Archive for July 4th, 2010

Cars: dream vs. reality

Yahoo and my book club girlfriends: they are not helping me to be realistic! We all have dream cars, but unless you’re independently wealthy or able to have multiple cars (a practical one for day-to-day life and the dream one for day trips, nights out, etc.), you just don’t actually get your dream car.

I sold my car when I moved to London. Had to – everyone told me that you can’t let a car sit for two years. Animals can make a home in the engine, things slowly rot, etc., etc. I’m actually buying two cars when I get back (in less than two weeks – eeeeekkkkkk!!!). One for me and one for Nick. His truck (Charlie, an old Mercury Mountaineer that was my mom’s) is still at home and being driven periodically by multiple people, including my cousin Katrina (thanks, Katrina).  We weren’t too worried about it sitting as it’s pretty much on its very last legs, uh, wheels, anyway. And before we have to push it one more night in the rain or snow (I say we, but most of the time I actually took pictures or drove the working, warm car behind while others pushed), I want to get him something more reliable. It was also the perfect graduation/18th birthday present.

I had my mind set that the new cars would be new-to-us, not actually brand new cars. Both of my dads have drilled into my head over the years about cars instantly depreciating as soon as you drive them off the lot, and how the car payments aren’t worth it. They had other reasons too, but I think I tuned out after those ones. At least it stuck with me! But, to my surprise, right when I’m ready to listen to them, they’ve both done a 180 – they said I should seriously consider buying (me, not Nick – sorry Nicko) a new (shiny, pretty, 0000000 mileage) car.

Their reasons (even though one is in Florida and the other is in MA and they never speak they are incredibly consistent):

  1. I’m going to be driving all the way around the country so I’ll want something with low mileage.
  2. I’ll be driving through some places where there will be nothing for miles so won’t want to chance breaking down there. Yes, it could still happen, but more unlikely with a new car.
  3. I could get a car with OnStar so I can more easily get help if I need it (contributed by Maggie – my other mother – yes, I am very lucky to have two sets of great parents) and several new cars come with OnStar free for a year.

I’m sure there were others but I was in such shock at the reverse advice in both conversations that I don’t remember much else. So I’m not positive that I’ll go new, but I am considering it. I’m just a bit thrown because I already had somewhat mapped out in my mind what I’d get.

My car: Used, 2007 to 2010, under 50,000 miles, small to mid-size, good gas mileage, sun roof, highly rated for reliability and safety according to both Consumer Reports and JD Power, under $15,000. (Also need an MP3 plug, but know we can install that if it’s not there.)

Nick’s car: Used, preferably no more than five to seven years old, under 100,000 miles, good gas mileage (anything will be better than Charlie), highly rated for reliability and safety according to both Consumer Reports and JD Power, under $5,000.

Nick has already laughed his butt off and told me how unrealistic I’m being – that I can’t get all that I want in either car for the amount I’m willing to pay. He has lived on the internet searching for cars and studying Consumer Reports’ site and reported to me and Alivia daily (sometimes hourly) on his findings. When Tara visited she helped him make a spreadsheet to compare his top finds. It also helped him prove to me that getting everything we want may be a tad more difficult than I anticipated …

I’ve talked to various others about it, including my girlfriends at book club last week. And they surprised me too! I was explaining how I need to be realistic, and need something reliable and good on gas. Then I admitted if I could have anything it would be a shiny new Mustang. There’s something about them that makes me smile and my heart race. (Not red – Sterling Grey Metallic, please. Still wish I bought the Mustang Girl t-shirt I saw down in Florida last year.) And I couldn’t believe it, but they all started encouraging me, saying that’s definitely what I should get! Why not? Have fun – get something I’ll love! I have to admit, I felt a bit betrayed. I needed their support and encouragement to be practical, not to egg me on to be frivolous!

I logged in this morning and Yahoo’s top story jumped out at me: Highest Quality Cars of 2010. That sounds like a serious article that could give me some good, sound advice. And what is the first picture? A 2010 Ford Mustang! JD Power rated it number 2 (behind the Ford Focus, believe it or not). Yahoo, you’re not helping me be practical!

Nick and I have had many debates about cars. More about his car, but a few about mine. One of the things I told him was that, in addition to all the other reasons, I don’t want a loud, obnoxious car and he said they’re not all like that – especially the new ones. Something about the muffler or horse power or something (I’m very non-car technical, just as I’m not computer-technical). Either way, I don’t want something that will bring me attention on the road. I am a bit intimidated about being a single girl driving the country by myself (hence the self-defense class), I don’t want my car to stick out like a sore thumb.

(As I write this, the first songs from my roadtrip playlist are blaring from my computer. Yes, I’ve already started making it!)

I’m also trying to think PAST the road trip, to life after. Everything is changing so much and the things that drove my car decisions in the past like making sure I had room for Nick, his friends and their sports equipment, are no longer applicable. It’s all rather hazy since I have no clue where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing, but I’m hoping by next year I’ll be living and working in a city again (your guess is as good as mine which one), and hope to mainly rely on walking and public transportation. Then the car would end up pretty much being just for random day trips, not day-to-day use. So gas wouldn’t be as big of an issue. And then the mileage from the road trip would all balance out. Uh-oh, I’m starting to justify this to myself…

And you know what everyone would say if I got a Mustang: it would be my mid-life crisis car.  And maybe that’s what it is. I don’t feel like I’m having a crisis, though. It’s more like a new beginning. Who knows, I might not even like driving the 2010 Mustang. It’s been a few years since I drove one (short rental) and I’m very picky. And I haven’t always loved Mustangs. For the longest time I wanted a Volvo S80 – would still love one. I’ve also loved driving my BMW over here. (Glad Nick talked me into it.) But they aren’t as affordable in the US and I don’t think they have the 1 series there, which is what I have. I’ll miss that car!

So what do you think? Seriously – I’m not simply looking for more encouragement to get the Mustang (or a similar fun car). I want actual, well-reasoned advice! New or used? What should I test drive? Reputable, fair dealers in Massachusetts? Any individuals selling a car that would be good for Nick?

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