One bonobo's view of the world...and stuff.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Doing my bit for global warming

As I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm temporarily green - using public transport to get to work on account of my car having been declared dead. The cost of repairs wouldn't be worth it.

God, I hate car buying. Thanks to a generous father-in-law, it turns out we can get something reasonably decent - so it's more or less a matter of just walking into a garage and saying 'Yeah, that looks OK.' So where's the stress? Well, I guess it's a matter of psychological and cultural baggage. Firstly, cars are meant to be a manly thing. But being a bit of a girly boy I neither know nor care about them and immediately feel at a disadvantage talking to dealers. Same as in pubs when folk talk about fitba. Then there's the whole sales negotiation thing. You're meant to show off your business acumen by getting a good deal. You go along with your Parker's Guide (the guide that tells you how much every model in every variation should be selling for), show that you know the market and have other options, walk away a few times, brazenly ask for £1k off, a free hi fi and a blow job...etc. etc. Frankly, though, the dealers are better at this sort of thing than I will ever be and I always walk away a) feeling slightly dirty and b) with a nagging feeling I've failed in my sacred duty not to be ripped off. I won't have been ripped off: I'll have a car that I'm content with and a loan I can afford.

For them's as gives a flying fuck, here are all the cars Cath and I have ever owned:
  • Cath's first car was a Ford Escort that cost about £200. She drove it about 6months, and then it went for scrap.
  • Then she got a lease car through her job - a Ford Fiesta.
  • My first car (we met on a residential driving course, and I was still taking lessons after we got together) was a Ford Sierra. When we moved to Scotland I didn't need a car and it sat outside our flat. There was a hairy moment when our street flooded and I had to start it up for the first time in three months (it worked...eventually...but the steering wheel had gone mouldy). I'd had a couple of self-inflicted bumps, so when I put it in for pre-selling insurance repairs, it was declared a write-off (soI got a better price than I otherwise would have).
  • Meantime, Cath had bought a VW Polo. That kept going for years...although for the last three or so the throttle return mechanism had been operated by a complex system of external springs and bailing wire. (Remind me to tell you that story).
  • About ten years ago we bought the Fiat Tipo (the one that's just been declared dead)
  • Three years ago we bought a very suburban Renault Scenic.

The advantage of getting to work by train/bus is that I can read and listen to my 'Pod. My current book is The Folding Star by Alan Hollingshurst. I'd had it on my shelf for years after a friend recommended it. It's utterly filthy - lots of hot man-on-man action - but rather good

I also get to read the free paper we get at stations. It's worth the cover price for the surreal letters page alone. Examples from today's edition:

"Someone spilt a large glass of dry white wine over me at the weekend and it soaked me. How can this be?"
"Depression is merely anger without the enthusiasm."
"My great uncle would sit out on the porch, whittling away at wood all day. One time he whittled me a boat out of a slightly larger wooden boat I had. It was almost as good as the original one, except it was covered in whittle marks and had no paint because he'd whittled it all off. That being said, my favourite uncle was Uncle Caveman. We called him that because he lived in a cave, and occasionally he would eat one of us. Later, we found out he was a bear."

There's been a stooshie at this year's Edinburgh Festival. Mel Smith plays Churchill in a play about a meeting between him and Michael Collins (The Irish revolutionary, not the Apollo 11 astronaut) and he's been complaining that Scottish law means he's not allowed to smoke a cigar on stage. I'm reminded of the famous story abou when Dustin Hoffman as playing alongside Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man. Before the famous dentist chair torture scene, Hoffmann was agonising overer his 'Method', about how he could really get inside the character and feel his pain. Larry said to him, "My dear boy! Why not just pretend?"

Also on the same theme, from the free paper:

"He might try smoking crushed coal and diesel fuel instead - I think the ban only covers tobacco products...You just need to think outside the box"


Blatherskite said...

Wow, dude. No wonder you have such a bad history with cars. FORD is actually an acronym for "fix or repair daily." And Renault is... well, it's French. They're great at wine, cheese, and rudeness, but they suck at technology.

BTW.. I recognized that whittling story and the caveman bit. They're both from an old 80's Saturday Night Live thing called "Deep Thoughts." Enjoy:

Edward the Bonobo said...

Dude back atca!

Actually...the Fords were fine. The first one was a known junker and wasn't needed for long. UK Fords are different to US ones. Sure, they're unreliable, but fixing them is easy and cheap. Any Essex boy can do it.

And there's absolutely nothing wrong with the Renault. In fact, I have my eye on a Peugeot or a Citroen.

Woodpigeon said...

I have a father in law who is very good at the car buying game. We normally drive around half the country going to every dealer and then make our decision who to target. Then he starts this act of mild interest with the dealer, trying not to show any real signs of enthusiasm. Looking around the car, he has this ability to find tiny faults and blow them up to shuttle disaster proportions. He's really good at this. I kind of look around in the background, shuffling my feet and saying intelligent things like "Er" when asked for my opinion on what is going on.

My current car is a Ford, and I am very happy with it. It looks like I'll be driving it into the ground though..

Edward the Bonobo said...'s sid my many that USAnian automotive technology is way behind Europe and Japan. least at the affluent end of the market...frequently get their new cars through leasing deals, hire purchase and relatively (by worldwide standards) low-interest loans. Thus there is a high turnover of cars and reliability isn't an issue. Neither is genuine innovation: The ever-changing new models tend to be minor variants with ever more bells and whistles.

Can I borrow your uncle, Woodpigeon?

Edward the Bonobo said...


taliesin said...

FORD also means, 'Found On Road, Dead'

I recently purchased a 17-year-old Buick. It was a trade-in at the local Toyota dealership. The thing is a bit larger than I would prefer, and has a boringly white paint job, but was a very well-maintained one-owner, (a little old man -- really!), and is in excellent condition. Surprisingly economical, too!

I'd rather ride a motorcycle..

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Ugh. I hate talking about cars. I worked for ten years in automotive repair, as a service manager. Even still, I am forever being consulted when someone needs a battery or gasket or spark plugs changed.

Kelly and I have a 2000 Ford Escort which he bought new and has never had a major problem other than being towed from an illegal parking spot. ;-)

I only ever owned one car. I bought a used 1986 Volvo 240 GL in 1990 and some moron crashed into it while it was parked in 1994. When it dies, it had over 400K miles and the original engine, electrical and exhaust. I loved that car. Too bad she had such a shitty stereo.

I love the Pikachu car, BTW.

Good luck getting the new car. And I don't think you're THAT girly of a man. Your chest is waaaaay too hairy.


Anonymous said...

PS- the car we have now was just paid off this past February. So, reliability and maintenance are somewhat important. But it's true that a lot of folk trade theirs in before they're paid off, so reliability isn't so much of an issue then. When I was in grade and high school, my best friend's parents traded their car in every two years.

That always seemed like a really unsound financial move. Now that we've paid this baby off, I'm hoping she lives another five years.

-PC (that was me just before, too)

Blathers said...

American cars are behind the Japanese when it comes to reliability. They're behind the Germans, too. But other than that, they're kicking butt on all comers. I had a base-model economy Chevy Cavalier I bought brand new and motored along happily in for nearly ten years. I'd still be doing so if some idiot hadn't failed to look right at a 2-way stop. The most significant mechanical failure it had before then was the lock for the glove box.

There is truth that a lot of the high-end market is buying cars for 2-year leases. Corporations buy fleet cars on the same sort of arrangement. After that, the rest of the market buys them, and that's where the concept of reliability kicks in. Auto dealers here in the US do more of their business on selling used models than on new ones. If you're a manufacturer and your cars have a bad history, no dealer wants to deal with you. If nobody carries your cars, you're not going to sell any.

For instance, my current primary car is an '03 Toyota I bought two years ago on that sort of arrangement. I bought it at a Honda dealer, and the salesman told me he sells fewer Hondas than any other model. It's not that Hondas sell badly, it's just that people come in looking for a new car and end up choosing a slightly-used trade-in, like I did.

Edward the Bonobo said...

Whatever...Peugeot it is. A big shiny Diesel. It has two extra seats right in back which we don't really need, but which will occasionally come in handy. Plus bells and whistles like electrically-adjusting everything. I was quite in the mood for being blatant with salesmen, but I'm sure I could still have got a better deal if I weren't such a wuss.

We also liked a slightly older Volvo - but Volvos will run and run, and they're hard to dent. But that was more expensive again.

Still...hassle almost over. I've arranged a loan, via the miracle that is Motley Fool (site giving financial advise to the bewildered), and all I need to do is get a test drive and put on my best poker face.