The Purchase that Nearly Did Me In

Foreign Service LifeMinnesota
June 14, 2011

Last week was stressful.  So stressful, in fact, that I couldn’t even write about it until today when all the residual stress had been massaged out of me.  And what, you might ask, had me in such a state of misery?  USED CAR SHOPPING, that’s what.

I’m sure some of you think that may sound fun, but I’m here to assure you that in these market conditions and with our specific needs, it was most definitely not.  Please allow me to elaborate.

The Market Conditions

First, this market’s used car inventory is non-existent.  I’m talking no inventory like you can’t even find the specific car you want to test drive in the metro area (ex: 2010 Elantra Touring).  Certain cars just don’t exist and if by some miracle the car you want shows up at a dealership, you better run over there within the next hour or you can bet it’s going to be gone.  No lie, I can’t even count on one hand the number of times I showed up at a dealership about a listing I had found that day on Craig’s List or AutoTrader only to find out it had sold that morning or the night before.  Can we say frustrating??  It totally reminded me of that nutty period in the housing market where houses were all going on the market and selling in a day.  You all remember that?  Hope you weren’t one of the unfortunate ones trying to buy at that time…

Secondly, prices were insanely inflated because cars were flying out the door and there was limited inventory.  I was an Economics major, so I know that when supply is low and demand is constant that price is going to rise.  Bad timing for us.

Finally, I must have had schmuck written on my forehead because no one would take me seriously.  What’s so strange about a pregnant woman shopping for a car alone? (FYI, Nick’s still in Manila)  They kept unleashing the interns on me which pissed me off.  I always made sure to casually drop the fact that I wanted to buy TODAY WITH CASH.  That seemed to help.

The Husband’s Conditions

Oh, but wait!  I haven’t even told you about the stipulations I had to agree to up front in order to be able to have the ‘privilege’ of getting to choose our family’s next vehicle.  You see, Nick had poured over 300 hours into car research and really wanted to pick the car himself, but our circumstances were such that I’d arrive 7 weeks ahead of him in Minnesota and would need a car during that time.  So, like any good married couple, we made an agreement.  He would select 10 crossovers or small SUV’s for me to pick from and I would test drive all of them and pick my favorite from the lot.

Seemed like a good deal and I was actually excited about my important role at one point.  That is, until I learned of the additional ‘requirements’ and realized how near-impossible it would be to find a car that fit those specs in this market.

Please allow me to share the ‘requirements’:

  1. The car must be one of the 10 given
  2. The car must be a 2008 or newer (Peru’s rule – they don’t want you importing old cars that you’ll dump there)
  3. The car cannot have previously been a rental car
  4. The car cannot have more than 40,000 miles on it
  5. The car cannot have been in an accident and should ideally have had 1 owner only
  6. The car’s price must be negotiated such that one pay no more than $15,000 out the door (that includes tax, title, license and all fees).

Ummm… can we say nightmare?  Happily, I am pleased to report that after 5 days of non-stop car shopping, numerous middle of the night phone calls to Manila and lots of sobbing… that I did manage to find a car.

The miracle happened at 2 PM on Friday.  I called about a car that was on our list (I was in the habit of calling first now to make sure the car was still actually there).  I inquired about this specific car with the sales guy and was told it had sold the day before.  Just as I was about to hang up he said, “Wait, let me check on one thing.”  5 minutes later he came back on the line and said that the woman’s financing hadn’t gone through, so the car was up for sale again.  YAHOO!

So what did I do?  I jumped in my mom’s car and sped the 30 miles to the dealer, all the while praying that this was going to be my lucky break.  Thankfully, it was still there so after a quick test drive I snatched it up on the spot.

And here’s what we ended up with:

Make/Model: 2009 Kia Rondo

Mileage: 36,000

Out the Door Price: Just shy of 15k

Please also note that it was one of the 10 on the list AND it was a single-car owner that had no accidents.  Not too shabby, if I say so myself…

The Saga Continues

I’d love to tell you that there’s a happy ending to this story, but honestly, we’re not sure about that yet.  Rewind to me happily driving home in my new purchase on Friday night.  I’m cruising along on the highway and notice all of a sudden that my wheel is shaking intensely once I cross 65 mph (a speed I had not gone to on the test drive because the guy was in the car with me and I didn’t feel comfortable gunning it).  I called the salesman the next morning, told him about the problem and asked if they’d fix it for free.  He said it was probably a simple tire balance/realignment issue and scheduled me for an appointment tomorrow (6/15).  I then asked if the problem couldn’t be remedied with the re-balancing if they’d take the car back.  And that was a big fat NO.  Suffice to say I wasn’t feeling so hot about my selection anymore.

So… if you could all kindly say a prayer that this simple tire balancing will do the trick tomorrow I’d be most appreciative.  Because honestly, I would really like to stop expending all my energy worrying about this car and start enjoying my friends and family.


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  1. Daniela says:

    OMG – so stressful! I sincerely hope the re-balancing does the trick.

  2. Selina says:

    I’m praying, I’m praying! And no matter what happens, CONGRATULATIONS on finding that car, girl! You had more conditions than anyone could be reasonably expected to fulfill in the today’s used-car market. ENJOY the car!

    Big fat hugs + all my love :-)

  3. Sarah Novak says:

    Me too Daniela!

  4. Sarah Novak says:

    Thanks Sel- I need it. I’ve been so stressed these last few weeks. Haven’t reached out to anyone because I’ve been so engrossed in this process. I just want it to be over. I’ll send you a note later this week! PS – you were in one of my dreams recently! Miss ya. Sarah

  5. naomi says:

    (we had a Kia … and LOVED LOVED LOVED it!)…. hope your saga is now ended? (I’m late to catching up with my google reader)

  6. Sarah Novak says:

    Not quite yet, but hopefully soon!

  7. Lindsay says:

    My car had a similar issue when I bought it and the tire rebalancing fixed it right up!! I hope the same thing works for you!!

  8. JIll says:

    Oh, my dear. I have had MANY horrible used-car-shopping-experiences. Just walking onto a used car lot makes my stomach turn. The worst was about 15 years ago in California when the sales guy started YELLING at my because I didn’t want the car he had available. I will certainly PRAY that wheel alignment is your car’s issue and that your beautiful new auto will be just what Nick ordered. :D He seriously owes you for this “assignment”!

  9. Mary says:

    It should be the wheel alignment/balancing. I had the same problem with my previous vehicle, 2002 Honda Odyssey. I bought the vehicle brand new. After about 50K, my steering wheel would shudder if I go about 70 mph. I took it back for repairs since I was still under warranty. And after wheel alignment and balancing, it stopped the shuddering. Good luck on your situation, keep us posted on the results.

  10. Sarah Novak says:

    Good news! It was an alignment/balancing problem! I’m so relieved. It does look like we’ll need new tires in the next 6 months though because they’ve worn differently due to the balance problem. Nothing we can’t handle though. It looks like this saga may finally be over!!!

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