Dad’s Dollar Diary #4: Telling Lies to Volkswagen

Dear Diary,

As you know, I got rear-ended last week on my way to pick up Matthew at his programming class–don’t worry we’re all OK. And this week, I’ve been getting repair estimates. I also started to think about a replacement in case my poor Lexus is considered a total loss. So a couple days ago, I decided to take my kids with me to do a little preliminary car shopping just to see what’s out there right now.

Volkswagen wagon

Volkswagen wagon

Our Lexus is our haul around car. We take that car on all of our short weekend getaways, camping trips, and to pick up random things like the go-kart that Matthew built last week at his summer camp. Anyways, if we have to get a new/used car, then we’re looking for that car to help us haul stuff when we need it to. So a good replacement would be another small SUV or a wagon. I looked up some car reviews and saw that Volkswagen had a wagon that was highly rated, so we decided to go check it out.

On our way to the dealer, I told the kids, “This is our strategy. We’re just here to look and we’re not going to tell them anything about our car accident.”

“Why’s that?” asked Matthew.

So I told them that we want to keep our information close to the vest because it all becomes a negotiation or they might try to pressure us. Then I asked them, “How often do we buy cars? Every few months or every few years?”

They both responded, “It’s been years.”

“Right,” I told them. “And we don’t always buy a car from the same place. What that means is that buying a car is more of a one-time negotiation, so the dealer is not trying to build a relationship. They are always trying to figure out how much money they can charge you where you still want to buy the car. So they just want you to buy a car from them, otherwise you are out of the market for another several years.”

Then I told them, “It’s kind of like some of the tourist trap restaurants we went to when we went to Europe last summer.”

“Yeah,” said Matthew. “Some of them were kind of pricey and the food wasn’t very good.”

“Exactly,” I said. “They are nice and try to get you to eat there, but they don’t care if the food is bad because they know you are a tourist and may never come back to their city again.”

Natalie chimed in, “So should we lie to the car dealer?”

I told her, “No. I’m not saying we lie. We just don’t tell them a lot of information, like we were in an accident, our car might be totalled, and we might get a big check to buy a new car. Instead, we might tell them we’re just starting to look for a car because our current car is getting old.”

They both said, “Oh. OK.”

Then I told them how ironic it is that they asked about lying when Volkswagen got caught lying and finally agreed to pay a $15 billion settlement for their diesel emissions scandal.

Anyways, we got to the dealership and test drove a couple cars. The kids had a good time climbing in and out of the back seats and open and closing every door. At some point, Matthew said to me, “These cars have kind of a funny smell.”

I looked at him funny, but then I realized that the last time we bought a new car was when he was still a toddler. “That’s the smell of a new car. Smells good, right?”

“Yup,” they both said. “Maybe we can get a new car.”

Practicing my car buying strategy of giving up zero information I responded, “We’ll see.”

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