My husband, Rick, and I have a tendency to keep our cars until they almost fall apart, so we started looking for one on the Internet when our old one died. I thought this would be much easier than going from lot to lot, but it’s also more frustrating. For one thing, most of the cars we were interested in were hours away from our house. Also, we couldn’t relocate some that caught our attention, since we were disorganized and didn’t keep good notes at first. Somehow, writing 2010 white LaCrosse wasn’t enough. I should have always jotted down the dealer’s name and the city it was located in.
Although it seemed impossible to find an affordable one that wasn’t dilapidated, we had a nibble here and there, but nothing worked out (although we drove a Buick with such a smooth ride, I was almost willing to accept the dark color and wear and tear). We did talk with a dealer, however, who convinced my husband that American cars can last a long time. And one thing I learned about listings is that they’re not always correct. Sometimes the interior was described as “cloth” when it was actually leather, and occasionally the color was wrong. So look and decide for yourself.
As our need for a second car became more dire, Rick said we should go somewhere on our next day off. I felt the same way, but I didn’t agree with his choice of location or car. Hoping the vehicle in question would seem better in person, I drove with him for an hour one Friday to Mack’s Auto Sales. But as soon as we spotted the lot just off the highway, I feared we’d made a mistake. The cars were parked on dirt and gravel, which made them dusty, and the guy who went to get it smoked while driving back to the small building. (A car reeking of smoke doesn’t make a good impression.) We could hardly breathe. And, even though the car we drove is seven years newer than ours, it seemed older. The passenger’s seat hurt my back, and there just basically wasn’t anything we liked about it.
I studied the Internet that evening and found more prospects. I felt so frustrated that we didn’t know about them earlier, and I wanted to go the next day. Rick wasn’t interested in going out of town again that soon, so I kept searching, in case there was something closer. And a funny thing happened: I couldn’t seem to locate anything suitable besides the ones I’d already jotted down as my favorites. I finally gave up and continued research- ing those, hoping they’d still be there for us when we arrived.
Although I wanted to make the nearly two-hour drive during the week, it just didn’t work out, and it was the next Friday before we went. The price of my favorite dropped one hundred dollars during that time, and I kept thinking, I hope the Park Avenue is still there. I hope the Park Avenue is still there.
When we finally made the trip, we missed the lot and drove on to the next small town, since there wasn’t a visible sign from the highway. When we finally reached our destination, we told them we were interested in their white Park Avenue. It’s a little older than we’d hoped for, but it has features we’d never had in a car, such as a CD player and dual heat/air controls. Since it was closed up, it was really hot, and the A/C blew warm air. We rolled down our windows, trying to get some relief, hoping it was just out of freon. The appearance, leather seats, and features were just what I was looking for, so I was willing to put up with some “oldness” to enjoy a comfortable, nice car. We nearly melted during our test drive, but the owner was accomodating, putting in freon and having someone wash the car. He seemed to assume we were buying it. (I guess they can usually tell. After all the paperwork was completed, we started home in five o’clock Raleigh traffic on a Friday. In two cars. And I was in one I’d never driven before. Crazy. But we made it, and we’re happy with the Park Avenue we bought.
During our search, I made 10 rules concerning what to do if we ever seek another car: 1. Write down description of cars and dealers, including cities, to find them again. 2. Copy the VIN (vehicle identification number). It’s for that car only, and you can enter it on the Internet and go directly to information about it. 3. Look for a free Carfax on the Internet page where the car is listed. If there’s not one, ask the dealer about it if you’re really interested in the car (sometimes they get them for free or for a small amount). Or you can pay $50 for information on five cars. 4. Call ahead. They might air it out, clean it, cool it, and do other things to make your test drive more pleasant, which will give a clearer idea of what the car is like. 5. Remember that mileage is almost as important as the age of the car. 6. Focus on cars you really like, keeping careful records. 7. Remember that no car looks as good as it does on the Internet. Little scratches and dents don’t show up in pictures. 8. Visit in person if practical. Find out if the car feels comfortable and see if the doors open and close easily. 9. Search nice used car lots. New car dealers don’t have much in their inventory more than a couple of years old, and the barely-setup ones don’t usually have good cars. 10. If you need a slightly older one, aim high. The nicer cars aren’t much more than the ones with fewer features, and sometimes the owners take better care of those.
The next time you do a car search, take your time and keep your dreams in front. I hope you find one you’ll enjoy for a long time.