Dead Car is Dead

This is a boring post about my car dying and yesterday’s search for a new car. Unless you know me, plan on hitching a ride with me in the future, or care about the process of purchasing a used car, you can probably just skip to my next post which involves a comic about the placebo effect and a bit on vertebroplasty. :p

Yesterday this happened:

AAA towed me to Steve’s Auto Repair in South Minneapolis (very clean shop, all of the employees were very friendly, and a big shout out to Tim for his help). After about 15 minutes of looking the car over Tim came out and very gravely said “Dead car is dead.” No, he didn’t say that, but wouldn’t that have been fabulous? He did, however, use lots of exciting words and phrases like, “explosion”, “catastrophic engine failure”, and “thousands of dollars”.

So the bright side: Yesterday I didn’t have to go to work, I learned that I have an excuse to buy a new car, I got to take a lovely 2-mile walk in the nice sunshine and relatively warm weather, and I was able to share lunch with some friends who work between the auto shop and my home. It was a wonderful day…that’s just going to cost me about $5000-$6000. Ah, well. Comme ci, comme ça.

I spent the entire day reasearching cars. I used vehix, carsoup, autotrader, cars and keepitlocal (dot)com websites, and then I opened up google maps, searched “car dealerships” and went to every major dealership’s website. Searching was actually pretty neat; I used online searches, I called and spoke with salespeople and even engaged in two IM chats with dealers. I went through literally hundreds of cars without leaving my computer. Gee, the interwebs are handy.

Here’s what I’m looking for:

  • Price: Up to $5000
  • Mileage: 60K-115K
  • As Feul Efficient as possible – no trucks, SUVs, etc. Compact commuter car that can make the occasional road trip.

Other than that I’m pretty flexible. I have a preference for manual transmission (more fun and feul efficient) and 4-doors, but I can deal.

I found a handful of cars that met my criteria and are still available. Most of the cars are 2001-2002 models, (a lot of Saturns and Chevy’s) with 90-100K miles,  4-cylinder engines (there were a couple of V6s), and about half of these have a manual transmission. Most of them get 21-23 mpg city driving.

And then I found a Ford Focus SE. It’s a 2006 with 72K miles, manual transmission, and it gets 26mpg city/34mpg highway. It’s a really simple car. It has no tilt steering, AND it has manual locks and windows! Holy 1990’s stone age technology, Batman! <—– #firstworldproblems. It is about $6000, so $1000 more than what I was hoping to spend, but for 25K less miles and +5 years on the competition, I think that it’s the best car for my money that I’ve found so more. And once I realized that I was willing to pay $6000 for more car, I went back and reopened my searches to include cars in that price and mileage range that I may have missed on the first go around, but there wasn’t anything that caught my interest. 

I test drove it yesterday. It’s definitely a compact. The seat belt is waaaaay back, so you have to turn and stretch to reach them, and the ceiling room is sufficient for me, but the Hubby may have to recline his chair a bit to be comfy.  It only has two doors and the manual locks and windows suck, but the hatchback and folding seat backs are pretty sweet. The steering wheel is about the right angle and height for me, so I don’t have to worry about not having tilt steering. It’s chain-driven, so I don’t have to worry about changing a belt in 3K miles. It’s only had one owner, there’s no major rust and I wouldn’t need tabs until June (which would be a treat because currently I have to change tabs in January when it’s freezing and the car is covered in road slush). It’s mp3 ready. And there’s a 5-day/500-mile no worries return policy, a 1-month warranty, and all sorts of dealer perks for buying from the guys who are selling it.

So how about it? Any words of wisdom?

Dead Car is Dead