How I Was Almost Manipulated Into Buying a New Car

Last week, my car suddenly started squeaking whenever I made a right turn.

The next day, it started squeaking whenever my foot was on the brake.

Before a third thing could go wrong, I called up my car dealership and made a service appointment for the following morning.

I knew I hadn’t been keeping up with the maintenance on my car as much as I should have. Unfortunately, when you’re broke, it’s one of those things that can’t always be a priority. (Even though we rely heavily on the car, as there’s no Uber or public transportation available.)

The last time I took my car in, I left with a quote for about $1,500 worth of work. However, only a few things were urgent, so only those few things were done.

I braced myself, knowing that there was a very strong chance that this repair bill could be for $1,500 again. Especially with this new squeak.

But my expectation was off. Way off.

And unfortunately, not at all in my favour.

I was quoted nearly $3,000 in work.

Add a new set of tires and a new windshield, and that total jumps to about $4,250.

My car mechanic knowledge is pretty basic. So when they were coming at me with sway bar this and control arm that, they might as well have been speaking German.

What I did understand was the price tag.

And I definitely understood when they said if I didn’t fix all these things, my engine would explode.

My engine would explode?!?!

Needless to say, I was in shock.

I don’t have $3,000! But I also don’t want my car to explode on me while I’m driving it, either.

When we got that first $1,500 quote last year, we wondered if it was worth it to put that much money into a 2010 Hyundai Elantra.

Because of its low mileage (which at the time was under 70,000 km), it’s value was estimated between $7,500 – $10,000. I could easily still get another 4 or 5 years out of this car too, so spending the money on the repairs made sense.

But now that there was this hefty repair bill and another 10,000 km on the odometer, I wondered if that were still true.

I asked the dealership what the trade-in value of my car would be.

Of course, they swooped me into the sales office and started asking me all these questions about getting a new car.

What features did I want in my new car? Did I want another red car or maybe blue this time? What monthly payments I could afford? (How about the $0 that I’m currently paying? Got anything in that price range?)

They completely ignored the fact that I wasn’t looking for a new car. I just wanted to know what my car was worth so I could process the numbers and do what made the most sense financially.

I knew that the trade-in value that a dealership would offer me would be a low, wholesale price. And that it would be a lot lower than what I could potentially get selling it privately.

But I almost broke down when they told me my low-milage, accident-free car that was running just fine 3 days ago was only worth $400.

No, I’m not missing a zero on that number. I mean a measly $400.

To them, my car was worth the same as the unworn clothes that had just been hanging in my closet.

BTW: the average trade-in value for my car in “fair” condition is actually $3,150 according to AutoTrader. Just in case you were wondering how badly the dealership’s offer truly is.

I left the dealership with a $3,000 quote for repairs in one hand and a $25,000 quote for a new car in the other. And no idea what I was going to do.

So I did what I always do when it comes to my car – I called my dad.

My dad, who is a mechanic, spent nearly an hour on the phone with me going over everything. Once I hung up, I felt a lot better about things but realized that my negligence had finally caught up to me.

He did confirm that yes, my brakes and steering needed to be looked at as soon as possible.

However, the majority of all these things that apparently needed to be urgently fixed didn’t. They were simply the things listed on the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule that they suggest replacing around the 80,000 km mark.

More importantly, though, he couldn’t figure out what on this list could possibly make my engine explode. And pointed out that if it really was at a such a high risk of exploding, they wouldn’t have let me drive it off the lot.

He strongly suggested that I get a second opinion.

I didn’t really want to fork out another $60 only to be told the same bad news again, but I am so glad I did!

The mechanic at Canadian Tire said the exact same things my dad did. He even made a joke about how the dealership was trying to give me a heart attack with their quote in order to get me to buy a new car, instead. (He’s probably not wrong!)

So after all of this, I went ahead and forked out $460 to get the brakes (and that initial squeaking sound) fixed, at Canadian Tire. Next pay day, I’ll be spending another $300 to fix the steering.

Buying a new car shouldn’t be something you’re manipulated into doing.

It should be planned, researched and number crunched, because new cars aren’t cheap!

For most people, it’s a significant investment to make. It’s likely another monthly payment to budget for and another 5-figures of debt to take on. Which is something that simply does not work for us right now.

What does work is to spend $300 – $500 a month for a couple of months on these repairs and upkeep. Spending that much on a car loan (for a car we don’t even really want) for the next 7 years, does not.

When I first bought my car (which is the first and only car I’ve owned), it was a fun and exciting experience. I spent months saving up for my downpayment and comparing different features and prices online. I went into the dealership prepared, knowing exactly what I wanted and exactly what I wanted to pay for it.

But there I was at the dealership again, completely unprepared this time, feeling forced into buying whatever new car was the cheapest.

Had I just trusted the service at the car dealership, I would have written off my car as worthless, when it could potentially sell privately for up to $5,300 (again, according to Auto Trader). I would have handed over that potential profit to a dealership that was using scare tactics to try to make even more profit off of me.

I know that maintaining an older car can be expensive. And that buying a new car will be in my not too distant future. But it’s going to be on my terms – and with a non-manipulative dealership.

YOUR TURN: Have you ever been manipulated into buying something you didn’t need? 

For the car owners, how old is your car? When do you plan to replace it?

Let us know in the comments! 

Photo by Every Car Listed via Flickr

Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.

22 thoughts on “How I Was Almost Manipulated Into Buying a New Car”

  1. Can you report the dealership?

    I am weary of getting cars on lease for exactly this reason, I have never heard anything good about dealerships. Also, I am glad Canadian Tire was able to steer you in the right direction, usually they don’t have a good rep from what I have heard.

    I need a new car too, and it is probably worth less than 100 to a dealership but for parts I could easily sell it for $500 and up. It’s a shame that they think nothing of misleading people to make bad decisions! I’m keeping my eye on AutoTrader as well for a new car, I am glad yours is a-ok now!

  2. Quoting a super high repair bill is a common tactic to get people to spend more money. I had a similar experince with our boiler. I grew up with central forced air heat so my current house, a place with hydronic radiant baseboard heat, is still something new to me, even after 3 winters. I get it inspected every year and a major company in area was like, this noise is terrible, the guy installed your whole system wrong, it’ll cost you $4,500 to fix. Then he slides a quote for a new system that’s only twice as much as repair cost. I hold off and get another guy in for another quote. Major repair was needed (bad pump and a few bad pressure valves needed repair still from previous negligent owner) but $1,500 was a lot more reasonable and doable. Now I know what a radiant boiler is supposed to sound like, lol, and we keep up with annual cleanings and servicing and hopefully keep the major repairs at bay. But I now ALWAYS get another quote if something goes as high in price as that.

    As far as car repair, if I were you I’d avoid dealers like the plague. Find an independent auto mechanic with good online reviews or referrals from friends, he/she will charge significantly less for the hourly labor and less on parts. I have been burned so many times from dealers on recall related issues (where the dealer themselves messed up repair even worse) that I refuse to ever use a dealer for anything that is not complimentary and required (like a dangerous recall) because I don’t trust them. Dealer service people are salesmen… They are there to either sell you on overpriced and unnecessary services or sell you a new car. You find yourself and honest mechanic, you won’t be facing a $4,000 repair bill again (unless your transmission and engine die, and at that point it’s time for a newer car).

  3. Shit, that’s shady as hell! Always pays to get a 2nd opinion I guess. Our current car is now … wow, actually about 7 years old, that went fast! Hoping to still get quite a few hassle free years out of it. We always drive them till they become uneconomic to keep fixing, basically.

  4. I have a similar low mileage car to you, but mine is a year newer. So far, we haven’t had this issue, but I can totally see it happening. Low mileage older cars have more value to the long time owner than on the open sales market, I feel. Mine is worth about $4,000 I think, but I also assume we can get 5-10 more years out of it easily. I’m glad you were able to ask your dad questions and to get a second opinion that was better!

  5. My car is a 2007 Honda Civic. It’s old and trusty and I’m keeping it as long as I can because zero car payment. I never take my car to the dealership. How sad that they tried to scam you into another car. How great to have someone that you know and trust is able to help you separate out the BS.

  6. We had an 18 year old car that had been running really well but then had a spate of mechanical problems. After getting all those done, reasoning that those were the ‘big’ jobs and it should be alright now, the car broke down while I was driving with our newborn. That was the last straw and so I ended up paying for the convenience of trading it in at a dealer for a pitiful amount but buying a new-to-us vehicle. Saying that, it took all of our willpower to say ‘No!’ to all the extra warranties and ‘must-have’ cover and just drive away with the car.

  7. I have a 2000 Honda Civic with low miles for its age (211,000 km). Earlier this summer I was car shopping, but I really wasn’t excited about anything and decided to wait a year or so so I can get the features I want in my budget. I’m lucky that my boyfriend is really handy. He’s done all of the repairs on it for the last 12 years, saving me a boatload of cash. Still, I won’t be surprised if it breaks down, but the only thing I know it could need soon is a clutch.

  8. Our cars are 2002 and 2004 models and we use a couple of different mechanics. We aren’t looking to replace either car any time soon unless we decide to expand the family. We’re at max capacity with 3 humans and 2 dogs!

    Since first car in 2001, I haven’t gotten work done in any dealership because I know they overcharge to begin with, but the very second they sense you may be an open prospect to trading in, they immediately jack up the repair quotes with scare tactics. They were sending me letters in the mail trying to get me to trade in my car for pennies on the dollar before I had even paid off the loan! I wasn’t dragging my feet, either, I paid off the 5 year loan in 3.

    Only one friend has ever shared an experience with a dealership that wasn’t shady. I remember over 30 years ago this was a rampant problem. Our family friend told us that she took the car in for the first time to their local dealership and they tried to run the full gamut of a hard sell on her, going so far as to lie about work that “needed” to be done. She was very knowledgeable about cars and they never got a penny of her business since.

  9. Being manipulated into buying something isn’t worth it for me! I’ve been through that situation countless times before, may it be for an expensive product or for a product that is as cheap as a pad paper–either way, when i’m kinda “forced” into buying it, I regret it. One has to want it and to need it to avail it. Not because someone just coerced you into buying it. Anyways, great points you have there, Amanda. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. This happened to me a few years back when I went to get my A/C checked. It was in the humid summer and I really needed to get it fixed, but I knew it was a leak that needed to be fixed rather than having to fully get a new compressor (since I had gotten a new one just 8 months prior).

    So I took it in to a repair shop and they quoted me $1000 for a new compressor, saying that was the reason for the A/C not working. I decided to take it to the dealership and they said the same thing, and looking at my years old, 190k mile/305 km car, they kept pushing for me to get a new car saying it would be nicer and provide peace of mind.

    Finally, I just got fed up with it, and drove 4 hours to where my mom lived, since she was friends with a reliable mechanic. And what would you know, it did end up being just a leak. I got it fixed for $150.

    Because of that experience, I’ve started regularly keeping a better eye on my car and doing routine maintenance.

  11. There are so many car dealers that do the same practice as this one. That is why I get second opinion from smaller car mechanic shops and it is a good practice really. Its great that you were quick-thinking because if not, you could have impulsively buy a new car. Wouldn’t that be a shock when you get home? Haha!

  12. My car is a 2007 Chevy Cobalt – which I bought new in 2007 (over ten years now!). I thought I paid $12 grand for it, but a few years back I stumbled upon the paper work and the dealer somehow slipped in extras that brought the price to just over $13 grand. Sneaky little devils.

  13. Wow. I just love reading article like this one. Wonderful tips. Very informative and creative. Thanks for sharing. Keep sharing such a nice post.

  14. Make a registration of highlights you have to check and consider where you’ll drive your new vehicle. Have a go at driving on the Thruway and stop in awkward conditions if that is the thing that you know you’ll need to do later on. Look at everything to enable yourself to settle on the correct choice. Try not to be reluctant to miss “the arrangement of a lifetime.” You more likely than not saw those come up from time to time, so you shouldn’t give them a chance to weight you into settling on a wrong budgetary choice that will influence your financial plan for quite a long time. If you don’t mind compose on the most proficient method to do legitimate auto support.

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  16. After buying a new car (carefully researched, mine died) my car pooling partner showed me how to change the air filters myself. I had a maintenance warranty and drove across town to the dealership I had bought it from to get the 10,000 maintenance done. My carpool partner warned me about what they would insist I needed. I handed the car over and took a seat in the nice newly remodeled lobby, telling them I did not need air filters as I had already changed them. Sure enough, the kid I told was standing in front of me an hour later with filter in hand telling me what the price of a new filter would be. I reminded him that I had just changed it and the dirt could be tamped out. I didnt return to that dealership and I’ve been changing my own filters ever since. I believe I also included this story in my review…they did not LISTEN to the customer. Moral: find someone who will listen to you (especially if you are a woman)


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