The Stressful Side of Car Buying

How to survive making such a large purchase.


In my story on buying my new car, I left out one part: how incredibly stressful the process was. My husband and I got to the dealership early, around 10 a.m. on a Saturday. We agreed ahead of time that we really wanted to try to make the purchase that day, which meant we felt a lot of pressure to get the deal done. Our old car, an eight-year-old Oldsmobile Alero, was on its last legs. The week before, the steering wheel had stopped working, requiring $1,000 in repairs.

When we arrived at the dealership, a handful of salesmen descended on us. They asked if we wanted coffee and sat us down at a table. From there, our salesman showed us photos of the model we wanted—a 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid—and we went for a test drive. So far, so good.

Then the negotiation began. A new salesman came in to discuss the money. Our purchase price was predetermined because we were using an employee discount (my husband's father retired from Ford), but the trade-in value of our old car was negotiable. He told us he would pay only $500 for it, a figure well below what we expected. (The Kelley Blue Book value was closer to $2,000.) Eventually, we got him up to $1,400 and accepted, largely because it was already close to 1 p.m. and we were exhausted, hungry, and just wanted to go home.

For the next few days, I couldn't sleep well. I had never spent so much money at once. I wondered whether we should have bought a used car, or not purchased one at all. But by the time our new car was ready to be picked up a few weeks later, I had recovered from the payment shock and was ready to enjoy the vehicle.

Readers, have you experienced the stress of making a car purchase? Do you have any survival tips?