Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cars, Cars, Cars.

Occasionally someone comments on my indecisiveness. Sometimes I feel caught in the throes of analysis paralysis. (I’m not sure I want to keep that last phrase; it sounds a bit cliche, but I guess I will. Maybe not. Ok, it stays. Unless I find something better....)

But surely I’m not indecisive. I had no problem choosing my tablet (iPad!). Except I wasn’t sure if I wanted 32GB or 64GB. No big deal, because I knew I didn’t want it with cellular ability (well at first I kinda wanted that, but then I didn’t). At least I knew I wanted it in black. Or maybe I just didn’t want it in white. What would I have done if they offered blue? And I knew I wanted the smart cover - but black, navy, gray, lime green?

I’ve decided it’s no fun being indecisive. And that’s final. The time it takes, the angst, the  excel spreadsheets. Ugh. It takes a week for me to book an airline ticket. I can waste an hour on where to go for dinner. Maybe I need to go to indecision anonymous. Or indecisiveness anonymous.

But the car search has taken my indecision to a new level. My history with cars doesn’t help. My first car was a cherry-red stick-shift Chevy Cavalier with a sunroof - that my dad chose, not me. I promptly destroyed the clutch multiple times (scarring me for years until I was forced to drive a manual Honda, which was very forgiving). And I fell in love with sunroofs. (An open sunroof on a cool morning commute to work is a gift from God.) I didn’t have to choose my next car either, inheriting a Delta 88 battleship.

In 2000 it was time for me to buy my own car. I had enjoyed renting some Pontiac Grand-Ams, so that’s what I looked for. I found a blue one for sale (Was it in the paper? Did they have Craigslist back then?) I’ve memorialized it as a piece of junk. Maybe that’s just because it developed a clogged catalytic converter just when I had no savings left from buying a house. (Memories are weird. I can’t remember any other problems it had.) Regardless, it felt like a bad decision.

So let’s add fear of failure to my natural indecisiveness - a delightfully paralyzing combination. I scour Craigslist for hours until I can’t remember what I liked and what I didn’t. I cross-check cars with CarFax and Kelley Blue Book, which disagree with each other. I’ve narrowed down my requirements so specifically that nothing fits: a blue or red Honda Civic manual transmission with a sunroof, no older than 2000, no more than 180K miles, no salvage title, no time in a snow state, under $6000. I thought that was a very reasonable list. (It’s about reliability, control, and good gas mileage.) Oh, and power windows. Power locks, cruise control, and some kind of iPhone integration would be nice, but hey, I’m being reasonable.

Doors! Doors are a requirement.

And...nothing. So I try to be less particular - but I have good reasons for everything. Stick-shifts offers control, power, and reliability; automatics are boring and expensive to fix. No, that stays. I live in California, where the morning temperatures beg for a sunroof. I’ve longed for one for 15 years. That stays. Cars before 2000 are ugly, and can’t be relied upon. Not budging. My car shop only services Hondas, Acuras, Toyotas, Lexi, and Hyundaii - not even Nissans -  and I’m not going to look for a new mechanic. Imagine the angst! If I increase my budget, I have to get a loan. I don’t like it. Fine, I could live with a boring color like silver or white. There - that’s being very flexible, right?

Did I mention I already spent $400 not to buy a car? A black 2002 Honda Civic stick-shift with a sunroof and too much rust from living in West Virginia. Yeah, the dealership charged me $300 to take it to my mechanic, who charged me $100 to tell me “car rusty bad”. And don’t mention the $1,000 on rental cars so I can get around and look for a car. (It ticks up by $30 every day. No pressure.)

My Latest Rental

So this weekend I test-drove a used Civic that is a California native. But the upholstery was an ugly squash color and the headliner was detaching from the ceiling. I took a used Accord for a spin, but it was 5 figures for a 10-year old car and the leather seats were hard as rocks. So I looked at new Hyundais and Nissans (on the hottest day of the year) and their auto loans.

I’m so close to being able to go car-less. I can take the light rail to work, but there’s no reasonable way to get to church, my Wednesday night group, or my counselor. At this rate I’ll wind up single-handedly propping up Enterprise Rent-a-Car for the rest of the year, then I’ll buy a brand new luxury car I can’t afford, get cancer from the new-car plastic fumes, lose my job, wipe out my savings, declare bankruptcy and move back to my parents’ basement to work on their goat farm, building fences and de-worming goats. I might as well cut up my drivers license now. But I haven’t decided.


  1. Cars are really a big help to us in terms of convenience. We can go anywhere at anytime we want, although expenses would be higher because of it. Cars are not considered a luxury anymore; it's a necessity for people to at least have their own car, especially if they live far from their work and other places that they need to be.

    Cody Strub

    1. I agree that cars are practically a necessity. It would be nice if I lived within walking distance of my church, work, grocery store, and gym (and a few restaurants). Or at least had sufficient public transit: light rail and buses.

  2. If you add up every expense you have in renting a car, wouldn't that sum up almost the same as buying a car? You can buy a used car if you don't want it to cost that high. Owning a car would make your life easier, though you have to spend more for gas. If this works for you, then I say just go with it. Stelle Courney

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I'm trying to find a used car I can trust. I sure don't like paying for the rental.

  3. Hello, Marcus! I hope that you'll be able to find a reliable car soon. It's better that you spend your money in buying your own car than paying for the rentals. It's important that you see something with your money. A car is indeed a good investment. Good luck on your search!

    Spartan Toyota