Friday, September 7, 2018
The joys of car-shopping (NOT!)
Miss D. and I finally have a new-to-us set of wheels, after a couple of months of searching.
We both have partial physical disabilities; my lower back and left leg, and her right knee. That made it very important that whatever we bought had to be comfortable for both of us - and our comfort zones are not alike. It's tricky to find a vehicle that "fits" both of us. One that I like might not suit her, and vice versa. Added to that is a certain amount of cultural conditioning. For example, I find minivans very comfortable and practical, but she absolutely rejects the "soccer mom" stereotype that allegedly goes with them. (I don't think it does, necessarily - a couple of the most "manly men" that I know are quite happy driving minivans - but that didn't convince her.)
We particularly wanted something that would be very comfortable on long journeys. We prefer to drive, rather than fly, whenever possible, because we regard the TSA as nothing more than "security theater", as well as an unwarrantable intrusion into our privacy. (How many terror attacks has the TSA prevented? None, as far as anyone knows.) That requirement ruled out many contenders. We rented a number of different vehicles for trips to Tennessee (for LibertyCon), Colorado (for our annual Blogorado gathering) and other distant states over the past couple of years. Some we liked, some we didn't. That gave us a baseline of things to look for.
Neither of us wanted to spend too much money right now. We'd rather pay down our house note, with the objective of paying it off within ten years. Besides, the price of vehicles right now, new and used, is ridiculously high, and I don't regard them as value for money. However, our existing vehicles are both well over a decade old, and not very comfortable for the long haul. Also, the thought of continuing to rent vehicles for long-distance travel persuaded us that it would be better to invest that money in something that would, at least, be ours. We ruled out a new vehicle, for cost reasons, and began to look for a lightly used one.
I researched prices and features very carefully for a couple of months, enlisting the help of Kelly Blue Book (KBB), the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA), and Edmunds to determine fair market values and prices. To my frustration, almost every dealer was asking more than that for their stock. When I challenged them, pointing out the discrepancy, they either said that they used a different price grading system (which they would never disclose), or tried to justify the price for this or that reason, or offered a discount that still didn't match true market value. I grew very jaded. However, we finally found what we wanted (and could afford) at a local dealer. After a little negotiation, their price was right in the middle of the range that all three reference sources expected the vehicle to cost. We "bit the bullet", and drove home in a few-years-old Nissan Pathfinder, similar (but not identical) to this one.
I think it'll suit us very well. It's not the highest-rated crossover SUV, according to reviews, but both Miss D. and myself find the seats and the ride very comfortable, and it has all the bells and whistles we need (and quite a few we don't). We hadn't planned on buying an upscale model, but it happened to be available at the right price, so that's a pleasant bonus. An added advantage, from my point of view, is that Nissan's 3.5-liter engine and CVT gearbox have been used in all sorts of different models for several years. After a couple of initial hiccups, they've established a pretty bulletproof reputation for reliability, according to local mechanics, which bodes well from a maintenance point of view.
Now, let's see if we can get it to last as long as our other vehicles. If it does, it'll be money well spent.