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Adventures in Car Buying — Here’s My Weird Story

David Hilowitz, Flickr

Trying to be a smart buyer, knowing all the techniques, and protecting yourself from the expected can sometimes lead to a journey through the unexpected and funny. Have you ever had a weird experience trying to buy a car? Here’s my sitcom worthy story. 

Last year at this time I was on the adventure of trying to buy a new car. It turned out to be one of the most frustrating and hilarious stories I can’t stop telling.

After an accident left my car totaled, I went on the search for a new way around town. I prepared myself for a fight. It is not easy to get a great deal on a car, especially if you are a young female. But, I did my research and brought along with me the lessons learned from my past experiences of purchasing cars.

Feeling ready for the fight, I went out on the town. I traveled all around East Texas and the Internet for the best deal I could find. I set my price and haggled my way right out the door of the dealerships. No one was offering what I demanded. It was frustrating, but I feel like the salesmen were learning a lesson.

Normally salespeople try to take advantage of a young lady, I know this from personal experience. I had once, years ago, been that girl screaming and clapping, “It’s pretty, I want it!” The sales departments were excited as well, they knew I would be a sucker for a horrible deal that I couldn’t see through. Not any more. No sir, I knew what I wanted and how to get it. But I wasn’t getting it around here.

I am lucky enough to have a brother-in-law that paid his way through law school selling cars. He is the best resource for automobile buying, I really suggest everyone getting a brother-in-law like him. Since he lives in Houston, my journey took me into the big city.

Waking up early is never an activity that makes  me a happy camper, especially if it is just to drive all over town to talk cars. But, I grabbed my coffee and hit the Houston streets.

After a few hours, I found the deal I had been waiting for. A 2007 VW Rabbit with eight thousand miles on it for only just over $10,000. Amazing huh? It seemed like my journey was at its end. Heading home I realized something was wrong.

When my radio unexplainably stopped producing sound, I thought it would just be a fuse. Nope. While inspecting the fuzzes, rat droppings were found in the engine well. So, back down to Houston I went.

Frustrated for having to travel once more, without music on the drive to boot, it was hard to keep a happy demeanor at the dealership. They assured me that everything should be OK and sent me back home to await the results of the full engine examination. My car was dead. Or should I say, infested. Chomping through the wires and tubes he went to his little rat lair in the dashboard. That is right, a living breathing rat in my car. Because of this little guy making himself at home in my engine, I lost the great deal of a car I had been searching so long for.

Before I headed back down to Houston to return my rental car and find a more permanent ride, I stopped by one of the Halloween stores open in town. I searched and searched until I found a squeeky toy that resembled the co-owner of my last car. I had wanted to return the favor of a funny and furry mishap. Planning on leaving him in the rental car before handing back the keys, I set off once more down south.

Music blaring from the working sound system, I enter the Houston city limits. Ready to get an even better steal of a deal to make up for selling me a car with a rodent in it, I had a renewed sense of excitement. Behold the hidden surprises of life’s roller coaster. The same car dealership that had sold me a car with a pint sized roommate let me test drive a car that had broken parts for more than $5,000 than I was willing to pay. Too much disappointment made my blood boil, so I grabbed my brother-in-law and drove closer to the gulf shore in search of the end to what was turning out to be quite an ordeal of a shopping experience.

With a heightened feeling of, “I don’t really care a lick anymore;” I landed at a VW dealership that shone as a beacon of hope for my tired patience. The adventure takes a dramatic turn as I signed contracts for a manual shifting Golf. I had at that point in life never operated a stick shift and talked myself into deciding that this was the time to learn.

I felt I picked up the idea fairly easy after just one hour of practice. As nothing in my life was a concrete situation, this too fell apart. Allowing myself one more hour of training I hit the road back to Tyler for what I thought was the last time.

The drive back was easy enough until the gas light came on. I came to an intersection that I deemed too difficult to figure out how to brake in the traffic so I dodged a car coming head on and launched up a hill into the gas station. Once up to the pump, I realized the gas tank was on the other side of the car. I tried to reverse while my car made a hideous sound that I could not figure out. I parked again and realized I had left the hand brake on. Feeling embarrassed for the multitude of mistakes I had made in short time for the audience growing at the gas station window, I went inside.

I asked the attendant if I could have the restroom key. She replied that they no longer had a bathroom after a drunkard had driven his truck into it. Shocked, I asked her if everyone was alright. She replied that the man working that had given the key out, but they never found anyone in the rubble. Realizing I had not been as embarrassing as that drunk driver, I felt a little better. Then, a man sitting in the little gas station lounge asked me if I had ever driven a manual before today. I laughed and said that I had no idea what I was doing. This became one of the sweetest moments of strangers with compassion I have ever seen.

All of the gas station regulars starting comforting me with their own stories of the first day they learned a manual. They said things like, “Honey, don’t you worry you will get it. And you just ignore all those people mad at you on the road.” If I had remembered that I was carrying home banana bread my sister had made me, I would have given it to these kind people. I left the station with an overwhelming sense of confidence in myself and in humanity.

Leaving the exit to get onto the highway again was so troublesome for me that I dropped back to zero confidence. The older man that had been trying so hard to comfort me inside came running out to yet again calm my shaky hands. Because I wasn’t sure if I was going to be successful at getting going again, I had no time to thank him as I screamed onto the road.

Every day that I badly drove that car, I got to know more and more people. It occurred to me that everyone shared this experience with me. The day that I decided I could not drive such a needy machine made me feel as if I was letting everyone with a caring word down. If you have ever been stuck on a steep hill and late for class in the rain, then you understand why I gave up that little car.

My salvation of a dealership again delivered the amazing service that so many had been lacking and let me trade the manual in for an automatic. I felt the elephant sized pressure get lifted from my chest as for, finally, the last time I departed Houston.

But no sundae is is complete without a cherry on top. Before this story can come to an end, one more mishap must happen. It was now around Thanksgiving, and my father had come to visit. As he was pulling out of the driveway, he backed into the side of my car. Just one week into my being settled with a car, I lost it to the repair shop to become whole again.

I now, every day, am so grateful for my car. I am driving safely without rodents, dents, and stalling out. I also backed out on leaving the fake rat in the rental car, so now I keep him in this new ride as a mascot to the past. My advice for everyone; have the car that you like checked thoroughly, park far away from relatives, shop around for the best deal, and learn a stick shift in a parking lot until you are comfortable.

I am sure that all of you reading this have similar stories, what was your worst car experience?

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