Sunday, September 6, 2009

Did I ever tell you that I've come to hate my car? Let me remind you...

The power locks malfunction regularly. The power lock button on the driver's side door doesn't work, so you either have to unlock each door manually (i.e., reach in the back seat and pull up the little stick) or reach across to the passenger side and hit that button. The remote doesn't work. The alarm goes off just about every time you open the door and can only be stopped by starting the engine. You cannot use the key to unlock the driver's door. Ever.

Read here if you would like the full account.

At first, this was all slightly amusing. Being excited about the new car, it was just interesting to learn what quirks and character it would bring. After a while, it became annoying, especially as the quirks somehow managed to morph and become increasingly more complicated. Now, I confess, I become quite angry as I fight through all the stupid things it takes just to get in the car. Irrational, perhaps, but no less frustrating. Add to this my ever-active toddler and almost eight months worth of pregnant...

...and now cry when you can't get the door open without the alarm going off, the locks perpetually bouncing up and down, with no easy way to stop the alarm or get the back door open to gain access to the carseat in which to contain the toddler who is running in circles yelling "uh-oh" repeatedly because of the alarm.

My Solution:
Buy a new car.

Honest to goodness, that's the conclusion I finally came down to. It is way too much hassle and effort to manage the car we have, and the idea of doing that all with Jane and a newborn just sounds nightmare-ish enough that I'd prefer a less-aesthetically appealing car (i.e., no leather seats or multi-disc CD player) that simply isn't possessed.

Loving husband that he is, Chris agreed to go with me to a dealership and check out our options. What we wanted to know: 1) what kind of trade-in value we could expect for the Mountaineer, 2) what kind of money we would expect to spend for a car that's really worth having, and 3) if there was a car out there that would meet our space requirements (two carseats comfortably and all the stuff that goes with the bodies in those carseats) and have a higher gas mileage than an SUV, thus saving us money in the long run.

What we learned: 1) we can get about $2,000 trade-in value. 2) For a serious long-term family car, we can expect to spend no less than $9,000-10,000, probably more, even after the trade. 3) Yes, cars do exist that could comfortably fit our family both in terms of backseat leg-room and trunk space. And they get mileage closer to 25-30 mpg, as opposed to Merc's 14 mpg.

After visiting a few different dealerships just to know what was out there, we came home and crunched the numbers, discussed the options, crunched some more numbers, discussed more, when to bed, had one middle-of-the-night epiphanous moment, avoided further discussion, heard one inspired Relief Society lesson, discussed again, and came to a conclusion.

The Verdict:
No new car.


On paper, we can afford a car payment. We don't have the money to pay cash upfront this time without depleting all the savings that we have managed to re-accumulate since we bought Merc, making a loan necessary for getting a car. Using some of our savings, we could pay the car payments while still making all our other bills and expenses. Come January, Chris will have graduated and will be working full time. Between that and my full-time salary, we would have plenty of money to pay for a car.

The catches (yes, plural):

Chris is graduating. While we have fairly good reason to expect well in terms of employment, that is a pretty shaky time to take on a large amount of debt before we know where we really stand.

We are still paying off my student loans. If we don't have a car payment, then come that time when we have double salaries coming in, we should be able to pay off my student loans entirely by this time next year.

We're having a baby in roughly six weeks. Who knows what that really means, but I'm sure it's significant here.

sigh again

I still want a new car. I'm sure the situation is somewhat exacerbated by my level of pregnant-ness, but give me a little credit: would you want to deal with all of that annoyance in one car? But, after a long monologue in my head after waking up to go to the bathroom at 4:30 this morning, I realized that this is probably something I just need to live with for a while longer. I really don't want a car payment. There are other things that I would rather spend my money on, including saving up for a down payment on a house. And I would dearly love to not have any student loans anymore.

Relief Society today had one of those lessons where I was pretty sure that it was planned out exactly for me. The lesson was based on Robert D. Hales' talk in the last General Conference: Becoming Provident Providers Temporally and Spiritually. It is an excellent talk, I suggest you read it if you have the inclination.

One quote that I like was this, said in reference to something that his wife had said to him early in their marriage:

I have learned that the three most loving words are “I love you,” and the four most caring words for those we love are “We can’t afford it.

After my discussion with myself in the middle of the night, the lesson just seemed to be confirming what I had already concluded. I want a new car, but I don't need one right now. In the long run, yes, it would be better for us to not own this particular car. But the time to make that switch needs to wait for at least a year or so. At that time, we will have little or no debt and we will know our long-term financial situation, making it much more financially sound to consider a car loan.


In the meantime, it's up to me to choose to be happy about it, like Brother Flammer said in an Institute class last Friday night. Well, I might not be happy about Merc's stupid quirks, but I can at least not get excessively frustrated every time I go out to the car.

Maybe after a while I can make it funny again.

By the way...

In case you're wondering, we have investigated the possibility of getting the weirdness with the locks repaired. Verdict: not realistically possible, from what we can tell. We talked to a dealership about it, but they had never heard of the problem. It would take probably several hours, for which we would pay labor fees, to figure out what might be wrong. Then we would probably pay more for them to fix it, including parts and labor, and that's just hoping that they figured out the right thing and it would really be fixed.

Chris did some research on his own on the internet and came across a few separate accounts in which people who owned this same model described an identical problem. Their attempts at repair were entirely unsuccessful, including spending several hundred dollars at a dealership to no avail. I don't want to spend that much money just to have the same problem continue.

So in case you were wondering, no, we aren't going to get it fixed. We're just going to live with it until we have the money to buy a new car. Or until I drive it off a cliff.


Jared and Delia said...

Man you guys have bad luck with car doors. One of those cars you pray some else will total huh? Just kidding. Did I really say that?

Hope it gets less possessed I guess. Do you guys have a friend of a friend who is a mechanic?

Rebecca said...

Can I just agree with you and say cars can be such a pain!!!!! We're in a similar situation with getting a new car. Jake's truck is a 93 and mine's a 94...and although they run okay (but they both definitely have their quirks!), either could die anyday. I want to get a family car, that gets better gas mileage, that doesn't cost $300 every year to pass inspection, and that's reliable. BUT I don't want to use up our savings since I won't be working in 4-5 months and I don't want a car payment either. So I just keep putting it off because I have no idea what to do! Err!!

I hope things get better with Merc!