Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bought Our First New Car

Pretty sure I didn't post about my last car, the 1996 Ford Contour, going out back in March or April. For reasons unknown, it blew a head gasket and was in the shop for a full month getting fixed. Well, despite being "fixed", it blew the head gasket again a week ago, last Saturday morning as I got off work. Granted, I left the water cap off when I put water in it, but that couldn't have been the only thing, as it had been acting up for a while. Plus, when we got the water back in it and the reservoir covered, it continued to act up, so either something wasn't done right before, and/or the guy who owned it before was overly rought with it. It's probably a bit of both.

The problem with buying a used car, whether you buy it from a private citizen or a dealership, is in ten out of ten cases, you are buying somebody else's problem. They had some reason for getting rid of it. OK, there's the occasional story about the widow who's selling her husband's car, which works perfectly, just to rid herself of the memory... but that's also a one in a million shot. If you buy a used car, you can expect that something is wrong beyond what you're being told, if you're told anything at all. And I wasn't. I was told it was normal for Fords to idle so roughly; I was told that it didn't need a thermostat or an oxygen sensor; I was told that it was OK for the "check engine" light to be on; I was told that it was "all in my head". Clearly it wasn't, as the car can't be driven five miles without inexplicably dying. But, it served its purpose. My 1987 Acura Legend was a good car, and lasted me just over six years, before the engine jumped timing and bent the valves. I didn't expect to keep that Contour long, but it lasted me until I was able to get something better. No hard feelings in any case, but it is what it is, it isn't what it ain't, and now I do have something better, so it's all good.

So, we decided to see what it would take to get a new car. I've driven a lot of cars, mostly for work, but also through rentals. In 2006 we rented a 2007 Subaru Impreza to drive to Connecticut and back. In 2008 we rented a Dodge Grand Caravan for the same trip, a 2008 or 2009. In 2007, when we visited California, we rented a 2008 Nissan Versa hatchback, and I really liked it. So we made our first stop Greenville Nissan, just to see what we could do. Well, we met with a salesman, he showed us the lot, we looked at Versa sedans and hatchbacks, and we picked out a black hatchback. My credit was ran, and yes, he said, they could put us in a new car, especially if we participated in the recent economic/environmental stimulus plan "Cash for Clunkers" the government just started doing this week (great timing, eh?). If the new car gets 5-9 miles to the gallon more than the trade-in, it's worth $3500. If the new car gets 10 or more miles to the gallon more, it's worth $4500. And the trade-in must be 25 years old or less, it can't be a classic. We qualified for the first tier with Chuggy (Jen's car). (The Contour would not have qualified.) But we were told to come back the following morning, as they were about to close.

Well, we managed to get out of bed at 9AM (a previously unheard-of feat for us) and get to the dealership by 10, but we ran into a new problem. They wouldn't let me do the Cash for Clunkers program myself because Chuggy was in Jen's name. She couldn't sign it over to me, either, because it has to have been owned and operated for one year. And Nissan didn't like Jen's credit score. Oops. So what they had to do is, put us both down as co-owners, but still, one co-owner having a score under the level they like (and the other just barely over it) didn't look good. When we had to leave for me to take Jen to work, however, they let us take the Versa, and told us the car had to be back by Thursday, at which point they should have it finalized. They woke me up the following morning (as I kept the phone in the room with me) and told me to bring it back Friday, and the paperwork would be finalized then, as Nissan had approved the credit. But the paperwork said Thursday, I told him, so we went to Greenville just for them to change one digit on a piece of paper.

The car has a 13.2 gallon tank, and it was full when we drove it off the lot Tuesday. Thursday night when I had to go to work, I'd put over 250 miles on it, and the tank was around a quarter tank. So I put $20 in. About filled it up, too. Shouldn't have put so much in, I later learned. Hindsight, 20/20 and all that. Anyway, yesterday morning, I get off at 7, I'm home by 7:40, in bed ten minutes later, and up with the alarm (or maybe just before?) two hours later. On two hours' sleep, I got dressed, and we went back to Greenville. Thankfully, Jen drove. She got a full nights' sleep, or close enough to it. Or at least she could have, having gotten off work at midnight the previous night. Three hours of waiting, finally we go into the office to sign the paperwork. 45 minutes or so later, we're the proud owners of a black 2009 Nissan Versa hatchback... that we'll be paying on for the next six years. Still, it has a 100,000 mile warranty, everything's covered except the gas and maintenance (oil changes are free, but we gotta pay for things like tire rotation, alignment, etc.).

So what's this bad boy got? Black exterior, cream interior, partial leather or pleather trim (don't care if it ain't real, it looks nice), cruise control, air conditioning (haven't had either in years), a six-disc CD changer with auxilliary input (for Mp3 players, or my phone) and six speakers (sounds good, too), rear-window wiper, his-and-hers keyless entry/power locks/keys, power windows and mirrors... Generally a nice car, but not fully loaded, either. But not the base model either, it's an SL. Oh yeah, automatic transmission, and a CVT transmission, which means "constantly variable transmission". You can't even feel it shifting, and when it's stopped but running, you can't even feel the engine running. It's also the first car I've owned with drink holders, so that's a big plus, as I drink a lot of coffee, soda, bottled water, etc. I intended to install deer warning whistles on the front, but they have to be glued on, and I just can't bring myself to do it. And I want a steering wheel cover, but I want a hard rubber one like I had in the Legend, and then the Contour, and the only cream-colored ones Walmart has are soft. I'll have to check Auto Zone and Advance Auto Parts. Maybe the Greenville Walmart. And we got a litter bag to put over the passenger seat. No more throwing trash on the floorboards in the back like we've done with previous cars, this car's staying nice as long as possible. Wish us luck with that one, we live in a swamp, just about, but I think I can keep it clean if I keep on it. It's a very nice-looking car, unlike, well... the Legend was classy, if you like the boxy 80s style, which I did, and still do. The Contour wasn't ugly, but it was boring. It was just OK. Looked like any other mid-90s Ford. Escort and Taurus looked the same, just shorter or longer.

Now we have a Reliable Car. Not one that we get in and hope it starts. We definitely have to worry about making the payments, but they aren't bad. What's gonna hurt is the insurance, since we have to have full coverage on it. And we don't know what that will be yet. Also - while I love this car - in a couple years, we'll both have built credit with Nissan, plus they have an automatic approval for current customers, so if we want, we'll be able to trade up. Maybe we'll get an Altima Hybrid. I don't know. It's too far ahead to think about. I'm just thinking, when this car is paid off, we'll have just celebrated our ninth anniversary, and we've just been married 3 years now. Hell, six years means 2015, and half the nuts in the world are sure the world ends on December 12, 2012. Just like it did on January 1, 2000, I suppose.

Anyway, this means we're down to one vehicle. One blew up, and the other is getting recycled, to put a huge dent in what we owe Nissan. Well, Jen told her mother, and her mother's giving her her Jeep, since she recently picked up a new Dodge Caravan, very similar to the one we rented, perhaps a couple years older. It's just got a leaking transmission pan, cracked windshield, and the driver's side door does not register as closed, so either that fuse has to be pulled, or the battery must be disconnected, because the "you idiot, you left the door open" beeper will actually drain the battery. Her mom went with the latter, not sure why, maybe she couldn't find the fuse, maybe the problem's more than that, I don't know, but it'll be a cheaper and quicker repair than the Contour, and Jen's never been a Ford fan anyway. So we're selling the Contour back to our mechanic, who we bought it from, for an "open" sum (he's going to forgive what we owe on it, plus do some of the repair work on the Jeep for free, and sell the Contour for parts).

Oh yeah. Wanna see it? Here's our new baby:

As usual with pictures here, click on them to see them full-size.

1 comment:

Josh said...

Congratulations on the new car! I remember what it was like to go from a piece of shit that wouldn't even stay running to a brand new car with A/C and Cruise Control! (That was back in 2006) It will be a long time before I get a brand new car. I have a 4 cylinder car and a 3 cylinder car! You may laugh, but that little 3 banger requires very little gas money from my wallet!

Yes!, I read the WHOLE thing!