Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind

Looking for a New Car


Red Saturn (not mine but mine looks like this)My beloved little Saturn is 9.5 years old and I’m exploring options for finding a replacement.  It only has 43,400 miles on it – all original owner – so clearly I don’t drive all that much.  I would keep it until it ran into the ground (I’ve only had 2 cars in 24 years which tells you something) but I feel as though I’m sitting in a hole when I drive, and my knee twists and torques in uncomfortable ways when I get in and out.  It’s time for a change.

But what to buy?  New or used?  Hybrid or regular?  Sedan or wagon?  Mileage matters, especially remembering days of $4/gallon gas which will come again.  But mileage isn’t everything.   I don’t want a big car, finding little nimble ones easier to park and manouver.  My current car is a sedan but I miss the functionality of the hatchbacks which I had for 20 years.

I need something I can climb in and out of without pain and without falling on the pavement trying to get in.  I need to be comfortable – and as a large person, that’s not always easy. Oh, and I want a car from a car company I think might actually be around in 5 years and whose product has resale value.  That pretty much eliminates American cars.

I’ve been stalking cars in parking lots, checking out lines and peeking into windows to look at dashboard configurations.  And I’ve cornered strangers getting in or out of cars that interest me, asking them what they think of their cars.  Most people are happy to say something, especially if they either love or hate their vehicle.  You can tell a lot by the level of enthusiasm in their voice.

There’s tons of research I can do online, playing on car company sites to build myself a new car, then changing things and seeing what that does to the bottom line.  I have an account at Consumer Reports Online so I can read reviews and ratings, and have also explored the AAA version that shows you invoice costs vs. sticker price.

But I can’t actually SIT in the cars from the comfort of my recliner in the living room. I  have to actually get into the dealership, sit in the ones I’ve decided I like, and take them for test drives.  Tho I’m guessing that some of the ones I like on screen will not even merit a test drive once I climb in and sit down.

Current favorites:  Toyota Rav4 and Subaru Forester.   They look fun to drive and the folks I’ve talked to who have them rave more than my neighbors with their gray or silver sedans which get better mileage.  While mileage obviously is important, so is comfort.  I’m going to keep this a long time, whichever I get, and I want to not be poked in the sides by assorted little knobs and buttons simply because I was too cheap to get something more.

What do you drive (year/make/model) and are you happy with it?

9 thoughts on “Looking for a New Car

  1. You know, one of the cars I’ve admired is the Vibe (there’s a Toyota version of it too and I’m blanking out on its name). I’ve also liked the wide Scion too. Ask Helen about her Fit — I’m not sure if it’s high enough off the ground for you but she adores her Fit. Good luck!

  2. Lori is right — I love my Honda Fit A LOT. I call it my mini-SUV. 🙂

    When I had to buy a new car in 2007, I looked at hybrids and thought a lot about environment and costs in addition to the all-important “is it comfy?” and “is it cute?” tests. If you don’t drive very much (and it sure sounds like you drive even less than me!), the additional cost of a hybrid will never be balanced out by how much you save in gas. The Fit was about $10K less than a Prius and it’s a LEM (low emissions vehicle) though not a hybrid. I like the hatchback too — the Fit, while small, has tons of configurations that you can use to pack A LOT into it — including 4 adults comfortably.

    I don’t know if the seats will be too low for you…they are fine for me with my knee issues…I definitely am up higher than when I drove a friend’s BMW convertible the other day…that was WAY too low!! I’ve had people all sizes in my car (including a friend who is 6’8″) and everyone has been comfy…not a guarantee for YOU, but…

    I drove the Scion when I was looking — the standard safety features are not as good as the Fit (Fit comes with side curtain airbags standard…at least mine did…and that’s important in a teeny car). I also drove all the other comparable cars. I did not do the RAV because it was too big.

    I drove the Forrester when I was looking for my LAST car — to me, it drove like a bucket of bolts — very uncomfortable ride — but I know some people love it.

    Anyway…go try the Fit. 🙂 I love shopping, can you tell? 😉

  3. I know that it’s not the same issue but I heard the funniest call on “Car Talk” last week from Daniel Pinkwater, who called himself “diametrically challenged” and said he was looking for a “relaxed fit” car: http://cartalk.com/ct/review/index.jsp He said he found that the VW Beetle was the best car for him. He did his research watching people get in and out of cars at the Super KMart.

    There are a lot of cars in that small SUV class and it’s too bad you can’t try them side-by-side. There should be a car mall!

  4. I drive a 1994 Honda Accord – with 64,000 original miles on it – so I’m in about the same boat as you when it comes to how much I drive, although that’s changing now that I’ve moved further from work.

    I’ve loved my Honda in terms of reliability, etc. My favorite feature is that it’s long ago paid off! What I love the least about it is that it’s the most stolen car in my city – and my number came up for that last year. Now I’m totally paranoid about having it stolen, and I’m super grateful that I found a townhome with a garage.

    I was getting ready to embark on this car searching journey last year when it looked like my car might not turn up – it was found the last day allowed by my insurance before they declared it gone and I wouldn’t have been able to get it back! I actually contacted a “car broker” to talk about cars. This is someone who will source a car for you, have it checked out, recommend models to meet your needs etc. I got names from the great mechanics that I use.

    When I called the broker, he asked me a series of questions about what I liked and didn’t like about my current car, my requirements, what I absolutely had to have and what I could be flexible with etc. and then made recommendations. What I liked about this was that he could have found me a used car that I would have felt more confident about because someone who knows about cars could look at it and check it out (he would also take it to the mechanics and had it checked out thoroughly). This made me feel more comfortable about buying used. And minimized the hassle for me. I think he was also willing to haggle for the best price at a dealership as well. Of course, there’s a fee involved…

    But in the end, my car turned up and without significant damage – although it now whistles from the dash when you get about 60 mph – go figure – so I am back driving “Cash” (do you name your cars? Mine’s Cash, short for cashmire – the official color – although I call it beige).

    Anyway, that was a long drawn out story to say you might want to consider seeing if you can find some car brokers in your area to talk to.

    Good luck in your search.

  5. Thanks for the suggestions, guys. There kind of is a “car mall” at CarMax and there’s one not that far from me. I could go and check out options and sit in an assortment all from the one place – hadn’t thought of using it for that purpose, but it’s definitely worth it.

    I’ve never heard of car brokers, Denise, but they sound great — personal shoppers for cars! I’ll have to check to see what’s out there in my area. You also remind me that I want to check with my insurance agent to find out what comparative rates might be for some different models. I have no clue what the most stolen car is around here other than knowing it’s not mine, but I shoudl know before I buy! Glad you were able to get your car back.

    And yes, I name my cars. My last red one was Carmen (Nissan I had for 14 years). This one is Mimi.

  6. Jen & Anne, I heard that particular Car Talk episode with Daniel Pinkwater too; mine was several years ago. The cool thing about the Car Talk website is that we were interested (the ex and I) in a VW bug and went there. Their own review said it was cool and what was great about it but they also pointed out that there was a blind spot when parallel parking that could cause you to hit a pedestrian. (And it was complete with photos of the blind spot with Tommy or Ray on the VW windshield.) Since the ex drove a lot and had to park AND wasn’t the best driver, we stayed away from the VW. So look at their site for their reviews of cars — you might find out something that you hadn’t considered.

  7. PS Oooh, it just occurred to me if you get an Electra, you can rename it Carmen. 😉

  8. If you’re thinking about an SUV that gets good mileage, take a look at the Honda CRV. Yes, I’m partial to Hondas, have had good experiences with them.

  9. Hi: I found my way here via Frances’s blog. (Car on a Hill)

    I used to own a Forester — always loved Subarus — but both my husband and I found it confining and sort of claustrophobic. The engine did not seem nearly as smooth as those in our previous Subarus. It’s a deceptive car — it looks larger than it really is.

    We traded up to the Hyundai Santa Fe, rated one of the best values in small SVU-type vehicles, several years ago. It was a bargain, drives like a dream, gets through snow and other bad weather handily, and feels spacious without being an enormous vehicle. I drive the 4-cylinder model and it does pretty good on gas, too. Test drive a few Hyundai models (we have several friends who swear by their Elantras). I’ve begun to believe that Hyundai is the new Honda, or Toyota, or something like that. Great engines and handling.

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