Saturday, July 24, 2010


You may recall that we lost one of our family cars in an unfortunate accident a couple of weeks back. We are now in possession of a replacement, but getting to this point was quite a saga.

I learned two important things from the experience.

Used car dealers are crooks and shysters. Even Subaru dealers, who I had thought would somehow be superior to the stereotype, given the wholesome branding of their product.

Beer, sake, champagne and gin do not mix.

Back to the saga. For the first week Geekydaddy dragged about town in a huge, cumbersome Dodge sedan provided by insurance company via a rental firm. He made spreadsheets and calculated mileage and scoured car dealerships and decided to look for a certified used Subrau Impreza. My car is a Subaru, and we have had a great experience with the car, 180,000 miles and still going strong. The certification program is supposed to guarantee the car meets certain standards. Not quite as good as new, but almost. He found a certified used Impreza at a dealer near his office. A spiffy black one with a cream interior, it met our needs so he handed over a check. It wasn't the newest looking car, 2 years old with some scratches on the interior panels, and it was automatic when Geekdaddy was hoping to get a stick shift, but it was the right price. We were satisfied that the hassle of finding a car was over, and told the kids that this was the replacement for the Prius.

That weekend we drove it down to the kids swim class. This was the night after we had seen Idina Menzel at the symphony. Now this wasn't a big drinky night out, but over the course of the evening I had consumed some beer and some sake (with my sushi), a glass of champagne and a gin and tonic. Either my booze tolerance has hit a new all time low, or something about the combination of beverages didn't sit right in my stomach, because on the way home after class and after a nice post swimming sit down breakfast, I suddenly felt queasy. I grabbed a diaper, the most absorbent thing I had handy, but it proved inadequate as I threw up quite spectacularly, all over myself and the "new" clean upholstery.  At home I attacked it with "Nature's Miracle" pet stain remover (every family with children should have some) and a lot of 'febreze', and rolled down the windows, but a faint vomitty smell remained. I was mortified. Geekydaddy suspected it was a subliminal passive aggressive protest against him getting a new car despite destroying our other one.

Driving it about for a few days, though the smell lifted, he noticed a slowness in the brakes and a jerkiness in the shifting, so he took it in to a different Subaru dealer, the one we have used to service our other car for the past 180,000 miles.

"Where did you get this car"? said Howard our mechanic. He said "car", but his tone said "piece of junk". "There is no way this is a certified pre-owned car" He told us. "I don't think it is even certifiable" Apparently the brake rotors were through, all the brake pads needed replacing and he suspected it had been in a shunt that may have tweaked the frame. He didn't  say "and it smells of vomit", though if I was using artistic license here I would pretend that he had!

I guess we were certifiable for trusting a used car dealer. But surely certified pre-owned should mean something? We had a certificate and a warranty from the other dealer, after all.

So back to the other dealer Geekydaddy went. They were suitably chastened at their "mistake", a genuine one, they assured him. They gave him the loan of a very nice new Outback, and set to fixing the other car. But even fixed we didn't feel we could trust them to sell us a truly certified and reliable used car. He asked for his money back and surprisingly, they didn't even hesitate to do so. I suppose we could have sued since we were sold something under false pretenses.

He was about to walk away, then they started to offer sweeter and sweeter deals on a brand new car.  The deal got so sweet that Geekydaddy was really tempted, but he was loathe to give these shysters his money. So he called another dealer. Said "these guys are offering me a 2010 Impreza for xxx, can you beat it?". They did, so he ended up picking up a new car for only a tiny bit more than we paid for the used one.

I do feel a little guilty that some innocent family is going to buy that other one, and that they will always wonder about the faint smell of vomit coming from the passenger seat.

They kids were getting a little confused by the constant turnover of transportation, and are happy to have a new mechanical family member. They were quite fond of the Prius and sad about its demise.

The new Subaru in the family is a sporty silver,  a stick shift, with a slick black interior. And not a trace of vomit anywhere. Yet.