My eighteen-year-old daughter’s beloved first car broke down on the side of I-10 about a month ago. In order to buy that little green Volkswagen Beetle in the first place, she’d saved for well over a year, stashing away every penny she earned from her part-time job, as well as cash birthday and Christmas gifts. So when the temperature gauge somersaulted and grey smoke poured from the exhaust pipe that day, my daughter’s dream car quite literally went up in smoke. And, unfortunately, there were no affordable options to get it back up and running. There was a grieving process to be sure, but perhaps the heaviest burden fell on the shoulders of my husband. Used car shopping, you see, is like the kryptonite to his Superman.
It was New Year’s Eve, 2011, when an arduous search finally led to the purchase of that little green bug in the first place. My daughter had done her due diligence of saving the money. The next step--finding a reliable car for a wee little price--was my husband’s job. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that his eyes went dry from reading Craigslist ads. We visited every used car lot in town, wasting away weekend after weekend only to come up a day late and several hundred dollars short. We thought we might have an edge on New Year’s Eve, especially since we were cash buyers. As it turns out, we were finally successful. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that the exact car at the top of my daughter’s wish list would be within our reach, but indeed we drove off the lot with her car that day.
Ah, but you know that story did not have a happy ending.
Fast forward to present day and again, my husband and I were charged with finding a reliable car that would fit our budget. Having learned our lesson, we avoided used car lots and focused our attentions instead on Craigslist ads. When something promising showed up a few days ago, we were intent on moving quickly. After work on Thursday we headed clear across town to take a look at a cute little Honda with low miles and rave online reviews. Everything seemed great except for one small problem: the asking price. The seller had priced the vehicle well above even the most generous Kelley Blue Book value. As we test drove the car, my husband and I powwowed and came up with our hard and fast offer. With that number firmly in mind, we headed back to the seller and set about the business of negotiating.
It did not go well.
Negotiations were stalled when the seller’s low number and our high number were off by about $150. Being the firm negotiator he is, my husband consented, shaking the seller’s hand and agreeing to part on good terms. It wasn’t until we were back in the privacy of our own car that my gentle persuasion (or maybe a firm punch to the gut, one or the other) caused my husband to second-guess his tactics.
“Do you enjoy car shopping?” I asked.
“No,” he replied.
“Is this the car we want?” I asked.
“Yes, but…” he started.
“Well then,” I replied. “Getting this thing done and over with is well worth the $150, don’t you agree? Now go back in there and buy this car.”
And so we did. Clearly our negotiation skills need improvement. Only time will tell whether we fared better with regards to value, but there is a ray of hope. On the way to the bank, we ran the Carfax history report and learned that based on the information provided about the car, it is worth $1,010 more than what Kelley Blue Book says. So maybe our negotiation skills weren’t so bad after all. Let’s just hope we don’t have to test them again for a long, long time.