Opening The Worm Can

You know what’s really weird?  There’s a shitload of people in the world and yet, every business fights tooth and nail and scrambles over each other to get you as a customer.  You’d think there would be enough for everyone, but when you slow down and consider it, there really is never enough money for some.

So, here we go.  I’m opening myself up to attack.  I’m going to purchase a new car.  You can visualize a million people leaping to their feet with offers and pleas and vague promises.  Hold on, guys.  I know exactly which car I want already.  Now there’s about 2/3 of the people standing, even more excited that they made the first cut.  And as I work further in the process, the number of potential winners decreases and their manic attitude intensifies.

Some of the people clamoring for attention right from the start have never sat down at all.  Those people are the money people.  Buying a new car in cash is a rare occurrence, for those with excellent foresight and planning.  The majority of people are going to finance a car at varying levels of, shall we say, danger.  The more dangerous the loan, the more money for those that get and keep your attention.  So, the money people are relentless right from the start.

I’m currently at the point that I have a car chosen and secured and now it’s time to begin the finance dance.  I consider myself in pretty good shape financially, on many fronts.  I have a top-tier credit score and I keep all my credit reports frozen.  But now I have to unfreeze my accounts – let down the drawbridge – in order to get approval for this new loan.

When I froze my accounts, I had to pay to do so.  Now all of that is free.  So unfreezing the accounts was surprisingly easy and quick.  Maybe it wouldn’t have been if I wasn’t such a stickler on data and didn’t have my unfreeze PINs immediately handy.  Or maybe if I moved around a lot and had different verification data points.  But in the end, I have my accounts unfrozen for a few days now.  Come at me, bro.

Since this is like a solar eclipse-type of moment for me, I decided to take advantage of it.  I went to Credit Karma and checked out what sort of auto loans I could be eligible for.  I was pitched Capital One and Bank Of America – both of which I already had credit cards with.  The broker that was assisting me with the car purchase said the best I could get a loan for was 3.5%.  Credit Karma told me BoA could get me a loan for 3.29%.  Ok, let’s try it.  So I went to Bank of America’s site (affiliate linked from Credit Karma, so they get a spiff) and filled out the application.  It was pretty easy since they pulled a lot of my info from my existing account.  And sure enough, I was now pre-approved for a loan at 3.29%.

Well, that was easy.  Addictingly easy.  I tried the Capital One offer from Credit Karma and was highly disappointed.  CapOne said, yeah, sure, you’re approved for a loan up to $60k (WTF!), but there was no mention of rate or term.  That’s absolutely useless to me.

While still in eclipse mode, I made the poor decision to try out LendingTree.  You’d figure that a company with so much name recognition would be fully on the up-and-up.  Well, no.  I did their “quick and easy” application, which asked enough questions to be a full credit application.  And let me tell you.  It was BULLSHIT that they structured the questions in a way that made it look like it would be a non-intrusive questionnaire, but as it went on, it got more and more personal and you’re like, “I’ve already gone this far, this should be the last question.  It can’t get more invasive that this.”  But, you see it to the end and you’ve essentially given them everything to fill in a complete credit app.

So LendingTree then sends that information to their partners and gives you results.  I got something like three offers with rates of 5-7%, which was infuriating and insulting.  Then, below the firm offers, were a few that said, “we need more information – click to complete the application”  And being pissed about the shitty offers I initially got, I wanted to see if this shittiness was universal.  So I clicked one named Autobytel.

To be honest, I don’t remember the results of that, and since I don’t remember, it couldn’t have been anything worthy of mention.  But here’s what is worth mentioning.  I’m now in spam hell.  I’m getting emails and texts from lenders and dealers.  They still think I’m car shopping, so they all have people ready to help me find my next car.  All of you – fuck off!  If there is a positive to any of this, at least all of the places LendingTree sold me out to all use the same unique email address I provided in my application, so I can shut them all down at my mail server in one go.  The text messages and (probably soon coming) phone calls, I will just have to block as they come in.

So now, what did that whole exercise get me?  Well, on the plus side, I do have a competitive loan rate that I can use to bargain with the dealership.  On the negative side, I have a bunch of new email and phone buddies I’m not thrilled about.  And a little later, I can see what kind of change to my credit score all this experimentation caused.  I am curious about that because supposedly multiple inquiries of a certain type (auto loan in this case) shouldn’t have the same effect as if they were multiple inquiries of multiple types.

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