Sunday, November 19, 2006

Car Fancy

I'm in the market for a new car.

Having bashed up the old vehicle (I'll call her Ingrid) rather too much, my insurance guys are telling me to take the check and not look back. Ingrid was old and perhaps not that trustworthy. She had a nice life but needs too many repairs for it to be worth either my while or the insurance company's while. They've bought her from me and will fix her up and sell her on their own.

Yes, this is what we call "totalling" the car.

No, I wasn't hurt nor was there much damage. Ingrid just happens to be very old, very Swedish, and very expensive to fix.

So I'm buying a new car. And suddenly I'm taking an interest in cars, seeing as I thoroughly depend upon one now to get me really anywhere in this town. I'm looking for a small hatchback with good gas mileage. Hatchback so's I can fill it with all the cheap, "previously owned" vintage and antique furniture I want.

I've pretty much narrowed the search down to the Mazda 3 and the Subaru Impreza, but if anyone has any suggestions or opinions, please do post here and let me know.

I had originally wanted a Honda Civic, a nice, dependable little sedan with the highest mpg and safety ratings on the market. My friend Nick calls it "The Assistant Professor Car." But the Civic doesn't have a 4 door hatchback, only a 2 door one. Which wouldn't be able to carry precious antiques. Then I thought about the Toyota Matrix. My parents have one. My dad calls it "The Mattress." But he complains about its lack of horsepower. And it's a bit too expensive. So I don't think I'll get a mattress. I'd rather have a car.

I have this amazing senior colleague who knows everything there is to know about cars. She's a little obsessed. It's kind of cute. She's obsessed with Renaissance drama and cars. Anyway, she thinks Subarus might be a bit pricey to repair. She seems to be rooting for the Mazda 3.

My cousin here in the South seems to think I should get the Impreza. Both his daughters drive them, and apparently his neighborhood is "The Subaru Capital of the World" so I might be able to get a good deal there.

I'm going to test drive both models and maybe a couple of others next week (the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving). I've never done this before. Anything I should look out for? What should I do on the test drive? Where should I take it? Will there be a salesperson with me pitching the car the length of the ride? I loathe salespeople. I don't want to "give poor Gil a break." I just want a car.

10 comments:

Jonathan said...

Good luck. Within the parameters you like, buy what you like to drive. And yes, we got the hard hard sell on the test drive, especially when they found out we were ready to pay in cash. Just be ready for it.

Pantagruelle said...

You totalled your car?! The one you got when you arrived in the South this summer? I'm so sorry. Glad you weren't hurt. I buckled in the entire front in of my brand-new car with 3 months of buying it. I rear-ended a Mountie (his fault) on my commute to sessional university teaching number 2. That car, which I loved, was a Toyota Corolla. Very reliable and comfy and fun and speedy to drive. I always rent a Toyota when I need a rental. We also used to own a Mazda Protegé which was also reliable but speedy on the highway, fun to drive and comfy to sit in on 8 hour road trips. I don't know anything about Suburu's so my recommendation would be for the Mazda. I definitely would not get a Honda Civic! They are supposed to be great cars, but they are also the most frequently stolen cars in North America. Civic basically equals having a "Steal Me" sign in your back window. When you do the test drive, you should take it within the city, braking and maneuverability, maybe even see how well it parks in small spaces, and also open it up out on the highway, really get a feel for how it accelerates and passes. As far as I know, you don't need to let the salesman come with you. When I test drove my new car several years back, it was just me and hubby, no salesman. Of course, that was small-town and small-province where trust reigns, but I can't imagine that your city is so big that there wouldn't be that level of trust down there, especially since it's the South. If you offer to leave something behind, like ID or a credit card, I'm sure that you could take it out on your own without an annoying salesman tagging along to give you the hard sell.

Toronto lurker said...

Mazda 3 all the way. We've had one for two years now, and its a _fantastic_ car. Great fun, very reliable, and feels much more expensive than it is. Very European in look and feel. Lovely, lovely car. You'd never guess it's really a Ford...

Iris said...

Oh dear...cars. Get something with 100,000 mi warranty (especially !!!! if it is related to Ford). I had an earlier incarnation of a Mazda/Ford... perhaps you will be fine if you're only aiming to keep it a few years and not drive 20K per year. Transmission and air conditioning! And if you live in the south, you will want that air conditioning. If you know a really good mechanic down there, ask what it is they really hate to work on and why, and avoid it. That said, if the reports look good, and you feel comfortable in it and it handles well for YOU, go for it. Tip - check the blind spots. And good luck. If you're forced to drive, you should enjoy the space you're in.

skookumchick said...

Mr. Skookumchick and I are pretty happy with our Mazda Protegé 5 (known as Roxanne, because she's red), which is the precursor to the Mazda 3. It's more stationwagony than hatchbacky, but you could probably get a used one for a pretty good deal. I also have a Protegé (just that, no number, although we call her Jill because she's spunky) which I bought used in 2001 - very happy with it. Very nice reliable cars, even in Midwestern winters.

Sorry Ingrid is totalled.... and good luck looking for a replacement.

Flavia said...

I just bought a Mazda3 (my first car ever) in late July, when I moved to the first place where I actually needed a car--and I LOVE it! She (Zelda the Mazda) handles beautifully and is very, very zippy. I've also been rather gratified by the approving noises the undergrads make upon seeing her (apparently, the Mazda3 is a cool car).

I was actually also trying to decide among the Matrix, the Civic, and the Mazda (and I briefly contemplated a Subaru Outback), and my decision ultimately boiled down to the fact that I wanted a hatchback, but the Matrix was just too big (it's really a small SUV). I liked the Civic for the mileage and the airbag setup, but, in addition to not having the hatch, it seemed a little dull. The Mazda also has much nicer fixtures than the Civic (upholstery, wheels, dashboard), and a better warantee and maintenance plan (4 years instead of 3, with an additional 2 that you can buy later on for a reasonable price).

The only negatives about the Mazda: 1) I had to pay extra (about $300) for the airbag package that I wanted, which included side curtain airbags rather than just the 2 front ones, 2) the mileage isn't as good as the Civic. If I'm driving exclusively on the highway, I can get 29-30 mpg. But with my usual mix of highway & local I get more like 27. Less, if I've been running lots of short errands.

muse said...

Wow, thanks everyone! Mazda3 seems to be the hit of the blogosphere. I'm very tempted. European in look and feel? Sounds like it would fit me very nicely. (I'm rather European in look and feel myself).

Funny that our cars are all gendered gals. Like a boat or a ship or a whale, I guess. Thar she goes!

Gil said...

My last car purchase happened via Carmax -- a semi-national chain of used car stores, which you may or may not have in your neck of the woods -- and one of the major benefits of using them was that the sticker price is the final price ...

... unless you opt for any variation of their extended warranty plan. Which, given the math and the rest of their sales pitch, would be silly. They go to great pains to show you how thoroughly they test out all arriving vehicles, and how they weed out the real lemons, and how they don't accept flood damaged cars, and so on ... and they give you a basic warranty on any purchase ... and then they try to sell you an extended warranty that's really only going to save you money if you need to replace something really expensive (such as the entire engine) in the first year or two you own the car.

All that said, I still think you should give poor Gil a break. But then I'm sorta biased towards poor Gil...

Pantagruelle said...

Wait, stop! One more piece of advice. Before you buy a car, you should watch the film "Who Killed the Electric Car?". It just came out on DVD and I saw it last night. It's really amazing and horrifying. Why not make an enviromentally sound choice and get a hybrid car instead??? Unfortunately, there aren't many of them on the market right now ('cause the electric car, which sounds amazing, was killed off for a number of reasons, the bottom line being capitalism), but there is the Toyota Prius. And from the look of it, I think that it might be a hatchback. So, you could help lower greenhouse gas emissions while you are getting antiques! Guilt-free shopping!

muse said...

Yeah, like I could afford a Prius.

I wish.