Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Independence Day -- Almost

I've spent the past few days in search of a car for Rachel. She turned 16 back in August but Tammy and I felt that we'd rather have her wait until this spring before allowing her to get her license. She's not a natural when it comes to driving and we wanted to give her more time practicing with us before cutting her loose. She's nearly there.

I did some searching online looking through the database of local cars trying to get a feel for how much we could expect to spend. I was mostly looking at Toyotas and Hondas in the beginning figuring they would hold up much better than most of the others. I was a bit disappointed with the selection. I headed over to Apple Valley Ford a couple nights ago and worked with one of the salesmen going through their inventory.

They had a 2001 Ford Taurus with 82K miles, very clean which I liked a lot. I took it for a drive and was impressed with how solid and true the handling was. New brakes, new battery and new tires were a bonus. We went back inside out of the cold and wind to discuss the car. Gary, the salesman told me that they offer their best price up front and don't haggle off that number. We'll see. I gave my brother Keith a call to run the numbers by him to see if he had any strong feelings one way or the other. He's bought a bunch more cars over the years than I ever will. Buying cars isn't something I do often enough to be any better at it than the next pretender walking on the lot.

Keith thought it might not be a bad idea to go home and look at some comparables on and see if the price was in the ballpark. I mentioned carsoup to the salesman and he was fine with looking at the site with me. We came across a similar car in Prior Lake with 12,000 fewer miles and $1500 cheaper. I told Gary that he may want to reconsider the price he had on the car as I didn't think there was much chance of me accepting it when this other car was out there and looked to be a considerably better price. I gave him my cellphone number and told him to call me if his price changed.

My phone was ringing 10 minutes later. Gary's manager agreed they were overpriced on the car and moved the number closer to where I needed it to be.

The quandary I found myself in was deciding between a smaller more fuel efficient car vs a bit larger, less efficient but safer car. I found the Taurus to be the right compromise. Not large but not a small piece of tin getting great mileage but offering little protection. Plus, the Taurus has very good crash ratings and that was the most important consideration.

The next day (yesterday) I went out to the dealer in Prior Lake to look at their Taurus. I wasn't impressed. It may have had less miles than the other Taurus but you couldn't tell by looking at it. I drove a half dozen other cars trying to find something which would be safe and that Rachel would like but I came up empty. By far the best car of all I'd tried was back at Apple Valley Ford.

I drove Tammy and Rachel by the dealership last night to get a look at the car without meeting with the salesman. It was dark but they could see it well enough in the lot lights. Rachel was very happy with how it looked but then this was the same girl who was telling me a few months earlier that she didn't care if the car she got was full of hail damage. She just needed some transportation she could call her own. We appreciated that she was approaching this the way she was and not being particular.

I talked with Gary last night and told him I'd be in today to look at the car again. He said he'd have it ready. I told Rachel before going to bed that it looked like we'd have her a car tomorrow (today). I told her it wasn't a sure thing but it was looking good. She was excited.

I took off work early today to have it ready before Rachel got home from school. I backed it into the driveway and put her Jack Johnson CD in the player then sent her this text message just as she was getting out of school...

do u want 2 go look 4 cars?

She replied...

i thought we already knew what im getting

To which I responded...

its gone...sold this morning...when will u be home?

So yeah, I had her thinking that the car was gone and we'd have to keep looking. She didn't catch on. I had my video camera all set to role as she got home but in the bright sunlight I didn't notice that I wasn't taping when I should've been. Oh well.

You can see from the photos that she's a happy kid. We made an appointment for her to take her road test in two weeks. We've still got a couple things to work on (parallel parking and parking lot practice) but two weeks should give us enough time.

I'm happy to see her gain this new independence but I'll worry about her out there during her first heavy rainstorm, foggy night and snowfall. Heck, I'll worry about her anytime she's out there. It's my job to worry about her.


John said...

Congrats to Rachel. My Hannah turned 16 last October and has been driving a '97 Chevy Astro Van to school. It's not the coolest vehicle but way cooler that riding that big yellow thing that stops right in front of the house!
The van is being traded in tomorrow and she'll either be driving the '97 Chrysler LHS or my '03 Chevy Tracker. She's hoping for the Tracker instead of the land barge!
And yes, we worry about her too!

Kevin said...

Would the Astro Van be what the kids refer to as a 'grocery getter'? It's a specific type of van and I'm never sure just which type qualifies.

Actually, I think Rachel would have been fine with a noisy rust bucket but I'm glad we were able to do a bit more. I'm sure the neighbors are as well as her car will see little time in the shelter of our garage.

jackie said...

Actually I think the "grocery getter" or the "tuna boat" is referenced more by an old buick or the like. I'm sure she will be thrilled. What a lucky kid that she has you to catalog all of this for her.It will be a lot of fun for her to look back on.