Not all electricity is the same

California’s new law requiring solar panels in new residential builds has just gone into place.  That’s pretty cool– I’m hoping that the resultant increase in demand will cause technology improvements that will make solar worth it for my house by the time we need a new roof.

California already has cleaner energy which means it’s a great place to drive an electric car.

But not every state gets a lot of energy from renewables and (not great but still) relatively cleaner forms of energy generation such as nuclear power or natural gas.  Some still have electricity generation that may be dirtier than the same amount required to fuel a gasoline-powered hybrid car.  In these places, it’s better for the environment to buy a hybrid than to buy an electric vehicle.

Here’s an article from 2015 that describes this situation in more detail.

And here’s a nifty NYTimes article from 2018 that shows where your state gets the majority of its energy (or at least where it did back in 2017):

The US government also has a tool that’s hopefully more up-to-date (but actually looks like it’s still using 2017 data) that provides a ton of information on energy generation and consumption by state.  You can see why CA is a great place for electric cars, but say, West Virginia should stick to hybrids.

What kind of electricity do you have?  Has this influenced your decision about what kind of car to buy?


Ask the grumpies: teens today

Anoninmass asks:

[T]een daughter wants birth control but refuses to learn how to drive, is this weird?

No… not weird.  Kids today are less likely to want a driver’s license right away.  We don’t really know why. But this is documented all over the place, even including cities with crappy public transportation.  My guess is that kids like being chauffeured and their parents are more willing to do it (and the current generation of dads are more involved with their kids) whereas boomer parents were less likely to drive kids places so they needed a car to get anywhere.  But that’s completely uneducated based on no real research.  Maybe it’s easier to walk places now and no reson to go to the mall.  Who knows!

Even though teens are not more promiscuous compared to recent generations, apparently they’re being much better about using birth control.  Long term birth control is also much better than it used to be.  I also do not know why teen sex hasn’t changed (maybe a combination of a more permissive society being balanced out by more attentive parenting) or why kids are more likely to actually use birth control than in the past.  My guess there would be a better job of culture making birth control seem normal (you can tell a hero is a good guy because he puts on a condom in romance novels and tv shows) although there is still an erosion of non-abstinence based education or planned parenthood in much of the country.

So… basically your teen daughter is completely normal for her generation!


  • The price of cheetos in the vending machine went up.  My colleague counted over 60 individual cheetos in her bag (the claim on the bag was 42) and has decided she thinks they are worth three cents per cheeto.
  • Home Depot wanted us to get our water turned off on Friday so as to get the countertop installed the NEXT Friday, 7 days later.  Because they only do plumbing stuff on Fridays.  So we asked if we could get a refund on the plumbing install and pay our own plumber instead because I do not want to live without a dishwasher for seven days if that can be avoided.  Especially on less than a day’s notice when there’s a salmon dish in the refrigerator I have no interest in cleaning by hand in either the laundry room or the bathroom.
  • Turns out that the Home Depot person who said plumbing was only done on Fridays was incorrect.  We’re getting the water shut off on Thursday and turned back on on Saturday [update:  turned out to be very late on Saturday but they didn’t tell us they weren’t going to make the 9am to 2pm window so we were stuck at home all day, but by 8:30pm the plumber had finished].  Whew.
  • I don’t understand why it takes the car dealership so long to actually cash the check we give them.  You’d think they’d want to lock that $20K+ down ASAP.
  • I have to share this with somebody.  I was at the gas station making sure that my Accent’s tank could fill after the replacement EV and I was next to a young guy in a business suit with a new Insight, so I asked him how he liked it, and he told me that the dealership had given him a deal in which he pays his financing bills for 9 months on the LX model (that’s the low trim) Insight and in 9 months if all his payments were on time, etc., they would trade him for a new Touring model (that’s the leather trim with all the little things my car is missing like a built-in garage door opener and a place to put your glasses) for no additional cost.  He was super excited about this and I did not want to dampen his enthusiasm, but I had to wonder how much they’re charging him both for the cost of the car and financing that such a deal makes it worthwhile for them to give a new car in exchange for a used car (though I suspect it will be a 2019 Touring model, not a 2020, so maybe that will be part of it).  They did not suggest any such shenanigans to us.  I think they are very good at this dealership in reading the customer.  We want a quick sale at low price (usually a price that we provide them after bargaining with other dealerships) and that’s what they give us.  This gentleman wanted to feel like he was getting a steal, so they offered him something unusual.  I bet in the end they make more off of him.  But we don’t take much time and we get one of their cars off the lot and driving around town for more people to see it.  (I have to say, the Insight is a really nice looking car– similar to some of the higher trim Accords in terms of exterior features.)
  • … another problem with buying a fancy car is that repairs are a LOT more expensive than for a generic low-level car that isn’t a new model.  I am too embarrassed about how I know this to say more.  Especially not about right-side mirrors with cameras on them and garages that are just a little too narrow.  (DH says that at least my stupidity costs less than unnecessary rabies shots and is a lot less stressful.  I say that I don’t have the excuse that I was being heroic.  Also he didn’t use the word stupidity because he’s a nice person.)
  • Turns out water pressure is a bit high on our new drinking water spigot.  One can create a shower for someone in the breakfast nook by attempting to fill up a water glass.
  • Also the gas hookup is taking up a little bit too much space so we can no longer close one of our drawers– we will have to get that drawer shortened or a new one made.
  • I am starting to get hooked on SiriusXM — the ability to listen to classical music during my commute is pretty amazing (our local station does NPR in the morning and doesn’t switch over to classical until 10am and is back to news by 4).  But… probably not $15/month amazing, especially when I could pay a kid to rip all of our classical cds onto a flash drive or load up some podcasts now that I have a USB drive instead of a cassette player…  So I will let it lapse when the free trial runs out.

In which we buy a car and #1 discovers some confusing truths about herself: Also, what happens when buying a car is a repeated game

The Thursday before last I was convinced that I wanted to buy another Hyundai Accent, SEL (that’s the second tier) trim (because I like having a USB charger in DH’s car and there’s not much difference between adding that for $70 to the base trim and just getting the next level of trim.  I like packages.)

So on Thursday we drove over to the Hyundai dealership ready to test-drive a new model Accent and also the Ioniq.  And we walked into a big empty show-room and eventually the one guy there sitting at his desk noticed us.  And wanted us to sit down and talk.  After some discussion about how no we didn’t have a lot of time and no we didn’t want to make an appointment for later, we just wanted to do a test-drive, we left saying we’d have to go to a Hyundai dealership in the city that weekend instead.  And then we stopped at the Honda dealership because it was on our way home and I wanted to try the Fit.

… I did not like the Fit.

The Honda dealership has a super bumpy road right next to it and I could feel every single bump with the Fit.  Of course, I can feel every bump with the Accent too and that doesn’t really bother me.  But the Accent is a 15 year old car that I am attached to and the Fit is some new bumpy plastic thing I had never met before.  So then I test-drove a Civic with the lowest level trim and it was much smoother though by no means smooth, but it was more of something that I could live with.  But I wasn’t in love or anything.  So we went home.

This experience immediately triggered internal angst.  Who am I if I care about a smooth ride and fancy features?  What has happened with the person who was happy so long as there were four doors and air conditioning and reasonable safety/reliability ratings (and I didn’t have to drive stick, which I hate)?  Was there any point in trying a new Accent, or would it cause me disappointment too?  Have I become a luxury-seeker?  Will I be super unhappy the next time I have a rental Toyota Corolla?  Did the Clarity spoil me or is it some internal change as we’ve become more well-off than I could ever have dreamed of as a child?

After some research that evening I decided we should try Kia next, both their Forte (equivalent to the Accent) and their Niro (a sub-compact SUV hybrid).  This salesman also wanted to talk with us, but we were more firm about just wanting to test-drive and he was more agreeable to that (and DH didn’t make the mistake of politely sitting down).  The Forte was immediately checked off our list because I don’t have enough hand strength to release the emergency break when it’s fully up.  But at the salesman’s urging I took it for a (way too long) drive anyway.  It was a bumpy ride and I had trouble with the stick gears (not a manual, but they do drive/reverse/etc. with a stick) because the labels next to the stick didn’t really match up to where the stick was– you had to know that you were in the 4th place rather than the 5th because all of the labels were condensed to where the first couple hit.  (The Niro had the same problem, but it had little lights to indicate which gear you were in, which was helpful.)   The Niro had the same acceleration problem that Wandsci noted in the Ioniq in this post, which, she notes, shouldn’t be a surprise because the Niro and the Ioniq share the same hybrid drive.  So we thanked the salesperson and left.  For those interested, I also thought the KIA’s backing up guidance was a bit confusing– it provides more information than the Civic’s with 3 boxes instead of 1, but you’d have to know which box to focus on.

In my research that night, I had also learned about the existence of the new Honda Insight, which is essentially a super nice Honda Civic Hybrid– pretty similar to the first Honda we bought back when they still had a Civic Hybrid model, but the 2019 version.  So after striking out with KIAs, we went back to Honda (because… it was on our way home) and just missed the guy from Thursday (who was showing a family a minivan), but his replacement was similarly useful and took us to test drive an Insight, after remarking that it doesn’t make sense to talk about trim until you’ve actually tried the car.  The drive was slightly smoother than the Civic and not quite as smooth as the Clarity (the Clarity is a really really nice car!  But also not cheap.)  They had a lot of the mid-trim (EX) and only one low-level trim (LX), but after a short drive in the EX we tried the LX.  The LX doesn’t have the right-side camera (neither did the KIAs we tried) and the video screen was too small (the EX model is still smaller than the big one on the Clarity, but was big enough that I didn’t feel like I was looking at a cellphone).  So… I decided I liked the mid-level trim on the Insight.  And that I liked this car enough that I could buy one.

But we wanted to do due diligence and check the Hyundai dealership again, so we decided to ask for a walk-away price and check out Hyundai the next day (“Can we leave DC2 age 7 with DC1 age 12.5 as babysitter?  The internet seems to think so…”) .  It took quite a bit of discussion for Honda to give us a price (the salesperson called in the manager to talk to us), and they kept trying to find us in their system but could only find our purchase of a 2007 Civic Hybrid.  Eventually they realized they needed to look under DH’s name, not mine.  And then… they were a little bit less than enthusiastic but came up with a number.  Before showing us the number, the manager spent some time asking roundaboutly how, as repeat customers, they could get us to shop around less.  And I point blank asked … you want to know what you can do to have us give you two thousand more dollars?  And he said something about needing to make a profit, and I asked if we’d really gotten that close with the Clarity because I hadn’t thought we had.  But then he showed us the number… walkaway price of $24,772,89, which is actually a pretty good price for an EX trim already ($22,955 before taxes and fees required by our state are factored in).  I think shopping around we could get maybe $500 shaved off of that, and I told DH that if he wanted to do the shopping this time that he could have the difference added to his allowance, but he didn’t think it was worth it.  Moral:  If you bargain hard with a dealership, they keep notes and offer you a lower number the next time around so as not to waste time.  I’m hoping that us accepting their offer instead of trying to squeeze out that last few hundred dollars doesn’t backfire on us, but I’m also hoping we won’t need new cars for another decade or two.

That evening we did a bunch more research and the next morning we were feeling less like leaving DC2 home alone with DC1 in order to test drive the Accent which was likely to be a disappointment as reviews compared its shocks with the Fit and the Forte which I didn’t like, and we found out about how the Ioniq had a similar acceleration experience to the Niro.  Also the Insight gets better mileage in practice than they list (except in high altitudes) and the Niro gets worse.  So… there just wasn’t much point.  We called the dealership to let them know, but since I didn’t actually want to get the car until Tuesday when my Accent would be taken to the shop to get the gas tank fixed (juggling 3 cars with a 1 car driveway in a HOA that doesn’t allow sidewalk parking at night is a huge PITA), we had to wait to buy it until then.

We might have ended up with another Accent if the guy had just let us test-drive one that Thursday.  I don’t know.  But after trying the Civic and the Insight, it just wasn’t going to happen anymore.  I was willing to pay $5K more for a much nicer car from a much better dealership.  I am having a hard time reconciling this with my view of myself.  I mean, it’s not quite mid-life crisis levels of sports car, but it is a big shift from how things have always been for me.  I … think I may like having nice things sometimes.  For myself, even, not just for DH.  And not just because they’re going to be better for my health or last longer… I suspect a new Accent would last another 15 years for me.  The Insight hasn’t been around long enough to know about its reliability ratings, so it might not last as long.  I’m not sure how to feel about this new discovery about my taste for a bit of luxury over strict needs.

My new (white) Insight

The front seat interior as viewed from the passenger seat.

This car has knobs!

So far I’ve been driving it a few days to work and back and I haven’t gone down a single bar in fuel– there’s well over 400 miles left to go before I will need to fill the tank up again. Everything about it has just been lovely.  It has just been a great drive.  It is a little loud compared to the Clarity on acceleration, but very quiet compared to the Accent.   It’s only a little longer than the new model Accent I sometimes park next to and handles well in the way I like smaller cars to handle.  It’s not quite as brazen with the safety warnings as the Clarity is– preference for that could go either way, I think.  If you’re looking for a hybrid in the Prius range, I would strongly recommend giving this one a test drive.  If you live in a state with a cleaner energy mix and you’d like (and can afford) a bigger car, the Clarity Plug-in is delightful and a more pleasant drive we think than the Ioniq or Niro–I’ve even gotten used to the faux wood paneling inside.  Now, I can’t compare these cars to BMWs and Teslas and Mercedes and so on, but for the mid-level hybrid and hybrid+ market, we really do like these the best of the competition.  As a disclaimer, I just don’t like the new model Prius as a passenger and my tall DH was physically uncomfortable in the Prius Prime, but Toyota does have some options that a lot of people think are comparable to or better than either the Insight (Prius) or the Clarity (Prius Prime).

I do like this feeling of rightness I have about the purchase.  Before test-driving it there wasn’t an obvious choice, but after test-driving, nothing else compared in the non-luxury small car market.  I think I would have come to appreciate a new Accent as I got used to it, but the Insight makes me happy just driving it.

What do you look for in a car?  Have you had repeat experiences with same dealership?  Have your tastes for nice things changed over time? 


  • Did I mention that one of my colleagues bought the house next to hers and uses it as a meeting space and office?
  • Near her houses there’s a street with a huge dip in it.  I took it at like 5 mph and still managed to scrape the bottom of my car, which turned out to be too much for my poor abused under cover which decided to finally separate from the car and drag on the road on my way home that day after a much smaller bump.  We ordered a new one along with the assembly package and put it in, $43.55, but it took a week to get the parts.
  • One of my other colleagues said that if I can’t decide what kind of car to get then maybe I should just go with the cheapest.  Which makes a lot of sense.  Another colleague impressed upon me the importance of safety ratings (her Prius got totaled last month).  And I’m really big on reliability these days.  So that leads me to the Honda Fit (slightly safer, slightly more expensive) vs. the Hyundai Accent (more reliable, worse mileage).  I may test-drive them!  Though while I’m there I might also try the Ioniq.  Update:  Tried to go to the Hyundai dealership to test-drive an accent and he JUST WANTED TO TALK, so we left when it became clear he wouldn’t let us test drive one without him doing his sales pitch and finding out about our lives first.  On the way home we stopped at the Honda place and quickly test-drove a Fit (from a very non-pushy salesperson which may be why we’ve bought two cars from this place), which… is not 14 years nicer than my current accent.  So I tried a low model Civic and liked it.  The Civic has better mileage than the Accent but is about 10 inches longer and has worse reliability.   The problem with DH having a Clarity is that I have discovered that I kind of like nice things.  So just being better than my 2005 Accent may not cut it.  Do I want to go with being spoiled or do I want to fight it?  ARGH.  I don’t know what to do!  And I hate pushy salespeople.
  • I think I have plantar fasciitis in my right foot.  I wish I trusted doctors around here more.  My GP is great for OB/GYN stuff but not so good at anything else (generally her answer to anything non-reproductive-system-related is: it will go away on its own and if it doesn’t then put lotion on it).
  • Now my car shuts off the pump right away instead of letting me pump gas.  I just barely got the new drip pad put back on!  Hadn’t even gotten gas since it happened.  That means that either something needs to be cleaned (for the cost of compressed air, which DH already has, but DH decided there were too many cables to try this on his own) or something needs to be replaced (which could cost as much as $600, though probably will be more like $300).   Part of me wants to just exchange it now, but one of my (not t-t) colleagues wants to buy it as a backup car for when his elderly truck is in the shop, which means it should be in working condition even if I give it to him super cheap (probably for $300….).  Deciding things is hard.
  • According to the hospital billing, they will send us a bill after DH’s health insurance sends them the remaining $2K for the second emergency room trip.  So the most that we could still be billed would be $2K.  So the costs for DH’s four rabies shots to us are:  $250 (first emergency room visit), $250 (second emergency room visit), $350 (first Walgreens shot), $350 (second Walgreens shot).  So… going to the emergency room for the third and fourth shots would have saved us $200, but cost his health insurance company quite a bit (I have no regrets– Walgreens seems so much more efficient).  Unless we get that bill for $2000, that means the total cost of his rabies shots is $1200 that has already been paid, so it won’t be dipping into my car fund.  (Still, I’m kind of used to the idea of getting a cheaper rather than more expensive car.)  DH’s elite coastal health insurance is so much better than my Southern university plan (with its 20% copay…).  It also has a better bargain with our hospital– they got the cost per ER visit down to 7K instead of 10K, which seems odd to me since you’d think my plan would have more bargaining power being the one everyone at the university has, but maybe the power goes both ways.  We’re thinking that when he called about whether or not they cover the rabies shot, the person on the phone must have looked at whether they cover the pre-travel rabies shot rather than the post-bite rabies shot?


  • Can I say again how much I hate it when people mess with kerning on grant applications?
  • My (recently retired) FIL called DH to tell him to be sure to put money in IRA Roths.  DH told him we’ve got that covered.
  • DH helped break up a dog fight that happened across the street from our house (intact pitbull being walked by a ~10 year old girl slipped its halter going after a Labrador) and got bitten.  :(  He had to get a tetanus booster and 3 days worth of topical antibiotics. The dog was super friendly to humans, but accidentally got DH’s finger as DH was trying to help the laborador’s owner separate them.  The woman who owns the Labrador stopped by our house to say her dog had to undergo ear surgery and that the pitbull’s owner (the grandfather in this scenario) was a total jerk and wanted to know if we’d seen how the fight had started, which we hadn’t.
  • My January conference reimbursement for doing job interviews for a position in our department was audited because I bought $21 of folding chairs and left them there instead of flying them back to the university.  (The chairs were because the hotel ran out and we didn’t want the job candidate sitting on a bed with the interviewers(!))  Fortunately I didn’t believe the hotel when they said that getting extra chairs wouldn’t be a problem (hence neither reservation nor wait list) and got advance permission from both the department head and the dean in case of emergency.
  • We got a big tax refund this year, even after paying next year’s estimated taxes, not unexpected given we had a $7,500 credit from buying the Honda Clarity last year.  In terms of how the Republican tax bill affected us:  we’re paying slightly less tax but not a huge difference.  This is mainly because we live in a Red State with low state income etc. taxes (high property taxes, but low property values) and we’ve finished paying our mortgage so we weren’t getting big federal deductions anyway (some of the self-employment tax changes also helped, I think, and we weren’t deducting business expenses which would have hurt).  People in blue states with high income taxes and high property values are going to be hurt much more.  We didn’t bother adding up our charitable donations this year for the first time because there was no way we were going to hit the limit, so I guess it was a bit less paperwork.
  • Strongly considering using a slightly different specification in this graph because it currently looks like a condom.
  • My car is gradually succumbing to plastic fatigue.  Another door handle broke this week, this time the part that you open from the inside rather than the part from the outside.  $45 to replace ($35 part plus $10 s/h), and easier to replace than the other part (in that it doesn’t require as much strength to unscrew all the necessary bolts).  I really should just get a new car.  Maybe this summer.  I will miss it.
  • My mom is retiring!  At age 72 it will cost her retirement money to keep working based on how her public pension is structured.  (They don’t structure them like that much anymore.)  They’re planning on staying put for a while.  Part of me is surprised because they are West-Coasters at heart, not midwesterners (despite having lived there, as my mother has pointed out, for 34 years).  Part of me is not surprised because their inertia is very strong and anything that takes planning can take a decade to actually happen if they’re not given an external deadline.  My mom hopes to devote her time to politics and research, which are both good things.
  • In case you’re wondering what’s happening with the kitchen renovation… we’ve paid for most of it so far (months ago), our dining room is full of appliances in boxes, and we are stuck on the step in which someone removes our ice maker and replaces it with cabinets.  Home Depot is like, we can do drawers there but we can’t do cabinets that look like your current cabinets.  The place the cabinets came from is like, yeah, we don’t make those anymore but you can get them custom-copied from this other local business.  But the other local business is only open M-F, 9-5 and has been playing a lot of phone tag with DH.  And so we wait…
  • My BIL is getting a full back and shoulders tattoo.  It’s a reminder of the generation gap between X and millennial about how normal that is for someone just a little bit younger than us and how unusual for us.  (How daring and hidden most Gen X tattoos are/were.  How expressive they are for younger folks.  I don’t think I know a single millennial other than my sister who doesn’t have at least an ankle tattoo.)

What car should I buy this summer?

I currently have a 2005 Hyundai Accent that I like very much.  I would keep it forever except that I am getting really tired of having to take breaks from it for little repairs.  3 days without the car waiting for a door handle replacement was the final straw.  (I could have driven around anyway and opened the door from the outside via the window, but we would have had to put the door back together for me to do that.)

The car landscape has changed a lot since I last looked for me.  Last time I looked for me, there was one very obvious only choice.  The Prius was at the top of every list and nothing else compared in the compact/sub-compact range.  If I didn’t want to go hybrid, then the Toyota Corolla was the top of every sub-compact list.  (And the Honda Civic if I wanted to go bigger.)

Things have changed quite a bit since then.  The Hyundai Accent, which we bought in 2005 because it was literally the only car we could afford to buy with cash, is now as high as #3 on some lists!  The hybrid landscape has changed dramatically.  Honda has the Insight, Hyundai has the Ioniq.  And there are plug-ins with tax discounts!  (I briefly toyed with the idea of buying a bolt the weekend before the April 1st deadline for the $7.5K discount, but opted not to.)

By summer I should have up to 35K saved to play with for this new car purchase.  I do not *want* to spend $35K, but I will be able to if necessary.  (The money will find another home if not spent on this car.)

Here’s what I want:

I want a small car.  Sub-compact preferred, Compact as a second choice.  I like small cars because I am small and because they are easy to park.

This car will drive me 7 miles to work and 7 miles back 5 days a week (occasionally stopping at DC2’s school on the way home).  My current 14 year old car has just a little over 50K miles on it.  I just don’t drive much.

I do not care about “performance”.  I do not want a sports car.  I do not need vim or vigor.

I want a new car.  Dealing with the used car market is not something I want to do.  I will keep this car until it, too, starts succumbing to plastic fatigue or otherwise dies.

I want a four door automatic with air conditioning.  I’m not sure if it is possible to get a new car that doesn’t have those attributes, but that was something that was really important when we bought the accent.  The back needs space for two kids including one in a booster seat.

I am really not a mini-cooper kind of person.  I am a boring middle-aged female.  I do think the new lines on current models are sexy, but how the vehicle looks is really not a priority.  Except I would prefer not to have something with a personality.  Nondescript is where I’m at.

I want at least 28 C/35H mpg.  Those are arbitrary.  My current Accent still gets something in the 30-33mph range (I guess because my commute is partly highway?)  If I go hybrid, then I want at least 50mpg.  I know that given how little I drive my mileage isn’t that important, but I dislike stopping to get gas (especially during election season when I avoid places advertising evil people).  I currently do it about once every 2 weeks.  I don’t hate it enough to go completely electric though.   I can afford an electric, but it seems like they’re more than I need given the higher price-tag (which is why I didn’t buy the Bolt before the subsidy got cut).  Plus with DH having the Clarity we might need to get an actual charger if we went electric.  Still, something like the Leaf, which still has the $7,500 credit, might be reasonable, except that I would not be able to make it to the city and back without recharging if something happened to DH’s car.  So… I guess I don’t see any all-electric vehicles that I like enough to buy.

I don’t want a luxury car.

I don’t care about electronic bells and whistles.

The beep beep beep beep that the Prius does when reversing DRIVES ME CRAZY.  (Two of my colleagues have Priuses.)  (#2 notes that you can turn it off.  We had a link in Link Love, I think.)  (Yep, that’s why I put it in link love.  But I do worry that somehow that ability will get disabled.)

What should I test drive?  What am I forgetting?  What sub-compacts and compacts do you love or hate?



Sometimes the dealer isn’t the best place for repairs: How I finally got a new starter for my car

My 2005 Hyundai Accent has been having trouble starting for a while now.  Back when I had to get the last big set of repairs, the dealer quoted a new starter at $800, and we forwent that.

So, DH left for a multiple day business trip.  While running late to get DC1 to hir violin lesson because it took longer than expected to get DC2 out of daycamp and into the car, I tried to start the car.  And I tried again.  And again.  Usually at the third again the engine turns over and all is well.  This time it wasn’t.  After several more false starts, a couple in a tow truck came by and offered to jump it for me, though I didn’t think that was the problem.  Then they grabbed a guy from a repair shop (he noted the shop was already closed for the day, but he was being helpful anyway).  That guy said that it was probably the starter (I agreed, since I’ve known it’s been a problem) and if I waited until the sun went down and the car cooled down I could probably get it to start again.  He said that replacing a starter on my kind of car usually runs around $400.  The tow people offered to tow me for free over to his shop, so I let them.   The kids then had cupcakes for dinner in the airconditioned cupcake place on the other side of the daycamp while we waited for an uber.  (Our town doesn’t usually have uber/lyft drivers in the summer when the university is out and cab drivers you usually have to book at least 24 hours in advance, but I got lucky.)

When DH got back from his trip, we went to pick up my car.  Total cost:  $369.  Waaaay less than what the dealer was going to charge.  And no nasty comments about how old my car was.  Since this repair shop was technically in the lower SES town next to ours, most of the cars on the lot were older than mine.  My car starts beautifully on the first try now no matter how hot the engine is.  It’s pretty amazing.

While DH was out and my car was in the shop, I did get to spend quite a bit of time driving his Clarity.  It is a really nice car.  Extremely smooth drive, easy acceleration, nice bells and whistles (I could get used to not having to even press a button to open the car door).  I see why he likes it so much.  But I’m not yet ready to trade in my Accent for a Prius Prime, so there we are.

And hopefully we have a new mechanic!  The reason we’d been taking my car to the dealer in the first place was because our previous mechanic screwed up an oil change (and then recently screwed one up again when DH decided to give them another chance).

Where do you take your car for repairs (if you have a car)?  How did you choose the mechanic?

Networking: Not just for job seeking, also for used car selling

After DH bought his Honda Clarity Plug-in, we had 3 cars, a 2 car garage, a 1 car driveway, and a HOA that doesn’t allow overnight street parking.  Mornings involved a car shuffle so I could get to work since I was often in the garage instead of the driveway.  We decided that even though DH’s old Honda Civic Hybrid was a far nicer car than my older Hyundai Accent that I’d keep my Accent and we’d sell the Civic.  This is partly because the Accent only has 47K miles, partly because I get strangely attached to things I’ve had a long time, and mainly because I’m a small person and my Accent fits me whereas the Civic is just uncomfortable.  (I am a little bit concerned that the universe is telling me that I should be worried about my safety as we know a couple of people IRL and there are a couple prominent people online who have recently gotten physically hurt in car accidents, but not quite enough to replace the Accent with something bigger and newer.  Not that we have the cash to do so right now anyway.)

Regular readers may recall that the dealership lowballed us a number even lower than what KBB said was the lowest dealership number for our Civic.  The lowest amount DH had been willing to accept was $1,300 and they came back with $1000.  Then DH spent a couple of weeks after work detailing the interiors of the car to get it into selling condition.  Then before he’d finished, my car went into the shop and I started driving the nice clean Civic to work, for about a week.  (I told him he could add any extra he made above what the dealer offered to his adult allowance.)

One day during this week, I was walking out to my car after a presentation so as to get to a restaurant for the speaker’s post-talk dinner.  One of the guys also going to the dinner was going to carpool with another guy in his department because the first guy had biked to work that day.  As I walked past, the second guy was brushing some brown dirt-like substance off the passenger-side seat telling the first guy, “Wait a minute, I need to clean the manure off the front seat of my car,” at which point guy 1 asked if maybe he could carpool with me instead.  Once in, I mentioned that this wasn’t my regular car and that we were looking to sell it.  The guy who I was giving a ride said, oh really, my 15 year old nephew in the Midwest needs a $2000 car (the kid has $900 saved up and his parents are paying the other half– the uncle is throwing in the missing $100 for the kid), and he’d been planning to start looking but was worried about rusted out bottoms in the Midwest and hurricane flooded used cars in the South.  $2000 was a little less than the bottom-most private-sale price quoted by KBB, and we could have probably asked for closer to $2,500 or $2750, but it was also a lot more than the $1300 DH had been holding out for in order to avoid selling on Craigslist when he decided to decline the dealer’s offer.  And since this is a kid with parents and not a random college student, we feel a bit better about what happens if the electric battery dies, the tires need replacing, etc.  (The guy was like, you expect those kinds of things in any car less than $2K– the important thing is the fame isn’t bent, the engine isn’t flooded etc.) The guy in question is pretty easy-going despite not wanting to sit in manure and shares a lot of the same Midwestern sensibilities of responsibility that DH and I do, so we felt like we could trust him to be solidly dealing with us and he felt the same way about us.

So after my car came back from the shop, DH offered this guy our car for $2000.  The guy took it to a local mechanic who declared it to be in good shape (next expected repair:  replacing the tires).  DH looked up how to do a private sale.  We signed over the title and dealt with a bunch of documents.  He wrote a check (if it had been someone on Craigslist or Facebook, we would have insisted on cash).  I said a fond farewell to the Civic.  We didn’t have to deal with Craigslist.  And some kid in the Midwest is getting a much nicer used car than he would have been able to get without his uncle’s intervention.  (It’s even been detailed!)

So… I guess the moral is:  When you need to do a transaction of some kind, it’s useful to just mention it to people before dealing with social media sites.  That is, of course, assuming you’re willing to satisfice rather than optimize.  If we’d been set on $2,500 or more, we probably would have needed to go the full Craigslist gamut.

Have you sold a used car before?  How did you do it?  Have you ever networked your way to something besides a job?