The other day my tired Camry wagon hemorrhaged multiple quarts
of oil along the scenic length of Riverview Road. I knew then
it was time to face facts: I need another car.
knew this day was coming. That was why I started car shopping
over a year ago. Be prepared, thats my motto.
went to some Web sites. I test-drove a couple of cars. I suffered
sticker shock at a couple of dealers.
ended up buying fake-sheepskin seat covers and a leopard-print
trash bag at Pep Boys. Investing in tacky car accoutrements
was a lot easier than trying to replace the Camry.
course, now I have no choice. My mechanic wont even
let me drive the car to my house. I wonder if he knows what
a slow shopper I am. My teenage daughter, Madeleine, keeps
reminding me that we need a new car before the start of winter.
That could be next week.
you know how they say you can never step into the same river
twice? Car shopping feels like stepping into the same river
twice. Déjà vu. All over again.
I dont understand how some people can actually think
shopping for a car is fun.
For starters, if you ask people for advice, you discover that
everybody you talk to has a strongly held opinion about which
is the best car to buy. The problem is, each persons
favorite car is a different car. And yet, according to the
testimony given, each of these different cars, each strenuously
preferred by a different person, is a smooth ride, gets good
gas mileage, is reliable and cheaply repaired.
all those statements were true about all those different cars,
it wouldnt matter what I bought.
if I say to Person A: Oh, you like the Volvo 850 Turbo
Wagon? Person B thinks that Volvos get terrible mileage and
are tough to repair. Person B says that Subaru Legacy GTE
is a surefire winner.
the Legacy, Person C will say, I dont like
Subarus. You want a good car, go with the Saab 9-5 SE wagon.
Most reliable car there is.
Saab? You got to be kidding, says Person D, Sure,
if you want to drive all over hells half-acre for repairs.
Want my advice? Stick with the Toyota.
the last dozen years Ive had three red Toyotas. Ive
made a crucial decision. No more red. No more Toyotas.
leaves a wide-open playing field.
nephew, Jeffrey, was in town last night, touting his brand
new Audi. He knew he had to have one, he told me. He thinks
I should have one, too.
it a try, he said, handing me the key case. I flicked
it open like a switchblade. I felt like a Jet. Or maybe a
led me out to the driveway, showed me the basics. Talked about
all the safety features. Hes a child psychologist and
the conscientious father of a little boy. I started thinking
that shopping for Audis was an essential part of being a good
parent. (And I have to admit that if I were ever to drive
another red car, Audi has the best red there is. Its
the color of Charms lollipops. I could go for a Charms lollipop
But Im not going to shop for Audis. Ive telescoped
my focus right down to the end of the alphabet. When I visit
Web sites all I have to do is scroll to the bottom of the
Make column and click. Sure, I end up with some
Yugos in the mix. But Im really only interested in cars
whose manufacturers names begin with V.
leaning toward a Volvo wagon. My daughter Madeleine says that
we cant continue to live in Niskayuna and drive a Volvo.
Shes convinced that our family is the economic diversity
in Niskayuna. She figures that if we get a Volvo, we compromise
our identity and become just like them. Whoever them
wants a Volkswagen Passat. A new one. She wants the new model.
She wants one with a Monsoon sound system, air conditioning,
a moon roof, heated seats, cruise control and keyless entry.
In one of those dazzling colors, like Frescowhich really
is one of the Volkswagen color names.
I want one of those, too. I dont think Madeleine has
figured out that a beat-up Volvo wagon wouldnt shake
our standing as Niskayunas economic diversity as much
as a fully loaded Passat would.
so far, all this remains a theoretical pursuit. Ive
got all my ducks in a row: Edmunds.com, Carfax.com, Auto trader.com,
Auto.consumerguide.com, Cartalk.com. Its just a matter
of clicking my mouse a few times, right?
the meantime, I am driving a borrowed Miragethere seems
to be some kind of karmic import in such an ideathat
has no dome light, no windshield washers, no air bags. Its
a scrappy little beater, bought at auction in Florida, busted
in a smuggling ring, Im sure. Im sure that if
I look far enough beneath the seat cushions and floor pads,
Ill find something.
me feel a little wild and crazy, driving the Mirage, as though
I ought to wear sunglasses all the time and maybe a leather
jacket. Learn to pout my lips like Uma Thurman. The Camry
was never this much fun. And it sure beats tracing VINs and
can contact Jo Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.