I leased a new car today, and while I am not suffering buyer’s (well, lessee’s) remorse, I am not exactly experiencing new car joy – yet. Quite the opposite, I have that “caving-in stomach” feeling, the kind people get before speaking in public or going for a critical job interview.
With three months still on my existing lease, I had all the time in the world test drive Brand A one weekend, Brand B the next, another the following weekend. The pragmatic side of my brain said, “Pay less this time – a lot less. Get better gas mileage – a lot better. Protect against who-knows-how-high-they-will-go gas prices. And, most importantly, after the research, bring my daughter in to negotiate the deal. She is so good at this that last time she bought a car, the dealer tried to give her a job.
Looking at cars today was not any closer to the top of my agenda than eating frogs’ eyes or washing rocks (my granddaughter’s activity of choice yesterday afternoon). It had entered my mind, but with lots of work on deadline, I thought I’d have a quick lunch with a friend and then head home for a date with my computer. And then I made an impulse decision that took me into the dealership where I leased my current car. A quick right turn without slowing down – the look on the attendant’s face spoke volumes, and there I was.
Reason: Check out how low they would go on the current model of my same car, which is a great car. Maybe I wouldn’t have to shift gears altogether and give up on features I had come to love. Maybe if they gave me the deal of the century, I’d join the brand loyalty club. If someone told me I would sign many times on many dotted lines hours later, I’d have bet them anything it wouldn’t be so.
So: The deal sounded really good. A lot more for significantly less than I was currently paying, which lends testimony – despite the change in the economy – to how poorly I negotiated last time. The car was right there. On the lot. Ready to go. There was, of course, a fabulous program that would expire in three days – three days in which there was a less-than-zero chance I could do any more shopping. They wanted the deal, more, I thought, than I wanted the car, but I was getting caught up in the excitement of their willingness to drop my last three lease payments without shoving anything into my new lease agreement.
Yellow light. Yellow light. Yellow light. Hold tight. Call daughter. She told me what I would have told her. “You have to comparison shop. Let me make some calls. You have time.” Rationalizing or not, what descended on me was the shroud of how much work I must complete this week. How I was supposed to be working right this minute. How much would I save a month, really? On one ear, my daughter, “You are insane. OK, buy and enjoy your very nice car. I’m not doing any work.”
The disapproval of my very wise and clearly-right-in-this-case daughter was like a heel to the solar plexus. But I already had pen in hand. I was already halfway down the aisle, so to speak, at a wedding that should probably be called off. I signed (and I know this sounds both pathetic and crazy) with tears in my eyes. The salty taste of embarrassment does not go down easy. “What a nutcase,” I can hear the sales team saying.
My delightful young salesman hung out for two and a half hours after closing to show me how all the features work . On a Saturday night with his adorable girlfriend (photo on wall) and a bottle of Zinfandel awaiting him. So listen: In the scheme of things this is not a hairy monster biggie that is going to change my economic status. Peace in the Middle East is a biggie. Radiation in milk and tap water is a biggie. Tomorrow I will be happy that a shiny new car will greet me in the garage. And anyway, as L’Oreal ads used to say, “I’m worth it.”
If you are foregoing as I did, another important issue (lease versus buy), here are some tips from the experts, whose advice on both matters I probably should have sought: http://www.edmunds.com/car-buying/