Craig’s List and Car shopping

So, despite knowing this was coming for about a year, I need to buy a car, and should probably have that done by, oh, the end of the next week.  This has got to be the most stressful, unsatisfying shopping experience of my life.  House shopping was easier – I actually wanted a house.  I do not want a car.  I need a car.  (Insert mopey missing Chicago here)

Leaving aside the boring report about the angst involved in this process – do I buy a new car to maximize the time before I have to go through this again, or a certified pre-owned for the same reason but with a couple thousand dollars in savings, or the cheapest adequate thing that looks like it’ll hold up – I’ve settled on looking for a four door sedan with decent gas mileage, produced after the turn of the century, and which Edmunds tells me will not be expensive to maintain.  Tie breakers go to the car with the lowest insurance rates, particularly important since I smudged* my driving record last year.

Originally I had grand plans of scouring the country for the best deal, then driving back, triumphant, in my never-seen-the-rust-belt bargain.  But that required me leaving the rust belt in order to buy a car, having to awkwardly find a way home of the car I traveled for didn’t work out, and a really long drive.  If we were meant to drive long distances, god wouldn’t have invented trains.**

So prolonged denial (getting a different model from Hertz this week counts as shopping, right?), deep reluctance, and inborn laziness has left me combing Madison’s Craig’s List page for good options.  This experience has been interesting for it’s meta-details more than its fruit.  And since it’s my last day onsite for work and I am unspeakably bored, I’ll subject you to them.

The first interesting thing is the rubric of self-diagnosing my desired price point.  When I started searching I’d arbitrarily put my budget at <$10k.  I’m finding, as I skim through listings, that most things get ignored over $8k, unless the manufacturer is Nissan, or the title includes the word “Convertible.”  I have a high rate of clicking on those ads up to $12,500.  This makes sense – the Versa, Maxima and Altima are way up on my list of favorite cars to rent, and I have a theoretical fondness for convertibles.  In reality, I’m a spoiled creature fond of her A/C.

The second point: There are a lot of people posting on the Madison Craig’s List who are not in Madison.  I’m not talking about Fitchburg and Verona, I’m not even talking Sun Prairie and Lodi.  There are listings from Dubuque on there.  (That’s Iowa, for the non-locals, a desolate land of corn fields and…corn fields.  I’ve never been there, that’s makes me an expert.)

I’ve also found that I am irrationally unwilling to contact somebody who wrote their ad poorly, or in all caps, about the car.  This makes no sense since one’s writing skills and one’s car maintenance abilities don’t correlate.  Still, haven’t contacted a single all caps poster, and have definitely passed on poorly written ads even before putting them through the “Does your pricing match KBB?” test.  I’m aware of this irrational bias, but don’t think I’ll be doing anything to correct it.  One more point in the “Anaea is an unsalvageable snob,” category.

Lastly, the whole thing has been a fascinating exercise in the “Pics or it didn’t happen” aspects of internet psychology.  If there are no pictures of the car, I assume it’s a deformed junker and skim on by, even if the ad says, “Perfect condition, come look any time.”  If they’ve just dropped in a generic photo of the kind of car my brain switches to assuming there is no car and I’m viewing a scam.  That might be true, but it could just be that the guy selling the 2001 Oldsmobile to pay for his upcoming baby can’t afford a digital camera.  I’ll never know.

I have several cars lined up to look at tomorrow.  I’m going to pick one, get it inspected, and then buy it.  And if it fails the inspection, I’ll pick another one.  But at this point, I have got to have a car, so petty prejudices and irrational biases ftw.

*Don’t get caught speeding in Jefferson County, it’s a revenue stream for them and they’ll cheat to convict you.

** Part of my reluctance to buy a car is that I feel entitled to the option of a fully electric robot car that will drive for me.  Why does this thing not exist yet?  I am offended.  And you know the second I give in and actually buy a car, somebody is going to announce the 2012 Robotic Roadster.

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2 thoughts on “Craig’s List and Car shopping

  1. If it makes you feel better, you would likely still need a car to sell houses in Chicago.
    Also, the first three models of the Robotic Roadster will have horrible wiring problems that cause you to die a fiery death if you look at them funny. Plus they’ll cost $30k.
    I don’t know if bad spelling correlates to bad car maintenance, but based on a certain white Honda, I would say that good spelling definitely doesn’t imply much of anything about car maintenance.

  2. I’m the same with craigslist. The last few times I’ve seriously used it for apartment shopping purposes, I’ve gone as far as clicking the button for only showing results with pictures.

    Also, since I’ve been in a few Nissan’s myself, my vote would be for a Maxima. Its a little spiffier than the other two. Its true the Versa I’m experienced with was a manual hatchback and I imagine you’d be going for the automatic sedan, but to my experience, the Maxima has the nicest/smoothest ride of the three you mention.

    And my vote goes towards certified pre-owned. Shaves a bunch of money off the cost of new, while still getting something that’s quality and looks nice- features you need. This may not be true and I may be making things up, but it makes sense to me that if you get it from a dealership, its going to come with a little more security than the side of the road.

    That’s my 2 cents

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