We have a WHAT?

In August, my ’97 Chevrolet Monte Carlo waned my fiscal conservatism. I must have looked at it wrong, as it came down with more problems. I already hate that car, a pathetic product of a union-starved, incompetently led corporation. It may have needed another intake manifold gasket replacement, more A/C work, and possible oil and crankshaft seal replacements.

Plus, kid #2 on the way is a convenient excuse…

You’ll be amazed: I don’t like SUVs. But now we have one. Here’s the logic:

Luggage taken on a 2 week trip with a 1 year old boy.
Luggage taken on a 2 week trip with a 1 year old boy.
  1. Wife wanted a larger vehicle but hates minivans. I’m OK with the “larger vehicle” part. The stuff pictured at right is everything we brought on a 2 week trip when our son was 1 year old. Yes, it fit in our ’02 Nissan Maxima, but barely. I can’t fathom how we could pack for 2 kids. We went back and forth on the minivan vs. SUV argument, but the SUV won both because of spousal preference and…
  2. Used SUVs are cheap! The price savings alone pays for several years worth of additional of gas.

After research and a few test drives, we focused on the 2006-2007 Honda Pilot. We didn’t go earlier than 2006 because only 4×4 models were available.

The dealers are idiots. None seemed to know how little their SUVs are worth. The “no pressure” dealers had exorbitant, barely-negotiable pricing. All of them lie, lie, lie.

2 weeks into the search, we checked the Acura MDX. While it’s the Pilot’s corporate cousin, it’s not the same sense as GM’s chicanery, where they took an Oldsmobile 98, tweaked the outside, slapped on leather seats and other doo-dads, and called it a Cadillac Fleetwood.

To our shock, Autotrader’s MDXes listed for less than the Pilot! HUH?

After a test drive and a couple more days of looking, Jennifer found a MDX for sale by a private owner. Pictures looked great, a VIN search checked out, etc.

Long story short, we met the guy on Monday, had it inspected, and by Thursday we were at his credit union buying it from him.

So here’s the new Cambre garage mate:

I still cannot believe that these are cheaper than Pilots, and I cannot believe the deal we got.

A while back, I told my wife I would never want a “luxury car.” It just didn’t feel right. Well, we have one now. It still doesn’t feel right, but the price was right!

Storm hits Plano. Both trees fall.

While our floors were being redone, I stayed with inlaws. (Hence the commuting piece.)

3:00 AM Thursday morning, an unusually severe storm hit Plano. The next morning, we found that my inlaws’ street had a lot of vegetation damage. Leaves and branches were everywhere.

The most stark damage was right next door where this medium-sized tree fell over:

My bedroom was on the corner of the house closest to this tree. I never heard it tip over, probably because of the pounding horizontal rain and the multiple lightning strikes each second.

Here’s what astounded me. Well after I drove away from their house, I saw this:

Yes, the wind turned my folding mirror against the car and pulled the mirror out! I have no idea how this happened; that mirror takes some force to move!

Fortunately, the inlaws found the mirror. It was on the pavement below the car. I am lucky I didn’t run it over!

The car is overdue for inspection, and this will unfortunately delay it further.

Roadtrip tire experience from heck

Right now, we are returning from a trip to Houston. That’s right, we are returning at this moment. The internets and Googles on the cell phone iz awesome, and I’m not driving. :-)

Yesterday afternoon, I found a deflated front tire on our Maxima. It was fine the night before. This is a problem because I had to get it fixed on New Year’s Day and, if unrepairable, I have to get a hard-to-find tire size. (Check any major tire chain for tires for a 2002 Nissan Maxima SE–most have to special order the tires!)

Wal Mart was the only nearby, open-on-New-Year’s-Day tire place. I made a trip to the tire department and got it fixed. Mounted the tire, and it lost 3 PSI over the next hour. Great, back to Wal Mart. On the second trip, we found a nail in the tire’s shoulder, which is between the sidewall and the main treads. The Wal Mart techs couldn’t fix it per company policy. Discount Tire and others say you aren’t supposed to repair nails outside the main tread area. This makes some sense; radial tires aren’t rigid like the old biased tires. They continuously flex up and down with each wheel revolution. A patch in this part of the tire could easily work itself loose.

Can’t fix it, and I am not going to drive back with this tire. The nail could work itself loose in transit. If it does, all I have is that temporary spare, leaving me little option but to depend on the generosity of Bubba in a “middle of nowhere” town, and it’s unlikely Bubba would be able to get me another 225/50R17 tire in short order.

Wal Mart didn’t have my size tire in stock. They would have to special order, and that would take 3-4 days. So after calling several places, many of which weren’t even open, I lucked out with a Sears only 9 miles from the Wal Mart that had a suitable tire in stock. $157 and 1.5 hours later and we are on the road.

By the time we finally left Houston, we could have been home for 30 minutes.

We ended up with a decent Falken tire. It has more tread than the other front tire, so the front alignment is slightly off.

We got it anyway

We went ahead and purchased it.

It’s in the garage:

I was infuriated at the dealer at one point. The sales manager pulled out two keys but only one key fob. I felt like that was a last minute surprise. This is a “Certified Pre-Owned” car, and he could only produce one fob? Give me a break.

The nice thing is we got this car for about 10% under what comparable “certified” Maximas are going for.

I hate car shopping

We have pretty much decided on getting a Nissan Maxima. Mmmm, 255 horses. We want a model with cloth seats and without a sun roof.

Yesterday we found a 2002 Maxima with 56K miles (the one pictured to the right). www.autocheck.com showed a clean title history, and a VIN lookup on www.publicdata.com showed that the previous owner lives in Plano and bought the car new. I found this guy’s phone number but am still not able to reach him.

Anyway, we took the car home for the night. After getting an uncle to help us examine everything, we discovered that parts of the front and rear bumpers are resprayed, and the rear bumper even has a slight wrinkle in one spot. Since much of the original paint was still there, whatever happened may not have been too severe. However, the repaint was done at a really crappy shop. They sprayed the paint in a moist and dirty environment: there was a place where the paint “fell” a bit, and the paint was full of trash. Because of the apparent crappiness, I have to wonder what else wasn’t fixed right.

An under-engine rock shield is also missing, exposing the underside–especially the A/C compressor and hoses–to kicked up junk. True, this isn’t a big deal; a new shield can be bolted in. But why was it missing in the first place? What caused it to fall off? The same event that damaged the bumpers? What else has fallen off? What else was not properly repaired?

Overall, these are not deal-ending issues, but they reduce what we’re willing to pay for the car. We got the car inspected at our local AAA-certified shop ($90), and it checked out fine. It may be mechanically sound. But I still can’t reach the original owner, so how do I know how it was treated or what it was used for?

Anyway, after a few minutes of back and forth at the dealer their best offer was 4.4% above our maximum price. 4.4% is a nontrivial amount of cash, so we walked. Of course we got the crap about how they won’t make enough money, here is what Kelly Blue Book says, etc.

We walked.

Back to square 1, less $90 and a half day of vacation. It’s a learning experience. I won’t be so quick to drive the next car home unless we have a good idea of what we would pay for it.