Sunday, March 28, 2010

Adventures in car shopping, Dutch-style

The costs of renting a car to go back and forth to Cambridge are getting to be well in excess of the costs of buying a car, so I’ve decided to let the business invest a bit of cash in some mobility.

Shopping for cars in the US is always an exercise in research and negotiation: I never actually get the better of a salesman, but I’ve become adept at trying and (like all American men) I think I get pretty close to the mythical “Good Deal”.

I don’t know what the equivalent experience might be like in the Netherlands?  But the one, certain Universal of Car Shopping is that I’m going to get killed if I don’t have skilled help. 

So I enlisted a Dutch friend, knowing that he would know the process, be absolutely focused on getting value for guilder, and enjoy chewing down the salesmen.  I had a budget, an vague idea that a VW Polo was a good car, a desire to get green technology, and certainty that we wanted to take every angle allowed under the business taxes..

abcdefg We started at a used-car showroom, where we could compare lots of in-budget models with good fuel efficiency (A or B on the Brandstoflabel, right, assuring a 20% tax credit).  I was immediately ready to take the Mercedes convertible for 24K, or (someone else’s) classic red Jaguar in the parking lot.  But we steered towards the Clio, the Polo, the Fiesta, the Corsa, the 207, while I slowly got my mind around Euro-car buying.

There are differences.  In the US

I size up the car and the salesman

I take a test drive

I settle on a feature package

I negotiate the financing.

Along the way, I shake my head and start to leave at least 3 times.

I usually wrap things up, reducing the salesman to weeping frustration, within five hours.

In contrast, among the Dutch,

We have coffee.

We study the brochure together.

We review a table of prices, sorted by packages and options.

If we are interested, we may make an appointment for a test drive at a future date.

If still interested, then we have to decide on financing strategy: a financial lease (a payment plan after which I own the car) or an operational lease ( a series of lease payments after which I return the car).  Only a financial lease may be negotiated.

The salesman takes notes, thanks me for my interest, and promises to send a quote by email in a day or so.

If still interested, I may accept.

Augh…where’s the bid, where’s the negotiation?  Where’s the fun ?!

  So, I await the weekends bids, and have test drives scheduled for Monday morning.


Alison said...

Oh, I vote for the red E-type Jag. ;) I had a burgundy-colored toy model of that when I was little and have forever wanted a real once since then.

Dave Hampton said...

Hi, Alison, absolutely, I vote for the Jag as well...I had my picture taken next to it.

Textual Healer said...

But it probably doesn't qualify for your a/b fuel efficiency rating - and would be a magnet for all the speed cameras...