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Oh, It’s Tuesday: Committing to a New Car

Photo Credit: Tim Wang

Photo Credit: Tim Wang

So a few weeks ago someone broke into CH’s 80s-era diesel Mercedes, which runs on vegetable oil, and destroyed the door lock. When CH went in to get an estimate on how much it would cost to repair it, it was pretty hefty due to a series of reasons which I was told but promptly forgot and don’t care to be relearn b/c I find car talk boring (unless listening to “Car Talk” on NPR — that’s an awesome show!).

So we started thinking about getting a new car for CH. This decision was sealed when CH drove my Ford Escape Hybrid the 10 days we were apart while Betty and I traveled to NYC, then to St. Louis to introduce her to my family. He fell to the siren call of having power locks, rear parking assist, a radio (his was stolen), and a navigation system. And when he came to join us in St. Louis, I was informed of his desire to get a new car almost as soon as he climbed into my sister’s Ford Escape — yes my sister and I pretty much have the same car, with the same exterior and interior colors. The only thing is that hers isn’t a hybrid. In fact, when we went to pick her up from the hairdresser there was a funny 10 minutes when CH was trying to start the car only to have the wheel lock on him and the security system go on. We couldn’t figure out why the car wouldn’t start and we tried everything. We were just about to call a tow truck when CH realized … he was using his key to my Ford Escape.

But getting back to the car-buying present, when we got back to LA, CH drove his mom’s car (she’s visiting his sister and other grandchildren in Texas right now), while the Mercedes sat there like a girlfriend that hadn’t yet been informed that she was being broken up with. The MIL gets back tonight, so by this past weekend the search for a new car had reached a fever pitch.

CH really wanted his car to have a lot of sexy (to parents) bells and whistles like 360 parking assist, lane control, heads-up display, size (w/o feeling like a monster on the road), and style. So we went to Lexus of Glendale, since he bought the sports car that he drove before we got married from them and had been really happy with their no-pressure customer service and their coffee machine — what? We looked at the hybrid RX 350h, which is an SUV, but it didn’t have lane control, so we decided that m/b we should get a sedan. So then we went and looked at a diesel Jetta, which could be converted to run on vegetable oil but didn’t have any of the safety bells and whistles.

So then went and looked at Audis, which friends we trust had recently purchased after a long and involved car search. The Audi Q7 had all of the bells of whistles and a third row¬† back seat (which would be convenient for out of town guests), but it also had a vague waiting time (between two weeks and months) — not cool, as neither of us are the kind of shoppers that respond to popularity. Either you have what you’re advertising or you don’t. Otherwise we move on to someone else who does. So back to Lexus.

We decided to test drive the 2010 Lexus sedan hybrid at Longo Lexus, because they had a large selection of sedans listed on their website. But when we got out there, it turned out that they only had one hybrid sedan for sale with a light-colored interior, which won’t work when you have a kid that’s only going to get messier with age. It felt like bait and switch. Also, we didn’t like the sedan as much as we had liked the SUV. Also, the sales guy didn’t seem to know what half the controls did when we asked about them, and at one point he joked that cars had too many controls these days. We looked at him blankly. As gadget nerds we just couldn’t compute the meaning of “too many controls.”

So back to Lexus of Glendale. Another sales guy who we had never met recognized us as soon as we walked in (interracial couple paradigm) and actually said, “Oh, you were with Michael Lee. I’ll go get him.” We loved that the salesmen didn’t undercut each other to get the sale, and when Michael Lee showed up we told him that we were back, but now wanted to test drive the regular Lexus RX350 after determining that a hybrid was perfect for me as I rarely go further than Pasadena these days, but not so much for CH who does mostly highway driving, since he works in Hollywood.

We loved the RX, but ended up getting in an interesting conversation as we were tooling around Glendale. We had missed out on the last sales event, and the December sales event involved great leasing deals. We had meant to buy, but here’s the thing, CH has never kept a car more than 3 years. I mean ever. And he turned 40 this year. The conversation could basically be summed up as this.

CH: But I’ve always bought, b/c that’s what you’re supposed to do.

etc: I love you, but I don’t think you are capable of committing to a car for 5 years. I think we should think about leasing, b/c something else will come along (like electric) and you’ll want that.

CH: You’re right. Let’s throw away everything we’ve been told about buying cars and lease.

The thing is there’s conventional wisdom (which says it’s a waste of money to lease) and then there’s a thorough examination of you’re own personality. Though CH is the most loyal person I know, the fact is he’s never driven the same car for more than three years. We decided that it’s cheaper to lease for three years than to be upside down on a car. Also, in three years, we’ll have a definite answer on whether the now very-hypothetical third child is a go and if needs be, we’ll be able to upgrade to a car that better suits our needs.

2009-Lexus-RX-350-SUV-Base-4dr-Front-wheel-Drive-Exterior-1So for now we’re the proud leasers of a 2010 RX350 and strangely enough, CH says he’s never felt better about a car purchase for himself. It seems like he’s always had a leasing personality, but was never willing to admit it.

How about you? Have there been any personality traits that you didn’t acknowledge or realize until you were past your navel-gazing twenties? Also, we’d be interested to hear from others who have leased cars.

The Happy Passenger,

etc

P.S. — The gadget I like most so far is a toggle stick, which allows both the driver and the passenger to control the radio/navigation system from the console and makes me feel like I’m in the cockpit of a spaceship. Nice!