Friday, March 16, 2007

Hooray! New Wheels!

It's been several days and I haven't even announced the new addition to our family!

We are now the proud parents of a 2001 Toyota Corolla. I would pass out cigars if I could. Really.

Our sad Mercury Sable has been slowing giving up the ghost. I don't know what sort of supernatural miracle God did to keep it moving along since last August, but I know He did something. It has serious transmission issues and would take 5-10 minutes each morning before it would even shift out of 1st gear.

Gone are my days of circling the block repeatedly while the engine revved, the transmission refusing to budge until unexpectedly kicking into gear violently. Then, after beginning to function in a relatively normal way, the unexpected downshift of the transmission, while going 45 miles per hour, made for exciting driving experiences. Each day was spent with an expectation that it might be the last.

Given such conditions, the whole thing has been stressful. We had been saving up our money, researching used cars and their reliability, checking CarFax on every possible vehicle; it was becoming quite exhausting.

As we researched everything, it became very apparent that American cars generally suck as far as mechanical endurance and reliability go. They are great for about the first 5-6 years and then they slowly begin their descent into molecular disintegration. Pretty soon they are nothing but a pile of nuts, bolts, and duct tape.

So, we had settled on a few cars that we thought would fit our budget and needs. We had settled on the Hyundai Elantra, Mitsubishi Galant, and Mazda Protege as distinct possibilities. They rated fairly well on reliability, gas mileage, and safety. Of course Hondas and Toyotas beat out all of those models, but because they are such good cars, they hold their value much longer than other cars. We thought they were out of our financial reach.

Then we found a 2001 Corolla in our price range, below 75,000 miles, and in great condition. We got it fully checked out at the mechanic, bartered a little bit with the owner and Voila!...we had a car.

It drives great. It is such a relief to get into a car and know that I am going to get where I need to be without the possibility of the transmission falling out of the car, spewing car entrails everywhere.

Here are a few sites we found helpful in our car research:

www.edmunds.com

www.autos.msn.com: This site is great for checking reliability, safety, and reviews for free. They compile their information from mechanical reports, not user reporting.

www.carfax.com: We purchased a 30 day membership here. It gives you the ability to run vehicle VIN numbers to check for reported accidents, how many owners the car has had and where it was purchased. This is really important if you go through a private seller. We found several cars that the owner had said had never been in an accident, only to find out that was not the case. It's worth the money to be able to check those things out. Any car dealership can give you a CarFax report if you are buying through them.

www.consumerreports.org: We purchased the Used Car Buying Kit from this website. It gives you access to reliability ratings on used cars and rates those which are good bets. Consumer Reports gleans their information from actual owners who have purchased and used the cars which they reveiw.

Well, I've got to go take my new wheels for a spin. C-ya!

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