahead and appraise my trade-in.
I spent a lot of time online trying to get comparables online. Kelly Blue Book has ranges from $2,000 to $3,500, depending on lots of interpretive things on condition. There’s even one in the paper for $6,500. That’s a pretty wide swatch, so I don’t want to say anything, hoping that it’d be closer to the upper band.
The dealer wants to see the registration, takes down some notes, does a quick walkaround, and says it’ll take about ten minutes. I go outside and play with my PDA, look through work notes, count cars, etc. He comes out again and asks how I plan to pay for it. It’s a strange question, but I say “cash.” He has a strange look, then goes back inside. (At this point, I think the answer should have been “I don’t know,” which would have triggered a request to do a credit report, blah.)
I hear the car start up — it’s got a very distinctive sound — and assume that there’s some kind of driving inspection for general mechanical. You know, does the engine run, does the AC blow cold air, etc.
Ten more minutes pass and I’ve mastered “Dope Wars” on the Palm. He asks me to come in and asks starts asking me how much the trade-in is going to affect the deal. He claims the car is worth $0 because of various scratches and dings, but they’ll give me $300 for it.
I understand they want to make money, but this is ridiculously low. So, I
I ask for my key back. He goes to the opposite end of the showroom for the key. As we’re walking outside, he says “geez, someone’s looking at that minivan you want” and “let’s talk to Dennis” (who I assume is the appraiser) “to see if there’s any leeway.” He disappears again.
I’m weirded out by not seeing the car anywhere. Five minutes pass, no Dennis, no salesman. I start walking around the lot. No car, but I have the key…
By now it’s 8:00. I haven’t eaten since noon and am feeling grumpy. It definitely feels like they’re playing games: good cop versus bad cop, lowball, and hide the car. I am seeing snippets of the William Macy scene in Fargo. Finally I wander around in back where they do service (as a logical place) and start doing wider arcs. I pass an industrial-sized garbage bin and there’s the car, parked in a way that you wouldn’t see it unless you were deliberately looking for it. This pisses me off and freaks me out, so I leave, unfortunately before realizing that they still have the registration for the VIN. (sigh)
My spouse is going to retrieve the registration tomorrow. Meanwhile, we’re going to wait on purchasing until we decide what to do with her car. It seems like I can do better in any variety of ways:
- Sell it myself
- Donate it. This is a much more interesting option since the car basically runs fine.
- Sell it for scrap.
- Demolition derby. This would further lower the value, but I’d get to watch things break.