Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Chitti Chitti Bang Bang

When I decided to buy a car last year, I started off my search with great enthusiasm. After all, I was getting my very own car for the first time. Being a new licensee and under-aged insurance-wise, I decided to go for a second-hand car. So, I not only had to know what make (for me, it was either Honda or Toyota) I wanted, but also had to get familiar with other things like KBB value, VIN numbers, mileage and so forth.

Of course, I was extremely nervous about the whole process. My knowledge of cars extended (and still extends) to knowing how to get in, put the key in the ignition and drive. This being the case, I was a prime target for any car salesman who was interested in ripping people off. So I decided to only look at cars which were being sold privately. Somehow I trusted private sellers to not cheat me!

In prepartion to buying, I visited umpteen web-sites which advised people on buying secondhand cars. I also meticulously prepared notes about the questions had to ask any car-seller. I registered with Carfax to do checks on prospective cars based on the Vehicle Identification Numbers(VIN). Then I scoured Craigslist and Sulekha for used car ads.

Finally, I took the step of actually contacting sellers. The first car I looked at was a Honda Accord. I took two friends - M and V - along. M was to do the test-driving. V was simply the male figure-head. You see, I had read somewhere that, when buying cars, it is a good idea to take a guy along because the general perception is that a guy would know a lot more about cars and thus the seller will resist the temptation to cheat. That V did not even have a learner's license at that time was a secret between us ;-D!

So anyway, this car was a red-colored one. M drove the car and gave it a clean chit. The price wasn't bad. Still, I did not feel comfortable about settling for the first car I looked it and so acted all pricey and said that I would let the seller know of my decision later. After all, I reasoned, given that there are so many Toyotas and Hondas in the Bay Area, how hard could it be to line up other potentially buyable cars?

This was about the most incorrect assumption I had ever made in my life. Sure, there were plenty of Hondas and Toyotas being sold. However, there were an even greater number of buyers for these cars. Every night, I would look at used car ads and diligently make lists of prospective cars and send out mails asking for the VIN numbers. Then, as soon as I got the VIN numbers, I would run a check through Carfax. Then, if it was clean, I would call the buyer. Only to hear them happily say that the car was already sold. What the @#$%! As V put it, it looked like more used cars were being sold than new cars.

After a week of doing this, my patience and sanity was at an end. A week is not a very long time I agree - but for a person like me, who believes in worrying in style about everything, believe me, a week of worrying is a loooong time. When I slept, I dreamt of timing belts, VIN numbers and maintenance records. When I was awake I kept looking at all cars in the parking lots and wishing that I could drive away one of them after putting some money in the parking lot. And of course, all my conversations centered solely around *selfish* car sellers who sold their cars before I could take a look at them.

Towards the middle of the second week, I was well on my way to baldness after all the hair-pulling I was doing due to frustration. Then one Thursday noon (yeah, yeah, I had started car-hunting from work too), I spotted an ad for a Honda Civic. The owner said it was in good condition and there was just an email listed. I promptly sent my asking for VIN number mail and alerted M and V about the potential car. Fortunately both were free and the seller mailed back too. After getting a clean report from carfax, we went that evening for the formal car-seeing ceremony. As we approaced the seller's house, parked on the road, we saw a car which pretty much answered the description in the ad. However, it looked extremely new and shiny (the owner later said that he washed the car regularly and had also waxed it just the previous weekend).

Anyways, that was the car and we took it for a test drive. M said it drove well. V and I, having no other clue about the various aspects of automobiles, declared ourselves impressed by the looks. Then we huddled in close discussion - all three of us agreed that though the car was obviously a good one, we should haggle over the price. Come on, all the how to buy used cars articles had advised me to haggle over the price. Besides the quoted price was over my budget.

So I went up to the seller, D, and asked him a couple of my well-rehearsed "car-questions". Then started to haggle. Which was when he said that the price he quoted was below the KBB value and that there were at least 6 other people who had shown interest in the car (and based on my experiences of the past week, I knew he was not lying) and he wouldnt bring down the price by more than a 100 bucks. So I was in a dilema for a while - a good car, but over my budget, what to do? Then I thought about repeating the car-hunt process. Gulp! That clinched it - I decided to take the plunge! From that point, gurukul students couldn't have been more obedient. V, M and me just stood there, agreeing to whatever D said. Haggling - ha ha ha! We just stopped short of saying "Yes boss." to D!

After that, D turned out to be extremely helpful and assisted me through the entire process of completing the deal. There was just one other hitch after that. D had kindly agreed to take me to the DMV for registering my car. So, on the chosen day, D picked me up in the morning and we went to the DMV. All the forms were signed and all I had to do was pay the registration fee. I grandly whipped out my check-book. To my horror, I found out that I had no more empty check-leaves left. D stared at me in amazement. I badly wished that the earth would open up and swallow me. However, no such thing happened and I had to request D to take me back home to fetch my checks. D did not say much other than, "If it was my daughter, I would be lecturing her by now." and took me back home to fetch my checks and we went back to the DMV where I completed the process. I now always carry some spare checks apart from my check book.

I felt wonderful the day I got the car-title. I actually owned a car :-). And oh, I still drive my first car and yep, it is doing fine *touchwood* :-).

p.s. Chitti Chitti Bang Bang is the title of a movie which features a flying car. My car does not fly but I have always thought that the movie title was too cute and decided to use it here :-P!


prasanna said...


> Then I scoured Craigslist and Sulekha for used car ads.

I am OK with the former postings site..how about the latter? I found SJ Mercury News cars.com to be really effective. Coz, the Ad posters had to pay to use the service.

I decided to stick with my very first used-car that I happened to test-drive. For multiple reasons: I was a student looking out for jobs with excessive credit card bills and the owner was frank enough to admit the condition of the car (the latter part was the most impressive thing). I did go through all the other stuff regd the history of the car etc. as you had mentioned.

I still stick to the same vehicle these days (more like a sentiment). My friends pull me for driving the old Honda Civic (pretty much a University student-car). Of late, I realized, the *Janitor* who works in our office buldg owns a better car than me..my bad, good for her !! :)

lenscrafter said...

Reminded me of my first car-buying experience .. and after a few more of those experiences, I've discovered that the right one always comes along if you have patience .. whether it be a car, a house, or anything else that requires a big decision be made.

Got to ur blog from ur comment on mine. Interesting reading.

Ricky said...

Yeah! Its always a nice experience driving your first car. Have fun and drive safe!

Thanu said...

Good luck on ur car. Have fun driving it around.

spark said...

ungalukku ellam leave kidaiyaadha?

Archana said...

Prasanna, yeah, actually Sulekha had *very few* ads. Craigslist had the most I think. Ha, so you drive your "student" car! I recently met another person who was also driving his "student" car - logic being if it a'int broken, why replace!! Well, my office janitor used to have a car when I used to take the bus - LOL - indha oorla idhu ellam romba common ;-)!

Lenscrafter - hmm, true. Sometimes, for all these important decisions, I just go with my gut feeling. So far that seems to have worked *touchwood*!

Ricky - yeah, its been fun driving my car for the past 1.25 years :-)!

Thanu - sure I will :-)!

Spark - en dideernu sandeham? I do have vacation starting day after - 3 days of work in between two loooooong weekends. Needless to say, work has been on the low ebb these past two days and tomorrow is not going to be any different :-)!