The Harrowing Search for a Car in OK

OKC Storm Photo2

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Life is crazy.

This mostly applies when you’re trying to buy a car in America, but I mean craaaaaaaaa-zy. We’ve got a hire car at the moment which has been tiding us over, but being posted here for two+ years means we need our own car. Especially since this hire car… it’s a joke. It was ‘cleaned’ with a dirty cloth before we collected it (so the dirt has just been smeared everywhere), the tyres squeal on the highway, the windscreen wipers smudge over the driver’s side when it’s raining and it veers to the right when you’re driving. All in all, I won’t be sorry to see the back of it.

So then, buying a car. Bit of a no-brainer, right? Simple stuff.

Yeah, riiiiiiiiiiight.

Searching for a car in Oklahoma has been an eye-opener. Admittedly, we had some specific parameters we were searching within, and that narrowed our options. Neither of us has ever driven in icy or snowy conditions before, so we wanted to get an AWD/4WD for that added security when the weather starts to worsen, and we wanted an SUV just for the flexibility that gives us with baggage and road trips and any other left-field adventuring opportunities that might crop up. To top it all off, we had a specific budget we wanted to stick to: $10K. A narrow window, but one we thought would be achievable within the second-hand car market. We weren’t expecting to get an Audi or a BMW, but we thought maybe a four-six year-old roadworthy SUV couldn’t be that difficult.

It was a journey.

We started our search on our first trip to OKC once we’d organised our mobiles and phone plans. My hunger mildly appeased by a pretzel, that I promise I shared with James, and that was somehow simultaneously sweet and salty (Americans! Love their sweetened bread), we set off. We were tired but optimistic and definitely feeling more confident with the addition of iPhone Google Maps to our car-search arsenal. We didn’t have anywhere specific in mind, just flying by the seat of our pants and it was a bit of hard work to find a place to start, until we drove along a road with a few car dealerships and decided to just pull in at one.

Our first impromptu stop was at a place called Ben’s Auto Sales: if you want a good laugh, look up the reviews on Google. I wish we had done that before heading in there, because honestly, the place was derelict. The office was padlocked shut and no one was around; we were just kind of twiddling our thumbs and peering in the windows when two men strolled out of a side garage in overalls to ask if they could help us. For people who are in the business of buying and selling cars, they were remarkably blasé about it all. We told them what they wanted and were greeted by noncommittal shrugs and a few umms, but when he finally ‘showed’ us some cars, they were filthy, with huge dints in the body where they’d clearly crashed into something. One of them had a crack that ran the whole length of the windscreen and we beat a hasty retreat.

I think I was a bit shellshocked.

Luckily, the next few places we went were much better, more professional and the people we spoke with were friendly. We didn’t leave OKC until about 6pm and were pretty fragged by that time. We’d only seen two cars that even came close to making our options list, so we decided to saddle up again the next day and try, try, try again. So Saturday saw us renewing the search and scouring Lawton. There are a lot of car dealers in Lawton. Why? Who knows! It seems excessive, but I guess they must get enough customers to stay in business. We probably went to three or four places in Lawton, but the best and strangest interaction we had that morning was with this one guy. His supervisor had gone away to put together some details about our options for leasing a car over the period we’re here, so he was just making conversation… And one of his first questions was, “So are there any black Australians?”

That took the wind right out of my sails. Are there many places in the world with absolutely no black people? I don’t think so, which is probably why I couldn’t’ really believe that he’d asked. But okay, fine. That’s a bit weird, but fine.

It went on and on and on.

Of course – before you ask – we covered kangaroos. Everyone is so fascinated by kangaroos! I’m not fascinated by buffalo or deer, but Americans love to talk about kangaroos (I can only assume it’s because kangaroos are actually quite weird looking and we’re just desensitised to it). He couldn’t understand how the whole kangaroo thing works, like where they tend to live and where you find them, so he asked if they were like cats in that regard. I had to quickly disabuse him of the notion: I see kangaroos as more like deer than cats, at least in that they’re wild and avoid urban living! If any Aussies living in urban or suburban areas do have kangaroos regularly frequenting their front yard, please let me know so I don’t go lying to innocent Yanks any more. I was pretty surprised by some of his questions.

[In the interests of full disclosure, I would like to add here that I was running short on patience, we’d already decided that getting a lease for a car wasn’t what we wanted to do and I was maybe also getting hungry.]

He asked us what other countries were connected to Australia. Come on man! It’s a continent! When we explained that it’s an island, he seemed to think that meant Australia is small: he was shocked when we told him that it’s not much smaller than the continental US and couldn’t believe that our indigenous people aren’t called Indians.

I was pretty stoked when we finally left. Like I mentioned yesterday, the heat and the humidity have been a bit of a shock to the system for us, and by 12ish I was wilting like a old flower. We were both hot, hungry, and tired. Nonetheless, we girded our loins and decided to head into OKC for the afternoon and check out a few more places. Like in Lawton, most of the people we spoke to said it would be difficult for us to get an SUV AWD for our budget, but there were a couple of standout moments up there too. We outlined our preferences to one guy and he laughed in our faces.

What the heck?! The outright redness of that took us both aback a little; in hindsight, we should have walked away then and there. Eventually we bailed, but I would like to add I’m blaming that guy, who left us standing around outside for ages while he went in to ‘fetch some keys’, for my sunburn.

Needless to say, it was a long day, featuring some strange conversations, some slimy salespeople, some abject bad manners and a lot of cars looked at. Eventually, we reached the conclusion that the older Honda CRV we saw on Friday was the best bet for our money and we headed over to see them and sign off the paperwork. So we’re getting a car – tomorrow! Exciting times ahead and hopefully some epic road trips are in our crazy future.

OKC Storm Photo1We got caught in a huge storm heading back from OKC; it’s the heaviest rain I’ve ever experienced. That little hire car doesn’t handle strong winds very well at all, but the clouds overhead were stunning. The photos for this post are from that drive back from OKC and despite the fact that they were taken on an iPhone, they look pretty amazing!

I’ve decided that starting next week, I’ll be posting something new every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at around 1-1:30 pm AEST so keep your eyes out for some new poetry, short stories and tales of American adventures!

OKC Storm Photo3

— Ana

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