I’m not sure when it happened, but meditation took my mojo. My writing mojo, that is. Meditation – the practiced ability to observe and stop in space the colliding asteroids of thought has the downside of neutering certain elements of creativity. Specifically, for me, the constant chaos of spinning thoughts exploding off each other in grey space created ideas of expression, but now that space is tranquil, and conceptual creation quiet.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’ve self-lobotomized. The simple, but very difficult practice of focusing on one’s breath and bringing that focus back every time it’s lost to some random thoughts creates a discipline of mind with all kinds of benefits. You can look it up.

Anyway, this morning I intended to write a ripping review of a recent awful car-buying experience to post widely on social media, but the suicides this week of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain give me pause. Life is hard. For everyone. It doesn’t matter how much fame and fortune you may have achieved, the voice in your head may still tell you that you’re a worthless fraud. It’s not my job to pile on, so I’m not going to reveal the dealer publicly, but I will give them this feedback privately.

So I’ll write this review from a more neutral perspective hoping maybe you can avoid some of the frustrations I experienced helping my daughter buy an SUV.

Here are 5 simple rules for buying a vehicle from a dealer:

  1. Car dealerships sell cars all day, every day – hundreds or thousands a year. You buy maybe a dozen in your life.
  2. The dealership is trying to maximize the profit they make on every vehicle. That’s their job and it doesn’t make them bad people. Your job is to get the best price you can without losing your mind.
  3. Ask to see, and then examine the Carfax AND the service history of the vehicle.
  4. You need to pay close attention to the numbers. If you’re negotiating the price (and you should be) of the vehicle, during the process you’ll likely be presented multiple “price sheets” from the dealer with changing numbers each time. They may look something like this:
    My eyes naturally went to the bottom (“Amount Financed”) line, but as I learned, it’s important to scrutinize every line. For example, the bottom line may fall closer to where you want it (good), but close examination shows that most of the decrease happened because the “Cash Down” (money you pay out of pocket up front) increased without your consent by $2,500 (not good at all). I didn’t catch that until round 3, but it’s a good thing I did. As you can see, “Savings” (discount off of the “sticker price”) and Trade Value are the significant drivers of decreasing the final price you’ll pay. As a side note, in my opinion, the “Doc Fee” is simply dealer profit, but they won’t negotiate on it, and “Fees” are typically for registration, plates, and inspection, which brings me to…
  5. DO NOT take delivery of a vehicle without the registration in hand, confirmation from your insurance company that the vehicle is registered and insured, and you have an inspection sticker on the vehicle. Otherwise, nine days later you may discover that the loan on the vehicle you traded-in has still not been paid in spite of the 3 emails sent to the General Manager, and the vehicle your daughter is driving is unregistered and uninsured.