Saturday, July 30, 2011

Our Story Thus Far (Adventures with the New Car)

0. The End of The Death Car (see previous post). We came back from Cape Cod in time to give away the old Civic and turn in the plates.

I. Shopping for the new Civic
So, back in the spring of 2011 - recognizing that my 1991 Civic was becoming untenable - I started tuning in to the new-car market, and noticed that the 2012 Civic was already for sale, spotting it up at Mohawk Honda as early as April. By the time I was seriously shopping in the summertime, their initial allotment of 30-40 Civics was already gone.

I looked at the Smart Car, drove the new Fiat 500, drove a Mazda 3 (and Mazda PAID me $25 to do so...); considered the Fit, the Verso, a few others - including a 2006 $9000 Scion B - but determined that what I really wanted was the stripped Honda Civic.

Only to find that nobody would sell one to me. Rensselaer Honda explicitly told me that "We CANNOT sell a car in this market without air conditioning." Which makes me wonder: exactly how far north do you have to go before A/C isn't considered mandatory? Yes, we get a bit of hot and muggy weather here, but It hits 90F here on all of eight afternoons a year. Eight days, and that calls for A/C? Americans are wimps.

I don't much like or need A/C - and, at least until my Miata finally dies - this car is meant to be primarily a winter beater. In theory, at least, a winter beater should NEVER need A/C.

And the step from the stripped DX to the standard-equipment LX is at least $2000.
Honda asks $800 for an automatic transmission, too.
So the step up to go from from a stripped 5-speed DX to the standard-issue LX with A/C and an automatic transmission is fully $3000. (Maggie's first Civic was only $3400.) And as my father pointed out: "The parts you don't buy will never fail."

On its 20th birthday, the Death Car's registration expired -
and so rather than renew it - and buy new plates - instead, I took it off the road.
Which left us without a spare car. Which isn't a real problem, except my Miata is now solely a fair-weather driver, and the family minivan is the least reliable car I've ever owned. It was time to buy a replacement for the Death Car.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

The End of an Era

New York State is switching license plates (again).

I've already blogged at length about my adventures with my current Death Car.*

Its registration expired yesterday (on its 20th birthday) - so, rather than go to the trouble of
- getting it inspected (...almost certainly not a trivial undertaking...),
- renewing the registration for the next two years,
- paying for and attaching new license plates
(which would involve the non-trivial question "Will the old plates come off?")

instead I gave it to my mechanic, turned in the plates, and canceled the insurance.

Gone. Twenty years of service.

It was the 2nd-best car we ever owned, but I was getting scared to drive it, and even more scared to carry my family around in it.

(Reference point for "What scares Bob in a car?": over the decades, I've driven at least four cars without brakes. (At least five, if you count the time I ripped the handbrake out of the floor in Maggie's first Civic.) But the Death Car scares me.)

For two? grand or so (a gas tank (no longer easily available), some exhaust work, the BUMPER), I could have kept it going in its current 'reserve' status for another year or two, but really, enough is enough: twenty years was not a bad run. It's been hard to calculate the mileage lately because the fill pipe had rusted free of the gas tank and so it leaked very badly (pints? quarts?) when you filled it - but it was still getting in the 35mpg ballpark right up to the end.

I guess the lesson here is that "Once MAJOR PARTS start falling off, a car's days are numbered." (The rear bumper rusted off 18 months ago...)

January 2010:

* This iteration of my "Death Car" (which is an Anne Beattie reference, you really should read Chilly Scenes of Winter) was the last (1991, fourth-generation) Honda Civic Wagon, purchased new in July of 1991 when my wife got shy of our previous Death Car, our high-mileage '87 Civic.

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