Buying a car today….

Some people, I hear, go car shopping for fun. Apparently they actually enjoy going for a “test drive” and chatting it up with the salespeople. They like “looking under the hood.”

I don’t like car shopping. I don’t even enjoy driving — I tolerate it. I can tell that my Volkswagen handles better than my Plymouth, and so some people would say the VW is more “fun” to drive. It isn’t more fun, it’s just less bad. Let’s face it, driving sucks. If I knew for certain I could safely teleport anywhere within, say, 50 miles of here, I’d no sooner own a car than a rocket ship.

If my teleporter’s range was limited to 50 miles, I might still need to drive sometimes, but in those rare instances, I’d rent.

Unfortunately, I can’t teleport, and our public transportation system out here in the suburbs is practically worthless, so I own a car. One of those cars (unfortunately the “less bad” one), is dying, so I have to get a new one. Today is the appointed day.

Here’s the problem. I’d like to get a high-mileage car. The highest-mileage car sold in America is the Toyota Prius. Priuses are starting to get a reputation as “show cars” that rich suburbanites use to publicly proclaim that they’re “ecologically correct.” I think it’s a shame that we don’t have more high-mileage cars to choose from in America. In the rest of the world, you can get high-mileage diesels for much less money than a hybrid costs. But since diesel fuel is so hard to come by in the U.S., they aren’t available here.

I don’t especially care what sort of judgments people make about me based on my car. I happen to know that my car isn’t even my worst ecological sin — it’s my travel bug. My family adds many more greenhouse gases to the environment each year due to air travel than due to driving. But what the heck, it’s a start.

What really sucks about going to buy a Prius is that the salesperson knows they’ve got what everyone wants. They’ve got you over a barrel. There’s no negotiation, there’s their price or your reputation as an ecologically correct modern American.

On the other hand, it does mean I don’t have to kick myself about not negotiating a better deal with the salesperson. I know there’s no dealing to be done. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.

P.S. Yes, I know about the Civic Hybrid. It doesn’t get as good mileage and doesn’t have as much room as a Prius. But I might hint to the Toyota saleperson that I’m also looking at Civics.

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3 Responses to Buying a car today….

  1. Pat says:

    I haven’t done the math, but do the hybrids deliver that much better mileage than a comparably-sized petrol burner? As you note, you definitely pay for the image/statement, so if there isn’t huge fuel savings, I think the payback period for a hybrid may be quite awhile (though high fuel prices obviously shorten this).

    Would another possibility be to get a high mpg conventional car with an eye toward selling/trading it when there are more hybrid (or gasp, fully electric) alternatives? Or are the environmental costs too staggering?

    I also dread purchasing vehicles, but recently agreed to help my folks buy a Toyota minivan. Before they changed their minds, it looked like internet selling would reduce some of the hassle. This was last month, near the end of the model year, and my folks were not buying a hot hybrid, so I think multiple dealers in northeast Ohio had inventory to move. Only received initial quotes, which shockingly, were identical to the dollar, but I think the internet can reduce the haggling/waiting around in the showroom costs.

  2. dave says:

    Well, we ended up getting a Prius. Yeah, we could have saved money with a Civic or something, but without diesel, it’s a definite step down in mileage. The best you can do is the mid 30s, while a Prius can get up to about 45 MPG.

    There were exactly two Priuses on the lot, so we definitely did not have a lot of negotiating power. But as I said, sometimes that can be empowering….

  3. Jordan says:

    You simply have to be able say ‘no, thanks at that price’ at least once to the dealer. This gives them a strong message that you are serious about your research.

    You should also bring a piece of paper to the dealership and make sure you do all the math of the finance calculations yourself. The point is not that they will do the math wrong. The point is you will see exactly how the deal is structured. Do not be afraid to take the time to do this or look like a fool for mapping out your car deal in the dealership.

    My dad swears by this process,

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