For the last couple of years, on and off, I’ve been thinking about replacing my faithful old 2005 Caravan. $800 for brakes, a few sets of tie-rods, tires – it adds up. Now the car has been a real trooper and has hauled tons of wood stoves, and lumber, bags of gravel, and fencing over the years – but at some point the cost of repairs exceeds the resale value of the car. The guy who did my last inspection told me I’d need a new water pump and it looked as if my engine seal would eventually need replacement. He seemed like a nice enough fellow, but the dollar signs lighting up in his eyes as he gave me his verdict were a little disconcerting. 130,000 miles is 130,000 miles. The car has aged better than I have but it really is time to think about retiring it. Maybe I can show it how to start a blog.
The question was what to replace it with. Used or new, new or used. Besides the cost, the idea that a used car might have me breaking down in the woods on a five degree evening on my 26 mile commute back from my consulting gig was unappealing. I had learned to interpret the groans and clicks from my Caravan – but a new used car meant learning a whole new set of signals.
Small or large, large or small. I was spending $60 a week on gas with my Caravan making the trip to H6. And that was at $3.60 a gallon. $4, $5, $6 a gallon and I might as well stay home. So small. Definitely small and efficient. Except when I needed to haul supplies. Then big and roomy sounded great. Small and large – maybe some kind of inflatable car.
We needed to load up on supplies from Costco. Delphine and I took my Caravan into Nashua and did our usual pass through buying things that were just too good to pass up. On our way back I suggested we stop at a Suzuki dealer near Costco to take a look at their cars. I’d seen some nice looking little Suzukis on the road and thought they might be worth considering.
We pulled into the car dealer with the Suzuki sign out front and were greeted by a salesman who informed us they were out of business. No, not just that dealer – no more new Suzukis were being sold. But he’d be happy to show us a Hyundai.
I wanted to see a Suzuki. Hyundais might be fine cars but I felt disappointed. We left. Delphine said there was a Scion dealer next door. She bought a Scion when she first moved to New Hampshire and she loved it. But with 140-thousand miles on it maybe she should be looking for a replacement too.
We drove into the Scion dealership. Six salesmen stood in the parking lot waiting for prey. A kid, twenty three tops, pointed to where I should park and followed us across the lot. We got out. He asked how he might help us. We’re just looking, just trying to get educated. We want to see what you have in the way of Scions. We’re not ready to buy anything. No sir – empty wallets. Just window shopping.
He didn’t look terribly pleased. He thought it was over there. We walked half the length of a long parking lot before we found the one and only Scion that dealer had. Apparently they were more like an un-dealer for Scion. The model they had wasn’t for us so we started back to our car. The salesman started his pitch. Turns out the Scion was positioned at the far end of the lot to give him several hundred feet to talk with us before we reached our own car.
Had we seen the Prius C? I said the hybrid prices were ridiculous. He said he had one for under twenty. Under twenty? Right here. I looked at the sticker. 52-MPG, $19,050. Hmm.
Can we drive one? Sure. Ten minutes later we’re exiting the parking lot in this virginal vehicle. No sound. It’s being propelled by magic. Some guy with a glowing wand is under the hood making it go forward. We take it on the highway and it does just fine. My days of laying rubber are long gone. The engine (or guy with the wand) fits my driving style perfectly.
I pull off the road and suggest that Delphine give it a try. She refuses. It’s as if the car is too nice. She’s worried that she’ll step on the accelerator and the thing will lift into the air. I insist. She takes the wheel. She’s giddy. She says, “I want one too!”
We go back to kid-dealer. Yes, we liked it. We have a good sized downpayment but everything depends on the financing rate for the balance. We’re not going to pay 13%. By the by, we’ll take two if the rate is right. Delphine is bubbling. So is the salesman. This is his second week on the job and no one said anything in salesman’s class about selling two at a time.
He asks us to meet his finance manager. 1.99%. Sounds like a deal. The gas savings alone covers half the monthly payments.
We wait. And wait. And wait some more. The salesman finally shows up with a stack of forms to sign. One of them has me swear I am who I say I am. (And if I’m not???)
The salesman drives my brand new Prius C around front and parks it next to my Caravan. Will our Costco harvest fit in the new car? Just barely.
I put my key in the ignition and turn it. Nothing. It’s a brand new car and already it’s broken! Wait. I shift into reverse and it backs out of the space. Oh – electric motor at low speeds. No sound. This is going to take some getting used to.
We head home pressing this button and that trying to figure out what the various charts and graphs mean. 36-MPG, 52-MPG, 64-MPG – wheee! We get home and decide to take the car out for a spin up Barrett Hill to see what kind of mileage we get. How much does the battery charge when we coast downhill? Who cares where we’re going? 74-MPG! If I wait for a stiff wind from behind and open my doors…