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How Not to Buy a Car These Days

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By William Thomas

I’ve spent the last few months trying to buy a car, a mission that has turned out to be nearly impossible.  Most guys looking for a car are keen on things like acceleration, man handling, wrap-around sound bites, ABCD brakes and V-neck engines.  Not me.  I’m not a car guy.  My needs are very simple – a great colour, leather interior and a standard transmission.  If it comes with a roof and a radio, I consider that a bonus.

However, as soon as I mention I want a stick shift – the fact is I never learned how to drive an automatic – they tell me all the options and accessories I can’t have because they’re making fewer and fewer models of cars with standard transmissions these days.  The driving schools that teach our kids how to drive don’t even own training cars with standard shifts.  This is a big mistake because one day, one of those kids will grow up to be a bank robber.  Fleeing from the scene of the crime he will hijack a car with a standard transmission and … and lurch and stall his way down the street until he’s finally arrested by a cop on horseback.  My point is — car manufacturers have no regard for the future of our children.

So, I want a stick shift and I’m one of those people who only needs glasses to drive, so I also require a car with a prescription windshield … in case I misplace my glasses.  When I made that request at the car dealership, they escorted me off the lot.  But you’re starting to think about this option.  Am I right?  A prescription windshield – no need to wear glasses, tinted like a pair of cool shades and boy, is that guy who just stole my car in for a big surprise!

Not to further complicate my car needs, but I hate wearing a seat belt, which is why I require the driver’s seat be custom-covered with Velcro … to attach to my Velcro jeans.

Also, I wouldn’t mind one of those passenger ejection seats I saw in a James Bond movie for a certain special someone who keeps telling me how to drive.

So there I was, every weekend for months, test driving cars.  Big and small, I drove them all.  I drove one car that was so big it was advertised as a “two-bedroom home away from home with a fully furnished hatchback.”  The sign outside the dealership read:  “C’mon in!  They’re big and they last forever.”  And I did.  And they are.  And they do.  The payments, not the cars.

I drove small cars too.  I drove one car that was so small it had a special compartment to hold a map, sunglasses, cell phone and a pack of Kleenex. Turns out it was the trunk.

And fast? Why are they making faster cars these days when the speed limits are staying the same?  I drove one car that went from zero to 60 in less than six seconds and I think the 60 was measured in feet!  They advertise “Fast and Fully Loaded.”  Fast and loaded!  Wasn’t that Mel Gibson’s problem?

And quiet!  Every jogger in this country should be afraid of the new breed of nearly silent cars.  And the electric cars make no noise whatsoever.  What the manufacturers need to do for safety’s sake is remove grills from the fronts of their cars and replace them with padded cow catchers.

After driving a couple of new SUVs, I became totally confused by all the new accessories.  I mean, Bluetooth?  Back-up cameras?  Mileage range?  Push button start?  This stuff is not only unnecessary, it’s dangerous.  I was cruising down the QEW near St. Catharines in a new minivan and I damn near broke my neck trying to watch CNN on the TV in the back seat.

As if the new and mostly unnecessary gadgets were not confusing enough, then along came the warranty.  “We are proud of the highly-skilled workmanship of our vehicles and proud to stand behind them with a comprehensive warranty.”  Really?  I mean, if the car was so well made in the first place, why would we need a warranty?!?

The new cars with all these crazy bells and whistles are way too expensive, but they do come with some fun.  For instance, when the dealer trying to sell you the warranty says he “proudly stands behind the car,” you can actually see him with the back-up camera!

At great risk of dating myself, I swear the first four cars I ever owned cost a total of $4,000.  Today that’s less than the sales tax on most of the new cars I drive.  So now I’m thinking “pre-owned.”  The last time I owned a used car, it was an indestructible little red tank called the Mazda 323.  I bought it planning to drive it for two years, but it was still going strong after seven.  I gave it to my brother-in-law, Dan, and told him to “treat it as if it were your own.”  And he did.  He sold it.  And no, I’m not making that up.

For comments, ideas and copies of The True Story of  Wainfleet, go to www.williamthomas.ca.

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