A couple of weeks ago the family was going out for Sunday dinner. It has been a long time. The last time the entire family ate out was late last year when my mom, baby boy’s grandmother, had a good day at the casino and decided to share a piece of her fortune. The fact that she had a coupon to one of her favorite restaurants and it was about to expire was a big factor as well. So it had been a while and we were long overdue. The problem was all of us wouldn’t fit in a single car. The baby’s high dollar car seat with its luxury upholstery and its own roll bar and safety features took up half the car’s back seat and there were four adults. We had no choice but to take two cars. We knew this day was coming. If we wanted to move as a complete family unit and save gas in the process then the minivan needed to bubble up to the top of the priority list.
Two days later I was driving back to the office from a meeting at one of the company’s client locations when I saw a sweet looking Ford Freestar SEL minivan. It was white with a tan secondary color around the bottom. It was a small mom and pop used car lot. I caught a glimpse of the car out the corner of my eye as I drove by. I took a trip around the block for a second look. I decided to park and take an even closer look. The van had tan leather seats. Baby boy won’t be the only one riding in luxury. It was a 2002 with sixty three thousand miles. I went into the office to ask the price. The gentleman inside pulled his price list from his pocket and told me $8999. Want to take a closer look? I got the keys right here. No thanks! It’s too much for my wallet. I walked away. But, later than night I actually found the minivan on the AutoTrader website at the mom and pop dealership. The minivan was actually going for $7999. I hate bastards. But it was still too expensive. Regardless, I would be an idiot to trust this dealership after the guy tried to gouge me for an extra grand.
But I did find another 2002 Freestar LX with sixty seven thousand miles on eBay. I made a bid of fifty two hundred and managed to win the auction with a final price of five grand. It was being sold at a local Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership and so a partial family unit loaded up in the car to go see it. We took the minivan for a drive and it was one of the biggest turds I ever had the displeasure to test drive. The van’s motor was extremely coarse. It’s like Ford didn’t have a clue about balance shafts and smoothness. You would’ve thought we were driving a four cylinder with a fouled spark plug or something. When we got back to the dealership I had to tell the man that there is no way in hell I would buy the car. You won the auction! You’re obligated. I don’t care if I won it as a door prize I’m not parking that POS in my driveway. Well what about this?
The salesman showed us a 2005 Chrysler Town & Country LX. It was the short, entry level version with sixty six thousand miles. It was a Dodge certified used automobile. The engine was as smooth as a Honda. It had cloth seats for the baby to grind food and stuff into. Seat covers would be a wise investment. The car was going for more than seven grand. It was another budget buster. We liked the van and we think it will meet our needs but two thousand dollar difference is pretty substantial when you don’t have it. And financing is not an option. Not that we can’t qualify. Five thousand dollars down and financing two grand on a seven thousand dollar automobile is a no brainer. But I refuse to pay a dime for financing and I refuse to pay for the extra insurance coverage. It’s either cash or no deal. I went home and found the van on the internet. They’re asking ten grand. Even at seven grand it would be a deal. The pictures on the net showed the van with a thin layer of snow on top so they’ve had it for a while. We’re still in negotiations. Wish me luck.
But while we were standing at the dealership and walking through the new cars and the used cars, I saw something that seriously bothered me. The dealership was busy. It had a customer clientele that would be the envy of just about any other automobile dealership. A lot of customers were black and a lot of customers were white. Everybody was being well taken care of. The dealership was very professional and I will recommend them to everyone, as long as I get my minivan.
The problem I had was that a number of their black customers were testing brand new Dodge Charger R/Ts, the highline model with the V8 motor. That’s a thirty grand automobile. And then there was another couple looking at a brand new Chrysler Aspen, the big sport utility vehicle Chrysler made to compete with the likes of the Chevrolet/GMC Suburban and the Ford Expedition/Excursion. There was another black family there looking at a used sport utility vehicle with a big V8. I didn’t see any black customers looking at anything with economy in mind. I wanted to go up to each one and ask them were they aware that gas is knocking on four dollars’ door and that it’s bound to keep going all the way to five dollars before the end of summer. I wanted to ask these people were they aware that the economy was slowing down and that a number of companies are feeling the pinch and ask how did they feel about their long term employment situation. I wanted to ask about their budgets and weren’t they being squeezed by the increase price of food and the increase price of energy to heat and cool their homes and the extra cost of insurance for their vehicle and such.
I’m pretty sure that these people weren’t paying cash for these cars. Chances were pretty good that they would be taking on a new car note. What kind of financing were they planning to take? What would be the impact to their insurance? My insurance will actually drop by going with a newer model automobile. Even though I’m signing up for just liability insurance, buying a newer car with an alarm and airbags actually gives me a break. Have they bothered to talk with their insurance agent? Have they considered maintenance costs? Have they thought their purchase completely through or is looking at the more powerful machinery on the car lot an emotional response?
I didn’t know anything about these people other than the color of their skin. For all I know they could’ve been lottery winners, self employed entrepreneurs, the inventor of the machine that could make gas from water, and business executives. They could’ve been saving all their lives to make these particular purchases. It was not my place to judge their finances or to make assumptions about their finances. They know exactly their financial position much better than I did. But I still felt bad because all I could do is imagine the worse. Still, you can lead a horse to water but it’s virtually impossible to make it drink. If those people had their heart set on that R/T or the Aspen then all I could do is wish them luck. If they wanted my advice they would have asked.