Wednesday, March 16, 2016

So long Explorer

We've been vehicle shopping since before Christmas but it really took off in January. Shopping for a car is terrible. Just truly terrible. You constantly feel like everyone you talk to is trying to take advantage of you. The most blatant example of this was during a negotiation on Saturday. If the sales manager had treated us decently, we would have bout a car that afternoon. But he didn't. Felt like he was trying to take advantage of us. His opening offer for our trade-in was $250. We had already been offered $1000 from a car wholesaler when looking at used cars on his lot. The tires on our Explorer are worth more than $250. Donating the car to a charity would be worth more than $250 to us...and a charity. After 40 minutes of "let me talk to my manager in the back" bullshit our trade was suddenly worth $1500. I wish you said that in the first place.

We walked. Probably never to return to that dealership.

But this isn't about getting a new car. It's about saying good bye to our old car. It is very bittersweet.

My first car was a handed down, 2 door '84 Honda Civic hatchback. I loved that car. Even occasionally hugged it. In the winter of '92 when my wife and just started dating, the timing belt broke while I was driving on I-95. The car held on for awhile longer but was never the same. That did some damage. The next car for me was a '95 Saturn. It was 1995. Everyone bought a Saturn. The car was good, reliable and lasted a long time but I never loved it like that Civic. Reminiscing earlier today I said it was my "rebound" car from my first auto love.

When I got married, I had the Saturn and my wife had a handed down F-150 pickup. My sister-in-law called them Beauty and the Beast. The truck was Beauty. I don't know what was wrong with the wiring in that truck, but every year to 18 months, it would fry a battery and alternator. They would both be under warranty and we got pretty good at swapping them out.

My wife was pregnant with our first child when Beauty went under the weather. We need a good, reliable family truckster. We got this gold 2003 Explorer used with about 23,000 miles on it in the spring of 2004. I drove it to the hospital with my wife in labor for both our children. I vividly remember those drives. Car seats left permanent marks in the back seats. We set up makeshift beds in the back so the kids could take naps down at the lake.  I once got rear-ended with both kids in the back seat. I was a little sore, but we were all fine - I called the accident a successful test of a 5 point harness child seat. Plenty of fun in there too- road trips, a few trips with 3 adults, 4 kids and a dog crammed in there, beach vacations. Here's her good side. The passenger side has a bit of rust at the rear wheel well.

I'm incapable of keeping the same radio station on for more than a song (when I'm alone - I wouldn't constantly scan the stations slowly driving a passenger insane). My hand wore out the plastic beneath the preset buttons.

I've been driving that Explorer for two months shy of 12 years and now its future is probably a parts car or scrap. So long Ford Explorer. You were good to us. Thanks for the memories.

We got a minivan. Seems nice enough. I plan to drive it for the next 17 years.


  1. Brother from another mother. I owned one of those 80s Civic hatchbacks, and then a 1995 Saturn. Unlike you, I hated them both. Since then we have had a succession of Priuses and I hate them too. Maybe i'm not a car guy.

  2. I'm not that big a car guy either although I used to want to rebuild an old Mustang convertible. But I don't know anything about rebuilding a car. It's been 24 hours with the new van. So far so good. Tomorrow we fill it with a troop's worth of Girl Scout cookies.

  3. I am a bit of a car nut. I'm currently in love with Mazda. They're doing some great stuff right now. Our 2016 CX-5 is amazing. Probably the best car I've ever owned. It's an SUV that drives like a sports car. I can push that thing through a corner in a way that would make most SUVs tip over and crash. All while my passengers are screaming "We're gonna die!" It's so much fun to drive.

    We've been leasing for the last decade or so. We lease two cars at the same time. So that means we get a new car every 18 months or so. I just love driving a car that is pristine. But that also means we don't have the kind of melancholy with our cars one gets from owning the same vehicle for many years.

    Speaking of melancholy, my first car was a used black 1983 Civic "S" hatchback. The black S models had red accents here and there, and it looked great. God I loved that car. I found a cassette tape of Foreigner's "4" under the seat that the previous owner left behind. Every time I listen to Foreigner to this day brings it back memories of that car.

  4. My mother in law recently got a CX-9 and likes it. We were looking for something a little bigger because we occasionally fill the car with Girl Scouts or softball players or family. Today the van comfortably handled 3 adults, 3 kids and a bunch of stuff. The CX-9 was on my test drive list, but there didn't seem to be any 2015s left and they are resigning for 2016. Don't think it's out yet.

    I definitely see the appeal of leasing and we looked into it. I was driving a 2003 and my wife is driving a 2009 and there several glorious years without car payments. Sure maintenance came up but Here's my el cheapo look at maintenance: Take the bill and divide by 350. That is the minimum number of trouble free months the car owes you. Anything more than that is savings. Unfortunately, I pushed it a little too far with the Explorer. It owed me 2 more months.

    Looks like mid 80's Civic hatchbacks were a thing. Proud to be in the club.

  5. Saying goodbye to a car or truck that's taken you through so much is hard. My husband had a black Chevy pick-up, called her Betsy when we met and we drove that through many years of good times and bad. When the first born had to be rushed to the hospital four days after we got him home, his trusted Betsy got us there through a snowstorm one winter. We'll miss her, but everything good seems to come to an end.

  6. Cars definitely have stories to tell. The minivan has been good. Kids really like it. So far, so good.