June 30, 2007

Saga of the new car (ending: hooray for Valley Honda)

Two weeks ago we had two cars: a 1991 Honda Accord (155K miles) and a 1999 Saturn SC2 (86K miles). We bought both used -- the Honda from friends about 2.5 years ago, when it only had 130K miles; the Saturn when it was two years old, with 24K miles.

We also have a baby who is off the growth charts, which means in about a pound and a half she would be too big for her car seat. But since she's only six months she needs to be rear-facing, which means the replacement car seat needed to be a convertible one. A little research and a few chats with work folks and we picked up the Britax Marathon.

One co-worker had one caveat: "It's big." True, true -- too big for the Saturn, and Ella couldn't be in the Honda because it's unreliable (sometimes didn't start when it was too hot, no A/C). So a new car was in order. And quick, since we'd be going to Indiana and Wisconsin soon.

Now, we're not entirely negligent, we did anticipate getting a new car, just not so soon, I figured it wouldn't be necessary until the fall, and we might take advantage of what some sites say is a need for dealers to get used cars off the lot when the new models come in. So I hadn't done any research beyond knowing we needed something reliable and 'family', which due to my laziness meant a Honda Accord. One of my co-workers was trading in his 2000 Accord, but he was having a few problems with it that in all likelyhood would have been taken care of, but if they weren't it would have been kinda weird.

So I called up one of the folks at Valley Honda, one he was dealing with and who has a spouse working at Vocollect. He didn't have anything matching what I wanted at the time, but I asked him to give me a ring if anything showed up. The next day he did: clean 2000 Toyota Camry, low miles (52K). Sounded perfect.

I went in a couple days later to check it out. It drove okay (even though it was the LE version), and he gave me a good price on it, so I committed to get it. Barb was a little wary because things were too easy, but I figured it would be okay. A couple days later we went to trade in the old Honda, and after driving the Camry a bit, Barb scrunched her nose. "Someone smoked in here," she said. I shrugged it off, figuring that whatever detailing they did would have taken care of it and that it would have faded after a while. Let this be a lesson to my future self: Barb's nose never lies!

A little while later, the Camry was ours. Barb was still wary, but I felt pretty happy the whole car thing was over quickly. The car did smell a little funny, but with some more research I found that people had good results with simple things like baking soda and coffee grounds.

Two days and some internet research later, Barb was really worried. Apparently long-term smoke in a car is very difficult to get out. And not just the smell: all those nasty chemicals they put into cigarettes, along with the nicotine and tar, just worm themselves into the upholstery and are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to remove.

So after some arguing (due to my state of denial), we decided to get another car. Unfortunately, PA doesn't have a buyer's remorse law for used vehicles so we couldn't just give it back, so it would be a trade-in. Barb and I agreed that if they didn't give us a certain amount for the Camry we'd walk and take our chances somewhere else.

The new ride, front

Fortunately, we were willing to spend a little more money. (That's always a good wheel greaser.) And of the used vehicles Valley had we were interested in a couple, one of which was a Subaru Forester. One of my co-workers has one of these and he likes it a lot, but it felt a little big to me. (I dislike driving big cars because I have really bad vision in my right eye and thus a big blind spot.)

After driving it around for a few minutes I felt better -- it didn't feel as much like a big car as I thought it would. So, likely because the car we wanted was a few thousand more and because the Camry would be really easy to move off the lot, they gave us in trade exactly what we paid for the Camry. As a result the whole episode wound up costing us some money, but not much. And after driving the Forester for ~1500 miles over the last week and a half, we're very happy.

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