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Buying car is like getting root canal

If I had to choose between getting a root canal and buying a new car, I'd have to toss a coin. To me, buying a car is as much fun as an uncapped nerve ending.

So when my lovely mother needed to buy a new car, my offer of help was a sign of true devotion. Clearly, Tag Team Car Purchasing was needed. That's my own style of preparing for and surviving those trips to the dealership and the bank. My team consisted of my brother Stan, who actually thinks reading car magazines is fun; my Mom, who would pay the big bucks; and myself, she who would make the deal.We narrowed the field of car choices in a simple way. We decided what Mom needed most. Her list: a brand-new (not used) car, ease in getting groceries and grandchildren in and out, a driver's seat that was high enough that she could slide in and out. Those criteria eliminated many models immediately.

Stan reviewed car magazine test results and talked to his equally car-crazed friends. We thereby learned much about features, service costs and fuel efficiency.

I am a mechanical idiot by choice so I need the technical help of someone like Stan. I do not comprehend dealership demo drone, which sounds to me like - "This model has an exceptional single overhead camshaft 3.8 liter V-6 tinted fuel filter lubricant compression transmission anti-lock engine." Yikes! What I care about are such crucial factors as: Does it have a large enough drink holder? Will it pass trucks going uphill? Do you have it in red?

If you are like me, a mechanical mind is essential to your decision-making. Someone like Stan can help you decide if an option package is a good value or if you should be impressed by some engine-enhancing feature the nice salesperson is touting.

Before we made our first trek to a dealership, the Tag Team discussed how we'd handle these visits. Since I look just as thrilled on the dealer's floor as I do in the dentist's chair, Stan took care of the "Hi, I'm a nice car salesperson. Can I have your name and phone number" part.

Because we had such a clear idea of what Mom needed, at each dealership, I asked immediately to sit in a car. While Stan listened to the demo drone, which he actually understands, Mom tried out the driver's seat. If it was uncomfortable for her, we went on our way. This approach saved us a lot of time and hassle.

When we test-drove cars, I asked my standard question. "Why should I buy this car from you?" From the answer I always learn. If the nice dealer person speaks mechanic, my brother can translate. Sometimes the nice person is only a car guard. Then you should talk with a knowledgeable person about option packages and features before you sign on any dotted lines.

Brochures are most helpful, but I find that I need to discuss them with someone at the dealership. Brochures also itemize the option packages attractively. Be sure to look at actual interior fabrics and listen to radios and CD players before you buy them. Dealerships generally have fabrics and features available on other models, even if they don't have them on the model of your particular interest.

Check out financing options before you begin negotiations. We had called the credit union and several other lending institutions prior to beginning our money talks. Such financial advance preparation is crucial to your getting the best deal.

Once Mom decided which car to buy, Stan tagged me, and I did the deal. I told the nice car salesman that I wanted to talk directly with the person who could make the decisions about price. I explained, nicely, that I am extremely impatient with the back and forth some dealers like so well. When the salesperson refused to bring the real negotiator to the table, I said, "Then you have two."

"What do you mean?" he queried.

"You can make two trips to the decisionmaker before we take our business elsewhere." He thought I was bluffing. I wasn't. It is reasonable to expect a civilized, time-efficient discussion about car fi-nancing. Don't be shy about requesting it.

I asked, "What are your financing packages? I'd like to see them in writing." He didn't know and headed immediately for negotiation central.

After his return, I reminded him, "That's one." I assured him, as his mouth hung open, that I was serious about buying. I just wanted to do this deal in an expeditious, professional way. Shortly thereafter, the nice real negotiator and I politely agreed on the price.

If you prepare, Tag Team Car Purchasing, like a good dental anesthetic, can help you avoid a lot of pain.