Several years ago, the Hubs and I embarked on a mission, which, for me, nearly ended our relationship. We went car shopping.
Second only to home remodeling, I can’t think of a worse marital activity to engage in together. Last week, we went shopping again. Thankfully, it did not go like the previous two sessions, because if it had, we would probably not be talking to each other.
We shop differently, I like to do my research: safety ratings, reliability and mileage are key. I want to know how it handles on ice, how much stuff I can cram into the trunk and how complicated it is to turn on the radio and heater. Bonus points are given for seat warmers and interesting color choices which make it easier to find in the parking lot.
While we have not discussed it directly, I am certain his criteria involve how fast it can go, how many extra buttons are involved, leather seats and whether or not the vehicle has a hitch on it. Don’t get me wrong, safety, mileage and all those other things are important too — they just are not at the top of the list.
My beloved Saturn turned 17 this year. Given the chance, I would have purchased another one. It was not a fancy car, but it was reliable, good on slick roads and got me wherever I needed to go. Minimal repairs were ever needed, and with over 300,000 miles on her, she still runs well. However, her air conditioning and heating system is faltering, the driver’s seat is collapsing and the roof lining is sagging. She has started to overheat when idling and the poor dear is just about done in. I will miss her.
Thus, the shopping trip.
I am not a fan of shopping for autos. I set out to purchase my first brand new vehicle, at the ripe age of 29 — it was a gift to myself for the upcoming birthday. I had a list of vehicles, all different brands and I set out to see which one provided enough leg room, safety features and a FM radio. It was a pretty minimal list of requirements.
The first dealership I went to, I pulled in, driving my 1976 butterscotch-hued Mustang. As I got out of the car, the salesman took one look at me and the car, jerked his thumb toward his shoulder and informed me “used cars are in the back”. Instead of correcting him of my intent, I just got back in the car and left. LeSabres were off the list.
The next place I went, the youngest salesman was assigned to me, I had a laundry list of questions regarding safety features, which he could not answer; instead of explaining anti-lock brakes, he very enthusiastically tried to sell me on the marvel of a built in, lighted make-up mirror. Lumina’s were scratched.
I went to the largest dealership in the area; upon asking about one of the cars I was interested in, the salesman suggested I return with my boyfriend or father before I took a test drive. Escorts and the Taurus went down in flames as choices.
I knew if I had lousy service even before I bought the car, the service afterward would be even worse if there was even a problem. Sadly, I was being treated like a mindless twit at each of the dealerships.
The Saturn was the last car on my list. When I went to that dealership, I was glum and resigned to keeping my money sucking, found-on-road-dead car for a bit longer. I was pleasantly surprised when the saleswoman, took my questions seriously, explained additional safety features I was not aware of, offered basic maintenance classes and even showed a less expensive vehicle with more legroom. I was blown away. A few hours later, I was the proud owner of a sassy copper-colored SC2. I loved that car and would probably still be driving it if she had not been totaled nearly a decade later.
Thankfully, our most recent shopping experience was nothing like the tribulations of years ago, we did, in fact, receive exceptional service for which I am appreciative and quick to give credit to the company.
So much so, that car shopping is no longer compared to the experience of sitting on an anthill. I would, in fact, be willing to return there in the future — which is the best recommendation a car company could ask for, even if they don’t show you the make-up mirror.
Written and submitted by Sarah Roush for The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.