As a child in the 1980’s, it was fairly common for myself and my three older siblings to find ourselves subjected to long Sunday drives at the whim and discretion of my father. A mechanic and truck driver by trade, he was a true enthusiast of all-things-automotive, so none of us were ever surprised at the frequency that we found ourselves at some Ford or Chevy dealership, complicit in endless bouts of tire-kicking.
And in those rare weekends where we weren’t dealership-bound, the living room television would inevitably be airing automotive content, with further educational information found in stacks of magazines kept within the bathroom. Some of them even features bikini-clad models sprawled over classic cars, increasing the appeal to my stepbrother and I. Bottom-line, there were very few moments where we weren’t compelled to think about cars, automotive marketing, and car-buying (as well as selling) practices.
But those weekend drives to dealerships were the best. Oh, we hated them then (mostly because we were stuck in the car together, fighting over the radio). In hindsight, however, it’s easy to see everything that we learned simply by witnessing those dealership visits. From the ability to understand a vehicle’s features as listed in the window, to the proper way to handle an overzealous salesperson. Regardless of my dad’s intent to buy, we learned something new every time. And when there were fewer of us on certain trips, we might even get to enjoy the ultimate perk: a test drive.
Listen…my father knew he was prey to the dealership, swimming in chum-filled waters. He took no shit, but he always presented himself with care and caution. And when he did buy a new truck or a new car for my stepmother, he was always pleased with the deal that had been negotiated. Needless to say, we made out better than the Griswold family did;
At the end of the day, we learned a lot from watching our dad, and from the talks that we nodded our head through after leaving the dealership. Those experiences have served us well in our adult lives, and in our own car-buying experiences.
That said, don’t be afraid to subject your kids to such tortures. Have them put their phones or tablets aside, and let them accompany you as you traverse the landmine that is an auto dealer. Set an example. Explain things, even if it’s above their comprehension. They probably won’t understand, and they certainly won’t thank you. But maybe if you’re lucky, one of your kids will write an article about it, that just might appear in your favorite magazine with the bikini-clad model sprawled over a classic car.