Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I'm a mama!

Not in the traditional sense, not at this point.

But I do have a new beautiful, bouncing blue baby - name to be determined - in the form of my new car.

And I am in love.

We hadn't planned to buy a car this weekend. We had hoped to eek another few months out of the breaking down Escort -aka Charlie - in an attempt to pay off my credit card debt (both to eliminate that and get a better interest rate). Then, on our way home this weekend, the cruise control stopped working.

The latest in a litany of things to quit working or need repair:
-the taillights being permanently 'on' and the subsequent need to disconnect the battery at each stop.
-the brakes grinding and needing replacement parts at an estimated $200-300.
-tires needing replacement at $300.
-the speakers in the car were starting to static.
-the transmission was sticking in second and there were ominous rumblings and rattlings at any speed over 45.
-the power window on the driver side has been not working for months.

Now, we think most of that would have been affordable fixes, but they were all coming along at the same time. And they would prolong the life of the car, but for how long? It was 9 years old and had 117,000 miles on it. I don't want to buy brand new tires for a car that will quit in a year. The tech who fixed it up for inspection warned us that while the manifold gasket seal looked ok now, it would have to be replaced in the next 18 months. Who knows how the transmission was doing?

Add to that that we were cramped in the car with us and the dog, and didn't have enough room for everything at Christmas as it was and that we hope to add a baby to the mix (maybe two) . . . the writing was appearing on the wall.

Fighting that was the panic of assuming a car loan in this economy, when we are trying to reduce debt and increase savings and want to have a baby please that I am not 100% convinced we can really afford.

But still, the cold hard economics of the situation showed that we could make at least 3 car payments with the money we would be spending on the car, and since we don't have that in ready cash, it would either mean decreased credit card payments or additional credit card debt (depending on the balance of how long can we go without fixing this issue). And DH pointed out that one of the reasons we haven't made as much progress as we would have liked on our credit card debt is precisely because we've had unexpected car issues come up and have had to use the card or wipe out our emergency fund (and yes, that is what it is there for, but not having anything in there sends me into panic attack mode).

And the cruise control wasn't working.

(but damn it, we replaced the entire AC last year! I wanted at least another summer for my trouble and expense - to be clear, we had to do that to fix the power steering - it wasn't vanity, as the AC had quit working the previous summer.)

We had had a plan. We planned to buy a Toyota or Hyundai minivan. I won't go into my (apparently odd) obsession with minivans and why they are so great here, but the idea was our next vehicle would be a van, and would be our Family Car for at least 10 years (hoping that good maintenance and care would push it towards 12-15 years, as has happened in my family). We wanted to buy new and buy a brand with a proven track record of long-term use. I have nothing against domestic cars - I've only ever owned them - but they don't have the same record as Toyota, Honda or even Hyundai. That would then set us up for our 3-4 kids and we'd be in good shape.

Tiny hitch in the plans is our complete inability to afford one of those vehicles new and our hesitation to buy something used and hope it lasts the desired 10+ years.

But as I began thinking about it, foot on gas because of the stupid cruise control being out, I realized - we don't have 2 kids yet, let alone three. If all goes according to plan (and God knows it certainly hasn't yet), we've got at least 5 years before we will have 3 kids and consequently require a new vehicle. So buying a sedan is an option. And we only need it for about 5-6 years . . . so used is an option. We definitely need more space. . . it has to be a full-size sedan . . . but hey . . . this could work. And we're going to have to make these repairs and pray or we're going to have to make a car payment. . .

So we talked about it for the remaining 2 hours of the drive. What we needed, what we wanted, what we wanted to pay, whether it should be this weekend (convenient, since I'd be in the same town as my insurance agent) or wait another couple of month to lower our debt more . . . and we got to looking.

Went for a test drive Saturday of a couple of vehicles. Hated the salesman and the car (Dodge Calibur, if you are interested). Realized we could buy a Chrysler or Dodge minivan for the same mileage/price as other we were looking for. Drove by a component lot of the place we bought the Escort (this was the Chrysler/Dodge component - my Escort was purchased at the Ford component down the road - all my dad's vehicles came from there, and two of my mom's), and looked them up online. Found 2 cars we were seriously considering - a Chrysler 300 and a Dodge Caravan.

We weighed the pros and cons - 300 was newer and had factory warranty and bells and whistles I never thought to own in a car - Caravan was a minivan, was far less expensive and would accomodate a surprise like twins or Irish twins (lol). Both had the same mileage. We both realized we preferred the 300, but the price was a sticky point. We agreed to test drive them both and see if they'd come down on the price at all. It was clear from the pictures that it had been on the lot quite some time - it started out at a comparable price to other 300's of that year/mileage, and had already dropped $4k in price.

So we went, we test drove and I was in love. We made an offer, they accepted (with our trade in, for which they gave us what I consider and exorbitant amount - clearly they didn't get it over 45 or try to roll down the window. They were amused when I advised them the hammer in the front seat was to reconnect the battery which they might want to do before attempting to start the vehicle).

We sat, we waited, we fretted. I was, frankly, vomitous at the idea of what this would cost us and whether or not it was the right decision. In theory, I love spending big money. In practice, I feel ill. I guess, despite the credit card debt, I am a fairly responsible person.

In the end, we were pronounced to have excellent credit and got a good interest rate (we do have good credit, and I work hard to maintain it - but my debt:credit ratio has climbed since companies started closing unused lines of credit), were highly complimented on both, chose an extended warranty (I want to make sure I'm covered if I'm paying this much a month for the next 48-72 months!), signed our lives away, and were given keys.

We transferred stuff out of the car, had a sniffle over Charlie (who was, despite my complaining, a wonderful little car for us and we will miss him greatly - we drove away from our wedding in Charlie, with LoneStar cans tied to the bumper!), patted him, thanked him for his years of service, climbed in and drove away at 20 mph.

The 300 is yet to be named - Leo and Oscar and Grover are all under consideration - but it is wonderful. Blue, gorgeous, huge (it's like driving a boat compared to Charlie!), smooth as a baby's butt and has tons of fantastic features (leather seats! seat warmers! which are totally unnecessary in Texas, but which still make me happy! cd player! yes, Charlie had a tape deck! power everything under the sun except driving for you! room enough to have sex in the back, which is perhaps how our next pregnancy will be conceived! and I can adjust the seat both downward and backwards to accomodate a pregnant belly! maybe that's what we've been waiting for - growing room!). I have to admit that when I parked this morning it was terrible. I couldn't pull into the space I was aiming for and I was hanging over the line by a good 2 feet, but I'm learning.

And isn't that what car parenting is all about? I love my new baby.

1 comment:

Elaine said...

That car sounds gorgeous! Yay!