Have you ever purchased a new (to you) car? Let me tell you, that was an Experience. I am officially the new owner of a white 2016 Subaru Outback and it’s quite amazing, but getting here took a long time.
Back up to high school, the summer before my Junior year I decided to take a summer class for chemistry. I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy it and I wanted to get it over with in the condensed format of a summer class. The day before I started school, my mother reminded my father that he needed to pick up a used car for me since he was driving to the airport and I needed to get to class. ”Welp,” he said, and that afternoon I was handed the keys to a Saturn I could barely drive.
I hated the Saturn. It was white, first of all, which is the most boring of all possible car colors. Secondly, it had manual locks and windows, which felt like a bit step down from my mother’s then-Suburban, which I learned how to drive in. Third, it had manual steering. MANUAL STEERING. What devil invented this?? Finally, it was a manual transmission, which I was very skeptical of at the time. I’d only driven my dad’s manual truck a handful of times, and when I was handed the keys to this monstrosity one afternoon I was not entirely sure I’d be able to get it home without something exploding.
I almost stalled on the onramp to the freeway.
The next day I almost stalled through an intersection where a guy behind me decided I was fucking with his day specifically, and then it turned out he was also going to my school so later when I parked he marched over to my car and yelled at me through the window.
Suffice to say, this car was not a pleasant experience.
I eventually learned to enjoy the manual transmission and appreciate the gas mileage, but I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the car. The manual steering was simply a deal-breaker. But I drove that car from junior year in ’04 all the way until yesterday, ’18. For almost 15 years this car has been my only vehicle. It moved me in and out of college, up to Long Beach and back to San Diego, up again to Aniheim, then back down to San Marcos, then up to Ventura and down to Oxnard. This car has been to Las Vegas four or five times, to Mammoth, to Lake Tahoe, and stayed overnight at every airport in the area. This car has SEEN things.
When I met Mr. V back in ’10 he was immediately adamant that I get a new car. But wanting a new one and being able to afford one are entirely different beasts, so though his frustration mounted when we started dating, and continued to simmer for seven years, he never pushed me to the point of a bad financial decision. He just grumbled about it whenever he had to drive my car.
About two years ago, Mr. V hit some sort of personal limit and decided, dammit, if I wasn’t going to replace the car, he would. He started looking for something to buy by making a list of his favorite models and pricing out all the options on their various websites. It quickly became apparent that the car Mr. V wanted was entirely out of our budget. He persistently studied the market and checked for used cars regardless, but I didn’t hear much come out of it.
About three months ago he announced that It Was Time. He had enough for a down payment on something, we just needed to settle on a vehicle to buy. Again I let him take the lead here, because I know next to nothing about a car or it’s quality and again Mr. V couldn’t narrow his list down to affordable models. We talked and talked and talked for months about what cars would work for us, what the budget was, what we thought we could get for financing, and all the other details that car-buying entails. Then we talked about them again. And again.
I finally had enough. We were going in circles with conversation, it was time to make a decision. So even though Mr. V was anxious about it, I put ”Test Drive” on our shared calendar for the following weekend.
On June 23rd we test drove two cars: an Outback and a Toyota Tacoma. Because the vehicle was going to be primarily my daily driver, I had final veto, which I used on the tacoma. I couldn’t get close enough to the pedals without my knees hitting the dash, and I was too close to the wheel for safety. The Outback was the winner by default. It was also a newer vehicle with more bells and whistles, so I wasn’t too sad about that.
We heard the dealer offer for car financing and left with a decision to make: buy the car, or no? I spent a week looking for car loans that could beat the dealership’s numbers. I couldn’t find one.
On Thursday I texted the dealership: if the Outback was still available, we’d come in on July 1st to buy it.
On July 1st, the car was available, but one doesn’t just walk into Mordor a car dealership and out with a car. It’s a PROCESS. It involves haggling and watching your numbers. It takes math, and patience, and knowledge. I’d come prepared: my laptop, my phone, my external charger. I had comparable cars queued up in my email at different dealerships. Mr. V solicited advice from work and was told it could take up to 8 hours if the finance guy wanted to try and jerk us around. We came with an entire cooler of food and drinks. If this was going to be a battle of attrition, we were not going to fade out from lack of food.
The morning we went into battle, I cut my hair, worked out on the stationary bike, and dressed up for the negotiation. Mr. V had the cash to get the car, but I know contracts, so bringing the price down was my job. And it turned out, we were a little over-prepared. Our sales guy didn’t play games or try to slight-of-hand the numbers around. They knocked the price down to a reasonable compromise, gave us an acceptable financing offer, and we signed a lot of paper only two hours after we’d arrived. I drove off the lot in my new subie with a huge smile.
So today is my first day with the new car and I love it. I’ve jumped from a ’99 to a ’16, it’s still white (sigh) but in every other aspect I feel like I’m in the FUTURE. (Push to start!) The car is brilliant and the entire experience was about as low-stress as one could expect. To top it off, the old Saturn sold this morning to Mr. V’s coworker, so even that loose end has been neatly tied up with a new bow.
Both Mr. V and I drive our cars until they no longer function, so this Subaru will be my only car for the next 15 or 20 years barring any accidents. There are a few minor things we need to pick up, like an emergency kit and a window sticker 😉 It’s all going up from here, though. We’ve planned a camping trip for the 4th of July holiday, through the weekend–with the new car!
I’m super pleased, and so is Mr. V. Can we ask for anything more?