Celia Rivenbark

Buying a car has changed over the years | From the Belle Tower

If you haven’t gone car shopping lately, let me just tell you that things have changed.

Last week, I did the grueling prep work normally required before going out on a Serious Mission to Buy a Car. You know. A few hours of kickboxing, a lot of flexing and screaming “RAAAAARRRR” in front of the mirror and perfecting my annoyed smirk response to the inevitable question: “What’s it gonna take for you to drive this car off the lot to-DAY, lil lady?” That sort of thing.

In my experience, it’s best to go into a car dealership with a lot of confidence. You want them to know you’re no tire kicker, but you’re also not a pushover.

I needed the sale to be swift and merciful. The other car had died rather suddenly and aggressively with a lurching stop and a smell the tow truck driver compared to “a truckload of dead cats.”

As I said, the death was unexpected. Apparently cars require “oil” and “regular maintenance” and “an owner who has the minimal ability to pay attention to such things.”

Yes, well. The cause of death isn’t important. Suffice to say the car was 14 years old and these things happen, even if you, as I did, made sure to rotate the tires every 50,000 miles. I’m not an idiot.

The last time I bought a car, it was a fairly routine matter that involved the salesman asking me to bend over and…no, wait, what I meant to say was: We did considerable haggling, a dance, if you will.

Not the kind like you see with the amazing deaf hunk on “Dances With the Stars” but more the kind of dance you remember from middle school where you just sort of stood across from each other, palms sweating, swaying in place.

Turns out, that kind of car buying scenario is so 2002. After a marathon shopping day that included driving eight cars at six dealerships, I realized that the haggling factor doesn’t exist anymore.

When I cagily asked about “wiggle room” in the sticker price, I was told by each salesman: “The internet has changed everything. The price you see doesn’t have much, if any, wiggle room.”

While I accept that Kim Kardashian’s butt had the power to break the internet, I would’ve thought car salesmen would’ve been a little more tech-resistant.

But no.

“But this is the fun part,” I pouted. “We don’t get to do the haggling part? You aren’t going to sigh and pace and go get your manager and then his manager?”

“Nope. The internet means that everyone knows what everyone else is charging and so the consumer is more educated when they come in.”

“I’m not educated!”

“Are you telling me you never looked on the internet to see the best price for the same model before you even came in here?”

“Maybe just a little?” I said.

The deal was quick and painless but I sorta miss the kind of car shopping that left you both sweaty and craving a cigarette. Good times.

Celia Rivenbark is the New York Times best-selling author of “Rude B****** Make Me Tired.” Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.

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