Nick Varney (file)

Nick Varney (file)

Unhinged Alaska: Pondering a new car

I’m a 6-foot-2 hunk of meat who barely fits into the passenger side of her rig unless I fold up like an accordion.

For the last several months, my bride has been delicately hinting that she would appreciate a car with a bit more room for hauling goodies or my carcass to the hospital for x-rays when I take another header off some rock in the middle of a salmon stream.

I’m a 6-foot-2 hunk of meat who barely fits into the passenger side of her rig unless I fold up like an accordion. This, in turn, highly annoys the emergency doc who has a problem discerning if I injured myself in the fall or getting into the little auto.

Her mini all-wheel is still rolling great without major issues such as plugging along on two cylinders sounding like a cartel firefight. Nor, does the power train mimic the reverberations of a moderately disabled tank. A definite positive if you’re talking a trade in.

Simply put, she’s just flat ready for something different and deserves a major upgrade for putting up with me for the last 40-plus years.

There’s only one thing that bugs me about the situation. It’s the prospect of us having to grit our teeth and go through another process of negotiating with a dealership.

Some outfits are great. Others, in comparison, would make the removal of some poor soul’s ruptured appendix with a baseball mitt and dull pocket knife a walk in a park.

I don’t want to get into hours of wrangling again, so we’ll do some significant research on vehicle reliability ratings, Consumer Reports testing and estimated fair costs associated with Jane’s selection right down to the make, model, options, preferred color, dealer’s reputations and customer service. and Kelley Blue Book ( are sites, along with others, that should be of significant assistance in building a virtual car along with providing a glance at what such a vehicle should cost in various Alaska Zip codes.

It may be a tricky slog but the first outfits we will steer clear of are those tacking on an “additional dealer markup”. Who are they kidding? Watch for it in the selling price. You could hurt your back if you bend over for that one.

We are aware that dealers add on so many of their own profit-producing extras that’s it’s hard to find what one wants without special ordering. So, she’ll configure a rig that fits her wishes and we’ll plug it into websites that reflect reasonable price mixtures, dealer costs, what other people are paying, along with negotiation guidelines.

The last time we went through this, we ended up dealing with a firm that had a website where a customer could make offers online. We were able to submit bids and consider counter offers until a deal was struck or the whole mental dance died from bottom line inflexibility.

Their first proposal nearly cost another trip to the emergency room when my jaw locked up from laughing so hard. The game was on. We countered with a price that we thought would cause them the same sort of seizure and then came the phone call. This time the action was speakerphone to speakerphone instead of face to face.

It was the internet specialist who worked on commission and was stationed in the Lower 48, although the caller I.D. reflected Anchorage.

He offered 0% financing and another dip in the price that put us at the “not even close” stage. So, we let fly another number.

The chess game of referencing pricing websites escalated. It would have probably gone faster if I could type more than five words per minute but the cost kept dropping each time around as he confirmed our net data.

We finally made the deal after he took a gander of what a respectable offer looked like on

Hopefully, the same approach will work again, although I’m sure some things have changed over the years.

One buyer beware note:

Although we purchased an excellent vehicle for a fair price, we still were blindsided by the big franchise.

Part of the agreement was that two years of free maintenance came with the purchase and that it could be done in Homer. They not only reneged on that but also the assurance that they had an auto shop in Homer that would handle any future warrantee work and/or recalls.

Well, pulling an unanesthetized Grizz’s infected fang with a Leatherman Freestyle would have been easier than getting them to keep that promise but we did prevail a few times.

Sadly, the conglomerate had a high-quality product but customer service that was as reliable as a prophylactic face mask made of cheesecloth.

Lesson learned. At least now, we are able to eliminate one dealer option even before our search begins.

And, away we go…

Nick can be reached at

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