Coffee heat rising

Next on the Agenda…

…is buying a car. Happy day.

Over at The Savvy Scott, Pauline describes her recent purchase of a Hyundai Tucson with 140,000 miles (!) on it. Pauline, the proprietor of Reach Financial Independence, evidently lives in Guatemala and decided to buy a car through an auction house in Orlando while vacationing in Florida, the costs being significantly lower and the chance of getting a decent car significantly higher when one buys in the US.

LOL! To say you’re less likely to get ripped off in Florida is to say something startling about Guatemala, eh? 😀

Later models of the Tucson are indeed very nice — it’s among those I’ve been considering — and Pauline is very pleased with her find. And she got a good price on it by purchasing at auction.

I’ve never bought a second-hand car from a dealer. My ex- and I got our Mercedes second-hand, but we bought it from one of his law partners. We knew where the guy lived. 😉 The prospect of coping with a used car salesman makes me shudder, and I can’t even imagine the risks entailed in buying at auction.

But given the outrageous cost of new cars, and the fact that they’re mostly equipped with so much unnecessary electronic frou-frou that you have to go back to school to learn now to drive one, I’m considering the possibility of a used car. One of my friends knows a car broker. If I can get him to give me a referral to that gent (and I don’t hate the gent), I’ll probably see if he can get me a late-model Toyota that comes with a six-banger.

Pauline points out all the perceived joys of buying second-hand: lower cost, less depreciation, lower insurance costs. In Arizona, we can add lower registration taxes, since these drop as a car ages. I can pay registration out of cash flow now; I’d have to draw down from savings to register a newer vehicle.

On the other hand…

If you drive your car until it falls apart, it will run for ten to twenty years (depending on how much you drive and how well you care for the vehicle). An old junker will have to be replaced in less than ten years — possibly less then five.

If you drive a car for ten years, you have ample time to set aside “car payments” in savings, accumulating enough to pay for the next car in cash.

If you buy new and keep the car for ten to fifteen years, depreciation is irrelevant. A reliable vehicle, such as a Toyota or a Honda, will give you your money’s worth over that period.

Over a fifteen-year lifetime, the cost of insurance and registration will drop into the sub-basement, whereas if you buy a five-year-old car every five years, these costs will never decrease significantly.

New cars tend to be safer, because they have up-to-date safety technology and because key components like brakes will not fail from age.

New cars come with warrantees, usually for 100,000 miles. Junkers do not — they’re pretty much guaranteed to cost you money for repairs.

A Hyundai that has 140,000 miles on the odometer may run for another 60,000 miles, give or take. That’s not very far. It certainly isn’t if you live in the US. Possibly it would be a good buy if you lived someplace that had decent public transit and amenities such as grocery stores within walking distance. But that certainly is not true in most US cities. Here, such a vehicle would be penny-wise and pound-foolish.

While I surely do resent having to pay more for a new car than my first house cost, I’m also uncomfortable with the downsides of buying a used vehicle.

I dunno. Maybe I’ll just get the Dog Chariot’s brakes fixed and try to coax it to run to 200,000 miles.

Car Shopping

Toyota_Venza_--_NHTSA_2So this afternoon while cruising back into town after a meeting with a graphic designer, I decide to get off the I-17 at Bell Road, where there’s a long strip of car dealerships. The Toyota dealership up there is significantly less sleazy and more customer-friendly than the mid-town outfit, and I want to test-drive the Venza.

After lengthy standing around and gassing with the sales guy, this comes to pass. As a matter of fact, I get to drive both both the four-banger and the six, the salesman (being male) having decided that the Little Woman couldn’t possibly tell the difference.

Well, this little old lady can. And yeah, I still do prefer the six. Heh heh…50 to 90 in less time than it takes to draw a deep breath.

I like the Venza. It’s a pleasant car, modestly luxurious, sort of like a tall, bloated Camry. But I found myself thinking the same thing that I think about the newer Camry: it’s cramped in there.

Maybe it’s not the car; maybe it’s me. After fifteen years of driving a Sienna, maybe I’ve just become spoiled to all that extra space.

One other thing I didn’t care for about the Venza — or about the Tacoma pickup — is that when the back seats fold down, they don’t fit flush against anything. A gap remains between the folded-down seat back and the floor…and that gap is big enough for a corgi to fall into. Or for a bigger dog to stumble into and break a leg. Thanks, but no thanks.

I looked at a Sienna on the lot. Very nice. It doesn’t seem to have undergone much of a redesign since the 2000 model I’m still flogging across the roads. EXCEPT…it’s now billed as an eight-passenger vehicle. That would mean they must have an extra bench seat at the back, or else they’ve installed two more captain’s chairs. That presumably would make the vehicle longer than mine, which about fills up the garage. Since my washer & dryer are in the garage, the Sienna I’ve got is about as long as a vehicle can be and still fit in there.

The Sienna’s seats can be removed. And when you do that — as I’ve done with three of the four back seats in mine — you end up with a VAST cargo space. It really is awesome. You can carry just about anything in the back of a Sienna once you’ve taken out the seats. And it’s flat, so you can either let a dog run around in there or you can pack in a couple of dog crates (more than a couple, actually).

So I may go back later and revisit the Sienna. In a way, it’s a perfect compromise between a pickup and a passenger vehicle: plenty of room to haul gear and critters, and yet a comfortable ride.

Heh. Maybe I really do want a pickup. All that business about the proposed Ram 1500 was a bit of a joke. But…hey. The Ram has a crew cab with back seats that fold up, leaving you with a large interior space to stash dog cages or loose dogs, to say nothing of whatever other junk you’d like to haul around without leaving it out for passing sticky fingers. Plus its back seats are said to be comfortable with plenty of leg room and the ride is said to be car-like.

Still. It’s awfully large. And the price is high.

Not at all crazy about the Toyota’s dashboard. Honest to God. I do not want to go back to school for a bachelor’s in aviation technology to learn to drive the damn car. There is just too much computerized clutter in that thing.

For one thing, I personally do not need or want an animated electronic map. I know which way is north. And I rarely get lost.

I’m sure the GPS map distraction would be handy if you lived in the older cities of the East. But if you live anyplace in the Southwest that’s been heavily influenced by Mormons, then you live in a city or town that’s laid out in a grid. North/south; east/west. Such a city is extremely easy to navigate, and it’s almost impossible to get lost, unless you get into one of the ill-designed suburbs with swirling, serpentine residential streets.

Nor do I wish to have to point and click or tap a screen to operate the radio — one that offers an image of real radio controls. Why can’t I just have a real radio? Why can’t I have analogue everything, come to think of it? I don’t want to have to fiddle with a computer to turn on the air conditioner or unlock the doors.

Please. All I need is a key to turn the thing on (a button is cute, but…why?), a switch to turn the heat and air-conditioner on and off, a switch to turn the headlights on and off, a switch to lock and unlock the doors, a button to open and close the windows, a switch to turn on the radio, and a dial to tune in my favorite NPR and cowboy stations and no I do not need and am not going to pay for satellite radio.

What a curmudgeon, huh?

Maybe what I really need is a horse.

Why i hated teaching…and why the whole credit thing is ridiculous

So, there’s a really bad blog headline, and here’s an even worse lede. 😉  Oh well. Spent about a third of the afternoon being reminded of why teaching f/t drove me batshit. Then went over to the credit union and was reminded of how bizarrely absurd (that’s “ridiculous,” dear Google bots) America’s credit rating and lending systems are.

Ridiculousness the First: My friend, the director of Heavenly Gardens’ journalism program, is trying to persuade the county’s junior college district, whose kingdom is VAST, to let her change the thrust of the program to include…well, some inkling of the future. She wants to teach digital media in addition to the old-fashioned, dying art of buggy-whip manufacture that is the content of most of our journalism courses.

This seems pretty reasonable, doesn’t it?

Print media are rapidly subsiding into irrelevance.
To keep our journalism programs alive, we are going to have to get with the times.
Getting with the times means adapting to the digital environment.
Therefore we need to teach journalism in digital media.

So sane. So easy. So fuckin’ impossible.

To pull this off, she has had to politick ALL OVER THE FREAKING DISTRICT, a monster entity, yea verily a GIANT SQUID that engrosses a territory larger than the City and County of Los Angeles. It has taken her months. Beeee-caause…wouldncha know it, the multitudinous campuses are full of aging faculty who a) do not want to learn a whole new approach to their subjects and b) most CERTAINLY do not want to have to rewrite their courses to fit the present reality, because (alas!) that would mean work.

You don’t even want to know the amount of work the woman has done to shove through the simplest, most commonsensical, most critical-to-the-district-programs’-survival strategy.

I know, because I’ve done this kind of thing myself, back when I worked f/t for the Great Desert University. If you are the entrepreneurial type, in any degree whatsoever, you are living in some kind of Hell when you endeavor to bring your talent and foresight into the field of teaching.


So that went on until almost 2 p.m. Many changes will be made in the magazine-writing course, all of them, IMHO, for the better.

From there, it was off to the credit union, for Ridiculousness the Second.

My car continues its odyssey toward oblivion. Its engine is now making crapping-out noises. I must buy a new car. I want a Toyota Venza with cream-colored leather seats and walnut dashboard trim and a six-banger. This is, in a word (or two), not cheap.

The credit union lady informed me that my credit score is 819 (take that!!!) and blithely qualified me for an astonishing $32,000. Kelly Blue Book says the Dog Chariot is worth around $2700. I probably can conjure a down payment of something between five and ten grand without having to raid savings. Interest rate is 2.2% at the CU.

I’m told some dealerships around here are still offering 0% interest.

So, the plan is this: even though I have enough cash, in theory, to pay for this thing out of pocket, it would be better at 0% to have Fidelity disburse the monthly payment, thereby leaving principal in investments, where it belongs.

I do not happen to believe that the Republicans will change their spots, and so expect within the next four to eight years to see investments go down the tubes again. But nevertheless would like to delay drawdowns to the extent possible. So, it looks like borrowing and paying out of the car-savings pot will be the strategy, especially if a 0% rate is forthcoming.

And now I must publish this without proofreading the thing because it’s almost time to race out the door for the evening event.

More to come…

Car to Chuck’s: Pray for a LONG Life

Toyota_Sienna_--_07-09-2009Welp, the car is (belatedly) down at Chuck’s Auto Service, there to be refreshed for another year of survival.

Very nearly missed my chance: the ole Dog Chariot was supposed to arrive in his precincts at 8 a.m. But…a disadvantage of laying flat on your back day after day is that your computer is plugged into a bedroom outlet. After I let the dog out at dawn, I crawled back into the sack and started working on a client’s work.

The nose stayed on the grindstone till about 9 a.m., when I got hungry. Stumbled out to get the paper and was reminded of the leaking sprinkler head in front. Staggered back to the phone to call Gerardo and ask him to come fix it. He asked cuando? Looked at the calendar… Uh oh!

Called Chuck’s: Pete answered; said to bring it right down.

Flew toward the shop; turned around, flew back to the house to check to be sure I’d turned the fire off under the water kettle (whose contents I had imagined would be used to make coffee…); jumped back in the car; flew toward the shop.

Chuck drove me home and will bring the car back later today. This was good, in its way: it allowed him to get an earful of the squealing brakes. They just DID a brake job a few months ago.

Sort of. I think it was last in for an oil change in…uhm…January.

I’ve been putting off service because I thought I would buy a new car this summer. Then when all this medical sh!t  fell on my head, shopping for a car was out of the question.

And now buying a new car this summer or any time in the near future is out of the question. All the money I’d planned to use to buy the car is going to the Mayo Clinic.

Driving homeward, I said to Chuck that I need for the thing to run at least another two or three  years; possibly another five.

I’ve never owned a car this old! It is 14 years old. Still running like a top, though.

Well, that may not be true…the Mercedes may have been older. The number that sticks in my mind is 13 years; but it could have been longer. It also was running (expensively) well. The only reason we traded it in was the switch to unleaded gas. The thing ran on leaded, and we were told that unleaded would wreck the engine and we eventually would have to install a new one, which would cost as much as buying a new vehicle.

CeyBenz1972What a shame! It was SUCH a wonderful car, so beautiful…and holy MACKEREL the power that thing had! It was slow from a standing start, but at 65 mph all you had to do was breathe on the gas pedal and suddenly you’d be at 85. You have  never seen such acceleration in a big old galumphing sedan with walnut and leather trim.

Heh. We traded it in on a Toyota and never looked back.

Whatever. This year there’ll be no RAM  1500 with four doors and a six-banger for me.

On the other hand, every year I can put off buying a new car makes it more likely that the next vehicle will be the last one I’ll ever have to buy. So that’s good. I’ve got cash to buy one more car, but not enough to spring for two.

Hm. Maybe the next car should be a Mercedes…


 whoa there! Wait. a. minnit.

For less than it would cost to get this:



I could get this:



Well, by golly. Every cloud has a silver lining, doesn’t it?


w00t! New Car SCORED!

Ford_Escape_XLSMy son’s, that is. Over the weekend, M’hijito drove up to Wickenburg, a small tourist trap about 55 miles from town, and bought himself a Ford Escape. And yesh, I was amazed that he went for an American car, since his tribe has been burned enough times by the things to make us all leery.

However, it’s a beautiful car, and he got an incredible deal, making it possible to afford a passel of bells and whistles, including leather upholstery(!). And I have to admit that Ford and Chevrolet are getting much better reviews than they used to — Edmunds and the other big reviewers do like the Escape.

Amazingly, he managed to wangle a 0%, no-money-down loan on the thing!

The beauty of this is that he’s been setting aside the equivalent of a car payment for the past few years, hoping to accrue enough to buy a vehicle in cash before his clunk craps out. Said kitty is invested in a Vanguard fund. What this means is that he’ll be able to withdraw just enough to pay the tab each month, while the balance of his car savings continues to earn interest.

This will allow him to continue investing that amount out of his cash flow. By the time the car is paid for, he’ll have at least as much in hand and probably more.

Probably more, because this is type of guy who’s likely to use whatever windfalls that come along to prepay principal, thereby accelerating the loan payoff.

Okay, that’s good, eh?

Well, it gets even more amazing.

With a printout of the Kelly Blue Book valuation, he actually managed to make money on the clunk!

Said clunk was falling apart and needed $1700 worth of repairs just to keep it running. Its previous owner wrecked it not once, but twice; owner’s dad and insurance company had it repaired, but still… 🙄

Its paint was pocked in the hailstorm we had a couple years ago and never repaired. M’hijito collected from the insurance company and pocketed the money…or, more likely, stashed the money in the car purchase fund.

It had something else happen to it — can’t remember what — for which M’hijito pocketed another insurance payment.

The car came to him through one of his dad’s law partners, whose son drove it through high school and then left it behind when he went off to college. Dad’s Partner wanted the unsightly thing gone from his driveway and so practically gave it away.

The dealer, of course, tried to lowball him on the trade-in. But when M’hijito waved the Kelly Blue Book printout in the air, voilà! To get him to drive that Escape off the lot, they offered him top dollar for the clunk!

So he figures that, in balance, he made about $2000 on the thing over the altogether too many years he’s been driving it.

And what about my own schemes to buy a new car?

Oh…I don’t know…and of course, when in doubt, don’t.

The Dog Chariot is still running well. Chuck the Wonder-Mechanic thinks it will go at least another 30,000 to 80,000 miles, relatively trouble-free. It’s so old, the registration gouge is now practically nil, and insurance premiums are also very low. It has a six-banger under the hood that goes a long way toward keeping me marginally safe on the homicidal streets of Phoenix, and the mileage said six-banger gets is not significantly worse than any other cross-over’s, even the now ubiquitous four-bangers.

All of these factoids make my craving for a new crossover or pickup look a lot more like a want than a need.

But given that I can afford a “want” — and if I could wangle a 0% loan myself, I could more than afford it — that Escape is pretty attractive.

The Honda CR-V, whose interior is even nicer and which really is a very pleasant vehicle, comes only with a four-banger. No upgrade is available, and a little four-cylinder engine…well. Not around here, thanks. KJG’s daughter and son-in-law, both of whom are engineers, bought one of the things and then thought better of it. They both have to commute on the freeways, and they found the CR-V underpowered for the purpose. They traded it in on a vehicle that would give them a fighting chance in the traffic.

I’m a fairly assertive driver, even in my old age, and I do not like being shoved around by the SOBs who populate the local roads. A car has gotta have enough power to give me some action when I need it.

The Escape also comes equipped with a four-cylinder engine. However, Ford has two turbo-charged versions that, according to Edmunds, provide acceptable power — one will crank out 240 hp — with little damage to the mileage ratings.  Price is comparable to the fancified versions of the Honda.

So that makes the vehicle a lot more attractive.

The only thing, really, that takes away from it are the letters F-O-R-D:





 1967 Ford Lemon
The Car of My Nightmares