Car Shopping

One of the things we did over Memorial Day weekend was start the car shopping process. Because I won’t have all that much money to dedicate to monthly payments on a car, I expected to get a small used car, probably a Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla because they have good mileage. So we spent Saturday looking around. We looked at Saturns, Pontiacs, Toyotas, Hondas, Dodges, and so forth. The shocker is that both I and my parents had our eyes caught by the Dodge Caliber.

2007 Dodge Caliber

This was unexpected on many fronts. As I said before, I expected to be looking at used vehicles. And, well, at first glance the Caliber doesn’t look like a car I’d be all that interested in. Having moved N-times in small sedans, however, a hatchback was looking nice. So we thought, okay, we’ll give it a try. The first shocker? It’s roomy inside. Or, more exactly, the interior is designed so that passengers are comfortable. My father can sit in the backseat comfortably, which is unheard of in most small vehicles. All the same, it’s not big enough for me to feel uncomfortable in the driver’s seat. I’ve decided that one of the reasons I dislike being forced to drive my parents’ vehicles is that they’re too big and not just in exterior dimensions. As bizarre as it sounds, I feel more comfortable when the driver’s space is a little smaller. It somehow feels more manageable. For example, I felt comfortable sitting in the driver’s seat of a Corolla, but the Camry felt uncomfortably large. You can imagine then how I feel in the Windstar mini-van and why I flat out refuse to drive the F-250 pick-up.

And there are silly little perks, too. Like the Caliber’s auxilliary stereo jack, which lets me plug my Zen Micro mp3 player directly into the stereo. The test drive went well–although I didn’t drive because the model the lot had had a standard transmission and I can’t drive stick 🙁 But, all in all, I liked it.

So we started looking at whether we could afford to get a stripped down Caliber model with the CVT2 system (like an automatic but cooler in terms of engineering and better in terms of optimizing torque and fuel efficiency). It costs more than we wanted, but given the prices of used vehicles with less than 30K miles on them and the financing we can get, it turns out that I can get lower monthly payments on a new vehicle than on an older used one. Add to that the fact that a new car comes with a warranty and my parents seem to be sold. My father located an automatic Caliber SE down in Lexington and we drove over there tonight to take a look.

This time I did actually test drive the vehicle myself. I’ve been somewhat nervous to do so at the other places because I haven’t driven much recently and I despair of anything going wrong. But this dealership is in Small Town USA. Literally. The sales rep didn’t even ride with us, it was that Small Town. So I felt fine and I did great. I liked the car–which is in Steel Blue, by the way–except for one little niggling thing: it doesn’t have power locks. Now, personally, I find it rather odd that a car has a jack for an mp3 player but it doesn’t have power windows and locks. Oh well, I tell my parents. I can live without that.

But my dad, being, after all, my dad, starts thinking to himself, “But my daughter is going to have to drive through cities to get to Ithaca. She’s going to be far, far away from my protection. And there will be Neighborhoods and when she drives into one of those Neighborhoods I want her to be able to hit a button–click!–and be safe.” (I’m sure anyone who’s driven down Chester or Euclid in Cleveland know what he means by Neighborhoods; the rest of you can just imagine.) So he starts wondering what it’s going to take to get power locks. And, along the way, he starts noticing all these other little things, like the cover that slides over the cargo area to hide what’s under there. We stop by another dealer on the way home and a rep there mentions that on the next model up, the SXT, these power locks and such are standard. So my dad starts looking into that. Nevermind that I don’t know where the extra $1600 is going to come from. As my mother put it, “Justifying it is easy. Paying for it is another thing.”

So where things are headed, I can’t say for certain. It looks like he’s going to see what price we can get on an SXT someplace 40+ miles from here. The other option, of course, is to go with an SE and add some options to it, which means placing a special order. Which means waiting eight weeks. Which, you might guess, I don’t particularly want to do. Not having a car has never bothered me much in the past, but now that my own set of wheels has been dangled in front of me… Oh dear freedom…

We’ll just have to see how this ends.

2 Responses to “Car Shopping”

  • I’m only going to say one thing about this car, and it’s a generalization about new cars: I would avoid buying the “first run” of any kind of car. You might remember all the crap I’ve gone through with my Focus. Well, it’s a 2000, which was the first year they made them. First runs of cars seem to have a lot of problems. The brief re-cap—my parents put over $1000 into fixing my car last year, and it wasn’t paid off until January of this year. So if you can get a really good deal on this, you might consider looking into an extended warranty or something.

    Other than that, this looks like a cool vehicle. Good luck with the car-buying experience. 🙂

  • I would avoid buying the “first run” of any kind of car.

    This is an excellent point. My parents got burned like you would not believe with a Chevy Cavalier the first year it was out. Considering that, I’m rather surprised at how gung-ho they are with this one. I’ll probably ask Dad about that later.

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