Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Big Car ("Live Big, Drive Little", Says the Woman Looking to Buy a Ford E350 SuperDuty Extended Van)

If there is one thing that has befuddled me more than anything in our culture, it's cars. They are big, expensive items that are supposed to be reliable, but often aren't. I hate cars so much that we only had 1 car for the first 7 years we were married. When we finally decided to purchase a mini-van as a second vehicle, Rob brought the van and car sales man to our house during the test drive. The salesman was beaming.

"What do you think?" He asked. I looked at him, wondering how anyone could manufacture a glow over a bunch of metal, paint, fabric and wire, with a little bit of combustible fluid included. He noticed I wasn't smiling. "Don't you like it?"

"I'm not going to like it." I replied, "It's going to cost me money, eventually it'll break down, and all it does is get me and my kids from point A to point B. I have other, more worthy things, to smile about."

"uh...does that mean you want to buy it?" He looked like he wanted to leave.

We did buy that van. Despite his warnings that we'd soon want to replace it with a bigger one (at which point I really started wondering if car salesmen were included in the "love everyone" I committed myself to when I became a Christian -- I guess so, since tax collectors were.) we planned to keep it until the day it fell apart on some road, or all of our kids moved out. Well, stink, the guy was right, but not for the reasons he thought!

Several weeks ago, at the suggestion of our daughter's physical therapist, we went to a local mobility specialist. We were looking to purchase a van that will accommodate our daughter's 300lb power wheelchair and the rest of our family. I was foolish enough to believe that this guy would be a professional, an educator, willing to teach us what we needed to know in order to buy the proper (and expensive) equipment needed to transport our daughter and her chair. Instead, he was a vulture, I mean car salesman.

We were straightforward about our needs.

"We need a vehicle that will transport us, a minimum of 4 kids, a power wheelchair and have storage space for a manual chair."

"Well," he replied, "Let's look new and then talk." He took us out to the back lot where I saw the largest van I have ever seen. It was so large that it made me shake. It made Stephen King's Christine seem almost pleasant. I could almost feel it sucking the fossil fuel out of the entire city. It was so big... I mean, where would I park this behemoth?

He opened the side doors and I peered in. I was shocked.

"This van only seats 4 people and the wheelchair?" I asked.

"Well, yes. but the back seat folds down into a bed." He responded. I looked at him like he had aliens coming out of his ears. Why would I, traveling with 5 children (2 of whom would be sitting on the roof I guess), need the back seat to fold into a bed?

"Well, when you have yours custom built, we'll add in another bench and another seat belt. Did you see that it has a full size TV?"

"I don't need a TV."

"Sure you do." He was serious! "If you're going to keep this van for 15 years, then you need it to have a TV."

"How does a TV extend a van's longevity?" I didn't think he heard me, but, shucks, he did.

"Well, you don't want your kids to be bored!"

Oh, heavens, no!

"Okay, what does a van like this cost?" I asked. He hemmed and hawed.

"Well, your looking at an extended cab and a double conversion on top--"

"Why double?"

"Well, you don't want your daughter hitting her head on the roof."

"Our daughter weighs 24 lbs and doesn't even sit higher than her wheelchair."

"Well, you don't want her to have to duck her head." Heavens, no, we sure don't.

"So, with the double conversion on top, and all the features you'll need for how long you'll keep the van.... you're looking in the $55,000-60,000 price range."

Now it makes sense! We need the bed in the van because we'll have to sell the house in order to buy the van!

"Okay," both husband and I said, "we'll need to look used."

"Oh....used," he said, "You'll have a 1 in hundred chance of finding what you're looking for. You really need to go custom."

Now, the thing that really gets me is that this guy has a daughter that uses a power wheelchair. He knows exactly how much adaptive equipment costs! How he could stand there, never once listening to what we said we needed, trying to convince us to buy so much more than we needed, without a care to what we could afford is beyond me.

Of course, what he was really dealing with was the fact that most people who want to buy a van really believe those "options" are not options. We saw this when we were selling our old van. It was only 7 years old, in excellent condition, had low mileage, and a great price. But no one wanted it because it didn't' have power windows, locks, rear A.C. or dual sliding doors. It was great at doing what a car is supposed to do : taking a family from point A to point B. However, Americans just aren't looking for that anymore.

So, we're still looking for a van. Despite his warnings that we'd fail, we've been looking for a used version of what we need. So far, we've found 3 possibilities of vans that already have the lift and tie-downs installed (no TV, though and I'm not sure about the bed). And, of course we can buy a used van and used lift and have them converted (all for well under $20,000).

I guess I'll just be dealing with car salesmen for a while. I'm sure they're not all bad. They just don't understand that not everyone wants to define themselves by what they drive, and that there are still some people who understand what a car is supposed to do.

1 comment:

gingerswindow said...

You should write a book, you could call it "Deb Fixes America" and you could make enough to buy us all new vans!