Our family has been coasting for several years in vehicles that are paid for. A portion of the fleet is becoming old and unreliable, just when replacement prices have gone crazy.
What a time to hit the car-payment fence post.
The old minivan is still running well. But it has passed mile marker 200,000, and the air conditioner keeps switching to heat on the passenger side. We’re hoping to limp through the winter before making a move on that one.
But move we must on a vehicle for the daughter whose ride has taken to stranding her on a regular basis. It’s a 2005 GMC Envoy with four-wheel drive and the largest V-8 engine built for that particular model. It’s a comfortable hoss with an uncomfortable thirst for gasoline — when it starts.
The girl is in college and working two jobs. She simply must have a dependable vehicle. After searching off and on for a couple of months, push has literally come to shove whenever the Envoy has stalled and needs to be moved aside.
Car shopping on a limited budget in a seller’s market is not fun. Any and all options must be considered.
I have purchased several vehicles at traditional dealerships — experiences that have not been completely bad despite the customary back and forth: Offer something well below the sticker price; Reject the counteroffer; Play any remaining cards and end up somewhere just shy of feeling duped.
After that and two more hours of meeting with various managers and signing lots of papers, they let you go home with the vehicle.
That car-buying routine has become as unreliable as the old GMC that my daughter is trying to walk away from for the last time.
She has in mind an all-wheel-drive small SUV model with a reputation for dependability. Pre-owned prospects are in high demand, and most are priced far above their value. We found a 2019 model in another town with 81,000 miles and a price we could almost live with.
The online ad did not show the dents and dings that littered that vehicle. The car’s banged-up condition and fact sheet revealed a history of mistreatment as a lease car in Florida. But it did run and drive well.
Despite the body damage, lots of dog hair and sizable samples of Florida sand in the nooks and crannies, my daughter wanted to make an offer. They would not budge on the inflated price.
What a waste of time.
I get that dealerships are in business to make a profit. I can understand if they have grown weary of haggling with the customer in order to make a sale. I’m weary of it, too.
A friend purchased a vehicle from one of those online companies recently.
“Best car-buying experience I have ever had,” he told me. “I did everything on my computer, and they delivered it to my house within days. I will never buy any other way again.”
Online car sellers do not negotiate prices. Most are upfront also about pointing out, from every angle, any bumps or blemishes.
The prices at online dealers to not appear to be lower. But if it’s possible to end up with a good car and never leave the house, there’s value in that.
It’s certainly worth a test drive.