Our family’s “plan” afor cars is to buy a new car every five years. The way this plan (theoretically) works is that we take out a four year loan on a car, get a year to build up a down payment, and then trade out our oldest car. Since we’ve been married just over 10 years, we have one or two cycles of this under our belt.
There are, however, a few challenges. For instance, 9 years ago when we bought Brunhilde, we had no children. Now we have two. Two children requires slightly more space (and stuff) than zero children. I spent all last year wishing for a slightly bigger car, mostly because of camping. See, camping with two children for four days in a Toyota Matrix with no roof rack required slightly less planning and spatial reasoning than your average shuttle launch. We shivered our way through the early and late seasons because there wasn’t enough room for me to bring sufficient blankets for the weather. The kids get like two toys for the whole time because more won’t fit. And if Grey’s feet ever get long enough to touch the floor, we won’t be able to bring the cooler anymore. I thought about renting a larger car for those four weekends… but that ends up being quite expensive — almost a car payment per four day weekend for an SUV.
Then Brunhilde, our 2002 Saturn, starting making an odd kathunk while being driven. We brought her to about 5 different mechanics and spent many oodles of dollars getting her fixed. Then, a month later she started thunking again. I couldn’t bring myself to go through that all the repair rigmarole and cost again, so I stuck my hands over my ears and said “LALALA” as loudly as I could. This worked for several months. In fact, the car is still drivable.
Still, over the last six or so weeks, we gradually worked our way through the possible candidates. I didn’t like the Honda Odyssey at all, and it was crazy expensive. We loved the Dodge Journey from the outside, and it looked pretty, but driving it was somehow disconcerting and backing it up was terrifying. I had high hopes for the Toyota Rav 4 (I was holding out for a third row seat), but the 3rd row on the Rav 4 was pathetic. Not even my mother-in-law, whom I have stuffed into the hatchback trunk of a tiny Mazda (the first time I ever met her!) would not fit in it. We didn’t even bother driving it.
That left one candidate standing. The Kia Sorento. Seats 7 (as long as none of them has any luggage). Gets up to 29 mpg (theoretically). Came shockingly fully loaded at the base (I’m enjoying Sirius radio, bluetooth phone connectivity, backup cameras & radar, and most importantly a butt warmer). We opted for Tuscan Olive and spent several hours signing away the next five years of our life. (What can I say, it was too expensive for four years. At least it was at 1.9%?)
We’ve named it Herodotus, since I just finished reading Herodotus’ Persian Wars. Thane is utterly cute telling you that we have a new green car named Herodotus. (I haven’t had the heart to tell him it’s actually tuscan olive.)
To digress to car naming, our first car – which my husband was given in 1997 – was Olaf. Then Brunhilde, another Saturn. We still have Hrothgar, a 2007 Toyota Matrix (blue!) and now Herodotus. We keep getting more ancient. I think the next car might have to be Gilgamesh. And I don’t know where you go after that!
Brunhilde, having done 9 years of yeoman labor, was despised by the dealership. Something about a thunking sound. I guess it would’ve been too much to hope they would miss that. I tried pointing out that her stereo was probably worth half of what they were offering, but they would have none of it. I finally decided to donate her to WBUR. At worst I’ll get a tax deduction roughly equivalent to her trade in value. At best, I’ll get a better one than that and ‘BUR will get cash too. Seems like a win/win.
In early days, I must admit that Herodotus is bigger than he seemed in the showroom. Putting him in our tiny narrow driveway aptly makes the point that he’s rather wider than his predecessor. And the fuel efficiency tracking is so far well under the promised range, making me worried that I failed to fulfill one of the conditions I cared most about. Do you get points for trying really, really hard? I finally have a trunk LARGER than a Costco cart, which I proved amply today. Also, I’d forgotten how freeing it was to drive old cars that were mostly or totally paid off.
But boy, it is nice not to thunk my way down the highway.