Monday, November 10, 2014

More car thoughts

This weekend I borrowed a car (a Mini!) from friends so I could go to the suburbs and get re-certified in scuba. Then I dropped their car at their apartment and wandered through NW Portland and the Pearl District before I hopped in a Car2Go and went home.

I noted a few things:
 - I do like being the person who shows up in a cute car
 - The Mini had great highway handling and good lines of sight
 - The clutch on the Mini was a bit stiffer than the one on my Hyundai; I didn't love that
 - It was great to be able to wander around downtown without caring about where I was heading, as I could see from my app that there were lots of Cars2Go so I was confident I could meander to my heart's content and then easily find a way home.

I'm narrowing down my car wish/want/must have list. It's been helping to think about where I've been, since I've only had three cars in my life.
  1. My first car was my dad's old car that I shipped cross-country for about $1,500, then learned it couldn't pass emissions, so I only had it for a few months before giving it to friends (who lived south of me in a less-emission-strict area). So really, I've only had two cars for any period of time... 
  2. In 1998 I bought a 1985 Honda Accord two-door hatchback for $1,800. That car was totaled twice while I had it - the first time was body damage only, but the second time I was T-boned by a Caddy and the axle snapped, so that was the end of that, in 2005... months before my car was going to turn 21!
  3. Since I was commuting 20 miles each way to a suburb (i.e. had no remotely reasonable transit options), I had to replace my car right away. I got a one-year-old Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback with 15,000 miles on it for $6,300. I kept it for nine years until my little incident a couple of months ago. Fortunately, this time I can take my time shopping.
 I've always been proud that in my entire life I've spent less than $10,000 on car purchases, and I never minded very much when my car wasn't fancy. I DID wish that my last car had air conditioning, so that is pretty high on my list for Next Car. Here's what I've come up with, in descending order of importance:

  1. Low price
  2. Clean title
  3. Manual transmission (I figure there is less to break, and they are usually cheaper)
  4. Low mileage
  5. Reasonably newish vehicle
  6. Air conditioning
  7. Cute factor
  8. Hatchback
  9. Four doors
I'm leaning further and further away from going with a four-door. In my 16 years of cars, it's never been a huge problem that I only have a two-door. I really appreciate all the room that the hatchback model gives me, and I can rent a bigger car if I foresee the need for more passenger space. Yes, ideally I'd have a four-door.. but we'll see how it plays out.

Anyway, I'm not buying just yet. I still want to make this purchase with cash, though I'm not fully clear on the specifics - if I go to a dealer can I just charge it and then pay the bill later? If I buy from a private seller will they wait around for two-three days while I get a check from my out-of-town bank?  I want to leave the vast majority of my six-months-of-living-expenses in the bank untouched, and I don't want to tap my early house payoff fund, and I don't want to tap my fence replacement/new deck money, so I need a bit of time still to save up.

Of course right now it's sunny and dry: It's easy to contemplate forgoing the convenience of a car when the sun is shining!


  1. I would recommend a Scion xA (my first new car ever!); it's a great hatchback, and though small does hold a lot when you put the back seats down. Also, scion = toyota, so the parts, durability is quite high. Also, the xA is pretty inexpensive and gets good gas mileage.

    1. Plus it's high on the cute factor!!! :D

      Actually, Scion xA and xD are on my short list; also a repeat on the Hyundai Accent, possibly a Nissan or Mazda.

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