Looking for a new car… but what is it that I really need?

Terry and I have been considering some options for a new car.

This is actually a debate that we’ve been having for a couple of years now. And the foundation of it was set almost a decade ago. We had a Pathfinder at the time. A story involving a truck, a cargo of live goats, trouble with the brakes and wheels, and ultimately the truck swerving out of control and the Pathfinder on its side is a bit too long to share here, but it sets the stage for us driving smaller cars ever since. (I will say I wasn’t at fault… or the one hauling the live goats.)

You buy what you can afford… you make decisions based on what you need… and while Terry and I commute together, we regularly put hundreds of miles on the cars each week.

We also take care of them as best we can. Oil changes and repairs… and other assorted headaches addressed in a timely fashion. (Except for those annoying service engine soon lights. Who invented those nightmares? Do they actually offer any useful information? Never mind… I know the answer to that one.) All of this and more set the stage for an interesting debate.

After so much time of not being able to move stuff from one house to another… or borrowing a van from my parents or a truck from a generous set of in-laws… and in essence asking for favors, we had begun kicking around the thought of adding a car. Didn’t have to be a new one. Didn’t even need to be a car. In fact… we preferred it wasn’t. We wanted something that would haul cargo or larger items. We wanted something that wasn’t the primary source of transportation, believing its role was to be a tool.

She wants a pickup.

I don’t.

People that know me understand. I’m not a truck guy. And for those that don’t know me, I should probably explain…

Over the years I’m becoming a bit more tool-worthy. It has not been a fast transition. It has not been a smooth transition. But there are power tools in my house and I’m not afraid to use them. Give me a 2x4 or two and a fully charged drill… I’ll give you an incredibly heavy but amazingly well-built work bench. (You’re welcome.)

But when it comes to a truck… I’m just not there yet. And I don’t know that I ever will in the vicinity of the neighborhood.

Of course there are uses for it. We were working on our bathroom recently and needed a way to bring a new shower unit home. Needed a truck for that. A pickup worked fine… an SUV wouldn’t have worked at all.

I still vote for the SUV.

Things get wet in the bed of a pickup. Things blow around and aren’t secure and… look… I told you… I don’t get it. I’m not doing things for work (or play) that often need the space of a pickup bed. That’s it. Simple.

Many years ago I went to see a movie. The star was driving one of those new pickup trucks with four wheels on the rear axle. For the life of me I couldn’t understand why anyone would ever need four wheels on the rear axle of their truck. So I suppose perhaps I am making progress, because thanks to shows like Top Gear and conversations with people, I now know that apparently those wheels influence torque ratios and load capacities and a bunch of other things that I just couldn’t describe to you. In short… you can haul more. Power. And if I’m wrong about all of that, let’s just agree that maybe they do have some sort of purpose.

But what am I hauling?

We have a fireplace… and I have a chainsaw. I could go chop down some wood. Let’s face the facts though… the last time I went out on a wood-chopping job away from home was easily more than twenty years ago. And actually, I’m probably overdue for calling Mom and my friend Todd so we can get together for a twenty-fifth anniversary lunch like we did following that thrilling morning years ago… laughing about our day with my Dad and what happened when the professional-looking loggers showed up.

I needed a pickup when we replaced a broken washing machine, and could have used it for some runs to the dump. But now the town landfill charges more for a sticker than what Terry and I are likely to pay for the truck itself. It’s easier to move the broken item to the edge of the street with a fancy sign saying “free to a good home”… because when we do that, it’s already being loaded into the back of someone else’s truck before I can reach the front door on my walk back from placing it on the curb.

My arguments gained interesting momentum a little over two years ago… when a lovable St. Bernard joined our family. It seemed as though a larger vehicle with an enclosed back section would be necessary. Molly’s around 140-pounds now. And today, Gus has crossed the 60-pound mark on his way to passing Molly. The thing is… she manages to get in and out of our cars quite nicely, so jumping in and out of an SUV doesn’t appear necessary.

So we keep looking and debating and thinking. And the reality is our ideas aren’t changing much. What is changing is the market… where people want to tell me that everything is different and new.

I don’t think it is. I think they just want to sell me something.

About thirty years ago my parents bought a new car. It was a Subaru wagon. And I laughed a few years ago when the Outback hit the market… because people were reacting like it was some radical new arrival. Yeah… umm, no… quite clearly to my eyes it was the same Subaru wagon from thirty or so years ago with a different paint job.

Don’t think you’re that gullible? You see a difference? Yeah… well… you probably also see a difference between an Outback and a Forester.

Folks… dress it however you want to… wash it up, toss some lipstick on it… observe how it looks, walks, and quacks… the fact is, the Dodge Magnum is a station wagon. They tried to disguise it by not putting wood paneling in it. They’re not fooling me.

And so as Terry and I keep wondering about if and when and why we’ll get a new car, the subject of a pickup is bound to be visited again and again. But the fact, for me, remains… it’s still a pickup. And while that may be great for you and incredibly useful, I just don’t know if that’s what Molly, Gus and I really need.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com