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Felix Adamo / The Californian

Heather Ijames

I received many opinions and ideas on how to buy my next car. My conclusion, though, is I really didn't execute any of it right. I got a decent deal, but I know it could've been better. I had the help of my mother and brother, with a combined 20-something years of car dealership experience, as well as, of course, the plethora of information available on the good old Internet to guide me along. The following was what I was told, and how I managed to mess it up anyway.

1. Play nice and naive. My mother told me this was the way to approach my first contact with a dealership. I don't know which I messed up first, the nice or naive. All I know is that when I don't get my way after the third time, I cannot pretend either anymore.

2. Don't tell them you really want the car. I accidentally told them I really wanted the car. Then, I backpedaled. Then, I reminded them I really wanted the car, then I backpedaled some more. My flip-flopping was part of the naive, right?

3. Tell them you have a similar car you're looking at, but for cheaper. I asked my mother a follow-up question on this one: Do I have to find another car to fall in love with? I felt conflicted. She shook her head at me and told me this was why I might not land the best deal.

4. When you tell them you've found a similar car, but for cheaper, don't tell them where it's for sale so they can't catch you in a lie. I told them where it was for sale. Look, I had an honest to goodness problem with contriving a second, imaginary vehicle I had fallen in love with, so I actually went out and found the second vehicle and started developing feelings for it. That's why I didn't think it mattered that I told them where it was, since the vehicle actually existed.

5. Keep playing nice and naive, but not stupid. I was stupid. I told them that between the two similar vehicles, I preferred theirs. I now realize this also violates No. 2, above.

6. Say you are buying with cash. Did I have to lie about a fake inheritance, too? I tried to stay away from the whole lying business altogether, so whenever they asked whether I was paying cash or financing, I changed the subject or mumbled something. Once, I even answered the question with "Tuesday." But then, that also violated No. 5.

7. Nitpick everything on the car so they continue to think you could take it or leave it. I started with the nitpicking when we arrived at the dealership, and after they'd had enough of that, they told me I was more unpleasant in the flesh, than via email. This is not something I wanted to hear, but at least it meant I might have got No. 1 right, albeit temporarily.

8. Don't get mad at people. This was the only instruction of my husband's. It's a good rule, it is. It's also a hard rule for me to follow no matter what the circumstance. And, let's keep in mind that a man at the dealership had just told me I was being unpleasant. That's when Charles told me to stay put and he'd deal with them. Yet, when Charles turned around to monitor the children, I ran over to the sales desk and had another fight with them anyway. In my mind, I surely won the battle of wits, but in terms of the check I'd write at the end of the day ... yup, they won.

9. Don't bring your children to the dealership. My question was, why not? When in doubt that I'll get my way, I think it's a super awesome idea to bring my little capuchin monkey-like children along for a behavioral war demonstration. If the salesmen thought I was being difficult, they'd love it when I gave the kids a soda and some pop rocks and let them loose around shiny new cars. Yet, even this plan backfired on me. Those ornery boys, for the first time in their lives, sat still for four hours, behaving. They wouldn't even wrestle anywhere near or lick the mirrors of the $130,000 showroom vehicle. They seriously do nothing I tell them to do.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm doomed to pay more for cars because of the defects in my personality. Who knows? I do love the car, though. Perhaps next time I should be absent from the whole process. I should have my "well-behaved" children negotiate the price.

Heather Ijames is a community columnist whose work appears here every third Saturday. These are the opinions of Ijames, not necessarily The Californian. Send email to her at