Sunday, June 08, 2014

[Cars] Carpocalpyse

So my car is officially toast.  Not unusable, but it makes no economic sense to repair it.  It needs a new catalytic converter, ~$800, which left unrepaired just means I have a permanent check engine light and I get to pollute the environment.  I can live with that.  But the oil-burning problem is not going to go away without an engine rebuild or replacement, ~$3000.  The blue book on the car in perfect condition is $3500, so I think it’s time to give up.  I’m fortunate that it is still drivable, just have to add a quart of oil every 1000 miles or so.

I have cast out a lifeline on Craigslist to see if anyone is willing to do an engine rebuild at a price that will make it worthwhile, but I do not have high hopes.  So I am officially in the market, seriously this time.

Unlike in the past when I would have only ever considered a Toyota, it is not my first choice this time around.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, my car has less than 200k miles.  While that sounds like a lot to us old timers, it’s really not all that special for contemporary cars. I consider needing a rebuild at 200k only average from a durability standpoint.  It’s not like it’s a fragile, high-end German sports sedan. It’s a Camry. It should be like a cockroach.

Second, this was my second Camry and honestly, it was a step down from the first.  The first one was a ‘93, the legendary third-generation model (V30) that was released roughly at the same time Lexus was getting going and Toyota had gone ballistic in the quality department.  That car was quiet and steady as a tomb.  The current one, while always reliable, did not have the build quality of that earlier model -- a squeak here, a rattle there.  It’s level of comfort was high, as I discovered every time I got back into it after a week in a rental, but it was achieved less through solidity than cush.

[I just realize this is going to turn into an excessive rant, you may want to back out now.  Fair warning.]

So it was (is) a good, but unspectacular car.  Maybe I’m spoiled.  I’m told the latest generation Camry -- that would be the 5th -- has stepped up in quality, so maybe I should keep an open mind.  But a couple of contacts who I respect as far as auto knowledge have gone over to Honda as the most durable and reliable brand.

I test drove an Accord a few years back and was really unimpressed with the ride quality.  Maybe that has changed.  But the Honda that kind of appeals to me is the CRV.  Price-wise, the Hondas I’d be interested in are base model CRV or Accord.  I’m still in the prelim stage; narrowing my selections based on web research.

The other half of the equation is selling my Camry.  The perfect situation would be to trade in, but that would be sub-optimal price-wise.  It’s got pretty much new tires, and I’ll get it detailed.  I can clear the check engine light easily enough and keep the oil topped off, so if I was a dishonest guy I could dump it on to some unsuspecting soul.  I don't want to do that, though, which means I’d be selling it on my own knowing full well it needs more repairs than its value.  Not likely going to get a high price anyway, so I may as well just trade it in and haggle with the dealer over it.  At least the dealer can get stuff fixed at cost and possibly turn a profit.

An added wrinkle is what to do about Sirius.  Many years ago, possibly as many as 15, I splurged on a lifetime subscription to Sirius.  I fretted over the decision but it turned out to be one of the smartest things I ever did.  Since then, for something more a decade, I had Sirius in my car with no monthly fee.  Now, I have had to use aftermarket receivers that plug into the aux jack, but that’s fine.  The only time it cost me any money wa when I had to transfer my subscription to a new receiver.  I think I did that once and it cost $75.  Over the course of the years I bet I have saved in excess of $600 over the usual monthly subscription price.  But that was because I had external receivers.  New cars have Sirius-ready radios and that means that a) I’ll be dropping another $75 subscription transfer fee and b) I don’t get to transfer again after that, since Sirius doesn't allow transferring a lifetime subscription from an in car unit (a policy which, as far as I’m concerned, is pure bollocks and should garner the attention of the FCC).  Now this is not a big deal really. As we know, I keep cars for over a decade so I would still have my free access for a very long time.  But for the car after this one, I’ll have to move to the subscription model.  I can only hope technology provides a solution and I can move away from Sirius to some other free model.  Or better yet I will have an unlimited data plan and just use Pandora.  So I guess this isn't really much of an issue after all.  Forget this last paragraph.

A sobering thought:  There is a good chance that this will be the last car I drive.  If I keep it 12 years I will be 65 when I move on. Oh, I may own another car after this one, but it will likely be driverless.  Maybe 50-50 odds on whether my new model year 2026 car would require human intervention to function.Meanwhile, I’ll be spending a few Sundays trolling the car lots; gathering intel when the annoying salesmen aren’t around. As it stands I am one fo those people who HATE buying cars.  So this may take a while.