Monday, September 8, 2008

Fun and Frivolity? Well, not Really

OK, so I said I was going to inject some fun and frivolity into this here blog last night, but alas, it just wasn't to be. That's not to say that I haven't been the recipient of good news. On the other hand, my long personal nightmare has ended with the purchase of a new car!

You see, once upon a time there was a young teacher named Loren who had a car that belonged to his great-grandmother. Now this wasn't any car driven by an octogenarian. No sir. It was a Ford Escort ZX2. Yeah, that's right, a compact car with a Zetec 4-cylinder dual overhead cam engine. Perfect for the kind of lady who shuffled about with a
walker and hadn't had a driver's license since Ronald Reagan's first term (Something we found out after a bit of investigation).

My first car (Well, the same make/model/color, at least)

Anywho, after the odometer hit 120,000, the engine began showing signs of its impending doom, so I went to the car salesman my family deals with at Service Chevrolet i
n Lafayette and came home with a 2004 Ford Taurus with only 27,000 miles... on my 24th birthday of all days!

My Taurus, on the afternoon that I bought it.

It was the perfectly boring car for what I considered to be a perfectly boring person. After all, I'm by most accounts a person without much of a sense of style. I eschew T-Shirts with not-very-vaguely suggestive slogans for $35 at the cookie-cutter "stylish" store at the mall for an Arsenal or Houston Dynamo T-shirt. Rico Suave I am not.

Regardless, the Taurus proved to be a pretty reliable car. It took me to work and back home, and back to work and back home, and back to wor... OK, you get the picture. It also took me on my little adventures, ranging from Houston for Dynamo matches, to New Orleans on several occasions when I did work for the Corps of Engineers, to Memphis (twice) for my brother, to southern Missouri for a conference. All this time I was piling on miles for a car that was plummeting in value since Ford decided to discontinue it. It was even hit in August 2007 by someone who drove into our yard, doing $2500 worth of body damage to the passenger side of the car. It was fixed with no problems and was back to the daily commute just like normal. Then the wheels fell off (no pun intended) one February 2008 morning.

I had just passed 80,000 miles when I was on my way to work to meet my dad at his office. I stopped at the 4-way stop where LA 343 crosses LA 342. I stopped at the stop sign, and in the middle of the intersection the RPMs shot up and the car stopped pulling. I coasted to a stop and contacted my dad. We pulled it to an empty lot and a tow truck picked it up. The car dealership gave me the bad news: The transmission simply broke. No warning. No stress. Just the drive train shearing off where it met the transmission. $3400 later I was back in business, albeit with a worthless car. It got more worthless in May when I had to plonk down $800 to replace an air conditioning system that once again died without any sort of warning. Over and over my mom reminded me how I should have never bought a Ford, despite being wowed by the Taurus when I bought it.

So by the beginning of June I was in the hunt for a new car. Despite the high gas prices I was in the market for a small SUV. If I was to get a new car it would need more payload than the Taurus, which was becoming a pain when I had to transport stuff to go camping or I need to bring stuff. Nothing really piqued my interest as far as SUVs went so I started peeking around at all-wheel drive station wagons like the Subaru Outback or even a Volvo XC
70. My weird different tastes proved to make my search for one of these cars extremely difficult, since the closest I could find a used one was in Houston, and who was going to drive 200 miles for a used station wagon, much less when the car you wanted to trade in was essentially worthless?

After much fruitless searching I decided to visit my family's car salesman at Service again in July, and fell in love with a 2007 Chevy Equinox with only 12,000 miles. Before I knew it I was talking to the loan officer at the dealership who unfortunately could only offer me a $400/month note over 72 months. Something that I couldn't afford, even on as massive of a salary as new teacher gets *chortle*. I slumped out of the dealership that afternoon wondering if I would ever be able to get rid of this car that was quickly becoming a millstone around my neck. But at least I knew if I couldn't get a station wagon, a crossover wouldn't be out of the question.

So for the next six weeks I kept my eyes open for deals and kicked plenty of tires around dealerships in the Acadiana area. The end result of all of these was the same: I walked away disgusted after either not finding anything I wanted or the blood-sucking car salesmen (and -woman, whom I met at Musson-Patout in New Iberia that was simply incapable of driving a golf cart, much less provide a hassle-free car buying experience.) would drive me away. It came to a crescendo on Wednesday when Hampton Toyota showed a commercial advertising 2007 Mitsubishi Outlanders for $179 a month. Of course, the post-Hurricane crawls hid the fine print, but it piqued my interest enough to go take another look.

Only $179 a month!

When my mom and I got there, we looked around the used car lot to no avail until a salesman came running up trying to drum up a sale. The poor fellow gave me a sad tale about how he lived across the street in the trailer park that still had no power, but the gracious boss was letting him shower in his office at the showroom. He stumbled through my questions about the Toyota Highlander and Honda Element I was looking at until I told him I wanted to see the Outlanders. I was impressed by the car's features but (once again) I was only looking for a price. As we walked into the showroom he gleefully told me how they are stretching out car loans for seven or even eight years. That flew up enough flags to grace the front of the United Nations, but I said nothing. He complied with my request of a price quote and gave me a monthly note of $439/month for a 5 year note. I pressed why I wasn't being offered the $179/month note offered on TV, and he couldn't give me an answer. In typical German style I calmly told him good day and ripped up his business card, dropping it in the wastebasket at the door in front of everyone.

I was supremely disgusted with the whole process of buying a car, but on Friday morning my mom told me that we should stop by Service Chevrolet to see if there were any SUVs that would pique my interest. I sheepishly agreed and we went back to Lafayette. When we got there there was nothing as usual, but in the back of the lot there was a Chevy Equinox sitting there. I hopped out of the car to see the price (Service Chevrolet is one of those strange dealerships that actually puts the cost of a car on the window!), but unfortunately there was no price. A salesman asked if he could help me and I told him I was interested in seeing the price of the Equinox, but before he went into the office I told him who was our salesman. Well, our salesman was standing right there and he was happy to see me again. We chatted about me teaching until I reminded him I need the price of the Equinox. He went in and came right back out with the keys to the car, telling me it was a 2005 model with 23,000 miles. The list price was $15,000 but he could get me in it for $12,500. I blinked twice when he told me that. He offered to get me a loan quote whilst I took it for a spin. My mom and I hopped in and were shocked to see how clean it was, much less the fact that it had leather seats! Leather! Seats! Leather!

I remembered how I fell in love with the Equinox back in July and decided right then and there to go home with it. I drove it around Lafayette for about 20 minutes or so before I returned to Service. The loan officer smiled when he offered m
e a pretty good rate and monthly note, along with an extremely favourable trade-in for my Taurus, now with almost 99,000 miles. He couldn't get the papers on the desk fast enough for me to sign, and two hours after I pulled onto the lot, I was driving off with a new car with ridiculously low mileage, more room to tote stuff around and leather seats!

My new car (Yes, it's raining when I took the picture)

Once again, my family's salesman and Service Chevrolet come through in the clutch with a great deal to put me in a car. I couldn't be happier.

See you tomorrow.

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