After 144,000 miles and more repair bills than I’d like to remember, I decided this month that is was time to get rid of the car that I’ve had since grad school. Honestly, I’d never fallen in love with Impov, the recently dismissed car. I had only one day to buy it because my steering rack broke on my way home from a trip to Canada, and I had to return to grad school pronto. So, when I discovered that it was going to cost at least the equivalent of 7 car payments to get Improv to pass inspection, I decided it was time to let go. Several things can be observed in my character if anyone would see how I shop for cars.
First, I will agonize over decisions and obsess over the details of them. For about a week, I was on a see-saw back and forth whether to save the car. In that time, I went on the internet to self-diagnose what was going on with the car since I felt like the mechanics were not paying attention to me. I dug into car repair forums, listened to cars making funky noises on YouTube, and read through so much car language that I didn’t understand. I pestered one of my colleagues who knows about cars. And, in the end, I actually figured out half of what was wrong with Improv. The problem is that what was wrong was double the repair price, but I thought it might still be worth it after spending inordinate amounts of time online to research used cars. The check engine light was off at that point, and my savings account would cover the repair bill for the rest of the mess.
Second, once I’ve made a decision, I get really irritated if circumstances stand in the way. While the check engine light was off, I decided to make a trip to Virginia. The light came back on while I was on the way. I was so mad!! I was only two days away from getting the repair made and passing inspection.
Third, I hate making decisions alone. I felt a little ridiculous that the car dealer had to pull up an extra chair to the desk since my mom and dad both went with me to finalize the car deal. But, I was also extremely grateful that they were there. The only test driving I did on my own was the test driving of some clunkers. I was on edge the entire time I was driving around thinking I would forget where I had left my own car, grimacing at every little noise the cars made. I was so stressed when I got home from that trip.
Fourth, I hate debt. I’m confident now in my decision. Barring any disastrous car wrecks, the car I bought should last a good long time since it only has 6,000 miles on it. But, taking on car payments instead of buying a clunker was really intimidating. I kept running all the numbers of my bank accounts, ran debt to income ratio calculators to make sure I wasn’t jeopardizing my chance to refinance, and checked several banks to see what the interest rates were.
Fifth, I also hate uncertainty. Buying and fixing a house built in the 1920s along with other life circumstances has started to make me definitively not like uncertainty (not that I was ever all that adventurous). After tearing down walls during the renovation and finding surprises I didn’t expect, having blinking light fixtures, and dealing with an invasion of possums, I’m just tired of dealing with problems. The thought of buying a clunker that was likely to start breaking down piece by piece was more of a headache than I wanted to commit to.
Sixth, I am really not cool. Here’s a rough paraphrase of the conversation between me and the 21 year old car salesman Matt.
Me: Does this car have a place for me to plug in my iPod? (I only knew cars could do this because my younger sister is cool and in the know).
Me: Well, I don’t actually have an iPod. I just have a cheesy mp3 player. I’m not going to lie to you, Matt. I’m really just going to listen to audiobooks.
A little later in the test drive, Matt is telling me about the speakers that come with the various options packages on the car.
Me: Matt, audiobooks don’t need very good speakers.
I got a kick out of the fact that Matt mentioned audiobooks when he sent a follow-up email about the car.
Finally, I am obsessive in planning for the future — causing stress that’s not so great. But, it is where I’m at right now. For example, I stopped just short of calling a friend who works in the baby gear industry to find out whether a car seat fits better into a Honda Fit or a Ford Fiesta. Yes, that’s right. I was thinking about the car seats for the kids I don’t even have. Good grief.
But, now after the agony of decision, I’ve got the car. I’m enjoying being able to listen to my audiobooks via a simple auxiliary cable. I’m not super techie, so I still need to upload my phone book to my car. But, I did figure out how to have the car read a text message to me, and I did figure out how to make it call my mom but saying “Dial and then giving her phone number.” Maybe I should admit that I’m old and go to the classes that the car dealer offers to help me learn how to use the Sync features of the car. Tonight I think I came up with a name for the car…