Monday, April 18, 2011


I am not really a car person. Like all boys I played with Dinky Toys and Hot Wheels but then I grew up.

A few years ago, my wife showed me a picture of a car. "Isn't this beautiful?" she said. I thought for a second. "You are beautiful, music is beautiful, scenery is beautiful; cars are tools. They sometimes get you to where you want to be; that's all." Which more or less summarizes my attitude towards cars.

I obviously work with people who don't share my lack of enthusiasm and I get to park next to all lot of cars which could be called beautiful if I was that way inclined. I have noticed a few things about expensive cars. For the most part they are driven by very hard-working doctors, the kind who don't have a lot of leisure time. So...the best part of their day is driving their expensive car 15 minutes each way in traffic to work. Sounds like somebody really needs to get a life. And of course the faster a doctor's car is theoretically able to go, (assuming they ever got to drive it anywhere else than too and from work,) the more likely they are to be late.

This is all precipitated by the fact that I leased a new car last week. The lease on my Volvo S40 expires at the end of this month. I was given the choice of buying it out or handing back the keys. I decided I really had no attachment to this car and didn't really want to shell out $16K to keep it when for no money down I could get a brand new car. (I guess I do like cars a little bit.)

Every time I start to get a new car, I resolve that this is time I am going to do it right. I am going to test drive lots of different cars, I am going to bargain hard, I am going walk out of the dealership if they don't give me the price I want. I am not going to get any of the options I don't want. I am definitely not going to get the undercoating or the upholstery treatment.

So what did I do.

I test drove 1 car, a diesel VW Jetta. I liked it, I fit in it and they had one in the colour I liked. If you can believe the dealer it gets 60 mpg on the highway(I mostly drive it 5 minutes to work, when I don't walk or bike). I showed it to my wife and we decided to lease it.

So we start to haggle on the base price. I am figuring we'll lop off $2K right off the get go. The dealer of course points out that diesels get sold quickly and they can't bargain much. I wimp out and start with a $1K off and we settle at $500. What I should have done since I was really in no hurry was to threaten to go to another dealer, in another city if necessary. I am such a wimp and anyway if you are leasing we are really talking about less per month than I spend on lattes.

Now off to the finance manager for lease. I always find this the bad cop to the good cop of the sales man. First I have to ask a whole lot of personal questions about my credit history etc. Taking all this information, he goes off for a few minutes and comes back with a print out of my bank balances, and all my credit card balances. Talk about big brother is watching. This is all complicated by my split personality as a personal corporation in addition to a person.

The finance manager's job is not just limited to assessing your credit-worthiness. His real job is to sell you the paint and upholstery treatment. This adds another $1K onto the price and is now pushing the monthly lease payment up to $100 more than I thought I was going to pay assuming I had also negotiated with more balls. Should I waiver, he of course reminds me that this is a lease and there will be dire consequences in 4 years, if having turned this down, I have a paint chip or a stain. (Dealers of course used to sell you the undercoating which has sort of become a joke; I remember years ago solemnly signing a long and detailed waiver after I declined the undercoating.)

With this information, I then had to arrange insurance coverage by phone so that I could pick up the car (after of course the paint and uphostery treatment had been applied). The insurance guy of course tries to sell me all kinds of extra riders and doodads. I try to explain that all I want is exactly the same coverage as the car I am giving up. I am of course calling from the OR, in the time that I have been on hold and listening to all the options, things have changed, alarms are going off and the surgeon wants the table raised or lowered.

On pick up day I of course made the mistake of going after work and before supper. Before getting the keys I have to make another visit to the finance manager's office to sign the lease agreement. This is of course not the sole purpose of this visit. The finance manager has more to sell me. Would I like to purchase a service plan against door dings and uphostery tears. For $20 extra a month, if such an event occurs, somebody will come to my house and fix it. "Can I think about it?" This offer is only available at the time or purchase. He again reminds my that this is a lease with dire consequences. He gives the example of a cigarette burn. I point out that I don't smoke. By this time it is 1900 hours, I started work 12 hours ago, lunch was at 1100. All I want to do is drive my new car home (we are having a late winter/early spring snowfall so I don't even get to take it for a longer spin), have supper and drink a beer.

Repeat in 4 years.

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