We bought a new car at our house recently. My five-year-old pickup finally ran out of warranty and was beginning to show its age. So, we decided it was time for a replacement. Nothing big. Nothing extravagant. Just something I could carry a lot of stuff in and run around the coastal highways in semi-comfort. Old folks car.
If you haven’t had the new car experience for awhile, you’re gonna get a couple of quick lessons right up front: price and technology.
Damn, they’re expensive. And I don’t mean just top-of-the-line vehicles. Our little newcomer certainly isn’t in that category. Not by a long shot. But it cost more than my first house! With the first divorce thrown in. If you hear someone talk about cheap transportation these days, they’ve got to be Amish.
Then, the technology. Top-of-the-line or entry model, you’re gonna run into a technology gap in your experience. Guaranteed. Wait ‘til the first time you look for the parking brake handle or foot pedal, for example. It ain’t there. Neither will you find a CD player because seems folks nowadays think of them as fondly as 78rpm records.
As I said, my new little motorized buddy is closer to the entry point. It’s got the basics covered and is quite comfortable. Especially because you get to ride inside. But basic. You get the idea.
Still, I’d be hard pressed to count the computers running the damned thing. It’s all buttons, fingertip handles and touch screens. None of the operating controls are where you’d usually find them. Takes three touch screens to turn on the radio. There are multiple USB ports, three power plugins for the iPhone and a female voice coming out of the instrument panel that surprises me every time she says something. Which is quite often.
At the moment of delivery, I learned it didn’t have a spare tire. No spare! Instead, there was this little box under the trunk floor that contained a can of rubber sealant and a small, plugin device to pump the contents into a flat tire. Now I know why there were power outlets on both sides of the dash and in the trunk.
The salesman was quick to point out that more than 70% of flats are punctures and this little pump would plug any puncture and get me 50 miles or so. That almost killed the sale.
When someone tells you that B.S., it’s obvious he’s never driven US 20 from Vale to Burns or Burns to Bend. I’ve done it hundreds of times and know the absolute loneliness of the flat tire experience. Winter and summer. I also have a lifetime of having more tire blowouts on long stretches of highways than punctures. The little can of goo and the plugin pump can’t do much for blowouts.
Needless to say, I opted to trade the suggested spare tire “replacement” gadget for a compact wheel and tire from my friends at Les Schwab.
One of the tips most auto “experts” regularly impart is never buy the extended service policies dealers try to foist on you at delivery. I’ve bought into that thinking for many years. But there was something to be learned, even here, that I’d never run into before.
Most extended policies don’t cover computers. Let that sink in. They cover drive trains and everything else. But not computers. As I said before, my little beast has a dozen or more of ‘em. Barb’s car - much more technologically advanced than mine - is full of ‘em.
Now, I know pretty close what parts cost and the hourly shop labor rate to install most of ‘em. But computers? Some research on the subject confirmed what I’d already surmised. Finding and fixing faulty electronic parts AND software can break up a happy home. It’s one thing to fix a broken driveshaft. It’s quite another to deal with the several computers that make the damned thing work.
If you don’t want the usual extended coverage policy for your next car, it could be worth some study time beforehand. Check out the electronic systems of your planned acquisition and look into the finer points of added costs of some insurance to cover those.
Next time you’re car shopping, my advice is spend a little more time with paperwork. And with a 20-something kid who can explain how all those new operating gadgets work. Some of ‘em are important.