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Friday, January 8, 2010

Vroom, Vroom

My husband and I are currently in the process of shopping for a new car. Shopping is supposed to be fun. You get to go out and look at lots of shiny new things, while repeatedly whispering “ooh” and “ahh” over the course of the day. At first, shopping for a car was like this when we began our hunt two months ago on a Carmax lot. We now spend our evenings pouring over carmaker websites and sifting through owner reviews on sites like, and we spend our weekends trekking across car lots. Car shopping starts out so simple and innocent and fun, but then the process grows like wild kudzu until it consumes all your free time. You’re elated once you think you’ve finally found “The Car” – then a spate of bad reviews from current or former owners sends you scrambling again.

Basically, shopping for a car has become a giant research project. Lucky for me, we have several resources in our collection and the Library Commission that can help me navigate this jungle. From what I’ve found, it looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me.

One of the first books to catch my eye was The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Cars by Lisa Murr Chapman. It’s aimed at female car owners and buyers, but really the information is good for members of both genders, so guys, don’t let the title drive you away (hee hee, pun intended). I skipped chapter one, which covers the basics of how to fill your gas tank and check your tire pressure, and headed straight for Part IV of the book, which deals with buying and/or selling a car.  I zeroed in on the section “How to Decide Which Car is Really Right for You.”

See, I’ve been driving the same car for nearly 10 years, a 1997 Ford Escort, and consequently, I’m easily impressed by everything new cars have to offer. This is an example of how my visits to the car lot have gone thus far:

Me: (after test driving one of these new models) Hmm, it’s got a smooth ride and great gas mileage, but my music is important to me. I don’t know if I can get by without a cassette deck to play my iPod through.

Car Salesman: Well, this model comes equipped with an auxiliary jack. All you need is a cord to connect your device to the vehicles sound system (flashes slick car salesman grin)

Me: (eyes wide) Really? Cool! Where do I sign?

I’m impressed by everything, from cruise control to tilting/telescopic steering wheels and seats with height adjustment, which is a blessing for those of us who are vertically-challenged. (I’ve spent the last decade sitting on a pillow just so I could see over my steering wheel).

I should take notes from W. James Bragg’s book In the Driver’s Seat: The New Car Buyer’s Negotiating Bible. Bragg breaks down the shopping and buying process, step by step, and arms shoppers with strategies they can use to save money and headaches. Especially relevant (for me at least), is the advice he gives in chapter four about maintain emotional detachment at dealerships: “Heavy breathing should be reserved for more appropriate occasions. In car stores it leads only to heavy payments” (15).

No more gushing in the presence of the dealers. Got it. But I can still gush all I want in private. (That moon roof and that remote start feature are sooo nice …)
Bragg, W. James. In the Driver’s Seat: The New Car Buyer’s Negotiating Bible. Random House, 1993.
Chapman, Lisa Murr. The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Cars. Bantam, 1995.

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