Saturday, May 24, 2014

That Volatile Organic Compounds Smell*

With the end of May fast-approaching, I needed to bring my car in to get its annual VA state safety inspection done, so, wanting to avoid at least some of the crowds, I took a day off from work (actually, I took two days off, but one of them was just for the sake of not being at work) and scheduled an appointment to have that and my routine intermediate service performed at the dealership.
The day before my appointment, I got an e-mail from the sales manager at the dealership pointing out that I’d hit the five-year anniversary of purchasing my car, that said car was worth a lot more than what I still owed on it, and as a result it was likely that I could upgrade to a new car while possibly lowering my payments or at least keeping them the same.
I’d toyed with the notion of getting a new car for a while, having been tempted by a new model that had come out in the past few years that had similar styling to my existing car, but had new bells and whistles while also getting better gas mileage.  Gas mileage was, after all, the Achilles Heel of my 2009 model.
Of course, as with most things, I was uncertain as to how to proceed.  I wasn’t terribly far from paying off the loan on the car – and was contemplating just doing so all at once – and not having that monthly payment would represent more savings than I could possibly hope to get from savings at the pump.
However, the car was rapidly getting to the point of needing some major service in the form of new brakes and new tires, and the warranty had expired long ago, so, figuring that it would at least give me something to do while my car was being worked on, I scheduled an appointment to meet with the sales people.
My old car was a Grand Touring model, and I assumed that I would pretty much want the same with a new car, but in running through my list of “must-haves,” the first sales guy I spoke to thought that the Touring model would be sufficient for my needs, given that I was indifferent about leather vs. cloth interior and features such as a power moon roof.
However, once he showed me a Touring model and we discussed things, I realized that I had forgotten a few “must-haves,” so, we concluded, Grand Touring it is, and, beyond that, Grand Touring with the “Technology Package.”
My first inkling that it was becoming increasingly likely that I’d be driving home in a new car came when he informed me that they had a Grand Touring with Technology Package in stock in my preferred color.  (“Soul Red,” which is not as nice as the “Copper Red Mica” color of my old car, but is still pretty nice.)
Last time, they had to have my preferred model delivered when I bought the car, which was something of an agonizing wait, and something I didn’t want to have to repeat.
I was then passed off to a different sales guy – who might be worthy of his own blog post one of these days; he was kind of a nerd and, as such, we got along pretty well – who took it from there.  (The first guy had an existing appointment and the people showed up while he was trying to get me set up to take a test drive.)
Once I actually got into the car, I had my second and final inkling that I would be driving home in a new car.  So many gadgets!
To shorten the long story, yes, I bought a new car.  Payments are only slightly lower – $2 a month – but overall it’s worth it, as there is the gas savings to look forward to, and it’s saving me some short-term expenses, as I won’t have to pay $600 to get the brakes replaced, or who knows how much to get new tires, and I did the whole 45 days until the first payment thing.
There were also some additional, inadvertent savings in the form of the day’s bill for the services rendered.
The intermediate service alone was $279, plus another $20 for going with full synthetic oil, the cost of the VA inspection, and a $40 charge for re-aligning the headlights, which had to be done in order for it to pass the inspection.
Because I was dealing with the process of buying a new car, they didn’t bother with having me pay my bill, and hinted that sales would cover it, so I didn’t bring it up.  Unfortunately for them, they didn’t think to look into how much the bill was until after I’d already signed all of the papers, so they were unprepared for how high it was, and weren’t exactly thrilled about having to eat that cost, but…fuck ‘em.  It’s not like I was trying to put one over on them, and if I’d just gone there with the intention of trading it in and buying a new car, they would have had to eat the cost of the service anyway.
Speaking of which, apparently I may get some small amount of money back, as I’d had a pre-paid – though it didn’t always pay for everything; it really just amounted to a discount – maintenance plan as part of the loan on the old car, and cancelling the terms of that means that I may receive a refund of some sort for the remaining balance.
In any case, here is a shot of the new car:


The car in question is a 2015 Mazda CX-5.  The smaller, lighter frame – which is also, apparently, much sturdier than my CX-7’s – that is part of the “Skyactiv” technologies contributes to the greater fuel economy.
Among the bells and whistles are a much-improved Bluetooth interface, which actually imports my contacts rather than forcing me to recreate them in the car (as with the CX-7), and allows for music streaming and for up to 8 (I think) devices to be paired with it, TomTom navigation, with maps that are contained on an easily-updated SD card rather than a DVD, a USB port for connecting audio devices, or even thumb drives that are loaded with audio files, all sorts of personalization options – setting it to automatically lock the car when you walk away from it, for example – blind spot monitoring, which is a godsend in NoVA, as drivers here seem to believe that blind spot is the ideal place to hang out, and the just plain cool Adaptive Front-Lighting System, which turns the headlights in conjunction with the steering wheel.
It also has a feature called Smart City Brake Support, which, when you’re driving under 19 MPH, gauges the distance between you and the car in front of you, and will assist with braking if it determines that a collision is unavoidable.
Beyond any of that, it’s just a smoother, quieter ride, which is, to be fair, largely a function of the fact that it’s new, and hasn’t had to be repaired after having a nice old couple plow into the side of it while being driven to fucking Manassas.
There are a couple of downsides, however.  Like the CX-7, the CX-5 has a keyless ignition, though here it’s a push-button, whereas with the CX-7 it was a knob that had to be turned.  The only problem is that the remote key for the CX-7, while a tad on the thick side, was roughly the size and shape of a credit card, and as such I could keep it in my wallet.  The new key doesn’t share that form factor, so it ends up being one more thing in my pocket.  Not a huge deal, but still a minor annoyance.
The bigger downside stems simply from the fact that it’s so new.  When it finally occurred to me that, oh yeah, I need to change my insurance policy to reflect the new car, I went online and began the simple process of moving my policy from the old car to the new.  There was a hitch, though, in that it couldn’t find any information for the VIN, so I had to actually call my insurance company…who also couldn’t pull up any information on the VIN.
They had to open a ticket to have it manually added to the system, but unfortunately that can take up to 72 hours (which will likely be longer due to the holiday), so technically, as I write this, my car isn’t actually insured.
I guess it’s a good thing I’m a homebody, and hopefully it will be taken care of by the time I have to return to work…and nobody plows into it while it’s parked.
In any case, despite having to continue making payments longer than I wanted to, I’m happy with the new car.

*Volatile Organic Compounds – or VOCs – are what account for that “new car smell.”

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