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Car Talk

December 18, 2003

It’s time for us to buy a new car. It’s my turn to pick, and I’m having trouble. (Yet another instance of poor Karen with a problem that’s one many people would love to have.) It’s not a matter of being overwhelmed, like it often is when I have a purchasing decision to make such as which fabrics to buy at a quilt show. There are only certain manufacturers we’ll consider because when you and your friends and your neighbors and your community depend on the financial health of certain companies, those companies get your business. We don’t need a van or a minivan because we don’t have kids or dogs or large groups of people to haul. We don’t need an SUV for the same reasons, plus if we have to move stuff, we can use the truck we’ve already got, which means we don’t need a truck, either. We don’t need a sportscar because we’ve got the Mustang, so no Thunderbird for me even if I was willing to spend that kind of money on a car, which I’m not, even though my heart beats a little faster whenever I see one.

What we need is a commuter car for me, something that handles reasonably well in the snow and can hold two or three other people if I go out to lunch with a group (which I rarely do, but maybe it would happen more often if didn’t have to ask people to squeeze into claustrophobic back seats to ride with me). A four-door sedan, one smaller than a land yacht, fits the bill. That narrows it to about five or six models, half of which I can eliminate right off because they’re too expensive (even though one, the Lincoln LS, does have the kind of door handles I covet, the kind you can reach through and grab properly).

So pretty much I’m down to two options, and I think I could be happy with either one if it weren’t for the color factor. Color is hugely important to me, and the choices in these vehicles just aren’t doing it for me. Pretty much I’m looking at two shades of brown, three shades of grey (one of which they call green to try and fool you into thinking it’s not grey, but it is), and the ubiquitous black, blue, red, and white. Oh, one does come in yellow, but the Mustang is yellow and I don’t want two yellow cars at the same time. I crave variety. The only car color we haven’t had that I want is purple. It’s my favorite color, and I would be delighted if I could drive around in a violet-mobile. Unfortunately, purple is out now. It’s always out when I’m in the market. I missed the beautiful plummy Tauruses of a few years back and the grape Escorts.

The inability to find a new car color that excited me led me to comb the web for used purple wheels even though I haven’t had a used car since the ones I drove in college that were always on their last legs and ready to drop some important component into the street or blow it out the tailpipe. In the process, I came across this article (which I am linking without permission) that calls purple ugly and the worst for resale value, followed by orange (the color of the truck I drove to work today) and lime green (the color of the truck we turned in at the end of October). Evidently Mr. Karen and I are a used car dealer’s worst nightmare. Fortunately, that doesn’t really matter because we drive our vehicles so long that they’re never worth trading in. I didn’t find any purple cars on the web that looked like good possibilities. I thought I had one in the suburb next to mine, but it turned out that what they called “purple” I call “maroon” and that’s not the same thing at all. Sigh.

Then Mr. Karen got a lead on a Contour, which is a car I wanted back when they sold them except it wasn’t time for us to get a car (or it wasn’t my turn to pick or we didn’t need a sedan, I don’t recall). It’s even a manual transmission, which is a plus because I’m not sure I’m ready to give up shifting. It makes me feel competent to start smoothly and run through the gears. I’m a little conflicted about buying a used car when the new car sales are such a driver (ha! I kill me) of the local economy, but Mr. Karen pointed out that if we buy this Contour, the guy who owns it will buy a new car, which is as good as us buying one. If we don’t get the Contour, he might just hang on to it for a while, since he hasn’t actually set a price he wants or advertised for buyers or done anything other than mention he was thinking about maybe selling it. We’ll probably go see it on Sunday. It’s red. I can live with that, especially if I’m not paying a new car premium for it.


A year ago, I wrote a traditional holiday stress entry.

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