Monday, September 04, 2006

The One Where We Get a New Car

When we moved to France, we had to sell our beloved 1997 Honda Accord. This car was my baby, and I just loved her. Her JVC CD player (stolen and replaced), her constant reliability, her "heather mist" paint job (that's a fancy word for beige. I have no idea where they came up with 'heather mist' for metallic beige. Isn't heather purple and green?) She was a wonderful car.

But, it would have been cost-prohibitive to store her, no one we knew had room to store her for free, and we needed the money to move to France, so we sold her. (I admit to shedding a tear.)

Upon arriving back in the states, Dr. B rented an MPV to bring us from Chicago O'Hare to Madison. We used it to haul our 4 huge valises, Lucy and her extra-large travelling box, and our various carry-ons, clarinets, computers and whatnot. When we got the keys to our new place, we drove it to the storage unit to haul over a mattress for our first night in our new home. The next day, after trading it in for a Mazda 3 rental, we set out to see what we could find.

We both wanted to find a car that was as reliable as our Accord, suited our needs (nothing too big, but not a SmartCar either), was energy-efficient, reliable and affordable. It's easy to live car-free in Paris, but in the US? Not so much. A car really is a necessity.

We knew that hybrids had a really long waiting list, were more expensive, and never came in used, and since we needed something quick, we decided to head to the VW dealership to look at diesels. We thought we could probably handle a Golf or something similar, and went in to speak to the salesman to see what was available. He said there were no diesels available, and the soonest we could get one would be 3 to 4 months off. No chance of any used diesels, either--they'd all been snapped up like hotcakes. He took us in a "test drive" to show us the Rabbit, "on the way to the used lot."

Yeah, right.

He talked a good game, and nearly had us sold on the new VW Rabbit. The car was brilliant--impeccable design, amazing features--they thought of everything!

Except the gas mileage. A disappointing 27 mpg. Feh.

We took his card, his credit applications, and the Rabbit literature, and went to find lunch. "I don't know," I said. "It's a great car, but I don't think it's right. The gas mileage, it's not as good as we'd like. I think there's got to be something else out there."

"I don't think so," Dr. B answered. "VW is about as good as we're going to find, for what we want. I think this is just about our only option. I've researched it, on the web. There's so little available in America." He was also quite irritated with me for chatting "too familiarly" with the salesman--thinking that my little stories about when my mom bought a car were not appropriate to the situation. "You've got to stop that," he said. "We're just buying a car. It's not his job to listen to your stories about your mom's trunk space!"

"That is too his job!" I said. "It's what salesman do. Don't worry about it; it was fine." But he had enough--he didn't want to look anymore. He was resigned to buying a car that didn't live up to his own self-imposed specifications.

"Can we stop by Zimbrick?" I asked, "just check around a bit. I really don't think we'll find anything, but it doesn't hurt to look. We not buying anything today. But just look, a little."

We went to Zimbrick Honda. I vowed to be hard-nosed, tough, to not tell any cute stories. I was all business, and this salesman was NOT going to think he would sell a car to me. No sirree bob. I am one tough cookie, you better believe it.

The salesman took us around, showing us the new 2007 Civic. We climbed in for a test drive. It was much upgraded, and was nicer than our Accord had been. I liked it well enough, but Dr. B didn't. "I just don't like it," he said. "The nose, it goes too low. Reminds me of your sister's old car, what was it? A Grand Am? And the dashboard. It's too long. It makes the car seem too big. I am not comfortable with it. It's too 'space-age'."

I knew what this meant. He didn't like it for reasons understood only by him, and no convincing would work, no matter how logical it might be. The long nose had taken the Honda from the "possible" list to the "no way" list. Dr. B had already made up his mind that he was not going to be happy, so it was pointless, because the proverbial door was shut. We weren't going to find anything and that was all there was to it.

"We really wanted a hybrid," he told the salesman. "But those waiting lists are, like, six months long and we don't have that time. And now we can't get a diesel either, for at least 3 months. A huge gas-guzzling SUV is easy to find, but an energy-efficient car in the US? Not so easy."

"Oh, well, I did have a 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid come in this week."

We nearly got whiplash and cracked our skulls together as we both whipped around in our seats to look at him.


We took a test-drive. Smooth, easy to drive. Comfortable. Clean, in great shape. 18,000 miles on it. No long space-age dashboard. Dark gray ("Magnesium") with a dark gray interior and black dashboard. CD player. Hidey-hole box to stash the iPod. Alarm system. Side-curtain airbags.

And the pièce de résistance? 51 miles per gallon on the highway. In town? 45.


Remember that part about "we won't buy a car today"? Yeah, scratch that.

And now, I learn to drive a stick shift. Be afraid. Be very afraid.



At 2:27 AM, September 05, 2006, Blogger ViVi said...

Aw, you can dooooo eeeeeeeeeeeeet!!! :) Congrats on the new car!

You know, I had to sell my Ford Focus (yeah what the French call the Foh-coooos) before I moved here and I also shed a tear. That was my baby!! I totally understand your pain!

At 6:59 AM, September 05, 2006, Blogger Kat said...

Congrats on the new car and on the successful move back. It's weird to think that you're now only 90 minutes away!

Did you tell us about your teaching gig? Did I miss something? Do tell when you can ;)

At 10:28 AM, September 05, 2006, Blogger Samantha said...

OOOOooo, SO cool!

At 2:21 PM, September 05, 2006, Blogger Dee said...

YAY! Congrats Mr. and Mrs B!! Sounds like a great find!!! - Have fun learning to drive that Stick Shift too. ;0)

At 1:12 PM, September 07, 2006, Blogger Smartcar Owner said...

oh lucky yu!

i love smarties

SmartCar Forums - Smart Fortwo and Smart Forfour

At 7:45 PM, September 07, 2006, Anonymous The Bold Soul said...

I love my Honda Civic (not the Hybrid, unfortunately) and I'm about to put it on the market to get more money for moving to France. It's a 2002 EX Coupe, bright red with racing stripe, in very good shape (only 30,000!), and located in NJ if anyone's interested.

I'm sure you'll love your new wheels. Congrats on a great score!

At 7:02 AM, September 10, 2006, Anonymous John N said...

In 2003 we lost our old faithfull 10 year old Renault 5 when Thumpah had an accident with it. Someone rear ended her at a roundabout near Les Ulis.

Our Super Five was eventually destined to live out it's retirement eventually, in Brantôme in the Périgord. When we had the funds to replace her.

With the accident we had no choice but to buy another car. The poor Renault (we called it BFG for BreakFast Girl after the plaque) was written off by our insurance company as it was deemed to expensive to repair. Sad really because it wasn't badly damaged.

So now we have a 2000 Ford Focus, and although we miss our Renault 5, having made lots of trips to the UK and to the south of France, nothing beats the comfort and air conditioning of the Ford.

But I would recommend a Renault 5 for anyone looking for a decent economical car with plenty of speed! ;-)


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