Friday, March 06, 2009

Epic Auto Saga

Aren't I doing a better job of posting consistently lately?

I feel like I need to start this off like a Bard, "...and this is the way of it..." (Stephen R. Lawhead holla!). My Toyota Corolla has been burning up oil in the exhaust for a few years now, and it has gotten so bad that I have to top up the oil TWICE between oil changes... basically, every 1000 miles. It's been looked at by 2 exceptional mechanics, whose attempts at repair have been fruitless, because it needed major surgery to fix - leaky valve covers was the proposed problem, which would necessitate taking out the engine, which would necessitate $1000 or more.

When the engine light went on for the 3rd time in the last twelvemonth, I said ENOUGH. I was not going to replace another O2 sensor and catalytic converter. I had never been happy with the car, which I bought from Carmax when my beloved 98 Civic Hatchback was dying. EVERYONE said, "oh, a Toyota's as good as a Honda!" so I believed them. I have just discovered that, in fact, the 2001 Corolla was MADE BY GM. Yes, THAT GM. I have been driving a GEO PRISM for 5 years now. It's the same car under the hood.

So, my dislike was entirely justified. It wasn't helped by the fact that red cars are statistically more likely to be pulled over for speeding (as I can attest to) and it kept getting hit or dinged (twice by my sister). Just dismal. So I decided that it mattered not that it wasn't paid off; I would sell it and hope to break even, and go get myself another Civic so this wouldn't happen again.

I got a broker - very kind man named Marvin Nischan, who found a buyer for my Corolla, then went to work looking for a Honda that met my very basic requirements (price, any color but red or yellow, under 70K miles, AC and automatic). He and I both knew that it would be hard to find, as Hondas are in high demand in pre-owned sales. He found my dream car... but it was residing in the Hell known as Crest Honda, and they wouldn't deal with brokers. So he gave up any commission he might make, told me about it, and I went into battle. It was worth it - white car (the color I wanted!) dark gray interior (the color I wanted! doesn't show dirt) 2004 Civic, with only 18,900 miles on it, and a really low price.

I will not detail all of the frustrations and road blocks that arose for the 48+ hours I struggled to win this car... I will mention that although I was treated respectfully and politely by all staff at the dealership, they would attempt to get me to finance the car at a ludicrous interest rate (12.99%) by not letting me know the rate until I'd signed all the other paperwork. "Well, THAT will have to change!" I said when I finally spotted it, "I know I only paid half that on my last car!" The financial director claimed that "things had changed" in the last 4 years which explained the higher rates, but that he would try to improve it.

I took the car to my mechanic to give it a once-over, and called everyone I could think of who was knowledgeable about car sales to tell me what the going rate on car loans was... I finally got my bank on the phone and discovered their lowest rate was 4.9%, so I went back to Crest to (politely) give them the chance to cut their rate in half. Nope, 8% and no lower. So, off to the bank!

I waited over an hour and a half to see a bank officer to apply. By now, I was tired, frustrated, and not really sure I wanted that car anymore, but I would just think about how dreamy the car was; white, 19K miles, low price and a Civic!, and I would decide to struggle on. The loan officer was SO nice - overworked, but nice and patient and willing to help in any way she could. God bless Joan Watkins at US Bank!

More paperwork and proof of income would be required. More fuss and bother and delay. Staying away from Crest helped. When finally Joan said I needed this past year's tax return to prove my income (I'm nowhere near to having that done!) she suggested that to not lose the car, I might go ahead and accept the higher interest rate at the dealership, and then refinance in the next few weeks after my taxes were done. As I prepared to go back and do just that, my mom stepped in and gave me an alternative arrangement; she'd pay upfront, and I'd finance it later. That way there was no chance of any penalties or additional costs.

So I got my car. I'm debating whether or not it was an answer to prayer, or whether or not I tried to force it to become an answer to prayer. I do know it was prayed for, and that it was precisely what I wanted, and did not think I could actually get!

Why am I reciting all of this in a blog posting? Several reasons: 1) to put out there that Crest Honda should be approached with real caution, (and cash, if you're buying); 2) that some Corollas are lemons; and 3) that a car to a single woman is as important as a child, and almost as emotionally draining. I am exHAUSTED. I will be driving this car into the ground (or 10 years, at least) because I do not want to have to go through this again anytime soon!


mugglecrew said...

I love your new car!! can't wait to drive it!!!

Susania said...

don't hold your breath, mister! ;)

Mike Howell said...

Congrats on the car! Just call it a blessing, and give Him the praise!

BTW, the Geo Prizm was a rebranding of the Corolla, not the other way around. The Prizm was made in a California factory as a Toyota/GM joint venture.