We take delivery of our new car today. Well, our almost new car. It’s a demo model 2004 Corolla Ascent, straight from that sunny playground of the rich and famous known as Nunawading. Not many people know that “nunawading” is actually an aboriginal word meaning literally “heartland of suburban new and used car dealers”. In some dialects it also translates to simply “shady deal”.
The story about our own shady deal is short and quite boring, but this is a blog, so I am going attempt to make it seem much more entertaining and involved than it really was.
Last week we began our journey by visiting the Westpac website to apply for a personal loan. Before I get into the actual car purchasing bit, a word to the wise about financing: you know those interest rates that you see quoted on the website? The ones that say their rates are (unequivocally, it would seem) between 8.95 and 10.5% or somesuch? They are just joshing about that really. But they won’t tell you the punchline until you have completed the entire process of application, made your offer on your car, and have supplied the contract to them for scrutiny! It’s quite hilarious actually — a really good belly laugh at a time when you are not feeling very vulnerable at all! You are sitting in front of some kind of jumped up bank teller with greasy hair and a cheap suit who hands you three copies of an extensive loan agreement with the essential details printed right on the front. The interest rate catches your eye… 10.95% it states. Right there. In front of your eyes. A rate that was not within the range quoted on the website. A rate that actually doesn’t appear anywhere on the website. It seems they calculate your actual interest rate based on dividing the total sum of your loan by what they think the value of your new car is (without any of the on road costs or insurance). If that figure comes to greater than 120% (in Westpac’s case) you fall into a new category of loan — meaning a higher interest rate.
So you are staring at your bank person in disbelief when he informs you that you were told about the interest rate. Weren’t you?
Anyway so before all this, we received notification about 3 days after applying online that we had been successful. So last weekend I went out to the eastern suburbs in search of a new car. I wasn’t completely decided on which model I wanted, but I was pretty sure I wanted something along the lines of a Toyota Corolla. Very reliable, 1.8 L engine, hatchback, and a few extra features without being over the top. I decided to look in some used car lots first. Surprisingly the sales guys (why are there no saleswomen in used cars?) were pretty frank and forthright with their information. I expected them to try to convince me to get something similar to what I wanted. They all, without exception, told me that I should just go straight to a Toyota dealer if I wanted a late model used Toyota. They just don’t get many of them in used car yards.
That made it simple. I headed to Nunawading Toyota to look at used late model Corollas. The weird thing is, they didn’t have many. Most were not quite what I wanted — either over 100,000kms, autos, or higher end models with spoilers and leather steering wheels for a small matter of about $10,000 more than I wanted to spend. So I strolled over to the new car section to look at the sticker price on the new model Ascent (the lowest end model). Turns out I actually found a sales guy who was helpful. He said they had a demo model Ascent that might be cheaper and only had 2,500kms on the clock. So I took it for a test drive. He gave me a price that was still a bit out of reach. I said I might give him a call back but it would have to be a lower price.
Then I went and looked at another Toyota dealer in the city and found absolutely nothing in the right category at all. There was a 99 sports model that was more expensive than the demo Ascent. Sure it had a sunroof, but who cares? One more thing to go wrong I reckon. So the next day Lotte and I went out to Nunawading to test drive the demo. We hadn’t really decided if we would make an offer but I wanted Lotte to see the car for herself. While we were waiting we wandered over and looked at the used cars and there was an Ascent I hadn’t seen the day before — it had 35,000 on the clock and was a reasonable price. This is where the story gets weird. We decided to try and ask to see the demo model, but it turns out they didn’t have it in the showroom — it’s being used by one of the new car sales guys as a company car. Our new car sales guy wasn’t working either, so another guy referred us back to the used car guys to get a test drive of the used one sitting there. It was the spitting image of the demo anyway.
We approached a young guy and asked for a test drive. “I can ask, but I highly doubt it”, he said. He spent about 20 seconds on his phone talking to his manager (apparently) and seemingly talking him out of the idea of a test drive himself. I wasn’t impressed — we hadn’t made our mind up to buy either the demo or the used car in front of us, and we were being told they didn’t do test drives on used cars just for the sake of selling a new car. “They are an independent business” he told us. I politely told him that he was saying no to potential buyers who had travelled about an hour out of their way to come here and test drive a car. I asked for the manager. Strangely enough the manager was more than pleased with the idea and agreed immediately — making me think that maybe he hadn’t been on the end of the phonecall at all.
So we tested the car, and ended up having a brief chat about the difference in price before deciding to make an offer on the demo model. They didn’t like the price — in fact the new car sales guy told me after we’d signed the contract that he’d never put through a sale within $1k of the price we’d got it at. But I reckon demo models always go for a bit less. Anyway we got it for about $3k less than new. Not a bad deal.