I ordered a new car today and that is a first for me. Okay that’s not quite true, I did choose a company car for myself once; it was a Peugot 406 SRi with a 2.0 litre turbo charged petrol engine in a dark metallic grey colour (I wanted red but that had to be waited for). It was the closest I ever got to being a boy racer and I loved its power and secure handling. Pigsl and I covered large distances in peaceful comfort and the only irritation I had with it (in those days) was that its automatic rain sensor was always several long seconds late, overtaking lorries on very wet days was a bit nerve racking (nowadays its fuel consumption would be a concern too). Perhaps I could write a piece on car reminiscences.
Okay, so I order my first private car today. We hadn’t planned on changing the car particularly, it was actually our car mechanic Grant who suggested it (this was before we gave him half a bottle of champagne leftover from a goodbye party celebration) after investigating a booming noise I had noticed on our trip back from the Yorkshire Dales. The car needed a new clutch, replacing the dual mass thingy, and its breaking sensors were being temperamental; our mechanic suggested it was still young enough to be of value as a trade in. I have grown rather fond of Stocky. It was our second VW Touran and I liked its versatility in accommodating the extended families, or just our family going camping or travelling around Europe. Its ability to go from seven to two seats was certainly handy when the kids went to university. We are generally only three adults at home now so the new car could afford to be a smaller standard five seater which hopefully will mean less scrapes and scratches but who knows?
So the process begins; trying to decide on the next car. I know I am lucky to have this problem, there is no question whether we can afford a car or not but there are financial limits so the dream car is off the list. What is my dream car? Actually my dream would not to have a car at all. My family does pretty well in minimising car use. My wife and I tend to cycle to work; my kids walk a lot or use public transport. For longer distances we prefer to use trains though coaches play a part (something I prefer to avoid – ever done an overnight coach from Scotland to London?). We have flown abroad but prefer to use trains and ferries seeing the travel as part of the adventure (avoiding the hanging around airports is good too). However, there are times when a car just makes life easier particularly in a work context when it can reduce stress in trying to get places, or travelling to places out of the way or out of working hours; it’s not a must but it does make life easier.
You may have detected an environmentally friendly aspect to our travel arrangements and you would be right, but it is also about our physical and mental health (where the bicycle rules). Since I accept the need (or desire to make life easier) for a car, then my dream car is a Tesla Model S. Why? Because it is all electric and can travel hundreds of miles on one charge, plus it is a damn fine driving experience (ok I admit it, I love to drive too). Unfortunately I cannot afford one and even if I could I doubt I could convince myself or my wife on the practicality of such a vehicle. Distance is the main difficulty I have with electric only cars, in Scotland we will have to travel hundreds of miles between charges (not every day I grant you) but since we use the car little for pootling around locally it has to be an important factor in our choice.
So you must be getting a hybrid then surely? Well no actually (deep sign). One of the things I like about the Touran is the higher seating position, for me seeing where I am going is about reducing anxiety and I like being able to see further ahead in queues. I suspect it is about feeling in control and making the best decisions but I know that I really prefer to have an open view ahead rather than being behind a lorry. This could be a side effect of being knocked off my cycle once by a car turning across me and the driver’s husband blaming me because I was “hidden behind a van”, but I digress.
I know I am not alone in liking a higher seating position which explains the success of the SUV market (Sports Utility Vehicle I believe). Know any hybrid SUVs? Okay left me rephrase that, know any good value SUVs? I suppose it depends on what I mean by “good value”. For me a car is good value if it is at the cheaper end of the spectrum but also comes nearer the top in reviews against its car segment. Ideally I would buy the best in class car (small SUV in this case) but money is an object. Car reviews are important to me more because I want to make the best decision I can, and I trust magazines to be less biased than I am so I use them and the internet to short list a selection.
In this case one car stood out to me. It is a car that I have been a passenger in and I was extremely impressed by the low noise and smooth comfortable ride. There is no hybrid version unfortunately but it is definitely on the cheaper end of the scale so that’s good. I did have reservations about knowing it is going to replaced next year based on a better more prestigious model from the same manufacturing group, but I don’t like buying completely new designs. I would choose for the design to be field tested for a few years to sort out the minor problems that are inevitable in these complex systems (the same rule goes for the greatest latest radically different computer software – let the bug fixes be issued first); so I feel okay about that. Once upon a time I would only buy diesel engines because they are generally more fuel efficient (environmental leanings again) but it seems their particulates emissions are bad news for the environment, so after three diesels we are going back to petrol.
What car did I order? I’m not actually going to say. I have set out my decision process here and whether you agree with it or not doesn’t matter. I have managed to do something I find rather difficult to do despite being rather knowledgeable about these things. I am not very good with change, the indecision is painful and it would be far easier to stay with things as they are and ignore the problems. However I have pushed through that and looked to the future and have done something that hopefully will be a benefit to my family and I. This needs to be celebrated.
The thing is that I would have really struggled to do this without my wife. She listened to my concerns and soothed the furrowed brow. She went with me to look at the car because I was concerned she might not like it. She helped me make contact with the salesman and broached subjects I find difficult (like trying to get the price down). She gave me the energy to break through the inertia of indecision. My wife and I make a good team and I think that should be celebrated too.
Whilst I have fond memories of Stocky, only a little bit of me was sad to leave it behind. The car mechanic was right; it still is of value as a trade in. It was time to appreciate its service and move on. There is also a part of me that worries about whether I have made the right decision and maybe I haven’t made the perfect one, but I am convinced it will be good enough. There is a part of me that is looking forward to getting a new car (now why is that?) and that feels rather nice.