Perhaps the word decided is a euphemism for the word ‘forced’ as after 14 years of faithful service of my 1999 Ford Escort, the old girl finally gasped her last breath while I was halfway to Lethbridge on the highway.
In my line of work, your vehicle is your lifeline unless you have visions of riding a bicycle to go cover the 35th anniversary of the Vauxhall mixed slo-pitch tournament or the 100th birthday anniversary in Retlaw like I did this past weekend.
I have been saying for the last couple of years I was going to get a new(er) car, but the comfort of buying that Ford locally had stuck with me.
I had friends with much newer cars than my own who were encountering some hiccups with their cars so I liked the feeling of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ As much as my Escort had its charms of a ripped-off side mirror from punk kids in Lethbridge, a side that was dented from a drunk coming out of a bowling alley parking lot (according to eyewitnesses which was never prosecuted), a windshield that had more cracks than a senator’s reputation, and a tape deck featuring Bad Religion’s greatest hits, I could say I really never encountered any huge problems mechanically with that Ford Escort, besides your regular maintenance or the odd fix once in a blue moon that never reached more than a few hundred dollars.
Is constantly having a newer car a nice feeling?
Of course, but so was that feeling of never having any car payments which translated to a few more nights out with friends, letting the hair down a little more on vacations and keeping my closet full of my trademark novelty T-shirts. I guess it’s all about what your priorities are.
My mechanic Verl always told me about when to decide to buy a new car was finding that sweet spot. If your monthly maintenance of an older car is still lower than a monthly car payment than you are still in that sweet spot if you’re comfortable in your car.
And I was quite comfortable in my Escort, where my sweet spot was hitting home run after home run in getting where I needed to go.
Those 14 years featured more trips to Great Falls, Lethbridge, Calgary, Medicine Hat and as far out as Edson, as I could remember where I arrived safely each and every time with no mechanical problems.
My car still turned over in the harshest of winters 99 per cent of the time, never stalled and I think I blew one tire in those 14 years.
My car wasn’t the prettiest thing to look at, but boy was she reliable……until that fateful Sunday.
Upon hearing the repair bill would likely creep well into the multiple thousands, it was time for the retirement home as the sweet spot was no more.
So while Movin’ On Up a la the Jeffersons, perhaps the fish wasn’t frying in the kitchen, or the beans weren’t burning on the grill, but I did make it up that hill and went to the east side of town to Chinook Chrysler.
I had no plans of preferring one local dealership over another other than I knew someone there in Stevie Turcato, who was a former co-worker and so the comfort level was there in dealing in a situation I hadn’t done in 14 years and I didn’t want that intimidation factor. Plus, as I scanned the used inventory of all the local dealerships, a particular vehicle stood out to me as far as a solid price went and was also a vehicle a fellow co-worker has in which they’ve been quite happy with their purchase.
As intimidating as I thought the process was going to be, let’s put it this way, it took me all of two days to seal the deal and the best part was I can say I bought local both times I’ve bought cars here in my journalism career. It’s easy to say just buy local if you have the financial means to do so, but for those making more moderate income like myself, those few extra thousands of dollars you may save buying elsewhere can be a big deal.
Those two days did involve Internet research until the wee hours looking for recalls, comparison shopping across the province, reviews from normal people, not Motortrend snobs, and a quick once over from my trusted mechanic, and everything was positive. Price-wise, the only comparisons I could find of the same year and model for similar money were bare bones with tens of thousands more kilometres on them than the one I was looking at.
I finally decided on a 2012 Sport Jeep Compass which barely had double-digit kilometres on it with plenty of extended warranty left on it.
It was almost like buying new. For about the same price, I could have bought a brand new lower-end car that was bare bones, but I figured if I could get a car that still had most of its warranty left on it and some perks could be thrown in at the same time, why not.
Perhaps modest dreams compared to some trucks out there that cost the same as a sizable down payment on a nice house, but you have to understand where I’m coming from.
You can suffer from tendonitis rolling down your windows so much to talk to someone or fishing that garbled tape out of your tapedeck with a knife like I have.
Getting power everything, automatic transmission, remote start, heated seats, 4X4 capability, extended warranty etc. for about the same price as my Ford Escort all those years ago when you factor in inflation, I felt like I should, comparatively speaking, be wearing a feathered fedora hat, gold on my grill for my front teeth and strutting around with a jewel-encrusted walking stick with how I pimped my ride.
Welcome to the 21st century Buck Rogers and ditch the 8-track.
I cannot honestly tell someone just shop local if it means thousands upon thousands of dollars more out of your pocket, but if you can get a price that is at least comparable or a really good deal, I don’t know why you wouldn’t.
Any issues that may pop up, I’m sure you can get resolved easier in a small town than if you had the vehicle freighted from 500 kilometres away.
And as anyone who lives in a small town knows, word travels fast, both good and bad — it’s imperative in smaller markets like Taber that they strive to go the extra mile if they don’t want that bad word to circulate.
All I would suggest if you are looking for another vehicle is talk to someone at one of the local dealerships that you are comfortable with and go from there. And if you decide to make a trek down the street to visit Stevie — tell her Greg sent you.