Buying a New Car

2 09 2012

Warning:  This event turned out to be a harrowing experience for us, which I have retold here in a rather lengthy post.  I’m sorry about that.  If you are not interested in cars, nor have been through the drama of purchasing one, then perhaps this post will be of no interest to you.

If, however, your own experience is synonymous with the term ‘harrowing’ then you may find this tale thoroughly enjoyable.  May I suggest a hot cuppa and two gingernuts as a side serving to this story.


Since arriving in Perth five months ago we have been driving a 1996 Suzuki two-door jeep that was kindly loaned to us by one of Roger’s mates.  However, having leaned on the charity of our friend for long enough, we decided to begin the hunt for a new set of wheels.  The six weeks following this decision have been the most stressful, indecisive and frustrating weeks of our lives.  Buying a car, for us, has been more taxing than getting married, buying our first home or moving countries three times!  This is our tale.

It began one Friday afternoon in our studio flat while Roger was trawling through the Gumtree website, WA’s version of E-Bay.

“What’s our price range?” called Roger from the sunny balcony.

“$3,000. Not a penny more dear,” I replied firmly.

Disappointed that the figure did not contain another zero, Roger let out a long sigh and continued to sift through the bargain buys – the dregs that no one wanted anymore.  He soon stumbled across a metallic green Daewoo Matiz that had just been listed for $2,500.00.  It was very tidy, had low kms, was a bargain and Kiri had fallen in love with it.

We struggled through rush-hour traffic to the other side of Perth and pulled up outside the owner’s house, the little Kermit coloured car sitting gleaming happily in the sun.  A small rotund and very friendly lady approached us as we walked across the driveway.  “Oh I’m so sorry.  After I hung up from you, we sold it and I didn’t have your number to call you back.”  Disheartened, we returned home while Roger admonished himself for stalling, putting it down to old age.  He had never missed out on a deal like that before in his life.  Not when it came to cars.  He was an expert after all, didn’t I know!

The next vehicle to appear on Roger’s radar was a 2004 VW polo which had suffered badly in the hail storms of 2009.  Apart from the shell looking like a golf ball with all its dents and divets, it had only done 80,000kms and was a bargain at $4,500.00.  While I was reluctant to fork out the extra money, Roger insisted on checking it out.  He arranged to see the vehicle which was located on a small hobby farm at the bottom of the hills east of Perth.  Although the owner was at work, he left the car open for Roger to have a good dig around.  He found that in addition to the numerous pockmarks, the car was also filled with hay and was being used to transport horse feed around the property.  As he leaned on the car to assess if the interior was salvageable with a good valet, a tingling sensation moved up his forearm.  Looking down he noticed a regiment of fire ants marching boldly up his arm.  He flung himself backwards from the car, frantically flicking and flapping his arms.  And having also noticed them climbing up over his work boots, he stomped and pranced about like a clumsy river dancer in steel-capped  , while two horses in a nearby paddock looked on with their big horsey eyes, chewing their straw.

Once home, Roger badgered me about buying the car, adamant that it was a steal for the price and mileage, and would only take a couple of tins of Mortein and a few hours of elbow grease to clean it up.  I was unconvinced.  I was not prepared to bust open our budget for an ant infested golf ball.  However, Roger is the expert in these matters, and I left him to make the decision.  He offered the seller $4000 firm which he didn’t accept, and I wouldn’t let him offer any more.

So it was back to the Gumtree and within two days Roger discovered a 1998 Skoda Roomster 1.9 turbo diesel for sale.  He told me how Brits had laughed and made jokes at Skoda’s expense in the mid 80’s (What do you call a Skoda with a sunroof? A skip), but that of late they had been reinvented through their merge with Volkswagen Audi.

We contacted the owner and arranged to view the car that night.  Roger was pleasantly surprised, and not an ant or hay bale in sight.  The seller made his sales pitch and Roger nodded appreciatively at the fuel economy, the condition of the car, the overall look and especially that it was unusual.

Meanwhile I kicked at the ground and grumbled under my breath to myself about the price ($12,500.00).  But, since Roger was the expert in these matters, I kept quiet.

On his nod, we shook hands with the owner, wished him a pleasant evening and made our way home.  “I like it. I want it, it’s a steal for that price,” Roger murmured in his best Gollum voice.  I was confused.  I didn’t understand why we driving home without having made a deal.

While Roger is the expert in these matters, he is also known for being a tight-arse.  This is a man who reuses the same teabag twice.  He was going to play “the game” and hold out to see how much lower he could get the Roomster for.  Very shrewd, I thought.

The next night, while browsing through the Gumtree after work he noticed the Roomster listing was gone.  “Shit, shit, shit!” he complained thumping on the computer keys.  “Where’s my phone?”  In two seconds he was breathing heavily into the mouthpiece, asking the seller politely why the ad had been removed.  Of course it was obvious, the guy had sold it.  Roger looked like he’d been slapped with a wet kipper.  Again he put his dilly-dallying down to old age.  “This would never have happened to me two years ago.  I’m off my game.  I’m losing my touch!” he grizzled and moaned, and then went back to the Gumtree.

By now, in case you hadn’t noticed, the initial budget of $3,000 had quadrupled in about three weeks.  And it was two days after this that we found ourselves sitting at a set of traffic lights at an intersection noticing that almost every second car was brand new.

“Oh sod it,” I said.  “Let’s just buy a new car.  For the first time in our lives we can actually afford to.”

Roger’s eyes widened with delight, and so we began our search.

Just some of the research

Having been very impressed with the Roomster, Roger immediately joined a number of Skoda forums and researched two cars that had caught his eye: the Yeti 1.2 2WD ($27,500) and the Fabia Monte Carlo ($21,990).  Having chatted online with people from all over the world, and knowing more than probably the dealers themselves, I tagged along with him to visit two local Skoda dealerships to examine the two cars.

On a sunny Saturday morning we arrived at Dealer Number 1 and two things happened simultaneously; Roger pointed at the Yeti and said “I want that one,” while Kiri pointed at the Monte and said “I want that one.”  We arranged a test drive of the silver manual Fabia Monte Carlo.  The salesman drove it up the road with us and then Roger eased into the driver’s seat and took control.  Pulling onto the slip road to the freeway, the salesman casually said “You can put your foot down a bit if you want.”  And that was all the invitation Roger needed.  He accelerated swiftly past two cars before the road bottlenecked into one and joined the freeway.  Impressed with the car’s pickup and smoothness, we returned to Dealer 1’s car yard to talk price.  Armed with our information and research, we continued onto Dealer 2 to test drive the automatic Yeti.

On arrival at Dealer 2 they took copies of our driver’s licences, handed us the keys and left us to enjoy the test drive unaccompanied.  Roger pulled slowly off the lot, eased up the hill and immediately broke into a huge smile.  It seemed the easiness of the automatic had won him over completely.  And of course the large boot space for his radio controlled planes was an added bonus. A s I sat looking pretty in the 50 seater coach, my words echoed around the vast interior and I butt clenched as we passed tightly through narrow spaces.  Of course it wasn’t THAT big, but it felt huge to me and I just didn’t see the point in getting such a big vehicle.  Roger is the first one to moan about the huge 4WD’s that everyone seems to own.

So having test driven the Monte Carlo at Dealer 1, and the Yeti at Dealer 2, we had reached a stalemate.  We were in love with different cars.

Monte Carlo v Yeti

Since Roger was going to be the main driver and had been suffering in peak hour traffic morning and night for about five months, we had already decided that an automatic would be the best choice.  Not Roger’s preferred choice, he saw the automatic as a sign of old age, but it was the practical choice and would be better for re-sale.  However, this requirement meant that any ideas about the Monte Carlo would have to be abandoned since it was only available as a manual in Australia.  The automatic was not scheduled to arrive for three to four months. O f course my reluctance to agree to the Yeti was because it was a people carrier.  It was too “soccer mom” and my days of nipping swiftly into car-parks would be over.  The Monte Carlo on the other hand, was sporty and cool, and a cheap alternative to a mini cooper.  For me, it was all about looking good!

So I made it my mission to tempt Roger with other possible options.

The very next Saturday we visited a number of other car yards.  First I dragged Roger to the Hyundai dealer to test drive a Kermit green i20.  I still hadn’t got over the loss of the Matiz!  While the price of the i20 was good ($11,990), unfortunately the one on special was a manual.  It didn’t help that when the very friendly and slick-haired car salesman asked Roger what he thought, his reply was “It looks like you’ve picked it from your nostril and flicked it on the floor.  But if she likes it…”  The young man awkwardly shuffled off between a row of cars while I had a discreet word to Roger about his honesty.  “Next time just smile and nod and say it’s nice,” I muttered, “you don’t have to mean it!”

Next I steered Roger onto the Volkswagen car yard.  I grinned.  If anything would sway him away from the Yeti, it would be a VW.  On my left a shiny metallic blue Golf caught my eye.

“Ooooooooo look at this one!” I exclaimed loudly pointing and striding towards it.

“Woah, woah, woah, what you doing?” Roger whispered loudly.  “Keep your voice down!  They’re like vultures.  Once they know you’re interested they’ll be over here and you’ll be buying it.  Don’t look into their eyes – once you do it’s game over,” he muttered in hushed tones.

It would be pertinent at this point to explain Roger’s prejudiced views of car salesmen.  He believes that lies spill from their mouths like water from a tap, that they pretend to be your best friend, that they try to make you feel sorry for them…the tricks are endless.  Now I know my husband is the expert in these matters, but having had no experience of dealing with car salesmen myself, I found them to be charming and helpful.  Of course Roger’s interpretation of this was that they were “smarmy and deceitful.”

I rolled my eyes at his ridiculous paranoia and began to stroke the shiny blue Golf…until I saw the $42,000 price tag, and quickly withdrew my sticky fingers.  We passed by the “nest of vultures” (Roger’s words, not mine), avoiding all eye contact and whistling nonchalantly with our hands in our pockets.

At the far end of the lot I caught sight of a 2011 shiny black Polo TDi.  A diesel and ex factory car with 1700 kms on it.  This would be a carrot.  I whistled over to Roger whose head popped up from the bowels of a VW Tiguan, and dangled the bargain price of $21,990.00 before him.  Minutes later we were test driving her off the lot. I rubbed my hands together with glee – goodbye Yeti, hello Polo.

And then I heard the diesel engine – it sounded like we were driving a tractor.  I screwed up my face.  Oh this just won’t do. But Roger loved it.  Automatic, good for 200,000kms, cheap to run, solid build, great car ….but, it was black.  A black car in the hot Perth sunshine was a no-go.  We shook hands politely with the young salesman and moped off that lot and onto the next one.  Kia.

By the time we arrived here the car yards were almost closing, the weather was turning and the Kia Rio did not live up to my expectations.  It just didn’t look as cool as the other cars we had driven.  Roger was impressed with the Kia Soul but I drew the line at the prospect of driving with Postman Pat (minus the black and white cat) around Perth.  So we left the showroom and returned home faced with a dilemma.

Should we wait three months-ish until the automatic Monte arrived?

Should we buy the Polo?

Should we buy the Yeti?

The only thing we agreed on was that we both liked the Skoda cars.  A choice had to be made and Mr Indecisive nee Tight-arse was not able to make it.  By this stage, the budget was well and truly out the window.  Hell, I would have bought the shiny blue VW Golf R32 if Roger hadn’t dragged me away from it!  But, Roger was the one who would be using the car every day, he was the one that had lived and breathed cars his whole life, and as I’ve said numerous times, he was the expert in all car matters.  I laid my cards on the table.  I was going to have to fold.  It was going to be the Yeti.

Since the cars were new imports into Australia, there was no chance of getting one second hand.  Which meant we would need to go into negotiations with the Skoda salesman – Dealer 2.

Roger opened up the lines of communication via email and messages haggling over car price flew backwards and forwards for about a week.  It finally ended when Roger said “Give me your best price.  If I like it, I’ll come in.  If I don’t, you won’t hear from me again.”  The best price offered was $24,500.00.  And all communication stopped….until three days later when Dealer 2 emailed again and said that actually, Skoda had given them more money to play with, and that the price could be reduced to $23,990.00 with an extra two years warranty and parking sensors.

Defeat stared me in the face.  Roger was going to go for it.  I pulled out my last trump card: “Alright then.  Let’s go down tonight and take the Yeti for another test drive.  But I also want to test drive the VRS.  It’s only $6,000 more after all, and it’s a Fabia, AND it’s automatic.”  Roger’s eyes popped out of his head. “You wanna spend how much?!”

He emailed Dealer 2 back.  “You’ve got yourself a deal.  We’ll be down tonight, but we want to test drive the Yeti again.  Oh, and the VRS.  The wife.  I can’t control her.”

We arrived at the car yard and the Monte Carlo winked at me from inside the showroom.  I was so determined not to leave the car yard with a “people carrier” that I didn’t mind spending the extra money to get my own way.  I started up the VRS and cruised off the lot, again unaccompanied.  Roger was adamant that he did not want to test drive the VRS, and he sat confused in the passenger seat as I putted along the back streets and through the intersections.  “Hmm, it doesn’t seem to have much grunt,” Roger mused as I carefully turned into a side street. “I think you should have a go dear,” I encouraged.  If I could just get him in the seat, it was a done deal.

I was completely unprepared for what happened next.

Roger slid his large frame into the bucket racing seat.  “Ooo, seats are snug.  I like the display, feels nice.  Now let’s see how she drives.”  He tucked it into manual drive and planted his right foot on the accelerator.  In what felt like only three seconds, the 1.4 turbo charged and super charged engine jettisoned us from zero to just over 100km/hr, down a suburban tree-lined street towards a rapidly approaching T junction.  My heart leapt into my mouth, my pits exploded in a rush of adrenalin and my legs started shaking uncontrollably.  What power!  “I don’t like it,” I stammered.  “I love it!” Roger bellowed, grinning from ear to ear.

We arrived back at the car yard.  “What’s the verdict?” asked the salesman.  Pale faced and shaking like a shitting dog, I said “We’ll take the Yeti thanks.”  Roger nodded morosely, “Yes, that thing is ridiculously fast and I would lose my licence in five minutes if I owned that.”

(Roger would like to add a disclaimer here – he does not condone speeding in built-up areas and admits his silliness on this occasion.)

We went to the office and signed on the dotted line.  “I could probably get it cheaper still,” Roger jested with Dealer 2.  The salesman smiled and laughed.  And then there it was.  I saw it first hand, the morphing of his jovial face into a sneaky serpent’s.  Now I knew what Roger had been banging on about.

Next we were ushered to see Ms After Care.  As we walked up the stairs, Roger adamantly told the salesman that we would not be interested in anything that she had to offer, to which he replied “You’d be surprised.  I’ve heard a lot of people say that.”  And he laughed.  I laughed too.  He obviously had no idea how tight-fisted Roger actually was!

Ms Aftercare had barely started her spiel on window tinting when Roger stopped her short in her tracks.  “I know what you’re about.  I know your job is to try and sell me stuff that I can get cheaper elsewhere myself.  And I just want to be honest and tell you that I’m not interested.  So there’s no point me wasting your time or mine,” said Roger.

“Not even mats?” she asked.

“Nope,” Roger replied firmly, “I’m a tight-arse.”

I blinked and stared awkwardly at the picture behind the desk.  There it was again, my husband’s honesty.  I would have been happy to sit through her sales pitch, but Roger didn’t see the point.  And since he was the expert in these matters, I followed his lead. “I hope I haven’t upset you,” he apologised after I’d mentioned to him that he had been a little blunt. “I’m just being up front with you,” he said. “It’s okay,” she replied, and then showed us into Mr Finance’s office.

Having arranged finance and the necessary paperwork, we returned to Dealer 2 who was sitting at his desk, his fingers interlocked and resting on the desk jotter in front of him.  Full of self-importance he leaned towards us and said “Now, I feel like I have to say something to you both.”  We waited.  What now, I thought.  Car insurance?  Loan protection?  But I couldn’t have been further from the truth.  “I don’t know what you’ve said,” he announced quietly, “and you seem like nice people, but I’ve got an office girl in floods of tears up there because of something you’ve said to her.  And it’s not on.”

I stared at him and blinked.  Roger stared at him and blinked.  What on earth was he talking about?  It seemed that Roger’s blunt honesty had upset Ms Aftercare after all, and now we were being told off like a couple of naughty school children who had been caught bullying in the sandpit.  I couldn’t believe it.  After everything we had gone to get to this point, I would have happily ripped our contract up if it had still been sitting on the desk in front of me.  I was stunned.

Roger described the conversation to him, and even Dealer 2 admitted that perhaps Ms Aftercare was just having a bad day. “I was only being honest.  Just like I can be with you.  I know you’re only being my new best friend to get the sale, and when I walk out the door you won’t care what happens.”  The serpent smiled and laughed uneasily.

During the drive home we were very quiet.  We felt awful that Ms Aftercare was upset, but at the same time confused about how we had caused her to become so distressed.  Our new car buying experience, that should have been full of excitement, had been completely tainted.  We felt trapped and no longer wanted to proceed with the purchase.  To top it off, three days later Dealer 2 advertised their Yeti’s in Saturday’s paper on special for $23,990.00.

But it was not to end there.  Mr Finance spent the next week trying to sting us for the highest interest rate possible.  When I told him I thought my bank could do better than that, he immediately dropped the rate by 2%, without me even consulting the bank!  By the end of the week Mr Finance had dropped it a further 3%.  The hissing seeping down the phone was really starting to get my back up.  And then, just as the final details of the loan were being finalised, he told me about the $700 set up fee.  “Oh, didn’t I mention that?” he said too quickly.  I cancelled the loan and sought my finance elsewhere.

Our documentation

So tonight, after weeks of leg work, emails and phone calls, we are the proud owners of a brand new mato brown 2012 Skoda Yeti 1.2.  And it is a sweet car, and not at all the vacuous bus-like people carrier I initially imagined.  True, we have no car mats, no window tinting and no paint protection.  These are things that Roger has to sort out.  After all, he is the expert in these matters.  And how do I feel about the whole process of buying a brand new car?  Never again….ever!

Our New Skoda Yeti

But I have the pleasure of the company of a very happy husband who is at this moment scotch guarding the fabric interior and fiddling with all the buttons and knobs.  He has already cleaned the brake dust from the alloys having travelled just 70km in our Yeti today.

I wonder how long that will last?