I took my son car shopping recently and it was truly a fun and illuminating experience – for both of us! Actually, the title of this column is slightly wrong since we were lease shopping though, for all practicality, it is was the same thing since the lessons learned are similar and even a bit more layered when a lease is involved.
Up to this point, any time I got a new car during my boy’s lives I tended to do it on my own and surprise them by showing up with it. This time, I thought it wise to involve my boys since this car would be ultimately both of theirs. Arnie, my older son, said he didn’t really care what kind of car it was and wasn’t interested in going on the shopping trip, so my younger son, Aaron, and I set out on our own.
Prior to going, I tasked Aaron with doing some homework online. I asked him to research lease deals for several model cars for a 3-year, 36,000 mile lease. I gave him a budget range but let him do the initial choosing. Given this car would be driven by two young men, we were limited to a 4-door, due to insurance cost.
We had discussed some general options and he dove into his “homework” given his enthusiasm for having his own car. The “deal” in our house was that our (very) old Prius would go to his older brother and Aaron would “get” the new car for the remainder of his time home – senior year in high school – and next summer.
At that time, Aaron would be heading off to college and my wife and I would be moving to Park City, Utah (from Calabasas, CA). Arnie would be approaching his 22nd birthday and, perhaps, if we were lucky be living independently or with some stipend from us. We would give him the new car for the remainder of its lease and he’d be responsible for all gas and service (which will be negligible since anything major is covered by the warranty. He’ll have to change the oil and do tire rotation).
Both boys were good with this plan.
Homework completed, Aaron and I set out to the local car supermarket of dealerships. Along the way, I explained what a lease was to Aaron. He had NO IDEA about it prior to this conversation and I had NO IDEA I’d been so lame in not teaching him or Arnie anything about this basic part of car ownership. Aaron actually seemed interested in learning the details. It now mattered to him. He knew he’d someday – hopefully sooner than later – go car shopping on his own for his very own car.
But, today we were father and son going on an exploratory trip. I’m a good negotiator and things rapidly fell into place as we progressed from one to another dealership – three in all.
When I displayed impatience at the first dealer, my son began to quiet me down. I did it in a non-angry way but he tends not to like ANY confrontation. The result was that I was passed from a novice salesman to the office manager. My son then watched me schmooze with this clearly more efficient and experienced rep from the dealer as we ended up with a couple good options.
Later, my son expressed that he had NO IDEA that a car deal was negotiable!
At the second dealer we were greeted by a classic old pro. He had his rap down but it was good and he and I joked about making deals and cars. Again, my son saw the value of schmoozing as we also got a substantially reduced deal by my haggling with both him AND his manager.
We then proceeded to the third dealer with two different good deals in hand for two really different cars. By now my son was “getting” how to work these guys. I schmoozed not only the sales rep, but sweet-talked the receptionist and entered in a conversation with another salesman while “our guy” was talking with his sales manager.
Pretty soon, the entire dealership KNEW we were there. My son, by now, was no longer embarrassed – perhaps the first time EVER in which he saw the tangible results of my overt personality.
The sales manager came over. I began praising his salesman, complaining about how he deserved a better office. We learned that the hybrid model we’d been talking about was so much more expensive than the “regular” model yet the regular model got just 5 miles per gallon less. I asked for a quote on the lower-priced car.
We left with that deal in hand and a total of three “deals” and three different car options. We were leaning towards our third stop as we went home to discuss our choices with my wife and Arnie.
At home, everyone agreed that the third car was the best one all-around. I called our salesman the next morning – today. The car was ready and, as I write this, Aaron is showing off his new car to his friends.
It really is never too young to teach our kids about money, negotiating, and the value of a good schmooze. Why did I wait so long?