Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time a ditzy lady neamed Eleanor got a new car. It was her first new car, a '95 Ford Taurus wagon; she got to decide what to put on it (within reason, said her husband, who had more sense than she, generally), and it was new because they both decided that it was going to be babied until it fell apart. It was a great car: it seated lots of children at once, and one could fit the whole extended family into it. It had a low profile so that it wouldn't get blown all over the flat Midwestern roads like a minivan. She used it for carpooling, and it was also used for her first road trip across the country.

Eleanor took very good care of that car. She salved off road tar from its white finish, patched tiny nicks in the paint, got the oil changed religiously and the tires rotated regularly. She brought it in on schedule for all its checkups, and never, ever gunned the engine out of stoplights. All the fender-benders she ever had were minor ones, and none were her fault. Having low deductible ensured that the car would be speedily fixed, which it was. Having heard all those stories about million-mile cars, she had big plans for this one. Hadn't she seen classic cars on the road? Those people took great care of their cars, and so would she.

Each year the value of the car went down, but that was OK. She figured that fixing this car would always be cheaper than a new one, even used. The car hit 90K, then 100k, then 110K. Eleanor was pleased.

One day, right around 117K (the tires were due to be rotated in about 400 more miles) she noticed that the car was knocking a bit more than usual going up a hill. Checking the engine temperature, she saw to her alarm that the engine was beginning to overheat. Fortunately she was near home, so she drove carefully and put it away. She told her husband about it and he said a valve in the radiator likely needed replacing. So she made an appointment date with the Ford dealership and headed off there when it arrived. There were one or two other minor problems which she would fix at the same time, like a wierded out speedometer, which had been replaced before, expensively.

The repairman called that afternoon. She pretty much needed a new engine: The head gasket needed to be replaced, the radiator was cracked, the oil pan was rusted and the speedometer would cost over $700 to fix. Total cost: over $2500. Market value of car: $2300.

Eleanor has learned a lesson: Taking care of a car does not mean that expensive parts won't wear out because their quality is poor to begin with. The body and maintanence was nearly perfect. But....it was a Ford.

OK, she said, stiffening the old upper lip, we'll buy a used car. That's what Click and Clack say you should do. We'll buy a used Toyota, and it will be a smaller car, and we'll save money on gas. But when they researched the matter, they found that small used Toyotas are very nearly as expensive as new ones. In the meantime, they began to notice that their other car, which was a year older and still doing very nicely with almost as many miles on it, was a Toyota.

So they got a new Toyota Matrix. And they hope the next one to learn from this story will be Ford.


Anonymous Heidi said...

yay! a new car! what luxury. Do you just love it?

4:30 PM  
Blogger craigellachie said...

Actually, we ended up settling on a Subaru Impreza, in woodland green. It's an OK car, and I do feel very privileged and blessed to be able to get a new one with the full warranty. It's very safe because it's all-wheel drive and reinforced to the max. But exciting it isn't. It's going to be our workhorse car, the one that gets the hardest usage.

I'm happy. especially since it is the car RIch wanted, in a color he loves. With good care it should last us a long time, Lord willing!

2:59 PM  
Blogger Valerie (Kyriosity) said...

What was the deal with your speedometer? Mine does this weird thing where it gets up to about 70 mph and then starts wavering wildly and making a kind of whirring sound.

My '95 Escort has 180K on it. The engine (made by Mazda) blew up a few years ago, so I essentially had to re-buy the car, and it's required a few hundred bucks in repairs every year or two, but I've learned the hard way never to take it to the dealer -- they will always find more, and more expensive, problems than an independent shop will.

8:36 PM  
Blogger craigellachie said...

That sounds like what was going on with our speedometer, except ours did that after about 45 mph.. It's going to be expensive to do anything about, over $300. There are, BION, some advantages to taking it to a dealer for repairs like oil changes. We took one of our old Toyotas to a Jiffy Lube, and they did not put the oil cap on correctly, which meant that the oil came out and the engine burnt out. Had to get a new engine. If the dealer had done that, they would have taken responsibility. If you know what the thing needs, though, and have a repairman you can trust, take it there. My guess is that making chocolate chip cookies for the shop will guarantee a job well-done.

Sometimes I do that with my doctor, too, so he'll remember me. It works!

10:01 PM  
Blogger Valerie (Kyriosity) said...

I took cookies to my doctor once. He nagged me about my weight and told me to find a better hobby!

5:53 PM  

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