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Finding the Family Car: the Conclusion

When we marched into the car dealership Saturday afternoon, giant car seats in tow, I was prepared to make the deal. I'd done my research. I'd quizzed the internet. I'd convinced my husband that This Was The Car, and we'd taken a test drive. All we had to do was make sure we could still fit inside once the car seats were installed.

And we did! Just barely. Phillip is six foot two. I am 30 weeks pregnant. Small we are not, and the car we wanted is described in all the reviews as a "mini minivan." But for city dwellers with tiny kids and a rare need for the third row, it's perfect. So Phillip signaled the salesman over while I took deep breaths and tried to make peace with trading in my super fuel-efficient four-door car for a mini minivan.

We sat down at one of the little tables with the salesman and the horrible Negotiation Phase began. The plan was for Phillip to do the talking and for me to keep my mouth shut at all costs. My propensity for inappropriate laughter combined with what people have called my "painful honesty" does not make for a good negotiation poker face.

See, I just find the entire song and dance ridiculous, not to mention a little bit mortifying, and that kind of attitude makes for a terrible bargainer. Because we weren't having much luck selling the car ourselves (although we only advertised it for a week. Can you say "impatient"?) we decided to just trade it in. So first we had to participate in the whole How Much Will You Give Me For My Car performance. You tell the dealer what you want for it. He grimaces and shakes his head a little and heads into the Secret Back Office to pow wow with The Banker or whoever it is back there making all the decisions. He comes back to say he'll give us X amount – not quite what we asked for, but maybe better than what we were expecting. At this point I'm doing all right. I'm ready for Phillip to say, "Great!" but NO. Phillip has a few other points to make and the salesman marches into the secret office AGAIN and right about now is where I start rolling my eyes and tapping my foot and saying things like, "Why can't they just tell you the ACTUAL PRICE and then you PAY IT and then you can LEAVE?"

This is why I'm supposed to keep my mouth shut.

After you agree on the trade in value, you start on the price of the new car. Which is even worse. The actual car stops mattering and instead you're talking about the trim level and the fact that it's the last weekend of the month. The price the dealer was giving us was decent, but we knew we could do better. We'd looked up the car on Parenting's new car buying tool and knew that another dealer was prepared to sell the car for $1000 less. We could have just gone to that dealer in the first place, but he was far away and we are lazy. Instead we printed out the deal and brought it with us to the dealership near our house. It was a literal card up Phillip's sleeve and when he pulled it out, the salesman was perplexed. "What's THIS?"

"Oh," I said, "Dealers who are part of this program have to honor that price. It's for moms who don't want to deal with this whole negotiation thing and who maybe think it is the most annoying way in the world to spend one's afternoon. Also, how come there are no pictures of car seats on your website?" And that's when Phillip kicked me under the table and I resolved all over again to keep my mouth shut.

The dealer huffed off into the Secret Room. When he came back ten minutes later he offered to match the price. SCORE.

Of course, even THEN my husband wanted to "sleep on it" and wouldn't close the deal. Which only meant that we second guessed ourselves all night long (easy to do when the nightly news starts telling you that Americans are downsizing to smaller more fuel-efficient cars, ARGH). But Phillip headed off to the dealership the next afternoon, without his impatient wife, and hours and hours later arrived home with our shiny new car. I am now the proud owner of a mini minivan. I've got several years before soccer practice invades my daily life, but can I just say how much easier it is to get your one-year-old in and out of a VAN? SO MUCH EASIER.

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