Tell Him What He's Won, Johnny

A Car Buying Report

At the end of the day, if you can't trust a car to get you to New York and back, there's just no point in keeping it around, is there?

The purple Neon gave up the ghost for good last weekend. Sadly, it decided to do this en route from New York. At any rate, on Sunday, we began our search for a replacement. Now that the Brunette can drive again, there was some urgency to the task. Our ideal choice would have been a hatchback with high fuel efficiency. Keeping the price down and looking nifty keen were secondary, but important goals.

Sadly, there are few two-door hatchbacks on the market these days. We tried the Civic Si, which was fun but did not really measure up fuel-wise. We tried the VW Golf. The engine just sounded grumpy. We tried a Mazda M3 only because we needed a third car to try. It failed on all counts: it felt heavy, it was four doors, and its fuel usage was not impressive. We also toodled out (in our rental car) to Annapolis to try the Mini. I tell you, that car was a blast. Unfortunately, the Mini could have taken as long as twelve weeks to arrive. I couldn't see waiting until after Christmas for transportation.

So we went back on-line and noticed the Civic HX. It's a coupe, but it ran into the 40s for mpg. Put that engine into the hatchback body (like they used to do) and we'd have been sold immediately. However, our trip back to the Honda dealer on Tuesday showed us that we're totally out of the mainstream in desire. Although they had a good number of Civics (clustered inside a ring of SUVs), none bore the HX plate. Needing a car, we settled for the Civic DX. It's a fine car and will carry us around for years with adequate mileage, no doubt.

At this point, we got to begin the purchasing process -- also known as trial by fire.

We're not great negotiators. The dealer offered us a price lower than the sticker and we accepted. That was pretty easy. We filled out a few pieces of paper and they asked us to wait while their financial folks prepared to talk to us about loans. I was pretty confident -- I'd gone and gotten some figures from Lending Tree. I waited for the financial folks to get to us while the Brunette went home to get our insurance card.

When she came back, she found me stomping around in the parking lot.

While I sat at the table staring out the window, the manager came up to apologize. Apparently, they had not noticed that the car we were buying had air conditioning. You see, the DX model doesn't normally come with air conditioning, but they had gotten this particular one from the factory with air because, you know, we live in Maryland and all. Now, he told me, air conditioning usually comes to $1200, but since they made the mistake, they'd meet me half-way and only charge me another $600.

How kind of them.

After arguing with the man for 20 minutes (he stressed that he never makes any money, that everyone can go on the internet and see what he pays for cars--what other business is like that?, that he doesn't know how he's going to pay for health insurance for his family), I walked out to the parking lot. I was ready to walk, but the Brunette brought along a snack that helped me calm down some and we went back in to buy the car.

Then, of course, we had to deal with the financial folks, who don't know how to add or subtract. Twenty dollars isn't much, but it's a straw after arguing about the air conditioner. And when they tried to charge us the destination fee twice (do you have to add shipping onto the end of the price if you go to Burger King?), I just I just ... arrgh. But cooler heads prevailed and we didn't pay that or the $20 and we finally drove away with the car only four hours after showing up at the dealer in the first place.

And it's going to be a good car, I just know it is.

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