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Does buying a used car really need to be so painful?

Buying a used vehicle is like getting a colonoscopy. You only have to do it every few years, you eventually forget about it by the time you need the next one, but you know it's going to be less enjoyable than a moonshine hangover. The only difference is, for one you have to bend over, and for the other you put on an ugly gown and lay on a cold table.

As you may have guessed, I was vehicle shopping recently, because the car I've been driving for the last 4 1/2 years now has been clunking more than a World War II Sherman tank after taking six direct Panzer 50-mm hits. Also, the floormats are filthy. Sure, I could get new ones, but that's just not my style. Like I said about my ex-wives, why fix 'em up when you can just get a new one?

Yeah, no, I tend not to think before I say words out loud.

Anyway, my old beater is running fine for its age, but I fear it will just conk out suddenly someday and leave me stranded along a deserted road. Regarding those clunks, my son says my ball joints are shot, and I believe him, 'cuz I know about as much about ball joints and other vehicle mechanical stuff as I do about Thai cuisine. Suffice it to say the only thing I repaired myself on my Dodge Avenger since I bought it in late 2015 was the little sticker on the inside of my windshield that tells me whan I need my next oil change. It fell off and I stuck it back on. Just like they teach you in Master Mechanic School, I'm guessing.

The lessons I once learned in used car shopping don't apply much anymore. I recall when I was a lad going to used car lots with my dad, and we'd go for a test spin and, being the car guy he was, he'd proceed to inform the sales dude that the hydromatic center stabilizer bar was loose and that the rear-front manifold turbo gasket leaked and that the left blinker only came on when you turned up the AM radio volume. The poor flummoxed salesman would usually let us leave with a car at about half the price on the sticker just so Dad wouldn't turn him in to the Used Car Dealers Ethics Board for trying to sell such a piece of junk.

Nowadays, almost all car shopping is done online. I knew for the most part which make and model I wanted, and my son informed me on a few specific things for which to shop. Since I have a boat -- and have found it's much more useful when you can get it to a lake -- I wanted a vehicle with a tow package, and logically, a large enough engine to pull the weight.

For whatever reason, finding my specific vehicle with both a hitch and a 3.2-liter motor, as my son advised I should have, was no simple task. I found plenty of vehicles in my price range (midway between 'free' and 'drastically reduced for quick sale') and some with the trailer tow package, but then it would have the 2.4-liter engine.

'Only wimps drive 2.4s,' my son told me. I don't wanna be a wimp.

I did find a few options with exactly the right details, but when I called the dealership to check on its availability, was told, 'Oh, sorry, we just sold it.' Finally, last Thursday evening, I fould one more, and when I contacted the dealer the next morning to set up a test drive for Saturday, he said, 'If it's still here.'

Whaddya mean, 'if it's still here'? I wanted to say. If I call and make an appointment to drive it, doesn't that mean you'll hold it until I get there? If I call the National Park Service and ask if it's OK with them if I come see Mount Rushmore the next weekend, they don't say, 'if it's still here.' I should have told the sales guy that I'd buy the vehicle unseen, and he could get the money from my bank account, if it was still there.

So it was, still there, on Saturday, and me and my son drove around town for a while and peeked under the hood and tested the air conditioner and felt the tire tread and licked the rocker panels (I was trying to pretend I knew what I was doing) and decided this was indeed a good buy and that I should -- unlike with my last three girlfriends -- not be scared out of my wits about making a big commitment. Knowing full well how difficult it was to find this exact vehicle with these specific features and that this vehicle was reasonably priced for its age and condition, I said to the sales guy, 'I'll pay double what you're asking.'

Well, no, not really, I'm not that bad of a negotiator, but when I said 'Let's do this' to the salesman he got a gleem in his eye like I'd just traded a puppy to the devil in exchange for my soul. 'I'll start the paperwork,' he said over his shoulder while he disappeared into a back office where I heard him shout, 'Hey, some sucker just bought the red lemon!' Again, I kid, 'cuz I hate spending any more than the price of a 12-pack of soda at any one place, but my son assured me it was a decent decision. When the sales guy brought the sales contract out, I was a bit disturbed to see the final price was almost $1,500 more than the sticker price, the extra coming, of course, for state sales tax, county sales tax, license plates, vehicle registration, and a $239 'service fee' that I'm guessing probably goes straight into the dealership employee Christmas bash account. That's OK. They were nice people. I don't mind them having a little shrimp and spiced eggnog on me.

I was going to trade in my old car, but after running it through the vehicle valuation app, I found it was worth less than the state and county sales tax on the new vehicle purchase. With that, I figured I might as well drive it until it won't go anymore, plus, it's nice to have a second vehicle for pounding down gravel roads or hauling home the occasional bloody deer carcass. One thing I do like about my old Avenger, it's got a big trunk. You can get the legs and hooves in and everything.

Well, like with my next colonoscopy, I won't need another vehicle for several years now. The pain and humiliation of buying this one is still fresh, but by the next time I have to go through the experience again, I'll barely remember it. Maybe next time I buy a car I'll have somebody put me out with anesthesia and just tell me afterward how it went. Just so they don't make me wear the ugly gown.