The Loh Life

Car Talk, part 3: Used Cars

Sandra Tsing Loh needs a new car, and doesn't really care what it looks like.

So because my car died, and I have a new job with a big Pasadena to Orange County commute, I had just five days to secure a vehicle-any vehicle.

I could conceivably afford a new car, perhaps like one of those cool new Ford C-MAX hybrids, but I can't accept the idea of spending almost $30,000 on a car.  I just don't love cars that much.  It's similar to how reluctant I am to spend more than ten dollars on a bottle of wine, or more than 30 dollars on a steak.  I know Kobe beef is tender, but seventy dollars?  Is there really 70 dollars worth of enjoyment in it?  Particularly when paired with a 10 dollar bottle of wine?

And how much are you supposed to LOVE your car, anyway?  And what does it really matter?  I mean, If I have to drive to work or pick up my children, what?  I'm not going to go because I don't "like" my car??

So I decide I will buy - because as opposed to a few years ago, the market is flooded with them - a used Prius.  This is good because I actually don't LIKE Priuses.  When I drove a friend's Prius once, I couldn't see out of its much too fussy back window.

"Though whatever you do," she says, "don't get a silver Prius.  No one can tell them apart, including my husband and me.  It's embarrassing.  We're always trying to open other people's cars."

So I prepared to head to a dealership to face down... a used car salesman.

A couple of tips, for those who haven't done this in a while.

First, before going, you should visit the dealer's website, to do a little browsing.  When you visit said website, within seconds an attractive young lady wearing a headset will pop onto your screen.  She will introduce herself, "Hi, I'm Carla," and invite you to join her in a live chat - ?  And that is not a real person, as you can tell by her repetition of "And what COLOR Prius would you like?  Sandra?"  Just to make your used car experience feel that much sleazier.

When you do get a real used car salesman on the phone, note when they say $17,000, they actually mean $17,999 which, with tax, actually means $21,000.  It's like my saying I weigh 115.999 pounds.

So I wasn't worried.  I knew all the tricks.  But then a particularly savvy Toyota salesman in the Valley played me like a Stradivarius and I lost my head.

Next week: Fear and loathing at Keys Toyota.


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