Marques and Styles

March 30, 2004

We have been car shopping. I hate car shopping - it eats a lot of time; I have yet to find a vehicle that meets all my desires much less a vehicle that meets both my desires and my budget; car shopping is the place where the average consumer encounters barter and negotiated price. I have been spoiled by the department store approach to market transactions, where all goods have a price, the price is fixed, and the customer's choices are a simple take it, leave it, or shop elsewhere.

That rant out of the way, I did notice some amusing things. To my perspective, the cars we are looking at all look like each other but they all drive very differently. Oddly enough, we are looking at the same three marques we looked at last time we went car shopping, and there too, we found the vehicles boring and indistinguishable while the driving experiences were markedly different. Not surprisingly, a Toyota Sienna drives much like a Camry only bigger, a Honda Odyssey drives much like an Accord only bigger, and a Ford Windstar drives much like a Taurus only bigger. And yet, when I go grocery shopping in the Accord I can never pick it out of the host of look like metallic cars in the parking lot while to me all minivans look like blobs on wheels.

Now, someone who is used to a very different road feel would likely say that all three family sedans drive like each other and that all three minivans drive like each other, but to my perspective the drive experience on all three is widely different.

We drive some more things today, at this point we have ruled out the Toyota - the best handling of the lot - because we don't like the way they arranged the anchors for the child seats. We will likely get a used Windstar for about half the price of a new Odyssey - used Odyssey's are hard to find and run so close to the price of new vehicles that we might as well get the extra 3 years of use. The only question is whether I get scared when J drives a Ford while she is a little tired or frazzled.

Four years ago we vetoed a Taurus with the standard suspension because I was convinced that J would drive it off the margin of one of Virginia's narrow, no-shoulders, twisting country roads. The Taurus with sport suspension was fine, but we got the Accord because I liked it better and J was even less likely to cross lanes while cornering.

We found one acceptable used vehicle, we drive another candidate today, we might look again at a used Honda, and then we will rank them and decide what we like.

That means that, with luck, sometime this afternoon or Thursday we get to dicker over price. I hate that part, which is odd because my Dad is a really good negotiator - he did deals for a living before he retired.

Doing this right takes forever, and even so I feel like I am rushing.

Posted by Red Ted at March 30, 2004 07:18 AM | TrackBack