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Tips for Working Out Your Budget When Buying a New Car

Do you want to buy a new car? Maybe you just want to make sure that you are getting the best deal but don’t want to spend too much time pondering over the finer details. Either way, you can find out everything you need to know right here.

Work out the Running Costs

The first thing that you’ll need to do is work out the running costs. If you need some help then you should know that there are some running cost calculators out there that you can use. When you have found out how much you can afford to pay towards your car, you then need to make sure that you can actually afford to run it. A used car will always cost more in fuel, servicing, maintenance and tax, not to mention that you will also have to worry about the value depreciating as well.

If you buy a new car then you won’t pay as much across the board, but you will pay more for the car itself. That being said, although a used car costs more to run, you have to know that the new car will lose most of its value during the first year, so unless you plan on keeping the car longer than this time period, you’ll certainly lose out more when you sell. If you need some help covering the costs then remember that some of the best installment loans for buying new and used vehicles will give you very good interest rates from the get-go.

How to Find the Right Car

IMAGE SOURCE: Pexels.com

You have to make sure that you don’t let your heart rule your head. If you know that you cannot afford your dream vehicle then you may want to think about getting a nearly new or used car. You can look in car magazines or you can look at cars on the road if you want. When you do, you will soon find that it is easier than ever for you to make the best purchase without having to worry about a thing.

Questions you Need to Ask Yourself

Think about it; what length of warranty do you need? Is the car that you are buying one of the safest on the road? Do you want a car that is going to hold its value well? When you ask yourself questions like this, you can then begin to make the best decision in regards to your car and your purchase in general. If you just don’t know what car you need, then you need to try and talk to your local garage to see if they can advise you. When you do, they should be able to tell you about the cars that they get in for repairs the most so you can choose a car that is as low maintenance as possible.

Take into account your Fuel

Another thing that you need to do is work out the fuel costs. If you don’t then you may find that you end up paying more in the long-run and this is the last thing that you need. If you are concerned about running your car on fuel that is expensive then you should know that electric cars are the most fuel-efficient cars on the market, but they are very expensive to buy. The diesel variant of a car will give you better mileage for long journeys, but it is not as ideal for short journeys. If you want to get a good result out of your car then you need to make sure that you account for this as much as possible.

Adventures in Bureaucracy: Motor Vehicle Division

My friend Shannon is trying to help her teenaged daughter get her first driver’s license, an enterprise that has turned into quite the bureaucratic adventure. They called the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division and were flamboozled to be told there were 300 calls ahead of them! When last heard from, she was on Facebook critiquing the Muzak while they waited. 😀

In Arizona, one of the hoops you have to jump through, if you drive a car, is an annual air pollution test nuisance. To drive your car, you have to waste an hour or 90 minutes of your time on that before you can update the registration, which you have to do every year.

Each year – in my case, smack in the middle of the hottest part of the summer – the state sends you a form that you have to drag down to the pollution test site, get certified, and then mail in to the Department of Motor Vehicles (known idiosyncratically as MVD in these parts).

Ummmm….  I don’t recall doing that. True, I’m a senile old bat. But the process is annoying enough that it surely would catch my attention. Especially since I would have enjoyed performing that bit of my civic duty in 118-degree heat.

Did I pay for two years? You can can do that…but…I can’t find the receipt!

Trudge out to the garage: the registration tag on the license plate says “expires in September 2020”!

Ohhhhhhh f!ck!!!!!!!

If a cop catches me with an expired license plate, I’ll get a killer ticket.

No way to find out on the MVD website whether they imagine I’m registered for two years. No way to ask a live human, because presumably there are no humans in attendance. Anywhere.

I can’t not drive my car: you can’t survive in Phoenix without a car.

On a clue from Shannon, I finally found a page where a form invited me to pony up $241 + change to renew the registration. But NOTHING about the emissions test. Normally they don’t allow you to renew your registration without proof that your car passed the emissions test. So I imagined they must have opted it.

I now charge the $241 that I can’t afford on my American Express card and forge on in search of the form to give to the emissions test guys.

But nayyyy, this scheme is not to be.

Online I find a form to fill out to entitle you to a “no contact” emissions test. This also entails your coughing up money, and it requires you to physically go to the emissions test place and be exposed to whatever the members of the public are carrying. In the 118-degree heat.

You have to fill in a VIN number, which I can’t find in the usual place one would find the damn thing on a car.

After a fruitless search, I come back to the computer and try to get to the form you need to take to the emissions test people, so I can fill that in and tote it over to the nearest testing station, so as to get the test done so as to get the car registered. But now I can’t find it online, even though earlier in the day I’d found it but gave up when it demanded the VIN that I couldn’t find on the car. After my son tells me it would be on the insurance card, I try to go back into the site and download the emissions nuisance form. Can’t find it for love nor money.

I message someone unfortunate enough to have his email posted on the Department of Environmental Quality site. He emails back and says later in the day someone from the DEQ will telephone me.

This personable fellow—let’s just call him Bob—surfaces around 4 p.m. 

He says that when you fill out a registration form online, the system will say you can’t enter data until you have the emissions test.

I say wellll….I had no problem filling it out and in fact have a receipt saying “Your vehicle registration renewal is complete…”

He says the only explanation for that is some kind of system glitch.

After a fair amount of back & forth, in which I get the receipt and read the first paragraph to him over the phone, he says (I summarize greatly…) that MVD has such a huge backlog that no one may notice. On reflection, he suggests I may already have paid for a two-year registration, in which case the test is not necessary. If that is the case, it would explain why I never got the paperwork this year.

He proposes the following: On Thursday: check AMEX. If the charge went through, it means MVD accepted the application without the emissions test.

If that’s the case, he says, then just go on about your business and do not waste time with the emissions test. It probably means I paid for two years and do not have to do a test this year,

But, he adds, if  the charge has not gone through by Thursday, call the MVD and ask if an emissions test is required, and ask them to send (or resend) the paperwork. (Reference, if you will, my friend’s experience with this hopeless maneuver…)

HOWEVER, Bob’s guess that I paid for two years is wrong. The vehicle registration receipt from last year, which of course I kept for tax purposes, says it expires 9/30/2020. So clearly there’s some kind of screw-up here.

Apparently things are such a mess down at MVD, they don’t know their collective ass from a hole-in-the-ground. He said it would be the end of September before the tags show up, at soonest. I said I sure don’t want to get a ticket. He said it was extremely unlikely the cops would pull someone over for out-of-date tags. Besides, I have the receipt from MVD stating that the car is registered and registration is paid for.

Why we have emissions tests… Yeah, that IS smog over lovely downtown Phoenix.

Got that? I GOT A GUY FROM DEQ TELLING ME TO IGNORE THE REQUIRED EMISSIONS TEST. Is that off the wall, or what?

This is sounding suspiciously like another piece of mail that got misdelivered to my larcenous neighbor’s house and thrown in the trash. That would be the one who signed for a certified letter addressed to me from my doctor, who couldn’t get through to me on the phone and was trying to tell me I had a nascent cancer and needed to get my a$$ to her office and have it treated. That neighbor.

He did, though, say that the place was pretty much in chaos. So it’s possible that maybe they really didn’t send the annual notice. Except…welll….those things would’ve been-machine generated and stuffed into pre-stamped envelopes. Wouldn’t exactly have required legions of skilled workers…

Apparently state offices are off the tracks because so many staff are either sick or have been told to stay out. Got the impression from Bob that there essentially was nobody there at MVD — that they’re so understaffed the department is inoperative.

Here, the emissions test procedure would put EVERYBODY at high risk of covid. The driver is taken out of the car and told to sit in an enclosed booth. (Yeah: if the guy ahead of you had the bug, you sit there for ten or fifteen minutes breathing in his viruses!) The worker has to get inside the car, handle the controls, and run it for ten minutes or so. So he gets royally exposed to whatever you may be carrying. And if he’s got the virus but is asymptomatic, he’s still contagious, meaning when you get back into your car, you get exposed to whatever bugs he deposited on the steering wheel or breathed into the air.

So…it would seriously make sense to cancel the tests for the duration of the epidemic.

Apparently that’s not what they’ve done here, though. Our Bob said I could just go over to the facility and get the test: no paperwork needed on my end. They give you the paperwork there. BUT, said he, since MVD apparently accepted my application for registration (we quickly found, at the AMEX website, that they’d charged my credit card), he thinks they screwed up and the best thing to do is lay low and go yup yup yup, thankee boss!

The guy theorizes that they messed up at MVD. That’s why he suggested that I wait for a couple of days to see if the charge on the AMEX card goes through. He said if it does and the state accepted the money for the registration bill, then we’re looking at what he called “a glitch in the system”…and what I would call “a f**k-up.”

Gasoline-o-Wow!!!

The dermatologist has summoned me to revisit her redoubt tomorrow morning — on the far side of the universe: south of Sun City, west of terrifying Maryvale. This entails driving driving driving…and guzzling of gallons of gasoline.

The tank was about a third full, which probably would have sufficed to get there and back. But I didn’t want to take a chance, so decided that when I took my mail-in ballot up to the post office today, I would buy some overpriced gasoline at the QT. And while out, run by the Leslie’s Pools store to pick up a replacement for a cracked pump pot basket.

Y’know…the last time I filled the gas tank on that car was May 14. That was two months ago. So that suggests the car used only a third of a tank of gas a month, under the Quarantine Regime.

The amount I pumped this morning — to replace two months’ worth of fuel — came to $20.30.

Now consider this: On April 1, when the present covid imprisonment began, my gasoline budget was ninety dollars a month! And yes, that is how much I regularly spent on gas then.

What has done this trick is ordering groceries, household supplies, and gardening products through Instacart and Amazon. For eight bucks, Instacart will make a run on whatever crazy place you please. And Total Wine, BTW, will deliver for “free.” At eight bucks a trip, two carefully calculated grocery-store or Costco runs per month cost you all of $16. Okay…$20.30 plus $16 will set you back all of 36 bucks…a far cry from $90 worth of gasoline.

What’s racking up that 90 bucks? Running around town to buy this, that, and the other at Costco, Walmart, Albertson’s, Safeway, Home Depot, and waypoints, whenever you happen to think of it. If instead you’re budgeting your car rides — by sending runners to pick up items from those stores and then using your car to travel to local destinations only when you absolutely have to — you could cut your gasoline costs alone by 50% to 66%.

But of course a car’s costs include far more than just gas. There are, for example, the oil changes, the new batteries, the tires, the smog tests, the insurance, the registration fee…and that’s only for newer cars that are relatively trouble-free. And it assumes you’ve paid for the damn thing and are not coughing up anything from $300 to $600 a month for a car loan.

What this suggests is that replacing your car with delivery services, Amazon (which also is essentially a delivery service), and ride services like Uber and Lyft could save you shitloads of money. Even if you kept your car, budgeting your rides to go only to places where you have to show up in person — the doctor, the dentist, the vet, the hair salon, the movie theater — would cut the cost of car ownership drastically.

It might even allow you to get rid of the car altogether. When you really need a car to haul something or go on a vacation, rent one. Otherwise…why pay to park one in your garage 365 days a year?

If you had a redundant two-car garage, what would you use it for?

Ever have one of those *CLICK* moments?

No, this doesn’t mean a Gloria Steinem moment of insight into the Oppressiveness of the Masculine Culture. By *CLICK* moment, I mean a why didn’t i think of this one before dawning of the light.

I’m sitting here contemplating the damn car and realizing that it’s so alien that trying to operate it is like trying to drive a flying saucer. In the 15 years between the time I bought the late, great Toyota Sienna and the time I got bamboozled into buying the endlessly annoying Toyota Venza, cars have changed so much that I truly don’t know how to drive anymore.

Out of the blue, it struck me that what I need here is driving lessons. I need to learn to drive again, the way I learned to drive in high school: with a driving instructor sitting next to me in the front seat.

Turns out there are driving schools here in lovely uptown Phoenix. They’re not cheap: instruction runs from $250 for a single three-hour drive to $645 for 16 to 18 hours of instruction. For an extra $250, you can get some sort of “MVD evaluation waiver” that apparently gets you out of some harassment of senior drivers by the state.

I have to renew my driver’s license this spring, as well as get the national ID card. This will be a major PITA if I’m required to prove I can still drive…especially since driving this goddamn car is like trying to drive a flying saucer.

Yesterday I did chat with Wonder-Mechanic Chuck and his guys about the idea of trading the Starship Enterprise in on a Subaru. They thought that was a less than perfect scheme. Chuck says all newer cars are now pretty much the same: brain-banging frustrating and complicated to learn.

Soooo….oh-kayyy…. If the problem is that you need to learn how to drive all over again, wouldn’t the logical solution be simply to do what you did in high school: take a driving course?

Duh!

Here’s an outfit that employs retired law enforcement officers. By golly! What could be more perfect?

So I emailed them and hope to hear from them on Monday.  While I’m not thrilled at the prospect of forking over $250 to learn how to drive all over again, as a practical matter I can afford it…and it would be worth it if I could get an experienced driving instructor to help me get acclimated with the Brave New World of driving technology.

Meanwhile, slo-o-o-o-w-l-y ad not very surely I’m getting the elaborate new landline phone to work.

Yesterday morning I realized that what I need to do is ONE. THING. AT. A. TIME. That is, don’t try to set it up with all its glorious functions in one swell foop. Instead, engage only one function at a time.

So: yesterday I plugged it in. I did NOT plug in the beloved CPR Call Blocker. Just plugged the damn phone and its handsets into the phone line and the electric line.

This alone took some doing. But without trying to connect the Call Blocker device, the system works fine. I think. When I call the land line number on my cell phone, it does ring through. And I’ve been able to talk with SDXB and with WonderAccountant…so apparently the basic function now works.

Today I succeeded in figuring out how to program often-called numbers into the “phone book” function. PITA of the first water, but it does seem to work. I think.

In addition, it appears that the Panasonic’s built-in call blocker also works, in much the same way. But how it’s doing that without my having programmed it escapes me. I’ve only received one nuisance call in the past two days; normally upwards of a dozen come in. That may just be coincidence…though I haven’t had a day without an unending series of pest calls in many, many months. Years, actually.

If it develops that this is just a fluke, then on Monday I’ll call the CPR folks — they have killer customer service!! — and ask how to get the thing attached to the CPR device without disabling the phone itself.

So of those two frustrations — car and phone — I feel a little better about one of them. As for the car, we shall see whether this driving school outfit will let me use their three-hour training class as a device to learn how to drive all over again. They say they have a special class for “seniors,” which leads me to suspect this will not be the first time they’ve encountered my little learning challenge.

“New” Car…Again???

How can I count the ways I hate the Toyota Venza?

Well…I can’t. Infinity is by definition uncountable.

The car drives OK, so I can’t complain too much about that. Fuel economy is middling, but since I don’t have to go to work every day and rarely take off cross-country, that doesn’t matter. The interior is good enough for government work…just.

The richest vein for my complaints lies in the complicated, inscrutable, unintuitive control system. The Star Trekkie audio/whatevethehellitis system is so cryptic and so frustrating and so annoying…I can hardly describe it. Look: what I want from a radio is A RADIO. I do not want to talk on the phone through the radio. I do not need to be told which way to turn at the next intersection. I do not want any other services than a radio. I just want to hear my cowboy music, dammit! Or the NPR News. The Venza, however, has other ideas: Dare to get in the car with a cell phone and it tries to grab onto the Bluetooth and turn itself into a cell and you cannot get rid of it to get your radio back.

The simplest damn things are so baroquely involved as to be nigh unto impossible. Take the headlights, for example. I’ve had this effing car since 2016 and still cannot figure out how to turn on the effing headlights.

The user manual (THREE  VOLUMES WORTH, 232 pages of which are devoted to the audio system alone) is as difficult to use as the hardware and software. As it develops, there are several headlight settings:

♦ high
♦ low
♦ foglights

(You’d expect these three, right?)

♦ regular brightness with a “high” setting that automatically comes on when you’re on a dark street
♦ setting that automatically turns the lights off a few minutes after you park and turn off the ignition

Except…it’s virtually impossible to figure out what positions on the control lever correspond to these settings. Put it on what you think is normal, and you have people flipping their brights at you. Turn it down, and you can barely see the road. If this apparently actual “normal” setting brightens up on a dark road, you sure couldn’t prove it by me.

Last night when I showed up at the church for choir practice, I drove in with what I thought was the normal setting that would turn the lights off after the car was parked. Two and a half hours later, I come out and find the damn thing sitting there with the foglights on. The headlights auto-turned off, but the foglights never got the message.

Fortunately, the car started up — to my surprise. Two hours with lights burning should have run the battery down.

It took some doing to figure out how to to turn off the accursed foglights. But when I got home, I managed to shut off the damn lights. Heaven only knows whether all the lights went off. Yesterday morning I got in the car and found the interior lights, which I had not turned on, were merrily burning away.

Next, there’s the vastness of the blind spots.

Seriously. I exaggerate not. This thing has blind spots that are SO HUGE an SUV can be sitting on your rear fender — either one, left or right — and no matter how you set the mirrors, you cannot see it.

Here on the homicidal streets of Phoenix, drivers make a game of coming up on your flank and parking there. Especially at 70 mph on the freeway. So this little flaw creates exceptionally dangerous conditions. Yeah, I do know about those little round stick-on mirrors. Sorry, but I hate them.

And fender? Fender? FENDER? You jest, right? This car’s alleged fenders are made of plastic. Look crooked at the damn thing and it cracks. Seriously: the other day I bumped into a barrier at something less than .5 mph (slower than I normally walk) and the result was a crack in the fine plastic cladding.

What. a. piece. of. junk.

Anddddd…. then we have the interior layout.

This little tank is supposed to be a sort of mini-SUV. It has a large rear compartment,  but only two rows of seats: two captain’s chairs in front and a bench seat behind them.

The  bench seat folds down, supposedly giving you lots of space in back to carry cargo. Or your dog.

Heh…  Well. No. That’s another cruel joke.

The seatbacks don’t fold down close enough to contact the backs of the front seats. So when they’re folded down, you get this empty well, into which the dog will tumble the instant you hit the brakes hard (presumably breaking her neck or, at best, a leg). There is NO way to eliminate this hole. The only way I can safely carry Ruby (short of stashing her in a carrier) is to pack the space behind the front seats with old bed pillows.

Ain’t that classy?

Then we have the amazingly inferior air conditioning system.

The Sienna, which was not significantly longer than this tank, had air-conditioning vents along the top, above the side windows. Thus the AC cooled back passengers efficiently.

The annoying Venza has ONE (1) TINY VENT at floor level, situated between the two front bucket seats. That’s it. This means that on a 110-degree day, whoever has the misfortune to sit in back gets effectively zero air conditioning.

It is as if Toyota’s designers failed to learn, in grade-school science class, that cold air drops and hot air rises.

So I decided maybe I should look around at other vehicles. Maybe someone makes a car that doesn’t require a degree in computer engineering to operate?

Well. Not so much.

When you google terms like “simple controls,” “cars for seniors,” “visibility,” and whatever synonyms you can dream up, you stumble upon 18 vehicles that might fill the bill: several of those are sedans, though, and I want an SUV-like or minivan-like contraption.

It appears that Subaru is now highly favored among the car reviewing set. I marked Toyota AVOID because, for sure, I will never buy another Toyota vehicle after my experience at Bell Road Toyota. What a bunch! The Kia Rio, the Ford F150 pickup, and the Jeep Wrangler Sport (in earlier models) come out on top, but the Subaru Forester and the Subaru Outlook appear to have the best visibility as well as acceptably uncomplicated controls. Supposedly.

Sooo… I guess if I’m going to go car shopping, the first stop will be a Subaru dealership. Now to recruit a cop and a lawyer to go with me….

Why I Hate My Car

Oh, hell: make that “Why I Hate the 21st Century.” ’Cause I do: I hate almost everything about it, especially

  • Donald Trump
  • Lunatics who shoot up schools, churches, synagogues, and just about any other public space that suits their fancy
  • Opportunists who subsequently take advantage of the lunatics to propose confiscating our guns
  • Drug-addled thieves and crazies who make it necessary for a little old lady to own a gun
  • A medical system dedicated to making huge profits in shearing the sheeple
  • Homicidal traffic
  • Just about anything computerized… And consequently,…
  • My car

Day before yesterday when I went to get into the car, I forgot I had the cell phone I’ve taken to carrying around the house — so as to call for help if I fall or otherwise get into some kind of old-bat trouble — not only in my pocket but turned on.

A live phone, it develops, is a live bomb when it comes to the Toyota Venza’s goddamned “audio” system. Climbing into the car caused the radio to shut off and the screen thing that sorta operates it to switch to “AUDIO.”

Whatever “audio” does, it doesn’t play music. Apparently it wanted me to talk on the phone.

I did not want to talk on the phone with it. I just wanted it to fuckin’ GO AWAY.

Nothing — and I do mean nothing — that I tried would make AUDIO go away. This wrestling match, we might note, was going on while my car was rolling down the road. I punched every button I could think of, but of course many of the “buttons” are not on the dashboard but instead appear as images on the goddamned screen if and when you punch the right (or wrong) combination of…somethingorother.

Y’know…I do not want to use my car as a telephone. I do not want my car to tell me which way to turn in a quarter-mile. I do not want my car to order up a pizza for me.

Believe it or not, I can manage all those things without a car tutoring me. I know how to read a map. The only reason I carry a nuisance cell phone is because there are no pay phones anymore. Well…except insofar as the goddamn cell phone makes you pay for minutes and minutes and minutes that you’ll never use, lest ye be stranded by the side of a freeway 60 miles from home with no help in sight. All I want a car radio to do is PLAY WHATEVER THE GODDAMNED RADIO STATION IS BROADCASTING.

How hard is this?

For the nonce, I give up, by way of navigating Phoenix’s homicidal traffic without killing myself or any of my fellow crazies.

A couple of more efforts to fix it, after I reached a parking lot and later after I got the car back in its garage, failed. Ignominiously.

I now realize I’ll have to dig out the instructions from the THREE VOLUMES of driver’s manual…but later, please. Much later.

This morning I recall this annoyance, whilst bathing and getting dressed to go out. I think…maybe I should go by the Toyota place and ask them to put it back on “RADIO,” thereby giving me a chance to bellyache at the Toyota people. This, I realize, is an exercise in futility: discard that idea. Chuck the Wonder Mechanic’s place is just around the corner from the Toyota place: I could go by there and of course any of the young pups will know, instantly, how to work the damn thing.

That seems unduly lazy to me, though. Also it will make me look like an idiot…probably not an unfair characterization, but still…why advertise it?

I decide instead to shuffle through the owner’s manual’s voluminous index and try to figure out how to switch the accursed thing back to RADIO.

Yeah. Right.

Those three volumes that make up the Venza owner’s manual? ONE WHOLE VOLUME is dedicated to the complicated whack-shit audio system! Yes. TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY-TWO PAGES on how to use “AUDIO.”

For the love of God. All I want to do is listen to my cowboys crooning down from Wickenburg on the FM airwaves. Do I really have to paw through 232 pages of technobabble to accomplish that?

Well. Yes.

So after some difficulty I find the section explaining how to turn on the radio — which apparently is not what the system is designed to be used for — and discover the trick involves pressing a virtual button several ways from Sunday and then pressing some more choices that supposedly will pop up to get to a point where the thing will receive ordinary FM stations.

Jezus Aitch Keerist.

Honest to gawd, I wish I’d kept that Sienna and taken my chances with the alternator. Yes, waiting for the insurance company’s Roadside Disservice for five hours was exceptionally unacceptable. But…if I’d signed up for AAA — which I need to do anyway, obviously — and ponied up the cash for another unreliably rebuilt second-hand alternator, it would have cost one helluva lot less than the present endlessly annoying jalopy cost.

The damn thing is emblematic of all I hate about the 21st century and its digitization: a fair number of things — maybe most things — worked better in their analog formats.

No one should need 232 pages of instructions to turn on a fuckin’ radio.