Yeah, Sure, Go Ahead and Throw In the Floor Mats for Free

With a new job that requires a 120-mile round trip daily, I’m in the market for a new car, one that holds on to gas like an old woman hoards cats. Car shopping typically is about as much fun as doing your taxes. But this time around, things are different.

For one, I’m not tied to one brand. After poking aroud the Philadelphia Auto Show last Saturday morning, I spent the afternoon test-driving a Mazda3 and a Toyota Prius; the other night I gave the Honda Civic a spin. Having options equals buying leverage.

For another, I’m in no hurry. My 13-year-old, 140,000-mile Accord is puttering along just fine (though with less fuel economy than I’d like), so I can take my time, do my homework, and wait until the right deal comes along.

What’s fun is watching salespeople’s faces almost literally fall to the floor when they realize I’m walking into their showrooms not to buy just yet but to look.

The first thing they ask is what kind of package I’m looking for–sound system, safety measures, bells and whistles. The second thing they ask is whether I’m going to be trading in a car.

“I’m not sure at this point,” I answer serenely to both questions.

Then we take the drive, and the salespeople, being salespeople, begin pitching, even though they know that when the car is back at the dealership, I’m going to walk without signing anything. Not having bought a car in years, I had forgotten how, um, stretchy they can be when it comes to selling.

Like the Honda guy, who responded to my question about the low ranking Consumer Reports tagged on this year’s Civic by saying the company didn’t pony up the kind of money the magazine expects for a positive review.

CR, of course, famously doesn’t accept advertisements and can’t be bought.

I, on the other hand, can. So any dealer reading this who wants to throw a Prius, a Mazda3, or even a Civic my way at a terrific price, I’m all ears. Until then, I’ll happily continue test-driving. | DL

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