Or they might just grin like that all the time; I’m not sure, because I’d never actually spoken to a car dealer before.
Yes, that’s right, despite writing about cars for too long to mention, I’ve never bought a new one in my life, so the whole thing was a bit like a wine critic actually buying a bottle of wine.
Recently I’d been pondering on these pages about buying a mid-life-crisis on wheels, but I simply can’t afford any of the cars I’d like, which made me look like a sad-face emoticon. But then my constantly cheery accountant told me that a jolly, rotund, cigar-chomping, and hugely generous man called Joe Hockey had decreed that it would be financially beneficial for me to buy a car.
I can’t recall much of the conversation other than the part where he insisted I buy my (tiny) business a company car. And the bit where he said I could only spend $19,999.
This led to an adventure on which suddenly I wasn’t just interested in warranty, trim levels and the resale potential of automatic vs manual gearboxes; I really cared. I also discovered that you can get quite a lot of car for less than $20K, and yet at the same time, nowhere near as much as your wife wants.
Because she is more spoiled, in car terms at least, than a Hugh Hefner bunny, my beloved insisted on things like satnav and leather seats... and a Mazda3.
and a Mazda3.
I wanted the Mazda too, but such a car at such a price was not achievable, so I ended up seeking an i30 (old model, in run-out mode) with Apple CarPlay and cloth interior. And somehow ended up buying a 2017 model Elantra Active for $19,990 instead; a car that my wife kindly says she “doesn’t hate”.
If you ask me how this happened I could only say I was in some sort of bargain-hunting trance, and that every one of the tiny hairs in my wallet was standing on end when the young and toothy Hyundai salesman agreed to the deal. (I also happen to think it’s a more attractive, less commonplace and more practical choice for our small family, but what would I know?)
I even enjoyed the post-purchase part, where they put me in a room and tried to sell me overpriced things I didn’t need, like Permagard protection and expensive window tinting. “No, please, tell me more about why the paint on the car you’ve just sold me isn’t very good and needs extra protection!”
I honestly can’t tell you how novel the whole experience was, nor how jealous I was of people who get to do this more than once.
Other than it being an automatic, which younger versions of me swore repeatedly I would NEVER buy, I’m hugely happy with my Elantra, so far, and I was quite taken with what my dealer calls the “Moment of Magic”, when they present you with your car, wrapped in a ribbon.
Driving it home, I couldn’t believe just how much retail joy I was experiencing, and it was only after parking it that I walked past a neighbour’s recently purchased Jaguar F-Type and was boggled by just how fantastic a day it must be when you buy something like that; a car you really want. Such a day is still unlikely to ever happen for me, and I know I shouldn’t complain because I’m lucky enough to drive great cars, and then give them back. But I have to tell you, all you lucky people who’ve bought vehicles that you love, that you dreamed of, I am officially in awe of your good fortune.
I can’t tell you how much I wrestled with the automatic versus manual question during my car-buying quest. Both my wife and I wanted a manual, but not only were they hard to fi nd, logic tells me that by the time I come to sell my Elantra, they’ll be even harder to move.
And now I feel like a sellout.