Sunday, March 24, 2013

Car Shopping

by Meghann on March 24, 2013

It’s official – we’re car shopping!!

Cue the parade, the fireworks, and the balloons – mama’s in the market for a brand new (to-me) car!

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(old photo, but I thought the excitement on my face fit the theme)

Now let me explain why I’m so excited.

Meet my former 1997 Pontiac Sunfire.

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She was my first car. A very, very, very generous gift from my parents when I turned sixteen.

There’s actually a funny story on how I got her. You see, my mom had an identical 1997 Red Pontiac Sunfire that she bought brand new years before they bought mine. It was the car she drove while I was in middle school and the car I learned to drive on when I turned fifteen. It was no frills – no cruise control, manual locks, manual windows, and manual transmission. The plan always was that when my twin brother and I turned sixteen, we would share it and my mom would buy a new car.

Eventually my brother and I turned sixteen and inherited my mom’s old Sunfire while she bought the convertible she’d always wanted (and deserved – go mom!). However, a couple of months into sharing the Sunfire it was pretty clear that my twin brother and I needed our own cars. My dad started the car shopping process hoping to find something that was pretty equivalent to the Sunfire to keep it fair. One night he went to a car auction to buy the would-be-mine car and you’ll never guess what he came home with – another 1997 no-frills red Pontiac Sunfire. Twin cars for twin sixteen year olds.

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The Sunfire served me well through high school and college. I only had one minor problem with it when the AC went out my senior year (the same thing happened to my brother’s car the year prior), but it was a relatively cheap and easy fix.

I was thankful for the Sunfire and appreciated it, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t counting down the days until I could afford to buy a new car. Not even a month after starting my first real job out of school, I bought a car.

My 2005 Toyota Echo.

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(NOT my actual car. Couldn’t find a photo of my baby in iPhoto, so this image (of the wrong color) is courtesy of http://www.carsbase.com)

This was one of those situations where I decided I wanted a car, did very little research, and bought the first “pretty” car I test drove that was in my price range. That car also happened to belong to a co-worker. I LOVED my blue Echo from the start. I thought the Echo was more “me” than the Sunfire. I loved the color, I loved the way it looked, I loved the low gas mileage (nearly 40 miles to the gallon!) and I loved that I could plug my iPod into it (VERY big for 2007). The price was also right – sold!

My Echo was my baby (still is!), but it’s also about as no frills as you can possibly get. Manual transmission, manual locks, manual windows, and no cruise control. It’s also two doors and very compact. Despite the no-frills, I stood by my Echo (and more than appreciated the $$ I saved on gas – THANK YOU manual transmission!). However, I’ve also slowly been outgrowing it. Derek and I both have tiny two-door cars and have realized that at least one of us needs something a little bigger, especially if we’re planning on expanding our family in the next two-three years.

So you can see why I’m so excited about the prospect of a new car, right?

Well, let me spell out some similarities between the Sunfire and Echo:

  • MANUAL transmissions
  • MANUAL locks
  • MANUAL windows
  • NO cruise control  

In the twelve years I’ve had my driver’s license, I’ve NEVER owned a car with an AUTOMATIC transmission, AUTOMATIC locks, AUTOMATIC windows, or cruise control! I know some people will see these four little features as basics when it comes to having a car, but these are HUGE for me. The idea of being able to roll down my passenger side window without having to stop the car, unbuckle my seatbelt, and reach across the seat to roll it down sounds like absolute heaven to me.

I’m a simple girl. I don’t ask for much. XM radio? Heated seats? Bluetooth? Eh. I could do without. All I ask for is automatic locks and automatic windows. Is that so hard?

Alright. That’s a lie. I kind of do want a little more than that, but you can probably already tell that it won’t take much to impress me.

Here’s what we want:

  • a used compact SUV/ crossover
  • 2009 or newer
  • 60,000 miles or less
  • darker cloth interior
  • automatic windows and locks
  • cruise control
  • a way to plug in my iPod (still very important in 2013)
  • plenty of leg room in the back seat
  • decent cargo space

Again, I’m a simple girl who needs a simple car. At this point anything is pretty much a major upgrade from what I’ve been driving the last twelve years – ANYTHING.

We spent a good chunk of Saturday researching every compact SUV/ crossover out there (which is actually a fun task when you’re really going to buy something, not just window shop) and narrowed it down to a few cars we really liked (Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, and Toyota RAV4).

This afternoon we hit up a couple of local dealerships to test drive and compare. That’s where I immediately ruled out the Toyota Rav4. I really, really wanted to like the Rav4 because it’s a Toyota and we’re big Toyota fans, but it’s a little too sporty for my taste. After seeing some of the newer models in person, I just wasn’t a fan.

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I did test drive the Hyundai Tucson and LOVED it. The Tucson is a great size, with plenty of room in the back and drives like a dream. Too bad the one I test drove was a tad out of our price range, I probably would have signed the dotted line right then and there.

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Then there’s the Honda CR-V, my #1 pick from the beginning.

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Unfortunately these babies go like hotcakes and there were no used ones on either property we could look at. I love the look of these, I love the size, and I love how it handles (i have a friend with a 2012 Honda CR-V and I’m pretty obsessed with her car). I’d love to find a 2010 or 2011 in our price range with semi-low mileage. It just comes down to doing our online research and not being afraid to say yes when we find it (or it will be gone the next day).

Of course, we only JUST started officially car shopping this weekend. We could buy a car tomorrow or it can be months from now. I’m just excited about the prospect of getting something in the semi-near future. I’m sorry, Echo, but mama’s ready for an upgrade!

When’s the last time you went car shopping? What were you looking for?

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