Buying a new car

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Feature

I have a new car.

Believe it or not, that’s a pretty big deal in our family. Since the children, who are now in 35 and 38, were toddlers, I have owned three cars. I find a car I love, bond with it and drive it until it dies of old age. Chrissy the Chrysler, who is nearing 200,000 miles, still has some life left in her, so I was resisting the grueling process of finding a new car.

But when the kids are hesitant for the grandsons to ride in Chrissy, well, it was time.

A big part of the reason I hate buying a new car is the whole process. The choices overwhelm me. New or used? Big or medium? SUV or sedan?

And, when I navigate those first simple decisions, my husband has his own list: Consumer Reports ratings? Reliability? Safety? Fuel efficiency? All-wheel drive? Hybrid or no?

That’s what he cares about. Here’s what I care about: Color and feel.

I know immediately when I first see and then sit in a car whether or not it will be MY car. I always drive it just so I don’t look like an idiot, but I’ve never wavered from that first impression. After months of looking at every car that came down the road and trying to discreetly examine cars parked near me in parking lots, I thought I knew what I wanted.

The car was a return to Esmeralda land, with Esmeralda being the big green conversion van of my boys’ youth. This one was a minivan, but it was a tricked-out, all options known to the industry, full-size minivan. By chance, my older son’s rental car on a combined family vacation was the car I was dreaming about, and I was even further convinced.

There were only two problems: Price and practicality, neither of which was on my list of “color and feel.”

My husband came close to freaking out. Not, surprisingly, about the price, but the practicality. “Eighty percent of the days in a year, there are two of us,” he correctly reminded me. “Most of those days, it is just you driving the car. Why a minivan?”

It was a question I couldn’t answer. “I like the feel of it,” didn’t seem to satisfy him.

Per our arrangements when buying cars, however, the secondary driver’s role is to give opinions and advice. The decision would be totally mine.

I actually got as far as the car lot and talked to a salesman, which is usually akin to going to the animal shelter to “look at” a dog or cat. You always come home with one.

I liked the feel. I loved the deep blue color. But I left the minivan on the lot. I just couldn’t pull the trigger.

My intention was to give it a few days and go back and buy it. It was the car I wanted, but didn’t need.

The answer came from a childhood friend who came to visit, driving her new car. If you had told me about the car verbally, I would have dismissed it immediately. It’s a compact hatchback, smaller than any car I have owned since college. It has a little bit of a sporty look, but no luxury appointments – like leather seats – which I usually want. It has a little higher riding position, which is good for my knees, but isn’t all-wheel drive.

Like catching the eye of the cute boy across the dance floor, I was intrigued. When I went to the dealership and drove the car, I was hooked. When I saw the red one, I was in love.

I bought her. I have found Chrissy a new home to have some usefulness for her last days, and the new hatchback now sits in my driveway.

Next week, we’ll name her.


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