07/23/2014 05:40 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

I'm a Certified Pre-Owned Spouse!

Andrey Kekyalyaynen via Getty Images

"When buying a used car, punch the buttons on the radio. If all the stations are rock n' roll, there's a good chance the transmission is shot!" -- Larry Lujack


I just completed the grueling process of buying a used car. It was everything it is stereotypically portrayed to be... and more. It's like hitting your funny bone. Here's the gist of what happened: I was looking at a specific car when the sales "advisor" eagerly approached and announced the price. Apparently he thought I couldn't see the huge neon numbers on the front window next to the "Buy Me TODAY!" decal. I "advised" the advisor that I had done my research and that price was way high!

The advisor then told me that the price on the windshield was not the "real price," but rather that it was the "windshield price." "So, what's the real price?" I asked. He threw out another number that was pretty ridiculous. As I continued to walk away, he said, "Actually, the price I just gave you in our Internet price. I'm sure I can talk to my sales manager and get a better price." Game on.

The fun continued. The sales manager exited from a room known as "The Tower" (this is a completely glass-enclosed room that overlooks the showroom floor.) and gave me his speech about how car buying needed to result in a win-win for the dealership and the client. Blah blah blah. He then asked me, "So what's your bottom line? Tell me what you want think is fair to pay for this car." I replied, "Can you just tell me the price of this car? Not the windshield price. Not the Internet price. What. Is. The. Price. Of. This. Car?" He looked at me, shook his head and said, "I've never met anyone like you before."

An hour later, we arrived at a deal. I think we achieved his objective of win-win, and I was the proud owner of a used car. Or so I thought! I was informed that this was not in fact a "used" car, but rather it was a "certified pre-owned" car. Sounds like a fancy name for used if you ask me.

The prefix "pre-" typically means "before" as in pre-marital counseling (counseling before you get married) or pre-nuptial agreement (that paperwork you sign before you get married about who gets what in case of divorce) or pre-wedding jitters (those butterflies you get before you say "I do"). Did this mean my car was pre-owned, meaning it had never had an owner before? Since we were calling it "pre-owned" I assumed that would imply it was before it had owners. But, that was impossible; it was a used car.

As I was pondering this question further, my husband informed me that the "pre-" didn't mean "before," but rather it was shorthand for "previously." That made sense. My pre-owned car was really previously-owned.

Since I write about relationships, you know where I went next! I realized that if using this same naming convention I was actually "pre-married." This is not to imply that I have never been married before, but rather to state the obvious fact that I had indeed been previously married (or "used").

I began to have even more fun with my analogy when I realized that the reason this dealership was even making the distinction between it being a "used" car vs. a "certified pre-owned" car was because a pre-owned car comes with a 172-point inspection, a 12-month comprehensive limited warranty, and a seven-year powertrain limited warranty (I guess if you buy a "used" car you get what you get and you don't pitch a fit!)

Can you imagine if being "pre-married" (the previously married kind, not the never-before-married kind) meant that you had to complete a 172-point inspection before you could marry again? Think of all the different things you would want to put on your 172-point inspection checklist. Here are 24 to get you started on the certified pre-owned spouse inspection:

1. Have you seen the "CarFax" report? How many prior owners (been married before)?
2. Is there a collision history? Any accidents (been in prison, rehab, therapy)?
3. Have you visited the production factory (met the parents)?
4. Are there any after-market or factory-installed parts to know about? (any parts that God didn't provide naturally)?
5. Is the battery fully charged (high energy or lackluster)?
6. Are there any "exhaust" issues (bad breath/gas)?
7. Are there any rattles under the hood (snoring issues)?
8. Does it come with a "tow" package (kids, pets, in-laws)?
9. Does it have a spare tire? (No explanation needed!)
10. Any issues getting it started in the morning (lazy or go-getter)?
11. How is the paint job? Any chips or rust? (does he/she take care of him/herself?)
12. Are the tires balding? (No explanation needed!)
13. Has the oil been checked regularly? (healthy, regular check-ups)?
14. Does it have a lot of mileage? Highway or city? (age, lifestyle)?
15. Does the radiator overheat (anger management issues)?
16. Does the air-conditioning work (staying cool under pressure)?
17. What stations are preset on the radio (oldies, sports talk, NPR, The Fish)?
18. Does it have a built-in entertainment (a good sense of humor)?
19. What are the monthly maintenance costs (hair, mani/pedi, massage, golf membership, gym membership, football season tickets)?
20. Are the seats leather (is he bringing the proverbial La-Z-Boy recliner from his bachelor pad?)
21. Any cracks on the grill (bad teeth?)
22. What fuels it best (physical touch, gifts, acts of service, words of affirmation or quality time)?
23. Is there any junk in the trunk (extra baggage)?
24. What do you plan to do with the car? (just taking it for a test drive, renting it for the weekend, opting for the three-year lease, or going for long-term ownership)?

...and on and on!

What if being "pre-married" also carried the same one-year and seven-year warranties as my pre-owned car?! Can you imagine? If anything goes within the first year of marriage, there is a comprehensive warranty! Even better, if anything goes wrong within the first seven years of marriage (that stereotypical seven-year itch perhaps?) then there is an additional limited warranty in place. What would that warranty cover? Marital counseling? Sex therapy? Botox? Gym membership? Hair replacement? Knee replacement? Credit counseling? Rehab?

At the end of the day, we all know that pre-owned and pre-married don't mean the same thing. But, there is something to be said for creating your own 172-point inspection checklist! It helps you to define what is important to you, where you are willing to compromise and if you have any clear "deal-breakers" (especially if other good things may be clouding your perception).

What do you think? Any other suggestions to be put on the 172-point inspection checklist?