Why does car buying have to be so frustrating?

I’m a methodical girl. I take my time to research things I’m going to buy, and buying a car is no different. I’ve spent months thinking about what car I’m going to buy to replace my aging VW Passat wagon. I’ve eliminated car after car and finally had a somewhat short list of cars to research further. I spent time on the internet learning about each of the cars on my list. I put together spreadsheets comparing the different cars until the only thing left to do was actually go out and drive each of them.

This is where the frustrating part comes in. I know that I can order a car through Consumer Reports or through my local credit union’s auto buying service, but in order to get to that point, I needed to sit my butt down in the cars and drive them. A few weeks ago, I reluctantly headed out to the Audi dealer for my test drive of the Audi A3. I was greeted warmly, went on a very nice test drive that included back roads with curves as well as a short stint on the highway, and wasn’t pressured to give them all of my contact information. I was offered the chance to come back and spend some extended time with the car, if I liked. So far, so good.

Then, I stopped at the Lexus dealer. I was pounced on as soon as I walked in the door by the next salesman in line. We took the Lexus CT 200h out for a drive up a busy road and onto the highway. Looped around and back on the highway straight back to the dealer. I was quickly ushered inside and led to “the table” where he promptly showed me what colors the cars come in. I told him I didn’t care what color the car came in, I wanted to know the size of the cargo area. I wanted to know how many horsepower. He didn’t have answers but he did let me know about the different trim levels that were available. Frustrated and feeling patronized, I left and let him know that I didn’t think that the Lexus was on my short list anymore. I felt like I needed a shower.

I test drove the Mini Cooper Countryman and the Volvo C30.

At this point, I was down to some very specific questions. I asked the Mini Cooper salesman if I could put snow chains on the Countryman for our infrequent trips through areas where chains are required. He confidently said,  “Yes.” Upon further research on the internet, I found out that no, you can’t put chains on the Countryman. It comes with 17″ wheels. You can only put chains on the Mini Coopers that have 16″ wheels. I also asked about the bench seat in the back. His answer was that they’re currently in production, and they’d have one soon. Further research shows they haven’t even started production as of today and there are 800 some cars in line. I wouldn’t even be able to get my hands on one until well into the spring. They’ll tell you just about anything to get a sale.

One of the other very important features for me is the connectivity of a car with an iPhone. I want to be able to talk hands-free on my iPhone, and I want to be able to play music from my phone. I want to be able to scroll through the songs and control everything from the screen on the radio or nav system and not have to touch the screen on my phone. It’s very distracting to have to reach around and try to manipulate things from the iPhone tethered to the center console. You’d think this would be an easy thing to investigate, but it turns out that 90% of the people I’ve asked , people who are supposed to know the product they are selling, have no idea how this works.

I called one Volvo dealer in town and asked specifically if I could meet with someone who could show me how the iPhone connectivity worked in the C30 and could tell me definitively if the C30 would allow the use of snow chains. I talked with the salesman on the phone yesterday, set up an appointment, and made sure that he understood the two things I was asking. I showed up on time for my appointment with him today. He told me that I could use chains with the C30 but I’d have to put snow tires on and then I could use them. WTH? Why would I bother with chains if I put snow tires on. Then, we head out to the car so he can show me the iPhone stuff. As we’re walking, he’s telling us how he doesn’t own a cell phone, doesn’t have a computer at home, has a land line, and he’s proud to be a technophobe. And they set me up with him to show me iPhone stuff? He had absolutely no idea how things worked and told me that I had to bring my own USB cable. What? He had my number. If he knew I was going to need to bring my own cable then why didn’t he call me and tell me to bring one? He got pretty defensive and a bit argumentative. At that point, I got out of the car, picked up my purse, and told him that I didn’t need to buy a car from someone who didn’t know their own product. What a waste of my time. I went there today ready to buy a car. He blew it. What a waste of my time.

So, away we went. I called the other Volvo dealer where I had originally done my test drive and talked to the salesman there. He had no idea how the iPhone hooked up, but we were welcome to stop by and try to figure out. We tried to figure it out, couldn’t, and still have no idea if this is a viable option on the C30.

There was an Audi dealer across the street. We headed over there, and we found that they had no A3s on their lot and the salesman had no idea how the iPhone connected and interacted with the A3. This is 2011!! Am I asking too much for someone to know a little bit about current technology.

So, I got home and called the first Audi dealer. Remember them? The ones with the pleasant experience. Not only did their salesman know exactly how the iPhone interacted but explained the three different options. I’m headed down there tomorrow for an extended test drive and a demo.

Right now, if I did a search for car dealers that know their stuff and aren’t PITA, I’d find a pretty empty page.  Who would think that trying to buy a car and get some answers to what seem like some pretty straightforward questions could be so frustrating?


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