Dear Tom and Ray:
Last week I bought a used 2007 Mazda 3 with 43,000 miles for $10,800 at a dealership. I went through the financing process, signed the final purchase papers and called my insurance company to transfer my plates. As I hung up the phone with my insurance company, the sales manager came over to me and said the guy cleaning my car caught the front bumper on a post, and pulled it almost all the way off the front of the car. This caused a lot of damage, including the front lights coming out of their housing, the insignia dangling off the front and a scratch down to the metal on the body. My mother was with me, and she took pictures. We all were shocked, even the car folks. They did offer a loaner car until this one could be fixed, which took a week. They also took $800 off the price of the car, at our request. The car is now ready to be picked up. I have an opportunity to take the car or turn it down. Should I take the car? I am not sure I want it anymore. I feel this is a bad omen. Please advise. — Rachel
TOM: Well, we have two answers for you, Rachel. One is our professional mechanical opinion. The other is our amateur psychological advice. And of course, they contradict each other.
RAY: From a professional point of view, there’s nothing wrong with this car. The guy who washed the car caught the edge of the plastic bumper cover on something, and yanked it off. As ugly as it looked, it was only cosmetic damage.
TOM: That’s what they said when my brother was born and the doctor ran over him with the gurney. Twice.
RAY: Here’s why it’s not a big concern, Rachel. When a car is in a real accident, you worry about the frame being bent. You worry about the wheels never aligning properly and your tires always wearing unevenly. You worry about unseen wiring that gets pinched and causes electrical gremlins later on. None of that stuff is a concern here, because the incident happened at parking speed, and all they have to do is replace a bunch of pieces, most of which are plastic.
TOM: Plus, you got a free rental while they fixed it, and $800 off the price. When my brother knocks off a customer’s bumper, he tries to convince them it was like that when it came in! So I think the dealer did absolutely the right thing here, and treated you very well. It was, after all, an accident.
RAY: So if you liked the car a week ago, you should like it even more now that it’s $800 cheaper.
TOM: But I don’t think you should buy it.
RAY: Me neither.
TOM: You think the accident was some kind of “bad omen.” And if you really believe that, then every time anything goes wrong with this car, you’re going second guess yourself.
RAY: Right. Five years from now, you’ll get a nail in your tire, and you’re going to say, “See, I never should have bought this hunk of junk.”
TOM: So if you feel that this incident will forever loom over your ownership experience, then just tell the dealership that you’d like to buy something else instead. Ask them to show you something that had its previous accident OFF the dealer lot.
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Which is cheaper, buying or leasing? Should you keep a car forever or dump it after three years, before trouble starts? Find out in Tom and Ray’s pamphlet “Should I Buy, Lease, or Steal My Next Car?” Send $4.75 (check or money order) to Next Car, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853- 6475.
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Get more Click and Clack in their new book, “Ask Click and Clack: Answers from Car Talk.” Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack in care of this newspaper, or e-mail them by visiting the Car Talk Web site at www.cartalk.com.
(c) 2009 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman Distributed by King Features