Tears in – and over – the Trailblazer: A Car Buying Story

I bought a house by myself. I figured out how to hook up the Wii and the stereo by myself. I managed to hang shelves straight by myself. All things I had never done before by myself because Mike or my dad did them for me. But now, I knew I could do these things because I DID these things. But there was still one hurdle, something I dreaded, something I had to do by myself.

I went to the car dealership on Saturday. I left (the first time) in tears, fast-walking to my car, couldn’t get there soon enough as the tears rolled down my face. I left (the second time) with a car.

Mike and I bought the Trailblazer the week I found out that I was pregnant with Ethan. I had a small car, and thought a nice SUV would be perfect for life with a baby. We bought the car, then took a trip to Memphis where I bought the first piece of baby furniture for the nursery. The Trailblazer was the first car Mike and I bought together. It got us through the birth of two babies. Drove us to too many funerals – and lots of weddings and family trips and “just the two of us” vacations. I didn’t realize until today that I had memories with this car.

When Mike lost his job (and started to slip away), maintenance on the Trailblazer stopped. He didn’t change the oil anymore. The “service engine” light was always on. The brakes were soft, the tires worn. It was pushing 200,000 miles. When I moved to Wisconsin, I had MAJOR work done on the car, but there was so much more that needed done. Every time in the last six months, when I’ve had the “service engine” light fixed, it would come back on, usually in a day or so. It became a never-ending game. And in a state that requires vehicle testing, I was in jeopardy of failing (for the third time) my inspection.

I’m an over-researcher. My Plan Bs have Plan Bs. There are few things I do without spending incredible amounts of time in research mode. I started looking into cars a few months ago. But I couldn’t decide what I wanted. A car? Another SUV? What about a minivan? I looked into best cars for parents. (Sidenote: did you know there are articles on the best cars for SINGLE parents? I still don’t understand that article…)  Best cars for safety ratings. Best features. I would talk myself into something, and by the end of the night, flip flop my thoughts about what I wanted.

This week, I started looking online at what local dealers had available. And I found it. A 2012 model, but it was “used” so the depreciation was accounted for. Had all the features I wanted. I drove to the dealer this morning and saw the car right on the corner. I drove past, turned around, drove past again.

I hate dealing with car dealers. I didn’t want to drive onto the lot.

But I did.

Randy met me as I hiked up the hill to get a closer look at the car. Seemed in decent shape, couldn’t beat the price or the miles or that it was essentially a BRAND NEW car. I took it for a test drive. Then took three more vehicles for test drives. (Sidenote: if you go to a dealer with someone else – a spouse or friend or whatever – you can take the car out on your own, no salesperson. If you arrive alone, like I did, you CAN’T take the car alone and have to spend more time with the dreaded salesperson.)

I turned over my keys to have the Trailblazer inspected for a trade-in offer. I walked around the lot more. Did more Internet research on the spot. Thought about it more and more and more. I knew this was the right choice.

I decided I wanted to make an offer. Of course, the dealership had a “no haggle” policy on the used cars, but I still asked for a few things thrown in (I got everything I asked for). It came time to send the paperwork to finance. All they needed was my signature.

That’s when I freaked out.

I looked at the paperwork and the numbers and the legal jargon on the doc they wanted me to sign. I realized, as I looked at this document, that I’ve never signed anything without my attorney reviewing first. My attorney was Mike.

He loved reviewing contracts, deciding what was legit and what was nonsense. What would be admissible in court and what was stupid. Crossing things out and haggling over words used. It would take hours more time than it needed to because he read.every.word. I hated it then. But now, as I stared at this form, trying to make sense of the words, I panicked. I felt pressure (and Randy was terrific at NOT pressuring me – for a car salesman, he was very accommodating, no pressure, and helpful). Still, I felt uncomfortable.

I sent Randy back to the desk to get clarification on a couple of points. It was a diversion tactic so I could sneak away. I grabbed my purse and looked at the place I usually attach my keys. Nothing. More panic as I realized that the dealership still had my keys. I couldn’t leave.

More panic.

“I want my keys. I need to go. I’m not comfortable signing anything,” I told Randy, trying to look as apologetic as possible. “I really need to go.”

“Just hang on a second,” he said. “I’ll have John explain this to you. Maybe he can do a better job.”

“It’s not that,” I said. “I need to leave. Now. Please give me my keys back.”

“Please just give me my keys.”

“Sorry, I can’t do this. I need my keys!”

It was another 10 minutes and more conversation with Randy and John until I had my keys. At that point, my eyes were watering and I felt my throat closing up. I put on my sunglasses and rushed out the closest door to the parking lot. Then the tears came. Big, wet, sloppy tears rolling down my cheeks as I walked as fast as I could to the Trailblazer.

I opened the door, got in and let the emotion out. I looked around the car and realized that it meant more to me than I realized. I drove away.

I drove to a fast food place to get something to drink, hoping that something cold and bubbly would calm me down. Then I just started driving. No real destination, just away from the dealer and the emotion and the…everything.

Randy called my cell phone. “Hey,” he said. “We’ll let you take the car for the weekend. Just come back and get it.”

I called my mom and in talking to her, realized that I was okay. I would be alright. That I could get out of the signing the scary document because I don’t have to finance the car – why should I pay interest when I can pay cash, today? That this was a hell of a deal and the Trailblazer was going to require a lot more repairs before it was over.

My head was clearing and I was starting to think rationally.

I turned around and drove home. I needed to clean out the Trailblazer if I was going to trade it in. (Sidenote: oh my, the amount of goldfish crackers I found in the backseat was ridiculous – and gross!)

Feeling better about my decision, I called Randy and told him I was coming back. Ethan decided to join me and back to the dealership we went.

Walking into the dealership for the second time, I felt a little foolish. I had created a bit of a scene at the end as my voice kept getting louder as I asked for my keys. But I was put to ease immediately by a nice guy who asked if I was from southern Illinois. He saw the sticker on the back of the Trailblazer and recognized the dealer. We had a very pleasant conversation about the area before Randy joined us again. I felt comfortable and ready.

I was relieved that Ethan was with me, even if he’ll never know it. If I felt awkward (hello, scene maker) or needed to escape for a minute to clear my thoughts, I looked around for him and engaged him in talk about the game he was playing on my phone. It helped me focus and calm down. Talking to Ethan, touching his hair, laughing with him put things in perspective. 

Another hour at the dealership, and Ethan and I left in a new, but used, car. I love it.

2 thoughts on “Tears in – and over – the Trailblazer: A Car Buying Story

  1. What kind of car did you get? I want/need a new car but haven’t done the research, so I’m curious to hear what Ms. Uber Researcher purchased? 🙂

    • I bought a 2012 Equinox. A friend has one and I really liked it. I narrowed it down to a couple of possibilities (and exhausted my research options on everything), then I saw a listing at a local dealership for the 2012 USED (only owned and driven for a few months). Went and drove it. Drove a few other things too. Then bought it – well, after a bit of trauma and drama! I love this car!

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