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November 27, 1998

Car Shopping

I slept about twelve hours.

I guess I needed it, between San Diego and the last few weeks, it was good to be able to sleep like that. In my own bed, in comfort and without a problem. I woke up around 3 a.m. but then went right back to sleep until about 9. When I got up, we ate the apple tart for breakfast and I had Russian Caravan with it. The tea went excellently with the fruity sweetness.

While we ate John was looking at newspapers. The two of us have been talking about getting a road trip car for the last month or so. Something more comfortably than the Landies for long highway drives, and something more powerful than anything else we had for my tastes in driving. I loved the M3, but I also didn't really want to buy something that expensive. We knew we wanted something comfortable to drive, something that would be good for long road trips, something reliable, something solid, with good handling, some agility, more, at least, than the trucks, and something used.

This last fetish is because both John and I hate losing money simply by driving the car off the lot. John has Scottish and Ukrainian backing for that kind of thing, and I have my Chinese background and hate of waste. So we knew that we really wanted something used, not new. And, honestly, after having had the CRX new I really never again wanted a car that I would worry about scratching, denting, or scuffing for the 'first time'. I really wanted something broken in a bit.

We went directly to a Volkswagon dealership, one we'd seen before in Eastgate, and we'd wandered about there before, some rain drenched evening and looked over the used cars in the lot, fixating on a number of Jetta's and an odd-ball Passat, mostly because it was a TDI, which is a turbo diesal engine with direct fuel injection rather than the normal pre-chamber kind of thing. We'd heard good things about the reliability of the VW TDI's, so were interested just to see how it would drive. Turned out that there was also a line of VW Beetles by the door to the dealership, ones with a few thousand miles on them, and one of them was a red TDI.

We drove a Jetta GL, with the 4-cyl engine and found that, as Bryant had, that it was zippy and nice. The front area was much like the Beetle, but it had more room in the back seats and the trunk was enormous. After the weekend with the Beetle we weren't inclined towards buying one. The Jetta had the extra doors, room, and a few nice extra amenities, since it was used. We then drove the '96 Passat and found that it was smoother, has less road noise, and even with the diesal engine was zippy and quick with the manual transmission. It was also much larger in the interior. But was also significantly more money.

One thing I found was that I loved the diesal engine, the engine braking that is true of all the high compression diesal engines, and discovered that the gas milage for the TDI Jettas was in the 49 mpg range. Which hit on the same buttons my old CRX used to hit on, as it got 50+ mpg on the freeway. The salesman said that there were three Jetta TDI's on the lot and that if we were thinking about the Passat, we could get a Jetta TDI for a lot less. So he went off to find one for us to test drive. Turned out that the other two were sold, one was on the show room floor so impossible to move. All were in red. So we said good-bye for the moment, and went away to think and look some things up.

When we got back to the Buddha, we pulled out the Edmund's guide to used cars and looked up the cars we'd driven and were pretty shocked to find that the Passat had been overpriced, according to the book, by nearly $5000, and all the others were overpriced by about $3000. Asking prices for used cars are insane. I knew that there was room to bargain, but *that* much?

It turned out that the dealership in the University District had one of the Jetta TDI's. A new car. So John and I decided to go drive one and see how that worked. We dropped by the Bellevue Barnes and Noble to find an Edmund's guide to new cars and there was a book by some Dr. Leslie (Raymond Sachs) on how to buy a new car for a really cheap price. I decided to get it and read and learn something about how car salesmen work and how the whole process works, as well as why they'd marked up the prices so hugely. We decided to get the book on new cars because we'd started thinking about a new car.

I read while we drove over the U District, and found out that the saleslady pretty much treated us as the book said she would the minute she found out that we weren't going to buy that minute or that day. Though we did manage to get a test ride in the TDI Jetta the way we wanted to. It was noisier than the Passat, smaller, as expected, and what I hadn't expected was that the price was nearly the same as the asking price on the Passat. New car. That's about when I think I realized that I really wasn't going to get a new car. But it never hurts to look. And I wanted to try something other than a VW, and Bob had a great Contour, so I thought we should try that out as well.

Before going back to the Eastside, I stopped by the yarn shop I used to frequent all the time, in the U District, and was frustrated and saddened mildly by all that they had there. I haven't knit or spun for a few years because of my hands and it made me want to do it again.

We went back East, and stopped by a Ford dealership to drive a Contour, and see how it was, handling and power wise. It was actually okay, not as crisp or clean as the Passat, there was far more road noise, I could hear the wind beating at the windsheild, there was less visibility. It also rolled squishily in the corners. It was, however, more than $5000 less than the other cars we were looking at, so I half expected it all. It was the minimum model, and I knew the other models were better, but it was the baseline on which the others were built.

So, having that experience in hand as well, we went home. John found a Jetta, with all kinds of options on it being put of for sale for a good $4000 less than the normal price of a new Jetta GLS, it had only 7000 miles on it and we wondered why. So John called and asked and got this incredibly complex story. The car, originally was a stolen car, that was then claimed from insurance by the guy it was stolen from. The car was then found by the police, so the insurance company sold it to a dealer, and the seller's friend worked there. The seller's friend sold it to him, but when he found out about the 'luxery tax' that Washington charges folks when they buy a car, he couldn't afford it. So he decided to sell the car, especially since he was about to get married and needed the money to get married. The friend still had the title, but would sign it over when the money got paid.

So we decided to meet up with the guy that evening, and there were some convolusions of time that happened, so we finally met him in the pitch dark in Eastgate. We took the car over to a lighted gas station to look at it, and liked most of what we saw. The seller talked a mile a minute as we were looking, then when we were driving, and the stories we heard weren't... encouraging. In fact, all kinds of little alarms in my head started tripping at the fact that the guy's dealer friend wanted nothing more to do with the car, the fact that the seller didn't have either registration or title, the fact that various things, all small, were off kilter, but brushed off by the seller. Which was easily attributed to him being young and inexperienced.

As we put it later, while he might be young and stupid, we didn't have to be. There were just enough alarms going off in my head that I just couldn't see going through all the hassel of straightening everything out for seats with internal heating and a Bose sound system and the possiblity that everything was a scam.

So John called back, reluctantly, and said that we weren't interested. The guy had plenty of other folks interested, but they all had to get financing for the car. So it would take them longer.

But we felt pretty good for letting that 'deal' slide.

I was also pretty tired from all the running about. Mac and cheese, and country style pork ribs were dinner around 10 p.m. with nuked frozen peas. Bandicoot for a while, and I remembered the Russian sourdough, doubled it, split it into four jars, three for gifts and the fourth to make cinnamon rolls in the morning, and then went to a deep sleep.

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