The last week and a half has been interesting to say the least. Okay, overwhelming might be a better word.
On January 6 my car's blower blew out. In the simplest terms, it meant no heat in my car. Let’s not forget that it’s January in Minnesota and probably not the best time for it to conk out. The one saving grace was the temperatures which were around 30-35 above zero. Not bad, quite tolerable for driving a car without heat. Still not something I wanted to get too used to doing.
And one more thing: The local meteorologists were forecasting cold. Below zero cold. Oh goodie.
When I got home I cried. It was too much – even more repairs on an older car that was beyond nickel and diming me, it was going for hundreds and hundreds. For the last few months, I was paying $300-$400 each month to keep my car running and there was still a list of things to get done.
But it wasn't just expenses that were hitting so hard, it was the reality it was time to part ways with my old girl. I knew this day would come when I’d have to buy another car, I just didn’t realize how hard it would hit mentally/emotionally.
I had the car almost 13 years; I bought my car, a Ford ZX2, new in 2003. It was a great little car, but five years ago I hit a pothole driving on the city streets. I didn't see the damn thing until I ran into it and heard a ker-CLUNK. I’d blown a tire and had three tie rods replaced. It was fixed, but the car never drove the same and almost all future repairs were in the area of the front passenger tire, the one the pothole took out.
After a few tears were shed, and a bowl of ice cream eaten, I went online, looking for any discounts and three nearby Ford dealerships came up. I’ll call them D1, D2 and D3. I put in my contact information and D1 and D2 had decent discounts, but D3 didn't. I looked at online customer reviews online and D1 and D2 had reviews averaging about 3.5 out of 5. D3’s reviews was almost 5 out of 5. Reviews duly noted.
I had wanted to stick with a Ford – my other car had been a Ford too. I was looking at the Ford Fiesta; very good reviews on the car, but I gotta tell ya, I didn’t like the way it looked. That may sound shallow, but if you’re making car payments, shouldn’t you at least like the way the car looks? I think so.
The next day, I was contacted by each dealer via e- mail (I avoided giving out my cell number). D1 didn't give me any straight answers. D2 sent me a canned response, in fact, I think it was a JPEG of a canned response dropped in the e-mail. Seriously? D3’s e-mail sounded like it was written by a human being and not cut and pasted from a standard script. It got my attention.
But I still had a serious case of cold feet – which had absolutely nothing to do with cold weather. I kept thinking, I’ll fix the car … I’ll fix the car … I’ll fix the car … I’ll fix the car ….
The following week changed my mind.
Sure enough, the meteorologists got it right, and damnation, it got cold. I went through a whole lotta de-icer to keep the windows from fogging up. I threw a blanket in the car and wrapped it around my legs as I drove. Yes, it was as stupid as it sounded.
After re-reading the dealer e-mails, I decided to fill out a credit app with D3 on Tuesday and see what happens. I got an e-mail saying it wasn't complete. That was weird; there was no flag saying it wasn't complete when I submitted it.
I started playing phone tag with one of the sales reps and when I got his e-mail address two days later, things got rolling. By the way, my app was complete, turns out there was another Christine filling out a credit app at the same time I was. Confusion cleared up. Approval done.
The rep asked what I was looking for (small, economical and good gas mileage) and how much I wanted to spend per month. He came back with three choices, all 2014s: Two Hyundai Accents (gray and red) and one Nissan Sentra (blue). All had around 40,000 miles. My top choice was the gray Accent.
One the advice of my mechanic, I pulled vehicle reports on all three cars. I did, and even had another person look them over. The reports were all favorable.
I’d never bought a new used car before; the two I’d owned were new. So I wanted my ducks in a row, or at least have them feel like they were lining up.
On Friday, I left work at 1:00 and before I left for the dealership, I thanked my car for all the good years. It really was like saying goodbye to an old friend.
D3 is New Prague Ford. The other two dealerships were closer, but I felt the customer service was far better at NPF. It was worth the extra miles.
Woody, the sales rep, pointed out the gray Accent. Ironically, I parked right next to it. The color was only a shade different from my current car, but the Accent was, for lack of a better word, cute.
He grabbed the key so we could take it for a test drive. When I sat down in the driver’s seat, I felt high – no, not under the influence, but the seat was elevated. The rep lowered the height just a tad. It’s quite an advantageous feature since the back end is higher; I need to be sitting higher to look over the back seats. The car handled quite nicely.
When we got back, it was time for the paperwork.
I traded in the old car, but it was only worth $400; I had to put down the other $600. I went from state minimum insurance to full coverage. I was able to change the coverage online and watching my rates hike was daunting. Yes, it’s to be expected. Two-year-old cars have more value than 13-year-old ones. Still didn't cushion the blow.
I was a bit numb from the numbers and my stomach was even a bit flip-floppy.
Soon, I had keys in hand and I left. And I spent the rest of the day in shock wondering what the fuck had I done. I was scared. I wanted to drive back to the dealership and get my old car back. But it wasn’t so much the car I wanted back, it was the lower insurance costs and the lack of car payments.
Today, I’m not in as much shock, but I’m still a little overwhelmed by the costs. It is, however, offset by the feeling that a new car should have fewer mechanical issues – excuse me while I go find some wood to knock on. I do know with time the car will just be part of my budget.
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It was a balmy -14 this morning when I woke up, but I still ran some errands today. I wanted to spend some quality time with this new expensive toy and get a feel for it. I must say, the heat was very nice. I was so used to my old car’s quirks and idiosyncrasies, I expected to hear the same pings and pops and rub a rabbit’s foot in the hope it would start in the cold. Heard nothing, no rabbit’s foot needed. Breathed sigh of relief.
I’m very grateful to have found this car; it feels like this was meant to be and I know I’ll appreciate it even more the next few days with the below zero temperatures.
And I’ll appreciate it even more when the sticker shock finally wears off.