Sunday, August 01, 2010

Car excitement! Part 1: Buying the new car.

So I finally got a new car! (Well, a new to me car.) I am super psyched as I am quite pleased with myself with both the deal I got on buying it, and what I was able to get for my old car. But one thing at a time.

1. The New Car

New car is a 2003 Pontiac Grand Am. It's bigger than the Chevy Cavalier I had but gets the same mileage, and has remote start and cruise control, which were 2 things I was dying for. It is also in much better shape than the Cavalier was (since I haven't run it into anything yet) and doesn't have any body damage or any other major problem. However, the reason I was able to afford it is that it has a rebuilt salvage title. I bought it from a small town dealer who did some detective work and found out that the reason it has this title is because it went in to a dealership in Lima, OH for an oil change, and somebody forgot to tighten something, and all the oil leaked out. Well, the engine seized, and since that is an expensive repair job, whoever owned the car opted to just get the cash for it from the insurance company and turned it over to insurance. Any time that happens, it automatically gets a salvage title. It seems that someone at the dealership, probably one of the mechanics, then bought the car back from the insurance company and replaced the engine. They then sold it to someone else three weeks later, and that person drove it for two years before selling it to a dealer near the one I bought it from, who sold it to my dealer. Somewhere along the line the remote start and cruise control were added aftermarket.

So that's the Grand Am's story. Having a rebuilt salvage title means that I got a great deal on it, but it will also sell for less when I want to sell it down the line. I'm hoping that I can get many years out of this car before that happens, and also hoping that I don't make the stupid mistakes I made with the Cavalier. (I put $1700 into the Cavalier in November to fix its transmission. I just sold it for $1200. Dumb.)

Overall I am very pleased with the car. I had wanted a bigger car that was easier to drive on the highway because Boyfriend and I frequently drive the three hours home to see our families, and this month will be driving both home and to Michigan to see some friends who recently moved there, so lots of highway driving. Boyfriend doesn't want me to drive his car (and if you'd seen the Cavalier's body damage, you wouldn't want me to drive your car either) however since I am perfectly happy to drive long distances, it makes more sense for me to do the driving, and so we used to rent a car whenever we'd be driving a long enough distance that we needed to trade off. I'm over 25 now so it doesn't cost as much as it used to, but still a good $40 a day for a nice car after all the taxes and what not.

This was actually the first car we saw - I tried to make an appointment to see a 2004 Malibu off Craigslist but the guy balked when I said that I would like to take it to a mechanic. Well, more accurately, he said it was fine, and then when I called him back to make a specific appointment, he said that "my wife and I" had thought it over and thought it wasn't a good idea, but I could bring the mechanic there. Nuh uh. If someone won't let you take the car to a mechanic, they know there's something wrong with it. The guy also claimed that he had multiple others interested in it with just a test drive and were willing to pay cash (what was I willing to pay with, fresh live lobsters?) so he was taking a pass on showing it to me. I took great satisfaction in seeing this car appear on Craigslist day after day - the last listing was for $600 less than it was originally listed for (at $3600) so I guess those multiple others didn't exactly pan out.

I also found this car on Craigslist, but it was listed by a small dealership literally called Just 2 Guys Selling Cars. I am not kidding, and I wrote that on the check. They said they had had a number of people out to see it but that everyone was scared by the rebuilt title. I was a little nervous, because many of the Cavalier's problems were directly related to having been in a crash (one time, the frame had to be tightened, and we had to replace items you should never have to replace, such as the circuit board that runs the turn signals) but they exhaustively went over what they had found out about the car and they were very certain it had never actually been in a crash. They took it to apparently every car place in town to get its electronics checked, the body checked at a body shop, oil changed, etc. So I felt pretty confident.

It was listed at $3500 but I asked if they would be willing to take $3200, and they did some numbers and said they could do $3600 total including tax, title, etc. That works out to about $3300 for the car itself so I was pleased with that. What really floored me though is that I said that I was transferring money out of savings and my parents were sending me a check, so would it be possible to put down a deposit and I'd bring them cash on Friday and pick up the car? And they said, Nah, just write us a check now and call us when we can deposit it. I was totally floored as I have never had anyone take a check in a situation like that. They also said that if I wanted to take it to a mechanic and I found something I didn't like, that I could just bring it back and they would tear up the check. I was very impressed by their not acting like I am a scam artist out to get them and that they were willing to stand behind the car if something was wrong. So they will definitely be getting my business in the future when we need another car. If you're in the central Ohio area, the dealer is in Groveport, OH and their website is

Numerous times over the next few days, Boyfriend would drive the car and say how pleased he was and that he thought we got a good deal. I am also very pleased with myself and feel that my obsessive-shopping approach saved us both time and money. I had been looking at cars on Craigslist for the past month, so it is not by accident that we saw this particular car. I looked up KBB values and Edmunds reviews on all the models I was interested in so I knew it was a good deal. I am willing to accept the risk inherent with a rebuilt salvage title, and with a replaced engine in general, and feel that for the price I got, I will be happy even if the car only lasts a few years.

To keep this post from being 9 million words long, tune in next time for exciting tales of meeting strange men in church parking lots! (To show them the Cavalier.)


Nita Stelling said...

Even if it's a year late, I would still like to congratulate you on your new car! Just by reading your post, one can really feel the excitement and thrills you got after owning that car. Same goes with anyone who had just bought his or her new car. You love that car a lot, don't you? Are you still drivin' that one or do you have a new already? Hmm.

Madeline Joyce said...

It is common occurrence that the first dealer we talk with will not provide our desired vehicle. I actually jumped from one dealer to another just to find a trustworthy one that would let me “investigate” properly. You’re lucky that the guys who sold you your Grand Am run their business right.

Madeline Joyce