Sunday, October 10, 2010

Moving Home Task One: Buy a Car

I'm back home and my To-do list that needs to get accomplished before I start work in a week is miles long.

First up on the list however, was to Buy a car.

Actually, let me rewind a minute. First up was to pay the movers for moving all my stuff from London to Boston. This "stuff" turned out to be 43 boxes (I swear I tried to downsize but quite obviously failed). Mind you... I have very few actual furniture items besides a book case, an awesome espresso maker, a small shelf container, a coat rack... So, those 43 boxes are literally just clothes and books "six years of random shit." So unfortunately, the movers kindly felt the need to charge me $1,000 extra then the originally quoted price (apparently I had more shit "stuff" than they thought), so I was looking at a whopping $5,000 dollar bill!

The bill was due and I had to pay - I tried to get them to reduce the price but failed. So, pay I did. IN CASH. The single most expensive one-time payment I have made for anything ever (until that afternoon when I bought a car - talk about a double whammy). And seriously, paying movers to move your own stuff across the ocean is not a fun purchase. I mean all you get out of it is your same old crappy stuff in boxes that you then have to unpack (actually, they will unpack it as part of the service - I just have to put it away). There is nothing at all exciting about shelling out $5,000 to welcome my things to Boston! Just think of how many amazing shoes and purses I could have gotten for that amount.*

Now with my considerably lighter wallet in mind, let's return to the car buying process.

On Thursday night (the first night home) my Mother sent me out with my Father to begin the lovely process of acquiring a new car.

Let me provide a bit of background information.
  • I have never owned a car.
  • My parents were kind enough to provide me (and my brother) with a car at various points over the years
  • These cars were a Nissan Sentra, a Honda Accord Sedan, and a Honda Accord Station Wagon.
  • Living abroad, made it so I did not need nor miss a car - I could walk everywhere or take public transportation a taxi.
  • I HATE driving. If I miraculously became mega-rich suddenly and had a driver at my disposal and would never have to drive again, I would do the happy dance and I would never miss driving.
  • I have a clean driving record (knock on wood) but consider myself to be a bad driver.
  • I am not a confident driver and tend to get lost All. The. Time. Although thank God GPS has been invented since the last time I drove.
  • My greatest wish is to have a boyfriend who loves to drive and then I will never drive again (cuz boyfriend to me obviously = driver, dog watcher, house fixer-upper, heavy stuff carrier, chef, technology guru.... Think I'm setting the bar a little high here?)
So, needless to say I was not thrilled to start this whole buying a car process. I half-seriously asked my Mom if a) she could do it for me (she said no) or
b) if I could pay someone else to do it for me (she didn't respond to this - I think she didn't get just how deadly serious I really was).

My parents told me to do some research on cars. So, being the kind of awesome daughter that I am, I did as I was told. But I got discouraged when I realized that I probably wasn't going to be able to afford a Mercedes or even a Lexus and probably even a BMW wasn't a really good idea right now as I have no idea what my other costs in my new life back home will be. (Obviously living in Chelsea - the land of incredible cars - seriously distorted my idea of what normal cars for normal people are. I got jaded by all the Aston Martins and Porsches and Lamborghinis just sitting around on the road in my neighborhood. I started to think these were normal cars for normal people). Out of disappointment (and boredom), I ended my car research before it really even began.
But there I was, my first night home and my Dad was taking me car shopping. Yippeee!

Our pre-car-shopping-departure conversation went something like this:

"What do you want in a car?" my parents ask me.

"Umm... leather seats?" I say.

"Oh good. That narrows it down. What else?"

"A good stereo. Cool technology..."

"Oh good. Glad you are so specific." I can tell they are getting irritated. "What about color? Any preference there?"

"Not really... But I prefer black. Something dark. At least nothing flashy. Yeah, black would be best. And definitely a four-door car. I don't like two-door cars."

They are looking more and more skeptical so I say "I hear that hybrids are cool. Maybe I want one of those. I mean, all I really care about is a having a 'cool' car." Both parents groan out loud.

"What about make?" they asked.

"Umm... I guess I have to rule out a Mercedes? Well, how about a BMW?"

My parents looked at me like I was crazy. "How about a Hyundai," they said?

"No way!" I said emphatically for no other reason that I feel like I hate Hyundais. "Perhaps a Honda Accord?" I say trying to bridge the gap and this is basically this is the car I'm most familiar with since they have had 3 different Accords over the years that I have driven (and in some cases been given). Luckily, they looked more pleased with this answer.

"New or Used?" they asked. But before I could respond, they told me I was getting a used car. "You hate to drive. You don't care about cars. You are getting a used car."

I couldn't really find a reason to argue with that.

So there it was folks, I had narrowed my car search down to this very weak check list: used car, leather seats, good stereo, black, four doors, possibly a hybrid (not that I even knew what that really meant). In summary, I wanted "a cool car." Although the definition of a "cool car" was not one that could be defined even by me.

I could see my Father was not very happy to be coerced into this trip. But off we went to the Honda Dealer where and my Father tells me he doesn't want to talk to any salespeople. So, instead we skulk around in the dark looking at the cars and reading the information pages on the windows. Let me tell you, for a person who has never bought a car, never owned a car, never shopped for a car before... this is not very informative.

But, I do learn the following things:
  • Cars are pretty expensive, even when used
  • I don't really like Accords - they seem too big and ugly
  • My father also knows nothing about cars
  • Car shopping is freaking boring
We decide to leave the Honda place and my Dad suggests we visit the Subaru or the Hyundai place near by. I tell him "No way. Those kinds of cars are on my definite 'no' list."

"Why are they on your 'no' list?" he asks me exasperated.

"I don't know. They don't sound like 'cool cars' to me." I respond. (Note: My Father currently drives a Subaru Outback and previously he drove a Hyundai Sonata - both cars I did not like to drive when visiting home preferring my Mom's cooler Saab or Honda Accord - mostly because they had leather seats and a cool stereo system. So, I was not endearing myself to my Father with these remarks - never mind the fact that he already feels I have 'snobbish' and 'outrageous' tastes 'like your mother').

"But Dad. Nissans aren't on my 'no' list. Let's go there!" I say, pointing to the nearby Nissan dealership.

By this time it's starting to rain and all I want to do is go home. We walk over to the used car section and I immediately find this black Altima. I look inside and get excited over the tan leather seats! And then I check out the info. It's a Hybrid! A 2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid. Well, that sounds kind of cool.

I convince my Father to actually let me talk to a salesperson and she tells me the price is $22,000 which is within my range. My dad thinks it's expensive but is pleased with the fact that it only has 16,000 miles. The leather seats, the Bose stereo, the navigation system, the blue tooth hookup, the totally awesome interior fail to impress him as much as they endear the car to me.

Interior of the car
Then we decide to go home. On the way home I am quiet and thinking about the black car. "I want that car." I tell my Father.

"Why?" He asks. "I mean you have certainly taken a lot of time to research and look around and make a well-educated decision," he says sarcastically.

"It's cool?" I say. In the dark I can feel him rolling his eyes.

On getting home we recap the car search adventure to my Mother who is livid that My Father didn't get the Vin number (or even tell me what that was) or let me talk to a salesperson or test drive the car.

At this point Dad is officially demoted from the car search process (I'm pretty sure this was his goal) and Mom takes over. She helps me research the car online and pull up the Carfax File (whatever that is).  She also decided that she can leave work early the next afternoon to help me.

"I want that car" I tell her.

"Why?" She asks.

"It seems kind of cool I say... Plus. I don't want to go through that process again - I'm already bored of this."

"Right. You spent a whole two hours on it," she reminds me. And we both crack up laughing at the ridiculousness of that. "You are your Mother's daughter" she says.

2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid
So, there it was. The biggest purchase I have ever made in my life was decided in just a couple hours based more on the fact, that I was bored with the process and didn't want to do anymore research on it or spend anymore time searching car lots (and I could tell my parents didn't want to either). This is so typical me. It's also so typical behaviour of my mother. Like mother like daughter. That's for sure.

So, the next day we go back to the lot and test drive the car. I'm a nervous driver to begin with but having my mother in the backseat cringing and moaning about what a bad driver I am didn't help. I had never driven a hybrid before and I was kind of expecting it to be different. I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't that different (although it's very weird when you turn it on because the engine only turns on when you put your foot on the gas) and it felt nice to drive.

The saleswoman who literally admitted to us that she was an inexperienced and not very good salesperson (and no I don't think this was some ploy of hers to makes us trust her - she seemed pretty limited) also had me drive a Silver 2007 non-hybrid Altima. It had leather seats but was missing some of the bells and whistles the other car had. Despite being about $4,000 less, I wasn't as impressed.

My mother pointed out that $4,000 was a lot to shell out for an undefined "cool" factor. I told her I didn't care. She also pointed out that the trunk space was severely limited which I admit, it was. But something like that would bother someone who has a car with normal trunk space more than me since I'm not actually loosing anything since I don't have a car at all right now (admittedly, I might regret this later).

By this time I irrationally (I know) had my heart set on the black Altima Hybrid and I just wanted to get this car process OVER WITH! I had had enough. I didn't want more choices. I didn't want to go back home and research the silver Altima and see if there were better alternatives. I was done. I was ready to throw down my money and get the hell out of Dodge - or Nissan as the case may be.

But unfortunately, the process was just beginning. Why didn't someone warn me the process of buying a car takes HOURS?

My mother and I decide to negotiate cuz that what you should do when buying a car right? So, we put in a considerably lower offer. And that's when the weak little saleswoman brings in the big guns. Enter the smarmy salesman. Picture the text book definition of a used car salesman - a smooth an fast-talker - complete with stories of his ex-girlfriend owing the same car and loving it and threats that another person is making an offer as we speak. We obviously did not stand a chance.

I'm embarrassed to say that we managed to get a whopping (wait for it) $350 discount! Although admittedly, the Kelly Blue Book price was actually the same as their initial asking price (so while I don't think we were getting screwed, we also weren't getting a bargain). That price was the pre-certified (whatever that means) price and this enabled me to get better financing saving me $1,000 over all in interest. But then of course I agreed to a $1,600 extra warranty covering all the electronic aspects of the car with a $0 deductible (it is a Hybrid after all). Pretty much I feel I got taken for a ride. By the end of it, I had no idea what I was actually paying for the car. But, that's what I expected so - oh well.

Then the paperwork began. It was excruciating. 2.5 hours of sitting around, signing my name, trying not to appear as bored as I looked. My mother and I - the two most impatient women in the world, sitting there tapping our feet, trying to get everyone to hurry up.

Amazingly I managed to get pretty good financing all on my own (my mother would have co-signed but was reluctant to).

And finally, 3 hours later after I signed my life and my money away, I was a proud owner of a 2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid. Yippeeee!

So, that is the story of how I spent less than 6 hours making the biggest purchase of my life.
It does make me a little sick to think of all the money I spent this weekend. Seriously between the car which with sales tax, interest, and the extra warranty they convinced me to get ended up somewhere around $26,000 and the movers cost $5,000 this was like a $31,000 weekend! Wow. That feels ridiculous to even write. (I actually only spent $7,000 in cash but STILL - that's a LOT OF MONEY). I'm feeling pretty poor right now. Say nothing of the fact I still need to put a down deposit on an apartment and then furnish it. Gulp. This moving thing is way overrated. And WAY EXPENSIVE.

But. I'm now a proud car owner and next Tuesday I'll be driving around in my new black Altima Hybrid. Watch out Y'all!

And because I'm already feeling ridiculously frivolous, I'm totally going to top off this weekend of spending with a purchase of an Ipad since suddenly I feel this is "oh so necessary" to have. Yup. That's how I roll. Just sayin.

Next on the moving back home "to-do" list: Find an apartment in Boston. Stay tuned. The life of an International Woman is never dull.

*The Company is giving me $5,000 for the move (although I don't have it yet). So, essentially they are paying for this. I was just hoping it would be cheaper so the extra money could go to the other costs associated with this move - cuz believe me, there are lots of other costs. Moving is seriously expensive.

Update: Google announced that they have made self driving cars that are already out and about and driving around ALL ON THEIR OWN! This is so awesome! That means that maybe in a few years, I don't even need to be rich enough to have a driver! I just need to have a self driving car. Thanks Google! To read more about this, click here.


SSW said...

wow what a story! Sounds like you have had your hands fun with moving! Yes moving is so very expensive I hate it! Soon you'll be settled in and wondering how you ever living with out your new car and IPAD ! Good luck on finding an apartment!

Julianna said...

Welcome back to MA. You think the move was expensive? Wait til you get the excise bill for the car and find out how much it costs to insure it in the city. :) Glad you found a cool car. Keep us posted on the apt. -J

Anonymous said...

I JUST went through this process. I bought my gently used 2009 Nissan Rogue on September 2nd. I LOVE IT! I have never had a Nissan before, but have bought cards before. I had a 92 Jetta that my parents got me, a 98 Volvo (my parents got me) and then an 04 Chevy Malibu I bought this was my second big purchase...but it is nerve wracking...and yes VERY boring. I hope you are very happy in your new car and that you remain incident free (knocking on wood).

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Sara Louise said...

Congrats on your cool new car! (I would have wanted black and leather sears too... and my very first car was a Honda Accord too!)

Jonas said...

This is priceless :) You and me would both pick the first (undefined why) cool car we found.

You must learn your parents that the cool factor is the single most important part of any new gadget / home appliance you'll ever buy. Gone are the days of robust, cheap or useful. My parents gave up years ago with those arguments and only offer them when I actually ask nowadays.

As for the money you have to hand out, you should've stayed in Europe. In one stroke you would've saved $31000. That's more than some people earn over here in a year ;)


Lifebeginsat30ty said...

Wow wow wow! I've got sticker shock just reading your post! I sold or donated almost everything I owned and work paid for some boxes, so I am officially a gypsy with 3 suitcases :D Damn airlines still got me with a $50 extra bag charge >{

Hm, and I paid the same for a new Ford Focus as you did for a used car! That's insane. And it had leather seats ;) But I understand the impatience part. I pretty much picked out the one that looked pretty. Go me!

Catherine said...

CONGRATS! Enjoy your new car. I need to start shopping for a new car, but ugh it sounds miserable. I'm with you, make the decision fast and jump to enjoying the purchase. Buying a car is painful! :)

Eric said...

Hi. So, have you bought a new car yet? When I was about to buy a new car, my friend told me to try considering a used one. He said it's not that bad at all. Well, if you're into practicality. So he got me convinced and he accompanied me to see the (Westminster) used cars in London. And I have to say, they got good offers there. I'm gonna buy the 2009 Toyota 4Runner SR5. It's like brand new, I'm telling you.

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