Joe Blundo: A vision quest


First Posted: 1/30/2015

Notes on buying a used car:

Deputized by daughter to find her a car.

In theory, dads have mechanical expertise. Me? I struggle with windshield-wiper controls.

Type of car dictated by budget, biases, Consumer Reports rating system. Combining all three narrows down choice to 2005 Toyota Corolla.

Period.

Tends to frustrate salespeople, but at least they can’t say I lack focus.

First question: Craigslist or dealership?

Craigslist seems more adventurous. Some ads have phrases such as “just needs transmission,” ” engine disassembled but all parts in trunk” and “want this truck out of my life NOW!”

Decide to go to dealership.

Ever notice how many people work at big car dealerships? Seems like thousands.

One guy opens front door for customers. Another offers coffee. Third scatters rose petals at my feet.

Must be a connection between sensory overload and purchasing decision. Dealerships bombard customers with color: flags, banners, balloons. Is this a car lot, or did I stumble into the Republican National Convention?

Some things have changed since I last bought in 2002. Old car-buying problem: not enough information. New car-buying problem: too much information.

Salespeople hand me detailed vehicle histories. Is three-owner car with low mileage better than one-owner car with high mileage? Former rental car good or bad? Will car that seems to have been driven only from January through April in Florida be too wimpy for Midwest winter?

Try to project image of hard-to-please customer but love every car I test-drive — so clean and uncluttered. Consider buying car on condition that whoever detailed it will also detail my garage.

One problem with spotless used car: Makes you think it’s new. Minor flaws — wear on steering wheel, scuffed-up gas pedal — become more disturbing. Shatters fantasy, contributes to indecision.

Search goes on for weeks. Finally locate perfect car: 2005 Toyota Corolla.

Well, almost perfect: Has fogged-up headlight lens.

Dealership offers additional $50 off. Through tough negotiation, get $100 off. Congratulate myself until I learn cost of replacing headlight lens: $247.

Do it myself? Would actually have to remove front bumper to replace lens. I’d rather remove own appendix.

Still, mission accomplished: everyone satisfied, car warm and secure in my garage.

Kind of sad that daughter will be driving it away. Just figured out how to work windshield wipers.

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