Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wheels Part 1

Friday, I took my 1987 Mazda 323 to the garage for oil/lube change. I also asked them to check on the rough idle and the "hiccup" when accelerating from a stop. A new hose, new spark plug wires, new filter for something, and $350 later... I seriously began thinking "I've got to get a new car." My mechanic told me there was nothing seriously wrong with my Mazda, except that it was old. And I could look for a new car now, while I could still drive my Mazda. Or I could look for one later, when my Mazda finally gave up.

That was right before lunch. Lunch was a staff meeting, and I went in sulking and wondering aloud if I should start researching cars. I got all kinds of comments/help/advice from my coworkers. Some of it was actually helpful. After the meeting, I starting doing my homework.

Some time ago, I saw a Beetle and commented that a sparkly blue Beetle with black accents would be cool. And the license plate could be "Scarab". So of course, JewelGeek immediately wanted to know if I wanted a Beetle. Um... no, not really. It was a fantasy, not a serious musing.

I want a Toyota - reliable, good maintenance records, good gas mileage, comfortable, etc. I looked at the Prius a LOOOOOOOOOONG time, before finding out it costs 3 times as much to repair because of all the specialty hybrid parts. I looked at Camrys. They look exactly like JewelGeek's Camry. And my parents' Camry. Another stable, ho-hum sedan with nothing particularly interesting about it. And for the same amount of money, we could get a minivan.

Hmmm. A minivan. So, I looked at the Sienna. And I liked what I saw. Ok - mediocre in-town gas mileage. But this wouldn't be the primary commute car. This would be for road trips, and hauling stuff to the dump, and carrying our bikes to a flat park so we can ride for hours, and driving out to the Gorge on a Sunday afternoon to watch the windsurfers.

By Friday night, I was pretty sure I wanted a Sienna. We got pre-approved for a loan through our credit union. And we called my parents to see if they could come up on Saturday (a day early) so Mr. GoGoGo could go with us to look at cars.

Saturday morning, we did what we could around the house and tried not to stare out the window to watch for my parents to arrive. Had lunch. Looked online (again) at local dealerships for good inventory so we could test drive, and took off with Mr.GoGoGo.

We went to our local Toyota dealership. Met a nice young sales guy who had only been working at the lot for a week. He had to ask a coworker where the Siennas were. And then had to walk back across the lot for the key for the one we were to test drive.

We walked up to a beautiful mint-chocolate-chip-ice cream green, 2006 Sienna, with power windows, power mirrors, power side door, programmable garage door openers, multiple "lighter" plugs, separate air controls for the middle/back passengers, 7 seater, easy-fold-down back bench seats, more cup holders than you can possibly use, new-car-smell, grey stone cloth interior, tinted back windows, automatic, 2 wheel drive, and 12-miles on the odometer. We put 5 miles on it during the test drive.

We forgot to try the radio, but we played with everything else. I had a whispered conversation with JewelGeek while the salesguy chatted up Mr.GoGoGo. I could hear everything they said, everything JewelGeek whispered back to me, and hardly anything of the road. I wasn't even sure my turn signal was on at one point.

The finance guy (different from the sales guy and 4 times slimier), pushed hard for us to walk away with a finance plan and the Sienna. JewelGeek, bless her heart, is one harda** negotiator.

The finance guy made the fatal error - "What can I do to get you in this car today?"

And JewelGeek let him have it: "Lower the price to $20,000."

Long pause. "Um, seriously, what can I do?"

My reply -- "We cannot afford the finance plans you've offered."

FinanceGuy: What can you afford?

JewelGeek: $350 a month.

Me: And $2500 down, maximum.

FinanceGuy: Give me a moment...

Sure enough, a few moments later, he was back with another offer. Which JewelGeek folded up and buried in her hand. "I have to sleep on it." He started to protest, and she held firm. "You're not going to convince me to buy a car at this moment. I'm going home." And we left.

JewelGeek wasn't quite shaking with anger, but she was definitely giving off waves of annoyance and impatience. So, at home I was careful not to talk about "The Minivan" unless JewelGeek brought it up. And then I danced around lightly, asking broad, open-ended questions, and offering simple replies to her musings.

Buy it now. Buy it later. Do nothing. Those were the options. She just had to pick. I just hoped she would pick the option I wanted...