Friday, June 06, 2008

In which at least a few of you raise your eyebrows at me

Because I´m getting the car my mechanic said not to.

No, not because it´s purple. Not that that hurts.

See, here´s the thing. The time I spent really looking at used cars on my own was very discouraging. As a girl (read, "presumed ignorant"), and a foreigner (read, "presumed rich"), and being in a hurry (which, at least, they can´t tell by looking at me, thank goodness for small favors), I am not in a position to get a good deal.

In fact, I´m a pretty likely candidate to get what I call the "blue-eye price," right off the bat. And I don´t know enough about cars to tell for myself when that´s happening. And I don´t really have the time or flexibility to take a series of vehicles to a trusted mechanic for evaluation.

As I said yesterday, I was realizing that this really is a culture where things get done on the basis of who you know. That can be good or bad, depending, but there´s no denying that that´s how it works. Now, it´s a small enough country that you usually do know somebody who has what you need, or anyway somebody who knows somebody.

So how does all of that relate to me buying the car my mechanic said not to?

Well, the looking I had done had resulted in two cars that I felt were realistic options for me, in that they were within my budget, I felt okay about the source of each, and they appeared to be decent vehicles. These were the Geo I got all excited about at first, and the Mirage I decided to settle for after getting the Geo checked out.

I went and saw the Mirage yesterday before work, drove it a bit, talked with the mechanic about it (the one who´s selling it on behalf of his client, and who my friends trust as an honest guy.) It´s a perfectly good car, and meets my needs, but right from the beginning I was disappointed in it and felt like I was buying it only because I had no other choice. I told the mechanic I´d get the money out of the bank and go out to pick it up today or tomorrow, depending when the family that was selling it was available for the transaction.

Then last night the owners of the Geo called me back. (I had let them know I was going to continue looking around after talking to the mechanic, so they could advertise it elsewhere or whatever.)

They had taken care of two small mechanical issues and one cosmetic one, and had reduced the price by about $400, to the exact amount I was about to pay for the Mirage. I told them I´d let them know in the morning, and commenced to thinking about it.

Both cars are 95s. Both are two-door automatics. Both have a good reputation for fuel economy. They have almost exactly the same mileage (about 105k). Both are selling for the exact same price.

The mechanic who´s selling the Mirage says it´s in perfect working order, that there´s an issue with the AC that he can either fix provisionally for free, or totally replace for $200.

The mechanic who looked at the Geo said it was perfectly fine mechanically as well. His quarrel was with the price, which he felt was high (and which has subsequently come down), a cosmetic issue that´s not readily visible, a couple of warning lights on the dash that he couldn´t verify the source of - the Check Engine and Air Bag lights were both on, and those are the two issues are the ones the owners resolved with their own mechanic this week.

The one remaining disadvantage of the Geo is that my mechanic says parts aren´t as readily available as for a lot of other makes. You see a lot of Hondas, Hyundais, Toyotas and Nissans here. There are Mitsubishis as well, but probably no more than there are Suzukis, (which is what you find if you lift up the Geo´s skirt, so to speak), so it´s not like it´s some no-name vehicle nobody´s ever heard of, and the parts issue may not be all that different from the Mirage - I don´t know.

The one remaining disadvantage of the Mirage is that it´s almost the exact same size as the Elantra I´ve been driving up till now. And that car just barely fits into the garage at the apartment. I close the gate, with no room to walk between it and the car, and the other end is hanging right up over the downstairs neighbor´s front steps. The Geo is considerably shorter, since it´s a hatchback.

So I decided that the important part of what the mechanic said was that the Geo was in perfectly good shape, mechanically. I may end up spending more for parts over the course of its lifetime, but it has one of the best reputations for fuel economy going, and its size should further contribute to its economy (relative to the Mirage). So I should save some on gas and possibly spend more on parts, eventually. But I´ve still burned less fuel, so I´ve decided that´s an acceptable tradeoff, should it work out that way.

And I know that if I bought the Mirage it would be because I saw it as my only option, and I would always pine for my pretty little purple hatchback. So raise your eyebrows if you will, but I have decided not risk disappointment with the road not taken.

Now if you´ll excuse me, I had hoped to sit here at the Internet cafe until the owner of the Geo called to tell me they were ready for me, but my cell phone is spending more time without service than with, so I guess I´ll have to move on.

But first, I tell you this because I know you care: I´m sitting here with 1.9 million colones in cash on me, and the largest bill they have here is a 10,000. It´s a little lumpy, but the flat cloth purse I bought 20 years ago in Kenya, and which has done this duty before, keeps it all nice and neat, tucked into my jeans under my extra-long Frogs t-shirt.

Still and all, I´d rather have a purple hatchback.


Christina June 06, 2008 3:07 PM  

Depending on how much it costs there to get the parts, we may be able to pull them from the junkyard here and ship them to you cheaper.

I've got tons of junkyards around here.

NameChanged June 06, 2008 4:45 PM  

Good for you, and congrats on the new car!

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