July 18, 2011

tips on buying a car

Like I've mentioned before, I'm trying to buy a car. Saturday, I had an experience in which I learned several things about car buying. While these lessons may seem basic, I think the real-life application of them will help you internalize these principles for the next time you are trying to buy a car.

I saw a Ford Focus online that seemed to be a good price and really low mileage. I didn't know how I felt about Ford Focus's, but I decided to go to the dealership because it was close to my house and give it a test drive.

1. If your car has unexplained holes in its paint job, be concerned
While the dealer man was copying my license, my roommate and I looked at the car. It looked great, except for a few saucer sized rust holes in the paint. They were pretty inexplicable. Maybe the previous owner threw flaming paint balls at his car?

Obviously, a perfect paint job isn't everything, but it does say something about how the car is cared for.  I didn't want that to stop me from fairly evaluating this car, so I moved on.

2. If the car is vibrating violently while it is idling, be concerned
Most cars move a little bit while they're idling. Because, you know, there is an engine working around in there. This car was shaking like a very small child who had been outside playing in the snow for too long and had left their mittens at home.  My roommate called her brother, who sells cars, and asked him if that was normal. He said no.

By now I was pretty sure I didn't want to buy this car, but the guy was coming back out, and I figured that I'd at least take it around the block. The way the car was situated, I rolled to the edge of the parking lot. That's when I learned the third principle.

3. If, when you touch the gas pedal, the car sounds like someone has dumped a bucket of marbles into its engine, and lurches forward like a drunken sailor, be VERY concerned.
Yes, that happened. Unfortunately, it was incredibly difficult to make a U turn back into the parking lot. So instead I had to go about 4 blocks around, hoping that I wasn't about to blow anyone up. Or that the car wasn't just going to stop. Or that the marbles from the engine wouldn't start flying through the windshield.

4. If, when you are trying to turn back into the dealership parking lot, you realize that the whole car is shaking so violently you can't even see out of the side view mirrors, RUN. 

However, if you do have all of these things happen, clearly, the thing to do as the salesman, is then to try and sell the poor shell-shocked test driver a car 3 times as expensive as the one she just drove. Unfortunately, at that point she will have pretty much vowed never to drive again.

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