I Become My Parents

Good news! This will be (probably) my last post that mentions cars. While the whole car exercise has opened up entirely new and previously unmined avenues of comparison Internet shopping, you just can’t keep up that kind of enthusiasm for a consumer item that you only buy once every five to ten years. And no, surprisingly enough I did not get a Prius. But therein lies the story.

If there is one dominant philosophy that has governed my life up until now, I would summarize it as: “live life by standing around and watching, but when you get lucky be ready to take advantage of it.” I picked my college this way, as I had a friend whose sister went to the same school, and I noticed that it seemed like a cool place. I managed to finish my PhD this way, as I ran into someone at a conference who gave me the funds to keep going, even though I was a bad graduate student and never generated the paper that would have made the endeavour worthwhile for him. I have even gotten most of my good jobs this way, running into various people in the right place or the right time. The trick is to be prepared and confident enough to take advantage of the good situation when it comes your way.

So it makes sense that I should happen upon the right car this way.

Having digested all of my wonderful reader feedback, not to mention reams of snarky Internet commentary, I had concluded that all my whining aside, there were quite a few possibilities:

1. The Prius, of course. 2. Mazda 3 hatchback/wagon. 3. Hyundai Elantra Touring Hatchback/Wagon 4. Nissan Versa (probably too cheap) 5. VW Rabbit/Golf/GTI or Jetta Wagon 6. Subaru Impreza or Outback 7. Finally, the Volvo C30 or V50, but these are too expensive.

So of course, when the weather was nice last week I immediately went off to test the cars I was pretty sure were too expensive: the Volvos. I forget how I rationalized this, probably something about “getting a baseline”. Anyway, I ended up at the local Volvo dealer.

To summarize: the C30 is a fun little car, but it’s a bit too fun and a bit too little. If it had four doors and a bigger hatch, it would be more perfect. Enter the V50 wagon. Built on the same platform as the C30, Mazda 3 and the European Ford Focus, this car has four doors, and a bigger hatch in the back. The bike goes in with only one seat folded down. The ride is quiet and smooth. The interior doesn’t look cheap and rattly. There is a cool device that tells me when cars are in my blind spot! And the seats are really really comfortable. If it could do 30mpg instead of 25, it would be perfect. Even the snarky Internet people like it. Unfortunately, you can’t really get one for much less than $30K.

So what you should do, of course, is find a slightly used 2009 model on the dealer lot that someone bought and traded in with only 2,000 miles on it. Who does that? Someone who subconciously knew that I wanted a small station wagon and helpfully provided it for me. Standing around and getting lucky wins again!

Of course, the urge to keep shopping is strong, especially after you’ve become addicted to snarky Internet commentary sites. What if I didn’t properly compare everything? Maybe that Hyundai is quieter. What if the new Prius Solar Sun roof is really something I can’t live without? Here is where knowing when you’re ahead is critical. The thing is, for the price I was going to pay, the probability is high that mileage aside, the Volvo is better at everything I want than any of the other cars on the list. More importantly, the car fits my current “residual self image”, which is really the trick when buying a car. The car is just like a compact to mid-sized car like the Honda Civic (or Volvo C30) but it is also slower, fatter, and “older”. Ultimately I think people buy the cars that reflect the image they project to the world. The Volvo says “I am older and too practical but quicker than a minivan.” I can live with this.

Therefore, the thing to do was to pick a price, head to the dealer to see if they would take it, and quit while I was ahead. So that’s what I did, and they took the price, and I have stopped thinking about it.

Except to write this article.

And to complain about the placement of the iPod auxiliary jack.

And maybe next time I’ll learn how to drive stick. (Just kidding).