I like cars. Nice cars, old cars, cars that I cannot afford. I would dearly love to own a Ferrari one day – though I admit the likelihood of such a thing is minimal to non-existent. That being said, I still enjoy watching Top Gear and seeing the exquisite offerings from Audi, Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc…
A guy can dream.
I learned to drive in my father’s vehicles – a 1984 Dodge Ram and his 3 mile long Lincoln Town Car. The truck was more fun to drive, but the Lincoln handled better (though you always felt like you were driving an aircraft carrier). When I got my license at 17 (I wasn’t in any hurry), I generally drove the truck around. It was big, got horrible mileage, and was entirely more vehicle than I needed to get to work and school.
I loved it.
Sadly, I had an accident in it my first year at college and the truck died shortly thereafter. Amazingly, my parents took me off to the Airport Motor Mile here in Knoxville to look at cars. While the prospect of a new car was, of course, welcome I was a bit downcast when I realized we were looking at Geos. If you have never seen one, nor heard of one, they were a budget brand created by Chevy in the early ’90’s. They would get you around, but you were not going to look good doing it. My contribution to the cause was requesting the 4 door model versus the 2.
In all fairness to my folks, having killed the truck I am still thankful they were willing to buy me a new car – albeit a decidedly unglamorous one.
I drove that sucker for 8 years.
In 2003 I decided it was time to buy myself a new(ish) car. My father had been driving a bright orange Mustang around in Atlanta for a while and had let me drive it while visiting. I was hooked. I started looking into used Mustangs and found a well-kept 1998 model with only 50k miles on it. It was a manual transmission, but I had a friend who was a mechanic and could both check the car out and teach me to drive it. I traded in my well-abused Geo and drove my new Mustang home one hot summer day.
I loved that car. It served me well through several jobs and 14 years. Aside from a new alternator, several batteries, and tires I never had a problem with it. The last year I owned it I needed a new clutch and a fuel pump. Sadly, I finally ended up selling it when I was faced with the dilemma of throwing more money to keep the car running than I cared to on a nearly 20-year-old vehicle.
Also, if you’ve ever tried to put a car seat into the back of a Mustang… Let’s just say it’s not fun.
So, in 2017 I sold my old friend off to the mechanic who had been keeping her running.*^*
Meanwhile, my wife had been driving a Taurus her parents had given her. When we sold the Mustang, we agreed to buy her a new(ish) car. We got her a Mercury Mariner with low mileage and took over her Taurus. It was constantly dirty white color, had a failing muffler, and would occasionally die for no apparent reason if you idled for more than 30secs. That being said, it was paid for and would get me back and forth to work. I made it just over a year in the Taurus before it started having all sorts of issues. It needed new brakes (even after having the rear brakes repaired for a steady leak). As mentioned, it would die if left idling too long (like say, in a drive through). It was really loud – they guys at the oil change were amazed how loud it was. Then, around Christmas 2017, it started to get scary. The Taurus developed a shudder when you would drive it at low speeds. Anything under 30 and the steering wheel would shake back and forth. Also, mileage went to hell. After telling myself it would go away for several weeks (it didn’t) I finally broke down and took it to the shop. They called me back a day later to tell me I needed two new struts in front, new brakes (still) and had 3 oil leaks. Basically, repairs would run ~$2500 – before the brake job the car still needed. Continued driving could result in one of the tires coming off at any time.
I quit driving the Taurus.
Several weeks went by, and my wife and I shared her car. Occasionally (and more often as time went by) my in-laws let me borrow their spare truck. It was nothing special, and my father in law has it filled with tools he uses doing upkeep on his rental properties. That said, it made things much easier considering the hours I work.
Finally, we decided to sell the Taurus. Luckily, Anna found a fellow who decided he would like to buy the car for his daughter) after his mechanic friend did the necessary repairs. We hid the money away for later use.
Weeks passed, and I more or less took over my father-in-law’s truck. My wife finally started to nudge me out of my monthly payment aversion. Finally, at the end of April I decided the time had come to suck it up and find a new car.
The New Car
I had been asking around for opinions on a new vehicle for a bit. I desperately wanted a Subaru but realized quickly they were either out of my price range or would be well used before I could afford one. My next thought was to check into Kia’s since I drive by a dealership on a daily basis.*^*
My initial research led me to Carvana. I liked the idea of using them to find and finance a new car. They had lots of options, low mileage, and decent prices. Then I looked into their financing and nearly ran to hide. No bueno.
Next, I looked into a car loan through one of my banks. Decent rate, but they only lend through certain dealerships. I could work with that. I started doing some research and found a Kia I liked. I wanted a 4 door (much easier with the two boys) that got good mileage and had trunk space for work. Amidst my research, I found out that Kia offers an Eco version of their LX Optima. One of the local dealerships had two in stock. Sadly, one was white (a no-go after the Taurus). The other was a lovely blue. Anna and I decided to take a look. We headed over one rainy morning on my day off to check out the blue Optima. My youngest son did his best on the way over to puke his guts out every 5 mins. We felt like heels.
Surprisingly, Matt Warner at Parkside Kia was very forthcoming and awesome in offering to both let us check the car out as well as let our youngest wander around the lot (watched over by Mom). I got to test drive the car. I liked it. A lot. I said I would probably be back later in the week.
We went home and did a lot of talking. I hadn’t started out looking for a new car, but once I started looking at financing and warranties it made a lot of sense to at least look. Also, the advertised price for the car I wanted was about 6k less than MSRP. That made it doable.
After some prompting by my wife, we decided to at least check out the rates at her credit union before doing anything. Let me tell you, taking two cranky kids to sit in a bank office while you work through a loan application is not something I would wish on anyone. That said, the awesome Anna Wagle at the Northeast branch of TVA Credit Union was a trooper. She kept up with both kids, kept them entertained, and ran us through everything like a champ. Frankly, you couldn’t ask for a better person to promote your business in my opinion. While the rate she quoted us wasn’t as good as the one I already had, I liked the service she gave and decided that the credit union would be the fallback if something happened with option #1.
So, the next day Anna and I headed back to Parkside Kia. Anna took the car for a test drive, and then we went inside to do the deal. All night before, Anna and I had discussed the deal we wanted – concessions to request, things to argue in favor of a lower price. I pretty much caved in about 10 secs. Anna got them to drop the price a good chunk before we went any further. All in all, I think we came out decent, but as good as we could have if we’d been willing to push a bit more. Blame me for that.
We had a bit of a wait for the finance guy to show up, but nothing major. I got to watch my car get prepped for me while I waited. Lo and behold, the financial guy gave us several rates – one of which was a significantly better deal than the one I had through my bank. When I inquired out of curiosity we were shocked to find that it was through TVA – at a rate nearly 3% less. We left as *very* happy campers.
I like my new car. A lot. It has a ton of features and a ton of space. It gets great mileage (about 30 miles a gallon). It’s super quiet. The back seat is set up ideally for the boys’ car seats. The Optima is fun as hell to drive. It has working brakes.
I am a happy camper!
In an odd bit of symmetry, when I bought my Mustang I drove it to Savannah/Tybee Island to go to the beach with my family. This Sunday, I am driving to Savannah/Tybee Island to go to the beach with my family. I can’t wait to see how the new car does!
I was especially happy to get the loan through TVA Credit Union as it would mean doing more business with people I liked (I added Anna Wagle to my contacts and will ask for her at that branch – she honestly went above and beyond for us). I would also happily buy another car from Matt Warner at Parkside Kia. It was an easy experience and much less stressful than I feared. Also, I like the car.
So, anyways, that is what I have been up to lately. Apologies for writing less than usual, and for not posting delicious recipes for everyone!