RAV4

Now that my husband has retired, we decided to take a lot of car trips around the Western United States. The only problem was our car situation. I drive a two-door RAV4 that’s wonderful around town since I can easily park it in any postage stamp-sized space. It’s not a road car, however. My husband’s sedan-sized Honda was just a little too low for either of us to get into comfortably considering we’re both starting to get stiffness and a little pain in our knees. So it was definitely time to get a newer, higher car for those road trips we’re anticipating.

Since we’re Consumer Reports subscribers, we got out the magazines and the hunt was on. We quickly decided on four cars that seemed to meet our needs, all of them small SUVs. Since there’s an auto mall about ten miles away with dealerships for all four makes, we set out thinking we would take two days to find out more about the cars and test drive each one. We started at the Honda dealership.

Fortunately, we shopped mid-week which means that the best car salesmen weren’t there to pressure us. The Honda representative was an Arab immigrant who we thought at the time was the most low-key salesman we’d ever met. We test drove the car and spent the morning talking about Honda SUVs. We were impressed, and talked about our likes and dislikes during lunch.

Next, we went to the Mazda dealership. My bother has a Miata which he adores, and although I think he’s crazy because the car is tiny and for me difficult to get into, Mazdas did score high on the Consumer Reports scale. The Mazda salesman was a pleasant young man who was incredibly excited about the 2014 SUV model. We were too since it had a backup camera which shows what is in back of the car while it is in reverse. It also had an indicator on the sideview mirrors when cars were nearby. We went home with two very good cars to consider.

The next morning we went to the Toyota dealership where we were stunned to find no salesmen because they were all except one in a weekly meeting. Linda, a Vietnamese immigrant, was the lone salesperson on the lot. She gave us the run-down on the new, larger RAV4s that had grown from the mini size that I was driving to SUV size. It was as if a mutant gene had gotten into the car making it grow exponentially with each season. But even in its puffed-up size, we liked the car for its backup camera and other features. Now we had three cars to discuss over lunch. One more dealership to go.

We arrived at the Subaru lot well-fed and ready for our fourth salesman and test drive. We were met by the strangest car salesman we’ve ever encountered. All the rest of the sales people had immediately gotten our names and listened to what we were looking for in a car. This guy hustled us inside and sat us around a table. There he started the spiel we had been expecting: why Subaru was the car to buy.

But then it was as if we’d fallen through the rabbit hole. Suddenly, in the middle of drawing the Subaru drive train on a napkin (!), he started telling us how American-made cars were unfairly maligned. In fact, according to this Subaru salesman, Chrysler made some of the best cars on the road. He went on to tell us about the Chrysler he owned and how much he liked it. When my husband broke in and asked if we could test drive the Subaru model we’d come to look at and could see sitting outside the showroom window from us, the salesman said that there weren’t any left to test drive. We were stunned. What about all the models standing on the lot outside? But he insisted there were no cars available.

At that point, we got up, my husband motioning me to the door while the salesman kept comparing foreign-made cars to Chryslers. When my husband stopped at the Subaru model we had originally come to see, I refused to get into it, thinking that we were wasting our time with this sales person. We needed to either go to another Subaru dealership or forget Subarus since we hadn’t seen another salesperson in the dealership where we were.

After I’d gotten into our RAV, the sales manager ran out of the showroom and managed to get my husband’s attention, trying to salvage the deal we guessed. It didn’t matter. As far as I was concerned we had three perfectly good choices for our new car; we didn’t need to see the Subaru.

We discussed, discussed, discussed the three cars, and finally made a decision. We bought the car in the photo. What is it? A RAV4, and it looks like the bigger brother to our original small car. We’re happy with it, but we’re still wondering where we landed when we thought we were at the Subaru dealership.

Have you ever had a buying experience like that? Or are we the only ones who visited another planet on a major shopping trip?

Pat Henshaw

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