Cars for Christmas
A white Lexus with a red bow in the driveway. It’s Christmas time and I keep seeing these ads with the pretty car and and an elated spouse and the whole happy family standing on the front lawn celebrating the best gift ever. Judging by the frequency of the ads, everybody is getting a car this year.
Somehow, my neighborhood has missed the trend. Stepping out onto my front lawn, and looking up and down the street, there’s a couple of Corollas, an older Chevy pickup, and my Jeep Liberty. The Lexuses in the neighborhood have faded paint and mismatched wheels. No red bows.
A brand new luxury car is an extravagant gift and the price of the big red bow is probably more than I will spend on my entire Christmas shopping list. We’re a family that buys socks for each other and calls it good.
Still, we’re car shopping right now. MSL drives an Isuzu SUV that is fifteen years old. It’s a smallish truck that remains completely reliable and fully functional and beautifully utilitarian, but nothing lasts forever. The right time to get rid of a car is just before the maintenance gets to be an ongoing headache, and at this age, this truck has to be just about there. I think there’s still a lot of life left in the old Rodeo, but it is time for MSL’s daily driver to be something safer and more efficient and, we hope, trouble-free for another 15 years.
Car shopping is a thing I love and car buying is a thing I hate, but the process is what it is and I’m resigned to it. It starts with internet searches and reading reviews and it is easy to get excited about a vehicle - the shiny pictures of people having fun on the beach with their car in the background, arriving in style at a concert venue - and the dreaming begins of how great life will be with this particular model.
Because I’m the man in the family I know more about cars than MSL does, and so I do most of the talking when we visit the dealerships. We walked into one showroom and I said to the gentleman who greeted us, “we’re looking for a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon” and somehow MSL new enough to poke me and say, “No. No we’re not”.
We looked at one model that has great reviews as the “driver’s SUV” and is absolutely gorgeous to look at, and when you pull up to the front door of the concert hall, everyone will think you’re in something sexy from Italy that costs a whole lot more. I sat in the driver’s seat and it seemed to close in around me snug and cozy like a perfect pair of gloves, and the ultra-modern controls were contained within an electronic screen which made the inside as sleek as the outside. If life were about arriving in style, we’d have bought it on the spot.
But our life isn’t about arriving in style. It’s about hauling potting soil and groceries and the materials for the project of the day. And the honest truth is that the last time I washed a car was about 1996 so we’d better get something that looks OK with dirt on it.
So far, we’ve driven four different models, sat in two others, and looked casually at yet another. There is a clear front-runner and an acceptable alternate, and others we need to see, yet. We’re looking for good gas mileage, good leg-room in the second row, enough usable space to fit a mountain bike inside, all wheel drive, safety, and a reputation for rock-solid reliability.
Whatever we decide, it probably won’t arrive in time for Christmas, and it won’t have a big red bow on top because the bow is a $1200 dealer-installed option and the bow-removal kit is another fifty bucks. The old Isuzu’s reliability means that there’s really no urgency to close a deal, but eventually we’ll want to make a decision and move on with life. I’ll let you know how it goes.