Monday, April 10, 2006

The New Jalopy

As of this afternoon, I feel like I am perilously close to being at the intersection of Queer Street and Penury Lane. I just forked over a (to me) large sum of money for a 2002 Toyota Corolla. I just hope we have no other large expenditures this year. A new toilet and a jalopy are all our modest resources can handle.

After a false and infuriating start involving a lying, freckled-faced 14-year-old salesboy in a shiny black suit at the Ron Tonkin dealership (do not patronize) near Mall 205 (also known as Hell on Earth), the experience proved less stressful than I had feared. It is a massively huge freaking BIG DEAL for me to go out and buy a car and it is something I haven’t done in 11 years.

After the Tonkin debacle, we stayed away from the giant-ass corporate dealerships and checked out what the smaller, family-run dealerships had on offer. I was pretty sure I wanted a Toyota Corolla, but I test-drove a 2000 Camry, which is a step or two up from a Corolla. It was immaculately cared for, power windows, power locks, power seat controls, CD and cassette, leather seats, cruise control, overdrive, antilock brakes, and on and on. In dealership parlance, it was loaded. For a 2000 it didn’t have high mileage at all, and the price was really very good. No doubt about it, it was a sweet ride, but I felt like I was driving a big boat, cruising down the freeway at 47 knots in the starboard lane. I didn’t feel securely in control of the vehicle.

I’ve always had low-end (and often crappy) cars: a 1979 Dodge Omni (total piece of crap); a 1983 Toyota Tercel (rusted to death); 1989 Honda Civic (still runs but I don’t feel safe in it anymore). I’m sure most people would have opted for the Camry, but it was just too nice for the likes of me. The other big strike against it was that it doesn’t get as good gas mileage as Corollas do. Gas mileage is a very important issue for me not just because gas prices are only going to go up, up, up in coming years, but because I think it’s important to try not to use more resources than necessary,* although, obviously, if I felt strongly enough about that I wouldn’t even own a car.

I settled on the most bare-bones Corolla (crank windows, yay!) I could find, which fortunately just happened to be at Powell Motors, the dealership where I’d felt most comfortable. They really checked out the car before they sold it to me and gave me a manila folder containing the CARFAX report and a sheaf of receipts for the things they’d had fixed on it prior to selling it. Plus, they were honest about how much life is left in the brakes and the tires (facts I was able to use as bargaining points). I have never known another car dealership to do that. Most important for me, I think, is that they seemed to understand what a massively huge freaking BIG DEAL it is for me to buy a car, and when I went to pick up the car today, it was sitting out in front all sparkly and clean, with my name, literally, on it! I thought that was just the cutest thing ever— and I am compromising my already somewhat compromised anonymity for it! And that’s not all, they gave me this little packet of goodies for the glove compartment and a solid platinum (OK--solid aluminum) key ring.

Packet of Goodies

Sure, these little touches cost them next to nothing, but it is light-years away from the we-don’t-give-a-shit-about-you-but-we'll-take-your-money treatment I got at Ron Tonkin. I mean, Powell gets that if you’re going to drop an enormous amount of dough on a car, you need to be a little bit cosseted. I really appreciate that.

*I would have loved to get a hybrid, but they were out of my price range. The Corolla gets 33 mph on the highway and 29 mph in the city—pretty decent.


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