Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Adventures in Car Shopping

Well, it's finally time to turn in my little Kia and upgrade to a better vehicle. I've managed to keep the thing running for the past 8 years and, well, I just don't want to sink any more money into it. It's been making a lot of disconcerting rattling noises lately and recently began to do the sticking gear shift thing again which has always been the precursor to the transmission going ka-put. It also has strange electrical problems that once left me with no headlights one night, which require tearing the entire dash apart to diagnose and correct the problem. And it needs struts and possibly an alignment...and the list goes on and on. Egads! The more I think about it, the more I realize that my car is death on wheels.

And all of this work would need to be done at the Berlin City Kia dealership with the lovely service manager who likes to blame me for every warranty problem with the car. Seriously, the guy once tried to tell me I was driving the car incorrectly when I brought it in for transmission work. It's an automatic. There's really only one way to drive it (well, OK, 2, if you count reverse). On top of that, I know it will need new tires to pass inspection this fall, and probably new brakes....and well, you get the point.

Instead of draining my entire savings account on car repairs to keep the thing running for another year or so, I've decided to drain my entire savings account as a down payment for a shiney new car. Yay me!

So, I began the car buying experience. I approached this in the same way as I do when helping my customers buy expensive medical equipment. Yes, I know I'm a geek, and Ido like spreadsheets, thank you very much.

Step 1 - figure out what I want. In my case, a smallish sedan with good gas mileage; I'd like to get at least 30mpg. And air conditioning. My current car doesn't have that.
Step 2 - figure out my budget. Realisticly, I won't be getting anything high end, shooting for less than 20k.
Step 3 - figure out what's out there. This is where an internet connection at work is my friend.

And on to step 4, the kind of fun but strangely annoying part, actually visiting the dealerships. I narrowed my choices down to my top 4 - Chevy Cobalt, Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla, and Honda Civic. I also decided early on that if the first question out of the salesman's mouth was 'what color do you want', then I was immediately leaving. I didn't actually have to use that, and my roommate pointed out that it was amusing that I was talking about HP in the Cobalt versus the Civic, as opposed to the color.

The most obnoxious sales pitch I got was when someone, after my spiel about how I wanted a smallish sedan with good gas mileage, tried to sell me a Chevy Tahoe. WTF? It is neither small, nor good on gas. But jeeze, look how much money off of the price I'd save. Maybe that's because with $4/gallon for gas, no one wants one of those. Well, maybe if I had a family and 3 kids who all had to go to soccer practice or something, but since it's just me living in the city, no thanks.

Decisions, decisions. In the end, the Civic came out on top, just barely edging out the Corolla. Honestly, the two are very similar, but I decided the Civic was the sharper looking of the two. The Cobalt came in at #3, but looses out due to it's smaller interior and lower gas mileage. It was by far the peppiest of the 4 that I drove and if I was fresh out of college again I'd love this car. The Focus was, well, it was a basic economy car. That's about the nicest thing I can say for it.

As an amusing side note, I discovered that of the 4, the only one not assembled in the US was the Ford Focus. The Honda and Toyota are assembled in California, and the Chevy is assembled in Detroit. The Ford, on the other hand, is assembled in Mexico. Go figure.


BlueMule said...

Hondas and Toyotas are the best. We have had both throughout the years and I couldn't recommend them more than any other brand of vehicle. Honda edges Toyota out with regard to reliability, but only slightly. J has a Civic and really loves it.

Quartermaster said...

I came to the conclusion that the Civic and the Corolla were both equally reliable. While researching, I made the mistake of going to some internet vehicle user forums, asking if anyone had made a similar choice and why. I got a lot of helpful information, like Toyotas suck! Hondas rule! and vice versa. Ahh, internet forums. (Though I did eventually get some useful information at Edmunds.com)

BlueMule said...

I've never understood auto manufacturer rivalries. They always seem to ignore that no matter what there's a better type of car out there. Have you ever heard someone say "Hondas Rule! Porches Suck!"?

Me neither.

Still, I think you'll like the Civic. I don't know what the new Corollas are like, but I've owned two of them in the past 15 years and they've been great. But, they're noisier than the Civic and they don't handle quite as well. Jenn's Civic is fun to drive and gets fantastic gas mileage.

I, on the other hand, am like Fatty - I prefer a slightly larger car - in may case I went with a Toyota Camry.

I don't think you'd have gone wrong with either type of car. They're certainly better than that POS Kia you were driving, eh?