We bought a car yesterday!
For those of you who live in America, this may not seem all that momentous. Cars are a necessity, like housing and groceries, and most American adults have bought and sold several by the time they hit the ripe old age of 31.
New Yorkers have a different relationship to cars. In most parts of the city public transportation is more convenient than a car because you don’t have to figure out parking. It’s also considerably cheaper than owning a car. I’ve met quite a few born-and-bred New Yorkers who have simply never learned to drive, for the same reasons that most Americans can’t ride horses or fly helicopters.
But now Jenny’s work is taking her to Philadelphia, Princeton and other far-flung spots more days than not, so she needs a car. Yesterday was the first time that she or I ever bought one.
Jenny and I both drove plenty, of course, when we lived in California. She learned to drive in a green 1969 VW Van she called the Picklemobile, with manual shift and manual steering designed to strengthen the upper bodies of German Olympic hopefuls, and later moved on to a VW Golf. My first car was my dad’s old manual-shift Toyota Corona, a fine car that I drove until it finally caught fire on New Year’s Day of 1992, and after that I had a tiny red Toyota Tercel hatchback that if I took it up over 80 miles per hour would rattle and shake in a way that made me want to shout “Artoo…that, that stabilizer’s broken loose again! See if you can’t lock it down!” But neither of us actually bought or owned these cars, or figured out the insurance and registration. So for us, yesterday was a totally new experience.
Fortunately, car shopping has been transformed by the Internet. I remember once going with my parents to a dealership when I was very young, and how they were led into a windowless room to negotiate with a pushy salesman. The Internet has changed all that. With Carfax to tell you the each car’s history and Kelley Blue Book to quote the market value, there’s not much room for used-car dealers to screw you.
What dealers have to offer now is service and selection. Paragon Honda in Queens offered all that and treated us well. They showed us cars in our stated price range, gave us a fair price and went out of their way to be decent. When it turned out we couldn’t take possession of the car until Tuesday — a minor snafu with the registration because they’d only gotten the vehicle in that morning — they were braced for us to throw a tantrum, but we didn’t. They offered to rent us a car until then, and when we turned that down they dropped the price by the cost of four days’ rental.
So we are now the proud owners of a 2002 green Honda Accord LX 4-door sedan, just like the one pictured but with a rear spoiler. The review on Edmunds.com describes the 2002 Accord as “The benchmark. The best-selling car in America. The highest resale value in its class,” and goes on to say that “the Accord won a loyal base of customers by offering notable performance, room for four, frugal fuel economy and a virtual guarantee that, if cared for properly, it would never break.” After Jenny and I were married, we drove her mom’s Accord up the California coast. From around the same period and with over 100,000 miles on the odometer, it was the nicest, easiest, smoothest car I’d ever driven.
Now that we’ve got a car, we’ll have to start exploring the East Coast. New York tends to trap you, but a car means we can drive out to Delaware Water Gap, to little towns in Connecticut, to the Hudson Valley. We can hike. We can camp. We can get out of the city! Now all we have to do is figure out where to go.