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Over the long four day weekend, I dropped my wife’s vehicle off at the dealership to replace a recalled airbag. If you’re not familiar, there was a recent recall on Takata airbags due to explosive force when igniting. This affects 19 different car manufacturers, which regulators anticipate affect over 70 million vehicles. Once my wife learned this, she wanted to take care of the replacement ASAP.
It was a bit difficult for my wife to get out to the dealership with her current responsibilities. So being the amazing husband that I am, I offered to do so. But, I put it off for a few weeks until I finally remembered this past week. It was long overdue, especially since it was safety-related.
I went to the dealership the day before July 4th. Who knew they were open on the 4th as well! This dealership is actually open every single day of the year, including Christmas and all other holidays. Convenient, I suppose! Are most dealerships like that? I wouldn’t know…
Since I have never bought a car through a dealership, new or used, this was my first time stepping foot in a dealership. Let me just say, I now understand why customers bring their vehicles for service at these facilities. I parked my car in the service lane, and the attendant promptly greeted me with a ticket number and encouraged me to get a cool beverage inside while they processed the vehicle.
The gentleman behind the kiosk asked for the ticket number and offered a complimentary loaner vehicle until they completed the repair. This was nuts to me. I was getting a simple, free recall repair, and here they were offering me a loaner.
I quickly reiterated to him that I was there to get a recalled airbag replaced. That didn’t change his offer. My options were sit and wait in the lounge or take the loaner.
A Tough Decision
I have to say, I was tempted to utilize the lounge option. It looked like a man cave. There were multiple flat screen TVs, snacks, beverages and even massaging chairs. Everyone in there looked relaxed without a care in the world. I wanted to join them, but something in the back of my mind said not to do it.
Remembering my pregnant wife at home with our rambunctious 21-month old, I decided that if I wanted to ever step foot in my house again that I should probably get home.
I asked the customer service rep multiple times, since I was naive about the process, if the car would be free. He kept assuring me that it was, in fact, free. I’m sure he still saw the skeptical look on my face.
I couldn’t understand for the life of me why they would give me a free loaner car. Sure, my wife had bought her vehicle from their dealership back in 2011. But she was far from a loyal customer there. This seemed like a perk too good to be true. But I quickly came to realize why the dealership was willing to give me a free loaner.
Leaving in Style
The customer representative handed me the keys as he walked me out to a brand new Lexus RX 350 SUV. The starting price on this vehicle is $43,120, and the model that I drove home exceeded $55,000. I had dropped off a 10-year old sedan and was leaving with a brand new fully-loaded SUV.
Throughout the years, I have driven a lot of older vehicles. Most of them have been at least 10 years old. The last car I purchased was a used 2000 Honda Prelude that I bought in 2010. Once I got married though, I sold it because my wife hated it. She thought it looked like an alien spaceship.
The Appeal of a New Car
Over the years, I could never understand why my housemates were obsessed with buying new vehicles. They’d always spout off about all the new technology that their new cars offered. Pretty much, I ignored the hype. I figured my car could get me from point A to point B just as well as their vehicles, so what was the big deal?
After driving this brand-new Lexus for a day, I finally understood. The seats were so plush. They were a perfect blend of firm yet soft. They also had heating and cooling features. And on that summer day, cooled seats had never felt better.
Driving down the road, it was the smoothest ride. It felt like I was riding on clouds. I didn’t even bother turning on the music. The experience of the ride in itself was more than enough. (I promise, this isn’t a sponsored post). I’m sure I looked like an idiot grinning ear to ear as I came up to every stop light. I couldn’t believe what I had been missing all my life. Before I arrived home, I tried to devise a plan to convince my wife that we needed this car.
Trying to Convince Mrs. MSM
When I arrived home, I asked my wife to come outside, so I could show off the car. She hopped in and immediately commented on the comfiness of the seats. I encouraged her to take it for a spin so that she would see things the same way I did.
She came home after a couple hours and admitted that the car really was amazing. While backing out of a parking spot, the car automatically jolted itself to a stop as a car sped behind her. That feature, in particular, impressed her the most. But as the saver in our relationship, she posed a great question.
Why would we need this car when our cars work perfectly?
I speculated in that moment that dealerships utilize these sleek new cars as loaners to generate more sales. I felt like a fool. They had duped me into thinking I really needed this vehicle. I’m sure I’m not the only one though.
Paying $$$ For New Cars
According to Edmunds, the average car loan is now 69.3 months, or a little less than six years, with an average monthly payment of $517. That breaks down to paying almost $36,000 for a vehicle. In fact, 1/3rd of vehicle owners will trade in their vehicle and owe more than the vehicle is worth, rolling the difference into the new loan.
I have secondhand experience watching a housemate do this. He drove a Mitsubishi Eclipse, i.e., the hottest car on the road (to him). That is, until a couple of his buddies, who were drinking, started to tease him about his “girl car”. The very next day, he drove to the dealership to trade in his girly Eclipse in for a more manly car, a Jeep Wrangler. He took a bloodbath on the trade in, and he rolled the difference into his new loan. The Jeep ended up costing him 50% more than what the MSRP was when it was all said and done.
An Offer We Could Refuse
I knew that I didn’t want to go down that road. When they called to let us know they had completed the repair, we returned to the dealership. They tried to butter us up a bit with a “top dollar” offer on a trade-in for my wife’s low-mileage car. No chance they would give us top-dollar. I guarantee we would get much if we sold to a private party. But regardless, my wife politely thanked them for the offer, and we drove away.
On the way home, my wife informed me that she loved her car and had no intention of ever getting rid of it. I breathed a sigh of relief in that moment. As much as I’d love to own that brand-new Lexus, I really don’t want to deal with the payment that comes along with driving a vehicle of that caliber.
In the meantime, we’ll keep enjoying our 10-year old car and remind ourselves that ignorance is bliss.