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A few weeks ago, Hubby and I bought a new-to-us car, a Buick Park Avenue. This was after our Mazda Millenia went kaflooey on the interstate. (FYI: The interstate is not a fun place to break down. Dangerous as all get-out because the cars come fast and shoot by without slowing down. If you get out and stand on the side of the road, as is habitual during car trouble, you risk being hit. Best to stay buckled in the vehicle – unless it’s in flames – and wait for help.)

Our Millenia had overheated so badly that the heat had warped parts of the engine. That meant dropping a new engine into the car for a minimum of $2,200. We decided it wasn’t worth it, preferring to spend that money on something newer and more reliable.

Thus, our research began. Or, rather, Hubby’s research began.

When we were young and dumb, we played hit-or-miss with the whole car-purchasing task. We were seriously burnt doing this, ending up with a car that had a major mechanical issue because a salesperson pressured us into buying. He used the line, “The car won’t be on the lot tomorrow; you’ve gotta buy now.” Yeah. We don’t fall for that anymore. As soon as a car salesperson uses that kind of line on us, we walk. No car is so good a deal that we can’t take a day or two to think about it. And if someone buys a car out from under us, fine. It wasn’t meant to be.

Since that time, along with not knuckling under to high-pressure sales, we have learned to do our research before we head out to local car lots. The first part of research is figuring out what features we want in a vehicle. For our latest experience the most important feature was size, followed closely by good gas mileage. Our children have all grown to be taller than I am, so had to cram themselves into the Millenia like it was a clown car. We didn’t want to keep torturing them, which meant finding a bigger vehicle. Because we also wanted good gas mileage, most SUVs were off the list immediately. Hubby wasn’t keen on a minivan, although a couple were possibilities.

Based on these features, we created a short list, which included the Buick Park Avenue, Toyota Sienna, Mazda MPV, Buick LeSabre, and Buick Rendevous.  (Lotta Buicks on that list.)

Then, we looked at cost. A word about car prices. Whatever you know you can afford, don’t reveal that amount to salespeople. Instead, tell them you’re willing to spend about $1,000 to $1,500 less.  If you tell them you can afford $8,000, the vehicle will cost $9,000 guaranteed. Part of this is because car salespeople upsell (they always think you can afford more than you’re willing to pay) and part of this extra cost is for sales tax and licensing fees.

After determining our budget, Hubby went online and checked car values by make, model, year, and odometer reading. Taking our desired features and budget into consideration narrowed our options considerably. We decided the Buick Park Avenue was going to most closely fit our needs.

At that point we visited numerous car dealerships, searching for our specific car. We sat in a number of other vehicles during our visits, just in case we had missed something. Hubby also regularly checked used car listings online to see if there were any Park Avenues available. There was one that was in good shape at a dealership in town and that’s the one we eventually bought.

Now we’re busy getting used to the specific nuances of our car. It’s got all kinds of power features we didn’t have in the Millenia. (The automatically adjusting driver’s seat is the bomb!) And we are all enjoying the extra space.

In reflecting on this car-buying experience (for which Hubby gets all the credit for the research he did), I realized that when we purchased the Millenia, we didn’t have the internet available. I think I prefer car shopping better with the assistance of the Web.