Our Family

Family Calendar
Family Album

Car Buying

Some of Our Family Experiences

My First Car.
It was probably the summer of 1964 and I was about to go into my third year at Purdue University. The car was a 1953 Chevy, straight six. Bought it for $300. It needed new for carpeting which I got from a mail order house and lots of Bondo from the local car parts store. Shortly after I got it, I took three of my friends out for cruising around. We went to the local drive-in. The cool thing to do was to back your car in so you could watch all the other people cruise through the place. Unfortunately I was completely unable to backup the car, much to the mortification of my buddies. Maybe that's why my driving lessons for the kids always included being able to back up.

I took it to Purdue. When it wouldn't start, my roommate, Jim Rohleder, would get out and help me push start it with his just one push. Did I mention that he was all-state as a high school football player?

The First Car for Bonnie and Jay.
My parents bought us a brand-new 1967 Chevelle for a wedding present. Bonnie was so, so excited. And so was I. It was a wonderful gift. We drove that car to my first Army assignment at Fort Belvoir, and then to my second Army assignment at Fort Lewis Washington, and then Bonnie kept the car for year while I was in Vietnam, and then we took the car to Purdue University for my civil studies, and then we took the car to Kaiserslautern Germany for my assignment there, and then we took the car to Heidelberg Germany, and then we took the car to Eschborn Germany for my two years there. The car ran very well and we had a lot of wonderful trips in it. But by 1976 the car was nine years old and it had some problems in that the floor leak water in the backseat. We sold the car before leaving Germany, and we later learned it lasted about nine months before being hauled off to the dump. Bonnie called that car Cheryl Chevy.

Our Second Family Car - Polly Pinto.
In Kaiserslautern Germany I was a company commander and it became clear that we needed a second family car for Bonnie to get around him. My first sergeant knew a car dealer (actually he knew everybody) who hooked us up with a 1974 Pinto station wagon. We drove that car for the next 10 years, and I sold it just before leaving Fort Campbell, Kentucky in June 1984.

Buying our First Custom Van.
The year was 1982 or 1983, and the family was big enough that we decided to buy a van to get us around on our family trips. Our good friend Richard Hunley had an uncle that had a van for sale so we went up and bought it. I asked the uncle if he would give me a warranty on the van, and he said yes: 30 seconds or 30 feet. We drove that van at Fort Campbell, and then at Carlisle Barracks, and in Germany at Stuttgart and at Hanau. But the van was used to begin with and it needed some work. So we sold the van to a soldier for about $2200. Big mistake. Especially when we priced new vans. We should've put thousand dollars in the old van to get it up to good shape because that would've been much better off financially.

Buying a Saturn.
Around 1989. We had a Ford Taurus and had terrible experience with it. We needed to get rid of it. Among its problems was that it constantly overheated. I contacted the Saturn dealership and told them what kind of car I had and they gave me a trade-in price. It wasn't much, maybe $600 or $800, I can't remember; but it sure was more than that piece of junk was worth. On the day I was to turn in the Taurus I left a half hour early and parked in a lot about one block from the dealership for 30 minutes to allow the car to cool off before I took it in. I didn't want it steaming and smoking as it rolled onto the lot. Actually, I don't think they cared. That car was going to the auto auction, regardless.

Buying Sandra a Car.
The year was 1992. We went down to a local dealership because they had advertised cars selling at $100 over invoice. These were the days when you could not find the "dealer invoice price"on the Internet. You just had a pretty good idea of what it was. Well, we met a personable salesperson and explained what we wanted to do. He said great, let's look at some numbers. And then he showed me numbers for about 40 minutes. Although I am an engineer I still did not quite understand what he was doing. And I wasn't comfortable, so I said we'd think about it and get back with him. The next morning I called the dealership and asked for the sales manager. I explained to the sales manager that we had met with his very nice salesman the day before who showed us a lot of numbers that I did not understand. I asked the sales manager a simple question. Do you want to sell me a car $100 over invoice? He said come back in. And there was the same salesman, only this time he had a sheet of paper that showed the dealer invoice cost and $100 over invoice. In five minutes I was back talking their business manager about financing and taking delivery of the vehicle.

Buying Anne her First Car, a VW.
The year was probably 1995, and was looking for her first car. She wanted a VW bug. I found one being sold locally for something like $800. I bought the car, and we spent some money getting a green metallic paint job on it. Actually, the color of the car should have been pink because we called the car Piglett. It turned out that the car had a number of problems, and we even had a mechanic shake his head at the engine, indicating that it was not repairable. But somehow the engine did work and we kept the car running, and actually drove the car from Newport News to Tallahassee when we moved down there. We sold the car for something like $2200, which even represented a small profit.

Buying Anne Her Second Car.
This was around 2001. At this point we had the Internet to do our shopping on, and I picked the car and its various options that were right for her. We lived in Tampa and I sent an email to every dealership who had that car in the Tampa, Orlando, and Bradenton area. I said this is what I want, and this is what I will pay including dealer prep fees. I understand that I will have to add tax and tags to that number. I asked, "Are you willing to sell that car with those options at the price I am offering?"

I got polite responses back from virtually every dealership. All said no and gave me a slightly higher number. However a salesman for the dealership in Bradenton said yes come on down. So, because I was working, we went late one night with the family down to that dealership to buy the car. There we met the salesman who is very happy and friendly and showed us the car on the lot while we waited to go in and see the business manager, who was finishing up a previous job. The business manager laid out all the paperwork for me to sign for the car and the options I had chosen. And then he included a $400 vehicle prep fee. To say that I hit the roof would be an understatement. I gathered the family and we proceeded to load back in the car. We were going home. The business manager came out and ask if I could wait a minute. I said okay. The business manager called the owner of the dealership, who asked to speak to the salesman. Evidently the salesman had answered my email without checking with his boss, and we learned from the business manager that the owner deducted the $400 from the salesman's commission. At that point the salesman wasn't very friendly and he actually stormed off. We got the car at the price we wanted. Two weeks later we got a sweetly worded letter from the salesman asking if we were happy with our new vehicle. I tore up the letter.

Buying Bonnie a Car.
Also around 2001. We had moved to Tampa, but still had an account open at a credit union in Tallahassee. We got a letter offering a very good deal on buying a new car provided the car was financed with the credit union. We did the deal over the phone, and it turned out that the car we wanted was in South Florida. A towing company brought the car up to my workplace in Celebration, Florida, on a flatbed truck during the night and left the keys in the tailpipe. Everything was fine. I drove the car to Sandra's house, picked up to the grandchildren to ride in the backseat, and stopped a half block away from our house. I put the top down the convertible, had the kids sit up parade style in the backseat, and called Bonnie on the phone, asking her toi come out of the house. I then cruised by in the topdown convertible and watched Bonnie's eyes. First it was questioning then joy and she realized the car was hers. And two weeks later we paid off the car in cash. (Bonnie took exceptionally good care of that car. It was a garaged for most of its life. And had very low mileage on it.)

Shopping for a Car for Nanny.
Around 2003. Nanny had a Grand Marquis that was a bit old and really too big for her to drive. So she was looking for a new car. I took her car shopping and we were helped by a young salesman. We are standing there in the lot and he says, "Let's look under the hood." I said, "Are you crazy? I told you this car is for my mother who is 85 years old. She will never look under the hood of this car and could care less what is there just so long as it takes her where she wants to go."

Back to Family Stories