I’m car shopping.
Used car shopping. And it has thrown me into unfamiliar territory.
I’ve never done this on my own. I’ve gone with people to dealerships while they decide what they want. I’m good at a second opinion, but I’ve never bought my own car.
and it’s scary.
I met a guy in the Wal-Mart parking lot yesterday to look at the four-door he was selling. I followed him around while he pointed out dings and scratches and specific features of his eight-year-old vehicle. I got behind the wheel and test-drove it down the road and back.
The guy sat beside me and pointed out the rear defrost button, the auxiliary plug-in, the preset buttons that weren’t working, and told me how to manipulate the clutch better. At one point he asked me to pull over so he could go through his tutorial on how to drive stick-shift.
And suddenly I was sixteen and back in driver’s ed class.
What just happened? What went wrong here?
I didn’t buy the car.
But I’ve been mulling over the whole experience and coming to some startling conclusions. I think I gave off a “helpless female” vibe and he became nervous with me behind the wheel. He even asked me at one point, “You do know how to drive standard, don’t you?”
Yes. Yes, I do.
I drove a little Festiva for two years down country highways and through quaint little towns. That was a standard transmission. I drove an Escort wagon for five years through subdivisions holding yard sales every weekend. That was a standard. I drove a standard F-150 for two years over hills and up mountains and I drove a standard Metro for three years through car lines and errand runs. And most recently, I’ve been driving a borrowed Insight hybrid for the past month until the clutch broke. Also standard. I am an experienced driver when it comes to shifting gears.
So why did I give off the helpless vibe?
I’ve been feeling like I don’t know much about cars. I want to buy one that runs well, that’s reliable. And I can look under the hood and conclude, “yes, that’s an engine in there.” But how will I be able to spot a “lemon” or a “junker”?
I decided last night that I just need to trust my instinct.
I’m actually a lot more experienced with cars than I feel. I’ve changed a tire before—one. I’ve replaced wiper blades, headlights and a car stereo. I pulled the paneling off a driver’s door and replaced the broken door handle. I’ve spent hours sanding the peeling paint off an old car in prep for a new paint job. I’ve done a thorough detailing to several minivans and have washed trucks and vans and cars hundreds of times. I know how to pump air in tires and I know how to take a car in for an oil change. I am also quite experienced when it comes to reading reviews online, following repair manuals and checking YouTube for fix-it tutorials.
I’m not a helpless female.
I know how to drive, I know how to maintain a vehicle, and I know how to negotiate over price. (having furnished my home and clothed my kids with yard sale bargains in the early days)
I’ve got this. I’ve totally got this.
So look out, Used Car Sellers, here I come!