Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Car Buying and Financing: Capital One Blank Checks

The Spouse and I took care of some business this weekend, finally ordering our much-needed second car, which will be delivered on or about the end of May. Yes, we bought a new one against almost all of the professionals’ financial advice (“the value drops the minute you drive it off the lot,” etc—we know!), but we need maximum reliability, and lots of cargo space for all of those trips to Home Depot. Plus, the vehicle model has just been redesigned this year: It’s bigger, safer, and has the side airbags we need. Besides, one of the major things that affects a car’s resale value is whether there is a newer generation of the car available. If so, your older generation tanks in value.

So here we are, happy buyers-to-be. We did our research and found a great deal through a Costco and Capital One partnership, which amounts to about 5.1 or 5.2% on a 37- to 72-month loan. Capital One’s auto loan gimmick is the “blank check,” whereby you tell the bank how much you want to qualify for, they approve you (or don’t), and send you a blank check so that you can take it to the dealership and take it to the bargaining table as cash, and you don’t have to fall for any dealership financing smoke and mirrors.

Other going auto loan rates are in the 6–7% interest zone. Capital One was as good as it was going to get. So we went in to the dealership feeling good about already having financing. (We filled out a loan application through the dealer, just in case.)

Isn’t there always a bump in the road? A kink in the plan?

Our very reputable, upstanding car dealer doesn’t take Capital One’s blank checks, or any blank checks. They insist on real cashier-type bank checks—you know, the ones that are preprinted with the amount and the payee. And who could blame them? I mean, though the Blank Check auto loan must be well known to dealerships, isn’t it about as official-looking as one of those Mickey-Mouse “pay down your other bills” checks you get with your credit card statement? I’m not Daddy Warbucks. Or Donald Trump. Why would you take a personal-looking check from me?

We said, absolutely, no problem, we totally understand. And we do. I wouldn’t take a blank check for $20k that someone off the street handed me in exchange for a new car.

So I called Capital One, and spoke to not one but three different representatives (in two or three different departments). I asked if they could cut me a cashier’s check instead of sending me the blank check. No. What if I pay a fee for the official check? No. Can you do a wire transfer? No. Why? I got varying iterations of “It’s not our policy” and “because we don’t do that,” sounded in monotone by a bunch of by-the-hour-and-without-a-clue, unhelpful reps. My favorite comment was, “We give you the blank check to give you maximum flexibility.” BUT YOU’RE BEING INFLEXIBLE BY NOT GIVING ME THE CASHIER’S CHECK! Sigh. Click.

We surely cannot be the only people in the country who want a reasonably priced car loan and can’t use a blank check to buy one. But now we’re shopping for loans elsewhere, never to do business with Capital One again (I mean, what kind of bank can’t do a cashier’s check?). Please realize what we’ve gone through before you, too, are tantalized by the low interest rate. The fill-out-your-own-car-loan-amount works for many people, but not for everyone. And in the end, it’s not like we won’t get financing (high income, high credit scores, etc), but it’s frustrating having to go through the process again. And I hate spending needless time on the phone with customer service reps who have no interest in actually helping their customers.


Post a Comment

<< Home