My car is 12 years old. That's not that old. Okay, in dog years, it's 84, but my dog doesn't drive the car.
I've been getting a lot of pressure from family and friends to get a new one. They're probably right. More and more expensive things are starting to go wrong with it. So, every once in a while, I test drive a few cars and seriously think about buying one. But whenever I feel myself getting really tempted to get a new car, I get my old one washed instead. It looks shiny, and I forget about a new car for a while.
I hate the process of buying a car. They let you drive around the block while the salesperson is jabbering away about emissions and service packages, and then you're supposed to decide if you want to buy something that costs twice as much as the house you grew up in. I don't want to hear about the alleged gas mileage, which parts of the engine are made of aluminum, or that the interior colors are called, "shale, taupe, and biscuit." And I certainly don't want to hear, "I'll have to talk to my manager about this."
Deep down, I must know that it's time for me to get a new car. I've noticed lately that sometimes I'll leave it unlocked. I've also taken to parking it in that dangerous foul ball territory during my daughter's softball games. And I no longer think it's cute that I can't always open the rear driver's side door.
So, what's really stopping me from buying a new one? I hate to bargain. I really hate to bargain. Why can't buying a car be like buying a shirt? An expensive shirt with cup holders. Why can't they treat it like every other product -- just put a price tag on new cars, and let that be what it really costs? All I can think of while the salesperson is going through the motions of writing all those figures on that white pad is, "Just tell me the price. I know you already know!" I'm not good at pretending that I'm going to leave and never come back unless they give me the car for a dollar less. And I can't stand them asking me, "Are you prepared to buy it today at this price?" They don't ask me that in the shoe store.
I know some people love to negotiate and are thrilled when they think they've gotten a bargain. They view the deal as a battle with a winner and a loser. For them, it's fun. Not for me. I assume the salesperson is better at selling than I am at buying. I also assume that I'm probably better than he or she is at some other things. So, it's not about my ego. I don't feel I have to vanquish the car dealer. I don't feel any more manly if I get them to throw in free floor mats. In fact – don't tell the car dealers in my area – but if it would get me out of the showroom a couple of minutes faster, I'd probably be willing to pay a few extra bucks. I know that's not how you're supposed to play the game, so I keep postponing the game.
But that's silly. I'll bet I can be just as good a bargainer as anybody else. I can pretend I'm interested when they talk about overhead cams and torque. I could tell them with a straight face that I've gotten prices from five different dealers. It will be worth it, because, let's face it, there's nothing like a new car. It smells fantastic, everything works, and it's fun to drive. You feel good just looking at it. The more I think about it, there's absolutely no reason for me to put it off anymore. Tomorrow I'm definitely going to go shopping for a new car. I'll go first thing in the morning. Well, either that, or I'll go get my old one washed.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver
Copyright 2003 CBS. All rights reserved.