Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New Car Shopping


The quest for functionality, efficiency, and style.


Let's face it, the purchase of an automobile for most people is less about function than it is about perception. We have ceased to shop for a transportation service, which is really what a car is, to shopping for something that fulfills an emotional need. Sure, the vehicle gets us around and serves its utilitarian purpose, but it also reinforces our personal statement to the world around us. Other than our homes, it may be the ultimate consumer product.

My wife and I are in the process of buying a new vehicle. I say "new" only in that it will be new to us. We are looking at wagons of the used variety, with a short list narrowed to the Volvo V70, Subaru Legacy, and 2004 Passat 1.8T.

Why these models? Because Consumer Reports said so.

Why wagons? Because there was no way in hell we would buy an SUV (not necessarily because I am a closet greeny), and minivans are way too lame (shades of gray), yet we wanted decent storage capacity and gas mileage.

We've driven a Volvo V70, a Legacy, and an Outback. All of them are capable cars, the Legacy/Outback gets better highway mileage, about 28 MPG, while the larger Volvo comes in at around 26-27 MPG. Of course, it all depends on how heavy the foot is under acceleration as well as how well the car is operating. Neither one is a hybrid, but we were not in a position to make the large investment in a hybrid SUV, especially what is considered a depreciating asset. At least buying a used car is a form of recycling!

Going back to what a car says about the person driving it:

  • I am certain that the V70 says, "we are in our thirties going on 65 and believe safety equipment will make us better parents."
  • The Legacy say, "we are slightly hipper than the 50 year olds we really are."
  • The Outback says, "we like to pretend we're outdoorsy, but our tent and sleeping bags are currently used to hold the barn door closed."

I am curious to determine what sort of people we are.

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