Thursday, October 25, 2007

What Will it Take For Me to Get You Behind the Wheel?

Cars give me a pain in the posterior. The days of loving, really loving a car are so far behind me that I find it hard to conjure up the memories of the emotion. If I search way back in my memory, the last car I loved was a red 1989 Nissan Sentra, my first new car. Now I couldn't care less if I ever owned a new car again. In fact, if I could magically transport my family and jobs to a more alternative transportation friendly environment, I would in a heartbeat. Someday we'll get there but it will take time to get that plan in motion. In the interim, we need two cars. Which brings me to an observation I made yesterday.

It seems my little buggy will need some hefty repairs in the near future if it is to continue as the primary mode of family transportation. The pros of fixing it are its paid for, it seats all 6 of us and the repairs are normal wear and tear issues. The cons are its got 134,000 miles, some rust, a history of transmission troubles (all covered by warranty up to this point) and more than a few quirks. Plus, its a minivan that gets a maximum of 22 miles to the gallon.

Like any frugal minded person, we're exploring our options before doing anything. Part of yesterday's exploration involved a trip to test drive a smaller used station wagon at a local car dealership.

I often feel like an anthropologist observing another culture in situations like that. Its so interesting to observe the way its all arranged, from the layout of the showroom to the "I've got to check with my manager" schtick that the salespeople do. It seems to me, they make you wait endlessly while they check this and that to make you more anxious and feel less worthy so you're more likely to jump at anything they offer. The poor guy got more than he bargained for when I walked in.

I came in armed with the Carfax sheet on the car, pricing info from Edmunds and Consumer Reports and the knowledge that this car could work but it didn't have to. Remember, I still have a functioning vehicle. I also took the time to figure out the value of my car using those same resources.

So what was the outcome? I'm not sure yet, big decisions take time to make and despite the industries desire to "put me behind the wheel" I'm not sure if I want to be there.

I do know this. I don't want to "put $1 down with no payments until February." I do not have "no credit or bad credit" so I don't need them to "work with me." I also do not "deserve a new car" or "need a new car" despite what all the radio commercials tell me. Being frugal has given me options. Having options gives me power. Having power means I get to make the best choice for me and not take the only option available to me.


Melanie Rimmer said...

I love your "anthropologist" analogy. I often feel exactly the same, for example when watching commercials on TV, or standing in a supermarket starting at 40 different varieties of dog food and wondering exactly who is served by having so much pointless choice.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I just spent $500 over the course of 2 days "fixing" my car...I hate cars!! I wish we had better public transportation so that cars were not necessary!

Good luck with your decision...