Hey dear readers,
Time to share my perspective on another experience that differs quite a lot between the US and Sweden – buying a car! I’m sure most of you have personally, or through a family, experienced the car purchasing process in the US and how painful it can be. You never feel like you’re getting a good deal because it almost always feel like an adversarial negotiation.
I remember the very first car I bought in the US: the redesigned 2004 Acura TL. It was a new model year and in such high demand that dealers were able to move them quickly at MSRP. I went to 2 or 3 Acura dealerships in NorCal to get a sense of the pricing and realized that if I was able to get it under MSRP, it’d be a good deal. If I recall correctly, I ended up paying $1000 over invoice and got a few things thrown in (mud guards, winter mats) so it turned out to be an okay deal. But just the same, the entire process was harrowing and I didn’t feel like I was going to come out of the process intact.
Let’s fast forward to 2020 in Sweden. My wife and I moved into a newly constructed apartment complex and one of the features was that it had a garage for the vast majority of its residents. We decided to put ourselves on the list for a spot. We didn’t have a car when we moved in, but my in-laws were kind enough to let us borrow their Mercedes station wagon so we could run errands (read: IKEA runs) during the first few months of the move.
Life with a car was exactly as you might have suspected – we didn’t actually use it that much during the week, but when we did need it, it was very convenient to have it available for making quick runs to IKEA or Jysk or other store in Kungens Kurva or Bromma.
We could keep the car until August so we had a few months to decide whether we wanted to buy a car or give up the parking spot. After some thought, we decided on a Volvo V60 plug-in hybird. I scoured the Internet for dealership demo cars (they’re usually about 6 months old and have about 3000-4000 km on the odometer) so we wouldn’t have to pay the new car premium. Surprisingly, these cars were in high demand so the demo prices weren’t that much cheaper than buying new, especially when you factor in the bonus you get from the Swedish government for buying an environmentally-friendly car. But buying new meant a 4-5 month waiting period, and we didn’t want to wait that long.
As luck would have it, we dropped in the local dealership in the town where my wife’s from and they had a white Volvo V60 T8 Inscription on display in the showroom. It had just arrived two weeks ago and had almost all of the features that I was looking for – tinted windows, sunroof, plug-in hybrid, upgraded sound system, all of the safety features, and a tow hook. That made things really interesting since we wouldn’t have to wait several months to get it, but it also meant paying the new car premium.
We asked the salesperson for his best price and he produced a standard spec sheet listing all of the features and a final price. It was about 9% discounted from list, and after doing some digging around, I learned that this was an OK discount. Not great, but not bad either. Volvo was also running an “end-of model year 2020 campaign” so you could buy winter tires for only 4900 kr on OEM Volvo wheels. In a country where winter tires are a requirement, this wasn’t a bad deal at all. We asked them to revisit the numbers and throw in the interior rubber mats (good for winter slush) and a Type 2 cable. They discounted it by another little bit, threw in the rubber mats and cable, and we signed the sales contract. It was late on a Friday so they wouldn’t be able to get the car ready in time, so we agreed that I’d come and pick it up in two weeks. That was it. No “I need to speak to the finance manager” or “would you like to buy the upgraded paint protection package”? No games or gimmicks – just a normal business transaction. I was shocked. It was a lot easier and much more straightforward than what I was used to in the US.
I learned later that this is par for the course in Sweden. Unlike the US where the negotiations process is stressful, this is no different than going to an H&M and buying something on sale.
I also shopped around for car insurance, of which there are 3 types. trafikförsäkring (required), halvförsäkring (good for cars that are newer than 3 years), and helförsäkring. Apparently, car manufacturers in Sweden give you a “vagnskadegaranti” for the first 3 years and that covers any damage to your car, even if you caused it by driving into a lamp post. That means you can get by with “halvförsäkring” for the first 3 years and that’ll provide both liability and collision coverage. Turns out that Volvo has their own insurance company – Volvia – and they offer pretty decent prices since they only insure Volvos. I called around though and found that Länsförsäkringar was willing to give me an amazing price on my insurance (I think I saved about 40%) if I insured my apartment with them. I was quite happy with the home insurance that I had, but after doing the math, I realized I would save quite a bit on the car insurance so I gladly switched my home insurance to them.
So that’s the story – I wish it had been more exciting or dramatic, but it was quite simple and straightforward. A truly Swedish experience, if you ask me!