Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The New Car Bluz

My apologies for being late posting this week.  I spent Monday and Tuesday in a mad scramble to make the best of a bad situation.  Here’s what happened.

As you may know, it’s been cold as Ann Coulter’s heart around here… Monday morning it was 3 degrees.  I know, people on the plains or in the upper Midwest get that all the time, but Baltimore rarely gets that mind-numbingly cold.

I was concerned about how my 2002 Chrysler Concorde would hold up; I think this is the coldest it’s been since I got it in 2010, and it still has its original battery.  But when I went out to the car Monday morning, it started up just fine.  (It started up OK on Sunday as well.)

About a mile into my trek to the subway, the oil light came on.  It had never done that before.  I figured the sensors must be cold and the oil extra sludgy, so I continued on my way.  I only had another 2 miles to go and hell, back in the day, I used to drive my car with the oil light on, for months.  (Granted, I was both stupid and broke back then.  I don’t mess around like that anymore.)

I thought I’d get to the subway, go to work, and then afterwards, swing by the Jiffy Lube that was right on my way home.

Right outside the turnoff to the subway lot, the car just stopped running.  I had just made a left at the light (for which I luckily didn’t have to stop).  Realizing I was right on the doorstep, so to speak, I figured I’d use the car’s momentum to glide down to the turn-in and just ease into a parking space.

What I didn’t figure was that I would have to do it without benefit of either power steering or power brakes.  So at the dead end, where I’d have to make another left into the lot, I had to wrestle the wheel around like I was cornering in an aircraft carrier.  I still wasn’t braking yet, because I wanted to keep up my forward momentum.

Then I had one last maneuver where I had to make essentially 3 rights and come to rest in an open parking spot.  That’s when it got tough, because I had practically no brakes.  I really had to stand on the pedal, so not to careen into the curb.  But somehow I managed to get it come to rest in a parking space.

Once at work, I called to arrange to have the car towed to my local garage, which is about a half mile from my apartment.  They’re a little pricy, but it’s walking distance.  Not having to bug someone for a ride is an important factor to me.

It’s funny; when you’re illegally parked, they can tow your car in a heartbeat.  But if you want your car towed, they insist on your being there.  So I asked my boss if I could work the rest of the day from home, (she said yes, because she’s a very understanding boss), so I went to meet the tow truck back at my car.

As I mentioned, the tow truck guy got my car scooped up and onto the flatbed in no time at all, and then dropped the both of us at the garage.  I left the key with the mechanics, and set about walking home.

First stop, however, was the local Chinese food place.  It was lunchtime, and “brotha’s gotta eat.”  Besides, there’s nothing better than hot and sour soup when you’ve been standing out in frozen temperatures for a while.

The garage called me later that afternoon, and told me that the “usual suspects,” the battery and alternator, were fine.  They’d have to tear into it a little deeper… which was gonna cost me.

Sigh.  But fine.  What else was I going to do?  He said it would take about 3 more hours, by which time they’d be closing, so I should probably expect to hear from them on Tuesday morning.  Because we were expecting about 5” of snow overnight, it was already likely I was going to work from home anyway, to this sealed the deal.

So, the next morning, he called with the bad news… the oil pump was broke, and with no oil in the engine, it tied right up and was kaput.  Only way to fix was to replace the entire engine, which would run between $5000 and $6000.  Given that I only spent $3300 on the entire car, I decided that it was now time for a new car.

All I had to do next was figure out which of the bazillion cars out there was the one I wanted.  I had no clue, so I just started chopping wood.  Googled used car dealers and started browsing stock.

Pretty soon, I came across a model I’d never heard of, the Chrysler 200, which was the size, body-type and price that I was looking for.  There were a bunch of them around; I just had to find the one with the right combination.

Remember when I told you about test driving a Chevy Malibu and a Ford Fusion for my job as a Fleet Manager?  That experience really helped me, because I had a pretty good basis of comparison.  I knew I didn’t fit in the Fusion very well, so I looked up the headroom stats for it, so I could make sure whichever car I chose would have a little more.  I can’t stand mashing my head into the ceiling every time I hit a bump in the road.

I almost went for a brand new model, but unfortunately, the new model had about 2” less headroom than the 2013.  Kinda bummed me out.  The 2015 had a much better electronics package.

You know, this was the first time I’d needed to buy a car from a dealership since 2004 and my, how times have changed.  Before, I’d have to go to a dealership and just look around until I found something I liked, all the while fending off over-eager salesmen.

Now, I could troll online through dealership search engines, choosing all the criteria I wanted, evaluate all the options, and find a car that fit my needs.  All without having to get out of my jammies.

Anyway, I settled on a car from a dealership that was only about 15 minutes away.  I IM’d the dealership inquiring about the car, they called me back and we set up an appointment for that afternoon.  Because I was without transport, I called Pinky to give me a ride, which she was nice enough to do.

They had the car ready for me when we got there, so we began the test drive immediately.  It was a nice ride.  I was very pleased at the prospect of finally having a car with some modern amenities.  Although one of my favorite amenities was very old fashioned.


Finally!  A clock I can figure out how to adjust for time changes!

The test drive was the easy part.  After that, it took another two and a half goddamned hours to get my paperwork done!  I guess some things never change…

The worst part was the home stretch, where the finance guy tried desperately to get me to buy a bunch of add-on benefits and warranties.  There were 4 different combination packages with stuff like extended bumper-to-bumper warranties, GAP coverage, paint and seat treatments, and Lord knows what else.

When I declined all that stuff, the finance guy went into Incredulousness Overdrive.  The whole time, I’m thinking, “This guy wouldn’t be pushing me so hard, if there wasn’t a lot more in it for THEM than there was for ME.”

He was telling me about all the stuff he had go wrong on his Dodge, once it hit 80,000 miles.  I was like, “This car has 36,000 on it and I only drive about 4,000 miles per year.  Once I hit 80,000 miles, in eleven years, then I’ll worry about big repair bills.”

You know, the last time I held the line with a sales guy like this, it was over hoses for my new washing machine.  And after bravely insisting my hoses were perfectly fine, they sprung a leak as soon as I hooked them up.  You’d think I’d have learned.

Anyway, we got the deal done and I think I got a pretty good financing rate.  I didn’t go into the week expecting to add 4 years of car payments, but that’s the way things go.  This morning, I went back to the shop to get all my crap out of the Concorde… especially my snow brush and scraper.  Got the plates off and contacted a junk yard to come pick it up.  I’ll even get a couple of Benjamins out of it. 

It just sucks that I just put 4 new tires on it last freakin’ month.  That one hurts.  And before you ask, no, they won’t fit the new car.  But whatevs… shit happens.

But at least after this shit, I got me a new car!


10 comments:

  1. When they try and sell me all those extra warranties I ask, "Why do I need that? Is this car you're selling me a piece of crap?" It only slows them down for a moment, though.

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    1. Exactly! "If you're telling me I'll need to make use of this warranty within the next 4 years, in order to avoid a big repair bill, I don't want the car!

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  2. Beautiful Ride. Drive in good health on clear roads.

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    1. I'll probably have to wait a while for those clear roads...

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  3. I went through the same thing regarding the extended warranties when I bought a new car for the first time in many years. It was much easier for me to decline them this time. I learned the hard way about extended warranties. I bought one from a non-dealer (a third party company that contacted me when my regular warranty was getting close to expiration), not knowing any better. Nothing...absolutely nothing was covered.

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    1. Not only did I already have my payment price firmly fixed in my mind, I'm not one who responds constructively to pressure. The harder people press me, the more I burrow into "fuck you" mode.

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  4. "It’s funny; when you’re illegally parked, they can tow your car in a heartbeat. But if you want your car towed, they insist on your being there." Amen!

    Nice-looking ride you have there. That clock is cool.

    We bought a used Chevy truck a couple of years ago. If I had a dollar for every time we received a "final" notice on extending our warranty, I could have a really nice dinner out. When I bought my previous car (Explorer) used back in '99, I sprang for the warranty, which set me back about $1,000. I used it once, and if I recall correctly, I ended up paying a deductible between $150-$250 for a repair that would have cost no more than $600. So I lost money. Never again.

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    1. That's the thing, you're gambling that you're going to need more in repairs than you're laying out for the warranty. I'd rather pay the money as I need it, not up front.

      Old car is gone now, off to the junkyard. Got two nice, crisp Benjamins in its place.

      I really can't get over how lucky I was, that the Concorde stopped running on a lightly traveled road, with no one else around, right in front of my destination. Could have been so much worse, if the steering and brakes went out on a freeway, or a crowded city street.

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  5. Congrats on the new ride!. Didn't you pull the new tires off your old car? You could have sold those puppies on Craig's List. I've experienced that feeling of losing all power when I ran out of gas once. Such a shitting feeling! Anyway, glad you're safe and hoping a thaw heads your way soon.

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    1. I considered it, but in the end, I just wanted to be done with it all. Not sure how they could tow the car to the junkyard without tires on it. I just have to chalk it up to "one of those things."

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