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Car advice

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by The Big Ragu, Dec 5, 2008.

  1. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    The situation.

    I am pure cityfolk. I don't NEED a car. In fact, before I moved to my current neighborhood, and even for a few years after, I didn't own a car. I rented cars a lot. Then I got this beat up old 1993 Honda on a lark. It was the greatest car ever. I had it for about 5 years. It died two weeks ago (great story about how it died, but I'll save it for another time). I could have fixed it, but it had already sucked up more money than it's worth. Those old Hondas are amazing. The engine would survive a nuclear holocaust, but everything else in the car was falling apart. It got to be more trouble than it was worth and it was hard to start and dying on me the last year.

    It was the perfect car for me. I used it once or twice a week at the most. I don't have to rely on a car much. A parking spot around here costs as much as rent in many places, judging by the rent thread a few months gack, so I can't afford that without stretching way beyond where I want to, and just for a giant dent with four wheels and small engine the insurance was obscene. Parking on the street here is a pain. Towing expenses were part of my car expenses. You have crazy alternate side parking rules and parking is really tight. But I made it work remarkably well with a variety of Navy tricks that gave me an inside edge and usually only forced me to move the car once a week and never have to do it early in the morning.

    In any case, winter is a good time to go carless for me, because frequently, I'd get snowed in, the alternate side rules get suspended and the car could sit buried for a month or two. If you move it, you can't find spots, because mounds of snow take away a lot of the available parking. So I have some time to look around and come up with a plan. I want something reliable, but not so nice that I have to worry about it. That was what was so great about my monster Honda. I really never worried about it. It got plowed and dented to smithereens twice while it was parked and it didn't bother me. Windows broken several times (I have this sleazy guy in an industrial area; I drive over, leave the car, come back a few hours later and it's fixed. All cash deal. One time someone ripped my side view mirror off, and I took it to him. I came back and he said, "Good news, I found one in the same color." I didn't ask any questions about where it came from. Just paid him his cash.).

    So here is where I am at. I have started looking at new used cars. I am walking a tightrope. I want something reliable, but not too nice. Something small. It gets used for small trips, kind of infrequently and can sit parked on the street for long periods of time. I don't want it to be too nice so if someone randomly decides to slash the tires and rip one of the doors off I don't have a coronary (what always got me was that I could be parked surrounded by late model Audis and BMWs and my beat up old Honda would be the one they broke into).

    I am looking at used Honda Accords, Nissan Sentras and Toyotas (Someone was talking about the Yaris). Also, a car that was never on my radar screen, but which looks relatively inexpensive, is the Volkswagen Jetta. They are small and nice enough looking and functional. The question is how new and how much mileage I go on it to bring the price down, while still getting something decent, but I'll figure that out.

    My main question -- what can anyone tell me about the Jetta? I obviously owned the old Honda and my car when I lived in Chicago was a Nissan Sentra that did me really well. It will get driven once or twice a week, really mostly point A to point B type trips and occasionally on a longer trip. Can I expect one that is in decent shape to hold up well?
  2. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    Would it be cheaper to take cabs or a car service? Annually, wouldn't you spend less without the parking and insurance and tickets and repairs??
  3. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    21, I use it for a lot of things that don't lend itself to a car service or cab. Like for the longest time, I was with a woman who lived just on the other side of the water in NJ and I'd drive back and forth there. I used it to visit friends outside the city occasionally. I use it to grocery shop once a week -- there is a huge 40,000 sq. foot supermarket that is cheaper and has fresher food that I load up at, but it requires a car. Stuff like that. And occasionally, I will have to head to DC, for example, and if it is a last minute thing, rather than overpay for a train or flight, I'd just hop in the car.

    I really like having the car. It's a bit if a luxury. I have neighbors who earn more than I do who do well without. They rent a lot. I can do that, but there is something liberating about being able to just walk to your own car and hop in without any planning.

    But yeah. When you own a car where I do, you have to factor the tickets and towing in. And the obscene insurance rates. It's part of the cost of doing business. Great towing story coming up...
  4. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    Four years ago... I was crazy busy for work and was wearing a lot of hats producing a magazine we were doing at the time. I was always harried and sometimes trying to do too much at once. We had a photo shoot in San Diego with a player on the Chargers. I also had a lot of stuff to get done the day of the flight. I had to move my car before the flight because of alternate side rules. It was a Tuesday and there are spots here that on Tuesday, you have to move the car to the other side of the street by 8 a.m. and then move it back by 6 p.m. Or else you can be ticketed and towed. I moved the car before 8 a.m. My plan was to work, then zip on home and snag one of these spots on an out-of-the-way street that turn legal on Tuesday at 1 p.m. (you need to know all the tricks). That would make me OK for a week. Then I planned to catch a cab to the airport from home.

    Except I got busy and forgot about the car. And I went straight to the airport. So come 6 p.m. that night I was parked illegally on the wrong side of the street. I remembered just as the doors on the plane were shutting and we were taxiing down the runway. I fumbled for my phone, but couldn't use it. It didn't matter. I don't know who I would have called who could have done anything anyhow. I felt so sunk.

    We were in San Diego for 3 days and the Odyssey of that photo shoot is a story in itself. We caught a red eye back. I hadn't even checked on the car, but I got off the plane and caught a cab to the tow yard to pick up my car, which was waiting for me.

    Stories like that were way too typical. The cost of the ticket is usually $50 or $100 or something like that, depending on the infraction, and they charge you $185 for the tow and $20 per day it sits there. It adds up. And you can't drive away until you pay it on the spot.
  5. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

  6. bigpern23

    bigpern23 Well-Known Member

    Beat me to it, TSP. :)
  7. Big Buckin' agate_monkey

    Big Buckin' agate_monkey Active Member

    Geez. That's ridiculous. I usually have my choice of at least a dozen parking spots at my apartment complex. And that's when I get home at 12:30 a.m. If I'm home at 4:45 p.m., some dealerships couldn't fill all the empty spots.
  8. Ben_Hecht

    Ben_Hecht Active Member

    It's revenue rape and pillage. It's napalming the public when pinpoint bombing is much more fair.
    Habitual parking-rule violators should be hounded to Hell. The occasional violator should not
    be put through such grief.

    Have no dog in this fight . . . haven't gotten a parking ticket in decades.
  9. MacDaddy

    MacDaddy Active Member

    Stay far, far away from Volkswagens. Very troublesome.
  10. trifectarich

    trifectarich Well-Known Member

    Before you owned a car, how'd you get everything home from the supermarket?
  11. JR

    JR Well-Known Member

    My former sister in law swears by diesel Jettas.

    And if it's any consolation, Ragu, towing charges in Toronto are lots higher. They industry is basically run by Tony Soprano.
  12. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    There are lots of places to shop within walking distance. They just suck and are overpriced. But people shop in small trips, or on an as-needed basis, and carry stuff home. A lot of people do a lot of order in, too.

    Thanks for the advice everyone. Not sure what I am going to do. That old Honda did me really well. It was actually more than 5 years. Just looking around right now. Someone suggested an old, used BMW. Even with a ton more mileage, they hold up. I'm not sure.
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