I think I'm going to let a bit of real life leak into the little fantasy world this blog purports to be a about. I've got some stuff in the pipeline that I'm having problems getting fired up properly as well as some stuff I can't really talk about for another 38 days. Might as well go on about another thing I enjoy - cars!
As I've mentioned before, Special Lady Friend got into a car accident which was totally not her fault. Speaking of things involving totals, our beloved Honda Civic was written off as a total lose as a result. Thankfully, Special Lady Friend was unhurt and the car was worth more than we owed on it.
So it was time to go car shopping.
Now, most sane people like car shopping about as much as Mr. T likes jibba-jabba. They might hate dealing with sales people, get freaked out about the financial side of it or even just plain not understand cars. I, however, enjoy car shopping. I'm a masochist that way.
Actually, full disclosure, I actually do hate used car shopping. Its pretty much awful. It's a whole lot of running around looking for exactly what you want or settling for what's on the lot. Either way, the car you get often feels like the first pull in a game of Russian Roulette.
Right, back to car shopping... I like car shopping because it means that it's new car time. Which means that I get (and I do mean 'get to') to do a whole bunch of research on cars for the ultimate goal of getting a new car that I'll actually enjoy. Thanks to a genetic disposition to being a car-guy*, my love of Top Gear and my tendancies to researching the living shit out of things, the whole process is great fun for me. Try as I might, I can't really explain it coherently. So I won't really bother.
This time around, like the last, I did a ton of research on the cars that were in my price range. I compared prices, looked at performance, checked reliability and in general, day dreamed. As an added bonus for this time around, our credit scores were actually pretty awesome. So instead of having to eat the "crappy interest rate financing" lemons of the first time buyer, we could actually expect to get a good deal. And, thusly, more car for our money.
I find that doing my homework before I even set foot in a dealership saves me like 99% of the hassle of the whole process. Instead of having to blindly grasp at information fed to me by a dealer and test drive a million cars, I can get down to the business of the matter. I effectively sidestep all of the sales pitches and wasted time that the less prepared get stuck with. This also helps me avoid buyers regret since I'm in virtually no danger of being talked into things.
So before, I delve into the research I did beforehand and what my thoughts on things are, I want to mention the requirements that I was working with. This is a key step in the research process - you need to know what you're looking for before you start going to dealers. At least you do if you want a shot at getting a good car.
Working with Special Lady Friend, we determined that our new car requirements were basically the same as they were when we got the Civic - 4 doors, good gas mileage, good reliability, good safety ratings, air condition, an automatic transmission and not ugly. All for less than $22k.
Actually, a note on the automatic transmission - If I lived in a flatter sate with less traffic, a manual would be what I'd want. Its cheaper, the gas mileage can be a bit better and its just plain more fun. However, for whatever reason, there are a ton of stop lights at the top of steep hills (roleback) and lots (and lots)** of stop and go traffic.
In secret, I also added a bunch of stuff to a wish list of things that the car should have: alloy wheels ('cause they're awesome), more power than the Civic, more doo-dads and an interesting appearance. Basically, typical guy stuff.
Once I had that, it was time to start poking around at the manufacturer's websites. Since there are so many cars in my price range, it was a pretty big task. A task that I will go into in future posts since it resulted in a metric ton of ASCII characters.
*Seriously, my dad probably endangered his marriage on more than one occasion when he went solo car shopping unannounced. One time he pre-ordered a car he had never seen. This genetic fun fact has put Special Lady Friend ill at ease on numerous occasions.