Sandra Tsing Loh finds a car.
I know all of today's used car salesmen tricks.
I know when you troll for cars on a car dealer's website and a helpful blonde named Debby pops up on your screen offering an online chat? That isn't a real Debby. I know when they say a car's price is $17,000, it's $17,999 plus fees and tax, which equals about 21K. I know they're always trying to upsell you.
But then, I sail into Keyes Toyota - On that gleaming auto corridor on Van Nuys Boulevard - ? Nicer than a Hyatt, it has a soaring atrium and state-of-the-art cappuccino machine? Anyway, I sail in and declare I'll spend no more than $15,000 for a 2010 Prius - which is low, but I want to show them I'm a tough customer -
And imagine my shock when they say, "Well this car is $18,000 and that one's $16,000 but, hey, this one's perfect for you! $11,999!" It's a 2007 with 101,000 miles on it, but then, I turn the corner and...
It's shiny and pert and has sporty wheels, and it's red! And way, way under budget. I'm gurgling with glee! It takes me five minutes to turn it on with the push-button ignition and strange tiny gear shift and beeping rearview camera -
But, feeling lucky, I go further.
"Instead of $11,999, I'll give you 10K!" I declare. And amazingly, the salesman counters with $10,999! Woohoo! I am printing money!
I buy it on the spot!
It is while waiting in the gleaming Keyes Toyota atrium, sipping my frothy cappuccino, examining the cool lavender Trek shoes I got recently at Costco - whose left rubber sole, just two weeks in, is weirdly starting to peel back? - that the doubts come to roost on my shoulders like crows. Crows that, at this moment, are probably pooping on my car.
Why did the salesman cave so quickly? Why do I act so impulsively? Why don't I ever think before I leap? Just that morning, I was listening to Pandora, a nice mellow acoustic Celtic tune. Charmed by the opening, I bent down to press "like" and - I kid you not - THAT'S WHEN THE BAGPIPES STARTED. "Oh my God!" I thought. "I've 'liked' bagpipes into my Pandora stream! It's forever slimed!" I wanted to take back my "like," but it was too late!
And then, I discover the reason for my doubts. I am informed that, when a car crosses 100,000 miles (my car has 101,000), there is no "certified pre-owned guarantee." No warranty. I frown on warranties, but I'd like to at least be offered one. Not here. They're literally saying: "100,000 miles? You're on your own! The engine falls out, and we'll laugh! And make another cappuccino!"
Next week: True Carmaggeddon!