Car Shopping 101
By: by Lisa Smartt
Look out, West Tennesseans! I’m back on the highways and byways. Yep! After a three-month medical hiatus from driving, I’m on the move again. “Headin’ down the highway. Lookin’ for adventure.” The only problem? We only have one car. The four-door Saturn is all that remains in the Smartt entourage of vehicles. The beloved ’96 Crown Victoria has been dead and buried for three months now. Tragically, it was blindsided by a grove of trees right outside Palmersville.
We haven’t had the motivation to buy another car yet. We all know the Vic is irreplaceable. It’s not every day that a human being has the privilege of driving a tank-like Grandma car with red velvet seats and a cavernous trunk. No. The fully-loaded ’96 white Crown Vic only comes along once in a lifetime. May it rest in peace. But there comes a time when we have to move on. Learn to love again.
So we’ve sought the advice of trusted friends as we’ve ventured into the world of car shopping. And let me tell ya, when it comes to car shopping, everyone has an opinion. Some of our friends just go on and on about SUVs because they’re so big and roomy. Roomy? Let me let you in on a little secret. Nothing is more roomy than the classic crushed-velvet-clad fully-loaded 1996 Crown Victoria. Pass me a tissue while I listen to Barbra Streisand sing “The Way We Were” on the CD player.
Other people suggest a smaller car to save on gas mileage. The only problem with the small car? You never know when a grove of trees is going to pop right out and blindside you while you’re driving down a country road in Palmersville. Maybe a bigger car is a better choice for my driving “style.”
Then there’s the choice between new or used — I mean, pre-owned. You can’t really buy a used car any more. You can only buy one that’s been pre-owned. This would indicate that the car has never really been USED. It’s merely been OWNED.
My dear hubby and I are in complete agreement on seeking out a pre-owned vehicle. We don’t even mind if it’s been USED a little bit. We’re both far too practical to buy new. OK, some people would say we’re cheap. We like to think of it as “fiscally conservative.” Fast-talking car dealers have had little success with us in the past when they say things like, “What would it take for us to help you buy this car today?” Our response: “It would take a wealthy relative dying and leaving us an inordinate amount of money such that we could pay cash for the vehicle in question. Currently, no one is ill. No one is wealthy.” I’m thankful that Phil and I have never found our identity in what we drive. Our vehicle provides a way to get from Point A to Point B. It doesn’t define us.
While we prefer a car not covered in rust or Bondo, we’re more than open to one with a little personality, a little history, a little red crushed-velvet seating, if possible. I think it’s time for a purchase. We’ve grieved the Crown Vic long enough. It’s time for me to get back on the open roads. If you see a chubby middle-aged blonde woman flying down the highway in a fully-loaded 2008 Hummer, you’ll know it’s not me. But a ’98 Olds with curb feelers? Honk and wave.
Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger on 10.31.07
Lisa Smartt, Smartt View