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Thursday, 22 January
Car Talk, But Crappier

Yesterday the wife took the creaking, aging car (an '83 Honda for those who haven't been playing at home) in for an ostensible simple tune. It is a finicky little beast in the best of circumstances, but the recent cold weather had left it with a troubling case of the gout. Also, I'm pretty sure it's coming down with both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's: it shudders and lunges erratically, and the odometer has simply given up counting and now just reads Fuck, pick a number.

So she took it in to our trusty, uh, car-place (we gauge their trustworthiness by their ongoing track record of not spectacularly boning us, as far as we can tell, which isn't far at all, but hey), and their report was pretty gloomy.

"Needs oil change. Needs new belts. Needs left axle adjustment or something. (I may be paraphrasing.) East trans-linkage is faulty and may result in extensive passenger scabbing if left unattended. Possible nuclear failure." The whole document was very stareworthy, especially for a rig that we had paid $450 in the first place: they were now saying the whole burrito would be around $800. This was almost cosmically hilarous.

But it was also scientifically very exciting: what they were telling me was, We owned Schrodinger's Car. When they put it in the garage, it was both alive and dead at the same time. The observation of the mechanics should have collapsed the various quantum states and resulted in an observable single response, but then again, these were auto mechanics, so I'm not sure physics recognized their feeble tap-tappings as actual observations. I mean, these guys watch "The King of Queens." Plus, I'm pretty sure our car is blasting out electron pairs with identical spin measurements, and I'm certain that one can measure both its position and momentum pretty reliably--"It's at Pike and Boylston, doing fifteen!"--so basically, our car is destroying quantum physics as we know it. When people come to gape at our car and ask if it addresses the double-slit experiment, I can confidently tell them, "No. There is a pigeon stuck in the AC." Can your car do that?

For all of that, we basically signed the equivalent of a "Do Not Resuscitate" order on the car. Let the thing die. The only worrisome issue now is: we'll probably have to buy a new (read: used) car. And I don't want to do that. I never have done that. I can barely buy radishes.

I'm a terrible adult. You want some anemic radishes? I locked them in the car.


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Comments

Two sites that will make you feel like more of an adult in the car buying process:

www.edmunds.com
www.consumerreports.org (it's worth the registration fee)

They'll give you good advice on good used cars. And from personal experience (although you strike me as an import guy for some reason): Be wary of Saturns built between 1994~1999. They have a faulty cylinder head due to a faulty mold. Most don't have any problems, but some do, and they crack, which means having to replace them with another saturn head manufactured from the same mold. how's that for incopetence on their part?

My 1998 SL1's cylinder head cracked after 60k miles and I had no recourse with the company. *pfft*

Comment number: 004223   Posted by: One on January 22, 2004 05:10 AM from IP: 63.165.136.132

also, DO NOT buy a VW ca. 1984-88. no matter how cute it is. they've got issues. years after my '86 GTI's successful suicide attempt, i was at the subaru dealer (with my beloved impreza), and the mechanic who had been a VW dealer sat there and guessed at what problems my car had possibly had.

he got them all right. and in order..

those were nefarious times, for VWs.

SUBARUS on the other hand, ROCK, and hold resale value, and run forever, etc. i heartily recommend them.

friend of mine here in TX is selling her reliable ac-free '91 dodge colt, if you want tiny, cheap, extremely long-lived, and a big long trip to pick up the sucker. :)

Comment number: 004224   Posted by: julie on January 22, 2004 05:38 AM from IP: 66.90.244.128

They're somewhat rare, but if you can find a used Ferrari 250 GTO -- around 1962 or 1963 preferably -- I think you'll be pleased. They seem to hold their resale value pretty admirably as well.

Comment number: 004225   Posted by: ColdForged on January 22, 2004 07:35 AM from IP: 66.152.60.98

I am selling my 1999 Toyota Corolla, a very reliable car. I live in SF and will drive to Seattle to sell it to you. Kelley Blue Book value is more than $7,000 but I could certainly come down A LOT for you because you have given me a lot of laughs. I'm serious.

Comment number: 004226   Posted by: Sumana on January 22, 2004 10:30 AM from IP: 209.157.148.215

I'd like to suggest a 2003 or '04 Hummer, since you can write the entire cost off of your income tax - Thanks, Dick and George - and being the starving artist that you are, I'm sure you can use the money.

Comment number: 004227   Posted by: mike whybark on January 22, 2004 10:31 AM from IP: 216.173.212.234

oh, god, please don't buy a saturn from any year.
go with the ferrari.

Comment number: 004228   Posted by: eden on January 22, 2004 01:05 PM from IP: 67.32.210.75

We tried explaining to our son that when buying a car, you play a "game" whereby you don't let the salesman know how much you really like the car, so you can better negotiate a lower price. Ha ha. When we left the dealership after having decided on the car, color, etc. our son asked "so did we win the game" and we replied "well...we kinda forgot to play it actually". Be very careful out there. It might help to go shopping totally drunk without any cash or identifying documents...

Comment number: 004229   Posted by: April on January 22, 2004 02:19 PM from IP: 167.159.1.249

I'm 42 years old and I have never bought a car either. All my vehicles have been given to me by relatives, lovers, roommates, strangers. . .

For the past 10 months, I've been car-free. It's been wonderful. If I can do it in Portland, you can do it in Seattle. Just get a bike, learn the bus system, and join CarSharing. You'll save time, money, and the aggravation of buying a car. And, you'll get that smug sense of moral superiority you can only get by dropping the line "actually, we've chosen to live without a car" into almost any social situation.

This advice does not hold for the elderly, those with children, or those who get all of their groceries at Costco.

Comment number: 004230   Posted by: Bill on January 22, 2004 02:20 PM from IP: 162.119.64.114

Sorry: I misnamed the organization to join. It's Flexcar. Carsharing is its old name in Portland.

Comment number: 004231   Posted by: Bill on January 22, 2004 02:22 PM from IP: 162.119.64.114

A lack of interest in cars is something I cannot relate to. Aren't you risking deportation by writing this?

Comment number: 004232   Posted by: shrimp on January 22, 2004 02:26 PM from IP: 65.119.21.130

I've actually lived in Skot's neighborhood without a car for over eleven years. We have a car now but never use it, and are members of Flexcar.

I have mixed feelings about flexcar, the business (I was lied to by the organization; I did have the pleasure of takiing it out of the CEO's hide on the phone one day) but I am a huge fan of flexcar, the service.

It easily saved us thousands of dollars a year. Not as much as the hummer tax break, but still quite a bit.

Comment number: 004233   Posted by: mike on January 22, 2004 07:00 PM from IP: 216.173.212.237

This makes me guilty recalling my car euthenasia. My 86 Toyota. A few years ago they told me it was going to die and die soon--but it was the same deal. Car cost me $100 and a milkshake and the bill was $800+. So I drove it and drove it and it never died. But then my cruel, cruel husband insisted I take it to the junkyard so we wouldn't have to pay insurance.

Did I kill it or did I let it die? I am tormented when I think about how many years it might have continued. Perhaps it would have continued to defy the laws of nature for many years to come.

The Schrodinger's Car thing for me at least means there is no clear test for 'dead' when it comes to a car...So I'm afraid with or without observation many cars are both dead and not dead. Still, that's no consolation when you feel like a car killer.

Just a warning.

Comment number: 004234   Posted by: Miel on January 22, 2004 11:23 PM from IP: 151.203.112.211

at least my car committed suicide. it had tried at least once before, when the transmission failed, the emergency brake just let go, and the whole thing nearly plunged to its death over an embankment. luckily, a tiny little sapling tree kept it from going over...and the 11 turkish refugees who lived upstairs came down wordlessly and put it back up onto the tarmac.

it finally did itself in with a great gasping shudder in the middle of a busy intersection at rush hour. my friend (female, smallish, much as i am) and i had to push it over to the gas station parking lot, where it's dessicating corpse resided for the next week. finally the mechanic came to look at it, declared it dead, and pushed it back to my house with his truck.

sold the fucker for scrap to Austin VeeDub. thank ghod for them, coz it surely wasn't worth anything, that husk of a once-glorious lovewagen. sunroof and everything!

stupid VW. i'll never buy another. the suicide risk is too great.

Comment number: 004235   Posted by: julie on January 23, 2004 05:10 PM from IP: 66.90.244.128

You want a great car for $1000 bucks? I'd recommend a Geo Prizm. It's a Toyota Corolla with a Geo badge on them. For this price you could get a '91 or a '92, the comparable Corolla would go for over twice that.
The reason Geo's have such poor resale value is that it gets dumped with the Geo Metro, and Tracker names... horrible autos, because they come from Suzuki.
Even that 1999 Corolla offered "for under 7000" you can get an Identical '99 Prizm for about $4500.
I've had my 94 Prism for over 4 years without a problem, and it has over 150k on it.

Comment number: 004236   Posted by: MSAGRO on January 27, 2004 11:11 AM from IP: 192.220.254.8

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