I Have a New Toyota Prius!

Yes, folks, the Great Car Shopping Extravaganza of the last few months finally came to an end.  Meet my new car:

My New Red Prius

My 1999 Saturn had become too difficult to get in and out of for my unhappy knee – and, to be honest, I was getting kind of bored with it after almost 10 years.  Even tho the mileage was insanely low, it just wasn’t working for me any more.

But what did I want?  I researched my little brains out building cars at different dealer websites and comparing options, packages, mileage, dimensions and of course, price.  Mostly it needed to be comfortable.  But since I plan to keep it a long time (my last 2 cars have lasted me 24 years), it was important that it get good mileage since we all know gas prices are not going to stay where they are for long.

It may be evil and un-American, but the only cars I seriously looked at were Hondas, Toyotas, and Subarus.  The mechanics I talked to strongly urged not to buy American, and my own experience with a horrible Dodge that had problems from the get-go. And now adays, I didn’t want to get a car from a company or dealer that could go under.  My Saturn was only worth $1200 in trade in compared with the $3500 I got for my 14-year old Nissan back in 1999, and I knew that the Japanese cars hold their value better over time.

I kept piddling around online and Jen said that she thought the reason I hadn’t actually decided on a car was because I hadn’t fallen in love with one.  That changed last weekend.  My plan was to test drive a Corolla and a Camry but he suggested that I also look at the Prius.  Added to the fact that it’s cute and gets phenomenal mileage, there is no state  sales tax on hybrids and they were offering cash back for a limited time (until the 2009 models are gone).  I got a pretty fair price; I probably could have done better but I’m still pleased.

Mostly it was just time, I was ready, I liked the style, and they had a red one.  I am a sucker for red cars and the idea of getting silver, gray or black just like everyone else in the parking lot was not appealing.  The Prius I picked up this morning is my third red car with gray interior and I know I can find it in a parking lot because I’m trained to look for a red car.  Plus it’s totally cool.  I’ve named her Hermoine for Hermoine Granger of the Harry Potter books because she’s cute, very smart, and a little bit magic (kind of like the whole hybrid thing).

Check out Flickr for more pictures. Ain’t she sweet?

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?

Thinking about Warning Lights

Car warning lights

On the way to Thanksgiving dinner, the “Service Engine Soon” light lit up on my dashboard and I spent a good while fretting over what it might mean. I was at the car dealer by 8:30 on Friday to have them take a look and deal with whatever the problem was.

A car dealer service manager told me in the past that women are generally better than men at actually following recommended maintenance on their vehicles, including paying attention to warning lights. He speculated that men think they can take care of things themselves but underestimate how complicated automotive work is these days – and end up having caused more damage by ignoring the routine and early warning signs.

I was thinking about this yesterday driving back from my repair visit, about how carefully I deal with car stuff and how easily I ignore the “warning lights” for weight loss derailment. The signs are certainly easy to spot — clothes fitting tighter, measurements going up, the scale registering higher than I expect, feeling more lethargic, realizing I haven’t darkened the gym’s door in weeks, a “we miss you” note from my WW leader.

It’s easy to be aware of those as independent factoids and not to put the pieces together because I don’t really want to know the picture; it makes me feel like an unmotivated failure – which usually leads to more eating, which certainly doesn’t help. But with the car, I want and need to know the whole picture so I can take appropriate action to prevent bigger problems down the line.

If I were to pay the same kind of attention to the warning lights that clue me in to problems with my eating, I could take appropriate action to prevent bigger problems. That action doesn’t have to be overly dramatic, just mid-course adjustments to help me keep going; there’s no need to go up two dress sizes first.

Just some things to ponder. Putting things in a different perspective always is a good idea.

A Gain, a Flat, and a Kitty

TessieAs of today, I’ve gained 16 lbs since moving to Connecticut from Boston. I am not amused and I’m not surprised. I’ve been eating a little extra here and there, exercising less, and using food for comfort. My goal for the next two months is to stay the same. Losing more would be nice but I’m not expecting or counting on it. I might as well be realistic, given my past history.

That’s the bad news. Well, okay, there’s more. I came out of the house to leave to work this morning and discovered a pancake-flat tire on the car. It could have happened yesterday on the busy interstate highway as I came home with the kitty, so this was better if it had to happen at all. I momentarily considered trying to change the tire myself, then wised up and called AAA. Good thing, coz the spare was flat, too. I’ve had the car for 8 years and never used it or even checked it which was pretty stupid. One lesson learned.

Grace comes in unexpected place, such as the waiting area at the tire store, where I met a wonderful 80-year old lady with a refreshing view of life and her place in it. I very much enjoyed spending an hour with her and heading in late seemed like less of a hassle.

My other bit of grace is my beautiful new kitty, Tessie. She was not happy to be in a moving carrier and meowed the whole hour we were on the road. Once here, though, and out of her carrier, she busily explored and ate her supper before lolling around on the carpet.

Last night she was not very happy that I had on a CPAP mask and hose because she wanted to be right on my face. She meowed a lot and I can’t say that I got solid sleep, but she was a happy interruption. Tessie seems to be settling in well and will not be happy to go to the vet on Saturday for her well-kitty checkup. I, on the other hand, will be happy to have someone clip her claws so they don’t keep snagging on everything I wear.

Squeaking car noises

Red Saturn (not mine but mine looks like this)My car is my baby. It’s not quite 7 years old with less than 35,000 miles. I keep up with regular servicing and faithfully pay attention to those regular maintenance check-ups to keep things ticking smoothly. Sometimes that seems pretty weird to me since with the low mileage on the car, I’ve been out of synch with those 12,000 interval routine visits since the very beginning. Mechanics have told me more than once that women are much better at taking care of preventive maintenance than men are – of course, they tell me that when I’m there already and about to write a check.

I’ve spent a fortune on Mimi The Car since January – how much was really necessary is a subject of great frustration, since I have plenty of other things to spend my money on right now, things like a move. Sometimes I worry that I’m being taken advantage because I don’t really know anything about what I’m doing, only asking those “knocking noises on the driver’s side when I brake” type of things. Before going in, I check out the Car Talk website (they’re good mechanics, just not very convenient for me) and ask my brother questions.

First it was the brakes, then a knocking sound, and new struts (with mounts and alignment; who knew they went together? who knew how a strut was different from a shock absorber, which I understood?). Then the knocking was back, accompanied by little chirpy sounds when I’d turn the wheel. That got looked at by multiple places, each blaming the other for not doing something. I feel like a ping pong ball going between them, armed with my thick file of receipts for work done and knowing that the chirps are still there.

Today the chirping car was back at the dealer to have it fixed before I leave town in 10 days. Except they said I needed new strut mounts and probably struts and, oh, an alignment, too. So either they are lying or the people who gave me new struts and mounts and an alignment back in April didn’t do their job right. I hate confrontation when I feel so out of my depth and unsure.

So I did the logical thing – came home and scooped up my file of receipts, and went back to the OTHER car place. I practiced my approach in the car on the way, accompanied by chirping, and just blurted out my disappointment and frustration at having it be still unsolved after all this time. Not to mention noisy.

Saturday morning it’s going back AGAIN to be supervised by the manager, who said they would do whatever it takes to get it resolved to my satisfaction, at no additional charge even if it means more parts. It had better work – it has to drive me to Connecticut in 10 day, and I want to hear music, not chirps.