Sunday, June 06, 2004

Adventures in Car Buying

First of all, Happy Birthday to Trench - This was actually a few days ago, and I left a goofy ass message on his phone, but hope it was good. I was racking my brains about what to get him, and then I lost all my money, so it was all moot anyhow. It's hard to think about buying something for someone who's getting rid of everything. Happy Belated Birthday anyhow!

So, our weekend was more exciting than we expected it to be! We had planned on going to the car auction just to get a feel of how it operates, and what the selection is like. Even when my father-in-law offered to loan us some money to get a car, we were half-way expecting not to get anything. I overprepared by getting a used car guide and reading it up on the internet, even enrolling in Carfax, which goes through databases and tells you every specific car's history. So, that was about 30 bucks plunked just on research, which in all reality, did nothing much in the end. It was like reading up a bunch of Nancy Drew novels and then trying to be a detective - completely irrelevant.

We did get our first wish - it was a rainy day and therefore, the assumption would be that people would not turn up as much. Well, let's just say that I would hate to be at the car auction on a sunny day. My wife and I also had our little guy in tow, and he was generally tolerant of all the ruckus, though the auctioneer's spotters (I'm creating lingo because I don't know what else they would be called.), folks who yell out a indistinct, " YEAP!" when they see a bidder that the auctioneer doesn't immediately spot, scared Alex quite a bit because they would just go, "YEAP!" and I'd feel him leap out of his skin.

We had our eyes on some newer minivans, but they were really nice and we'd expect them to bid top dollar. To our surprise, they didn't really go for that much. A 98 Town and Country with leather interior and two sliders ended up with the winning bid of just $4600, or something like that. That is definitely a place to go if you're looking for a used vehicle. So anyway, my pessimistic nature told me to move on, because those were just too new for our pocketbooks.

We finally found some older minivans, and we checked out the interiors, exteriors, etc, and pretended we knew what we were doing. After jotting down the VIN numbers, I ran home and ran the numbers on Carfax, and then ran back. In my mind I was thinking, "I hope my wife bids if she has to in my absence." My wife told B, who was along to observe and offer moral support, that she wasn't going to bid until I came back.

Well, I came back in plenty of time, and we all gasp at the amazing giveaways the cars were bidding for. I observed how it was done, and came to the conclusion that waving and jumping around wasn't an option. After about an hour or an hour and a half (time actually flew, the auctions are actually quite exciting in a weird way.) or standing around in the rain, we had to narrow it down to one vehicle. A Ford Windstar, which was a couple years younger, and our choice, the Toyota Previa. It was a tough decision, because The Windstar was up for bidding before the Toyota, so if we passed up the Windstar, we wouldn't get a second chance. The Toyota was it.

I have to say, I intellectualized the process a bit. A trick I learned from Ebay was that if you wanted the item, don't bid on it till the last minute. Early bidding only boosts up the price, and last minute bidding will be closer to what you're budgeting for. But all that thinking didn't help with other unaccounted people. The auctioneers usually start off high, like $2000 or so. Then when there's no response, they drop it down to $1500, and then even less. Another person who was interested jumped at the $1500, and sealed it at that. It was going to start from there.

I'm proud of myself because I stuck to my plan - it got bumped up to 1600, and I waited. And waited. Once the auctioneer said, "Last call," my arm shot up. The other person bid. I bid again. The other person bid. I bid again. It was slowly approaching our budget of $2000 - that was quitting point no matter what.

"2000. We're looking for 2000... 1950. 1950. Last call. And sold, to the gentleman for 1900."

It all happened in less than in instant, and my adrenaline was going through the top of my rain-soaked cap. My butt cheeks were sweaty, and my heart was pounding. And we had a brand new old ass minivan. And the feeling was sensational. The fact that we didn't spend more than 10 minutes looking at that car didn't matter, and the fact that with everything, it was actually costing us $2300 didn't matter, it just mattered that I had rocked the house with my little victory. The fact that my wife was so thoroughly impressed with me didn't help. I felt like the king of the used car lot.

Driving it home was interesting. Barely any gas in it, no wiper fluid, and it died on me once. I cleaned the interior today and Frebrezed the hell out of it, and sure enough, it had 12 years of dirt all nestled in the minivan. But overall, it is in good shape. We're pretty proud of ourselves. Alex really digs the minivan too because now he can look out the window. He was all smiles yesterday when we drove around town in our victory ride.

Now watch it not start tomorrow.

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