I just bought an HHR today. A 2006 with the 2.2L I-4. About 20, 000 miles, still a year left on the original factory warranty. Red tagged at $14, 600 or something like that, with Tax, Title, License, and other fees about $15, 800.

I wanted a station wagon, and I thought the Malibu Maxx was a wagon. I also didn’t want to spend more than $10, 000. I drove on the first car lot looking for a Maxx. They didn’t have one, but I test drove a Malibu sedan and a Focus. Wanted to also sell me a Lucerne but I wasn’t interested, even if it was priced to go at $13, 000. Kind of liked the Malibu but really wanted a Maxx. for about $10, 000. I was willing to go as high as maybe $12, 000 or $13, 000, but I didn’t want to tell them that.

They told me they could get me a Maxx if I really wanted it, but they convinced me that 1.) A Malibu Maxx is *not* a station wagon but a hatchback, 2.) I couldn’t get a 2006 used Maxx for less than $16, 000. I asked about maybe an ’05 and they said they couldn’t get an ’05. (I thought it was weird that a used car dealer only sold cars from the current and previous model year. I thought they would have cars coming off two and three year leases for sale.) So the salesman said, if you want a wagon, test drive the HHR.

I did, and it reminded me a lot of the PT Cruiser without the road noise. My biggest complaint was the blind spots, but it might have been because they covered the rear passenger door window with a huge sticker. The salesman said you learn to deal with it by using the mirrors and that’s what you get for wanting a “panel van.”

Long story short, my first car buying experience went how I was afraid how it was going to go instead of how I wanted it to go. I was afraid that I would be railroaded by a dealer to spend too much on a car I didn’t want, and I would do practically no negotiating. Well, I was railroaded by the dealer, didn’t do any comparison shopping. One dealer, three cars. I also didn’t do much negotiating because I had little to negotiate with. I set my acceptable limit of payment over a 48 month term so high that they met it easily.

However, is the HHR the car I didn’t want? Well, yes and no. I thought the Malibu Maxx was a wagon, and I wanted a wagon. I got a wagon, but it wasn’t the Malibu Maxx. I went to bed last night not feeling any buyer’s remorse, and even today I felt I got a fair deal on a good car given the circumstances. I could have done better if I had cash instead of credit or if my credit history was better, but I just ruined my previous car and I needed another one. (At least I went at the end of the month.) The blind spots aren’t really as bad as they thought they were last night. Plus, I really like the retro styling of the HHR. When I get the cash I might even put that fake wood paneling on the outside. That’s sweet!



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