First Solo Experience at Buying Car

When you become single, all the things you previously did as a couple now become solo endeavors. Watch me cross another hurdle on my first solo experience at buying a car.

In my part of the world, owning a car is pretty much a necessity because public transit is lousy. Here’s a big shout out to TransLink, home of overpaid executives. You know there’s got to be a big problem when the TransLink’s CEO, the guy in charge of public transportation in the Greater Vancouver Area of British Columbia, makes more money than Canada’s Prime Minister and the United States President, two guys who are in charge of countries!

Generally speaking TransLink has a lot of overpaid employees and incompetency reigns supreme. How about firing one CEO and keeping him on the payroll until his contract runs out in a couple of years time and hiring another CEO? Two salaries being paid for the top position but only one guy is actually showing up for work. And then there’s the buses and Skytrain (the Greater Vancouver Area’s subway system). It’s inconvenient, it’s expensive, and it’s not well operated.

And can you believe some lousy Translink staff member got tired of holding up the trains for a loose dog running on the track that was spooked by fireworks and sends the train out – killing someone’s beloved pet! Horrendous!

Anyway enough about those incompetent Translink buffoons.

I need a car because public transportation sucks. I also have dogs and horses and all the gear that goes along with them. I need a car to transport everything that’s part of my everyday life.

My first car when I was in high school was a black 1969 Volkswagen Beetle Bug. A real little cutey. I remember the day my father and I bought it from a car dealership. My father, who either knew the salesman or the dealership owner, or perhaps both of them, offered $1000, but I don’t recall their asking price on the Beetle. They said no, so he got up to leave and I followed him out the door. We didn’t get too far away when they called us back and agreed to the price.

While the paperwork was being filled out, another car drove up, and out poured Mr. Brunelle and his two sons. My father knew Brunelle, a high school principal, and I knew the sons from school. The older boy, Dave, had just graduated high school and we’d been in the band together. The salesman went outside to greet them, but the door was open so I could hear what was going on.

“We’d like to take another look at that Beetle my son was interested in,” said Brunelle.

“Oh, sorry, we just sold it,” said the salesman.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to scoot back from the doorway. I don’t think they saw me. I peeked outside a minute later and saw them all looking in the windows of the VW my father had bought.

Oh well.

I drove that Beetle Bug until the engine died about 5 years later.

Most people own a few cars over their lifetime, and I’m no exception. I’ve bought cars through private sales and through dealerships. At first my father was always with me, and then my now ex-husband (better known as the deadbeat). Originally my father did the negotiating when I was car shopping. After that the deadbeat was always with me when I was car shopping. He was good with the mechanical stuff and I was the one who did the dealing.

One thing I learned when buying from a dealership is that they charge a documentation fee to write up their paperwork. I hate that. Why should I pay someone to write up their own papers? I usually bring that up in the negotiations and ask for it to be wiped out. Buying cars privately there’s no documentation fee. The seller and the buyer simply fill out a form available from any insurance office to transfer the title.

I owned a 2003 PT Cruiser Turbo for 5 years. It turned out to be a nicer car that I thought it would be. The back seats somersaulted forward to snug up against the front seats making a large cargo area in the back. Great for dogs and transporting stuff.

The last few months I owned it, there were a few electrical issues happening, that caused the car to stall a few times and started to freak me out. Read this post about my car’s gremlins.

I had to buy another car. A car loan was out for a couple of reasons. I don’t have a full time, good paying job to qualify, and even if I did I don’t like going into debt. The last time I took a car loan out was in 1993 for a Mazda B2200 truck and I paid it off early. Since then I’ve always paid cash.

No car loans this time around either. I’d have to dip into my emergency fund to buy a good used car.

What kind of car? Nothing was on my radar except for a Jeep Wrangler. I’d love to have one but realistically I have no one to help me take the roof on and off. I’d need to get a more practical car. I aimlessly looked through Craigslist ads and checked the inventory of local dealerships. I had a couple of things in mind. I wanted a car 2012 or newer (this was December 2016) nothing older than 5 years. The back seats had to fold down flat so the dogs could travel comfortably back there. A bit of an oddball criteria: nothing older than 2012 and a hatchback where the back was suitable for the dogs.

First Solo Experience at Buying Car

While looking at the website for Preston Chev Olds in Langley, I saw a 2012 Kia Soul that caught my eye. I didn’t like the colour, it was lime green, but everything else including the price, I think was around $11,000, seemed a good fit. I’d driven a Kia Soul before during a 3 day rental and it was a nice car, so I suppose I was looking for something familiar. I’d have bought another Pontiac Vibe or PT Cruiser if they still made them.

On Saturday morning after feeding my horses I headed over to the Langley Bypass where many car dealerships are located. I started at Applewood Kia thinking I might find a used Soul there or get a better understanding of current values. This was an exercise in futility. There wasn’t one single parking spot available! There was nowhere for me, a serious customer with cash to spend, to park my car and look at their cars. I drove through the lot twice and then left and headed to Preston Chev Olds, a few blocks away. Applewood Kia lost a sale because there was nowhere for me to park!

I had no trouble finding a parking spot at Preston, and they probably have the largest land size for their car dealership out of all the car places in Langley. I came inside and the receptionist called a sales rep over. I told him I’d seen their webpage with the 2012 Kia Soul and I’d like to take it for a test drive. He went off to find the keys, returning a couple of minutes later to tell me it had been sold.

Yikes! Flashback to that 1969 VW bug many years before!

I told him I was looking for a 2012 or newer hatchback and the seats had to fold flat. And throw in a good price. Nothing else mattered. Standard shift or automatic, sunroof, interior trim package, stereo, and colour were all irrelevant. He took me out to a couple of cars out in the lot. The first thing we did was open the back doors and fold the seats but neither car’s back seats folded anywhere near flat. My dogs wouldn’t be happy riding back there and putting a saddle and feed bags back there wouldn’t work so well.

We walked back to the building where my car was parked. It was cold outside and I was ready to head home and enjoy a hot chocolate. On the way we ran into another sales rep and my guy asked him if he had any suggestions on a hatchback that had back seats that folded flat.

First Solo Experience at Buying Car

“There’s that 2012 Mazda that I just brought in on a trade,” he says, and added he was sure I could get a good deal on it. He showed us where it was parked, at the back of the lot against the fence. He said it hadn’t been cleaned yet and hadn’t gone through the dealership’s 150 point test. Other than being covered road salt, it looked in good shape and was about the same size as the Pontiac Vibe I’d owned before the PT Cruiser. It was black, so that road grime showed up pretty good. Ironically the last time I’d owned a black car was the VW Bug. My sales rep asked if I’d like to take it for a test drive and I agreed, so he hoofed it back inside to get the keys.

The rep returned and unlocked the car and I wanted to check out the back seats. First thing we had to move garbage around. No kidding. There were Starbucks cups back there and other trash including a piece of wood. The rep again apologized and said the car had just come in and obviously hadn’t been cleaned yet. We got the back seats folded down and they were pretty much flat. Yay! OK I will drive it and see how it goes. The car’s an automatic. My preference would have been a 5-speed manual, but that wasn’t a deal breaker. The car handled nicely and I was comfortable driving it. The sales rep starts pointing out some of the car’s features, even though this was the first time he’s been in the car. Heated leather seats, and he flips it on so I can get the benefit. Hmmm. Very nice with this extreme cold we’ve been having lately. The car was set up for Bluetooth and there was a button on the steering wheel I could answer my phone. Not a big deal to me, but I’d see for a younger guy like him that was probably important.

First Solo Experience at Buying Car

We arrived back at the dealership and I asked him to call me when they’d figured out a price for the car. We can do that right now, he tells me, and hustles me into his office. He leaves to talk to his manager to find out what they’re asking for the Mazda. Meanwhile I pull up Craigslist and see what 2012 Mazda 3 cars are selling for. Anywhere between $8,000 and $13,000, maybe a little higher, depending on the mileage and bells and whistles. The car I was looking at had some nice extras but it also had somewhat high mileage. I think it was around 110,000 km, maybe 115,000.

The other thing going through my head is this is the first time I’ve bought a car solo. “I can do this,” I tell myself. The last 4 cars I’d bought, the deadbeat had been with me but I’d done the negotiating.

It’s still an emotional experience for me. I wish my father (deceased 2015) was with me.

I can do this.

At some point I remember the sales rep asking for the keys to my car so he can check the mileage, because I was going to trade it in. I went with him cause the dogs were inside. I’d told him about the leaky rims and the occasional electric issues, but I know a dealership isn’t going to keep a 2003 car on their lot. They’re going to sell it to someone who parts the car out or maybe they partner with a used dealership that deals with older cars. My strategy was to swap my car for their documentation fee.

Finally, they figure out a price. $12,000. They offer a trade in on my Cruiser for $300. I pull out my phone and show him the Craigslist ads. Including a 2012 Mazda at a dealership about a half hour drive away that was around $9,000. He asks to borrow my phone to show his boss. When we get down to haggling, I tell him I’ll offer $10,500 and tell him I hate their $600 documentation fee and I’d like to do an even swap on that for my trade in. We write it up and he goes back to his sales manager. He returns and says: “We have a deal.”

Part of the deal was they were going to clean up the car and it goes through their test and I’d have 2 weeks to take it to my mechanic for a check. That was Saturday. My car wasn’t ready for me until Tuesday, late afternoon.

Oh and by the way, when I called my mechanic he offered to do a free check and give me a box of chocolates too. Can’t beat that deal!

And there we have it. A year later I’m still very happy with the car.

I did it. My first solo experience buying a car. All on my own! Yay me!

How about you ladies out there? Have you ever gone car shopping by yourself with nothing specific in mind? How did it turn out?


  1. […] When I bought my car, one of the things the dealership was doing for me was putting on a new tire. It took a few weeks of me bugging them before we got it done. While I was in the service center I chatted with the man who booked me in. He told me he’d lost a lot of weight recently and mostly what he’d done was cut out potatoes, pasta, and bread from his diet. No easy feat for an Italian! […]

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