Car shopping

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Our dream car??

I don’t have my driver’s licence so it’s kind of funny that I’m writing about buying a car.

We found ourselves needing a new car because my partner was in an accident a little over two weeks ago. He was on the way to his parents’ house on the West Island and was travelling at maybe 40 km an hour when he hit black ice. He braked but could not stop the car from ploughing into the vehicle ahead of him, which hit the vehicle ahead of it. So three cars were damaged in a matter of seconds. My partner’s 2004 Honda Civic suffered the brunt of the impact. A good part of the bumper on one side is all broken or has broken off and the hood no longer comes down. Because of the age of the car and the mileage (270,000 km) it’s probably best that we replace it. We’re planning to give it to the Kidney Foundation of Canada in exchange for a tax receipt.

It is incredibly difficult to get around our part of the world without a car. We have public transportation during the day and a little bit in the evening but unless you spend an hour walking to the train station/bus mall hub near the train station you are nowhere near any public transportation on weekends. A car is a necessity if you live in Vaudreuil-Dorion, especially in winter.

We borrowed my partners’ parents’ vehicle and a week after the accident headed to a local dealership to check out a used car that fit our lowish budget of $10,000 to $14,000. The experience at that dealership was the worst we saw in our search for a replacement.

They texted us to say the car was ready but when we got there, no salesperson was assigned to us and they had to find plates for the car, clean the snow and ice off it before we could drive it.

The grey 2015 Yaris looked great on paper. It was a lease return maintained at the dealership and it only had 33,000 km on it. But whoever leased that car must have smoked all the time they drove it because it reeked of smoke. The sales rep let us take it on a test drive without even checking my partner’s driver’s licence or accompanying us when we drove it. As we headed out he told us that if the cigarette smell bothered us they had some ionizing technology or something that would get the smell out. What on earth?

If you can smell cigarette smoke in a car when it’s winter, just imagine  what it would be in the summer. My son has asthma and I react to smoke. I don’t think car dealerships should ever expose potential buyers to secondhand smoke. I don’t know why we were ever allowed to drive that car. They should have cleaned it first.

My partner found the Yaris’ steering really tight and the trunk space was incredibly small so that elimated that car from our maybe list. The next car the salesperson showed us was really nice. It was some sort of luxury version of a  2015 Toyota Corolla and had leather features and heated seats and plenty of technology.  I think the mileage for that one was also in the 30,000 km range. The problem was it was out of our budget. He never asked us what our budget was. We really liked that car but the price he set was about $1,000 above what we could afford.

I don’t think salespeople make much of a commission on used cars and I guess some salespeople don’t want to put too much time into people who are shopping around and taking their time to find a car. The next thing he did was show us a really basic 2015 Toyota Corolla CE. I can’t remember the mileage, just that it was a white car and wasn’t super attractive inside and had visible scraping on the bottom of the car doors. When I asked about that, the salesperson told us that it was from stones hitting the car. He kept saying that unlike black cars, white cars don’t show dirt. I had a hard time keeping my composure. We see dirty white cars all over the place in our area. If a white car looks clean, it’s probably because their owners just visited a car wash.  Otherwise it looks worse than most other cars on the road.

When we wrapped things up, that salesperson did not look like he cared if he ever got our business. I phoned the dealership a few days later when I noticed on their website that the price had come down on the car we really liked. He never called us back.

It doesn’t matter now.  After meeting some very pleasant and sympathetic young salespeople at other dealerships, we found our car. It’s another Honda Civic and like the old one, it’s blue. But it’s within our budget, its history looks good, the mileage isn’t too bad and it even has the heated seats and rear-view camera we weren’t looking for. Our must-have list was short: a car in great condition, air conditioning  and Bluetooth.

This newish car is ticking all the boxes. Now we just have to refuse the nearly $4,000 in add-ons the woman in the financing department pitched us. We spent an hour and a half listening to a spiel about our need for an extended warranty, “Platinum” rust protection, V.I.N. engraving and disability and life insurance. We said we would think about it but in truth were left that dealership feeling hangry. If she had fed us, who knows, she might have had a sale!

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