Friday, April 3, 2009

Slight change of plans

I meant what I said about paying off my debts by the end of the year--really, I did. But sometimes stuff happens and everything changes....

I'm a fan of hybrid cars; as you can tell by my list of favorite blogs, I read about them regularly, both in those blogs and in news & tech articles. I've been wanting a Toyota Prius probably ever since they came out, and I've been watching the online inventory of my local Toyota dealer for the past two years, even though my current vehicle, a Pontiac Grand Am, wasn't paid off yet. I absolutely intended to wait until the Grand Am was paid off before even thinking about buying any sort of replacement vehicle, let alone an expensive Prius (remember, they were selling for top dollar last summer, when gas was so high). And based on certain future plans involving retirement, moving, and fixing up my house to sell before then, it seemed more reasonable to wait until a few years before retirement to buy another car, so I could have it paid off before actually retiring, so I wouldn't have a car payment anymore. A very sensible plan, that.

Didn't stop me from keeping an eye on Prius deals for two years, though, did it?

I really doubted I'd come across anything good (i.e., not too old, with not too many miles on it) that I could afford. Which is why, last Wednesday, I took a looooonnnnng second look when I saw this on the dealer's website:

That odometer reading ain't a typo. This was a practically-new, one-year-old, one-owner, 2008 Toyota Prius, traded in two days earlier by a fellow who--bless him--has a very active trading cycle. After thinking about it for a few hours, I emailed for an appointment to see this unreal deal the following Saturday. I told myself the car would certainly be snapped up before then, so I was perfectly safe from the perils of car-buying...and then, that night, I lost sleep thinking about missing out on such a deal (check the price--damn fine). I knew I'd kick myself if I delayed checking it out until Saturday, because it'd be gone by then.

Thursday morning, I emailed the salesman who had replied to me the previous day and asked, nonchalantly, if we might move our appointment up to that afternoon. "Sure!" sez he, of course. So I went. The deal was real. It was in beautiful condition and drove great; a low-mileage, pristine, nearly-brand-new beauty of a Prius...which, to make a long story short, is now sitting in my driveway. Yes, after running the numbers of my budget and other financial obligations scrupulously several times and planning how I would handle everything, I bought it.

My Sister the Accountant will think I'm out of my mind, and that's OK, because you don't come across an opportunity like this every day. And after the next rather squeaky six months (while I pay off all that furniture I just bought, never suspecting there was a Prius in my future), I'll be able to handle the payments (which are much larger than my old Grand Am) with no trouble, and still pay off my credit card debt in two years instead of one. And that IS final.

Amazingly, I haven't taken a swarm of loving pix of my new baby yet, so I snagged some from the dealer's site and put them on my Flickr page for your delight and edification.

And now for the driving report: The Prius really drives like a normal car except for the gas engine shutting off at stops, low speeds, and while coasting, and assorted other hybrid-car noises. I had an embarrassing moment Thursday evening, while showing the car off to a colleague, when I couldn't remember how to turn the silly thing on, but I eventually got it together (you have to step on the brake firmly, then press the power button; when "READY" shows up on your line-of-sight display, you're ready to rock & roll). If the 12-volt battery (which is just like that in a regular car) dies, you can have somebody jump the battery in the usual way, just as with a regular car. The traction battery (where all the electric go-juice is stored) is under the back seat, so your back-seat passengers are sitting on it (don't worry, their pacemakers are safe). I sit higher in the driver's seat than I did in my Grand Am, which was surprising. And there's quite a lot of storage in the car, which was also surprising (and even more when you drop the 60/40 split back seat). It has a pull-out tonneau cover to hide your valuables in the back (or, in my case, a scruffy cardboard box of car tools), and more storage space under the deck just above the spare tire. It's equipped with a smart key, which means you can carry the key-fob thingie in your pocket or purse, never lay a hand on it, and still unlock & lock the car, courtesy of a sensor behind the front door handles (to unlock) and a button on all the door handles (to lock it). If you don't have that electronic key on you, you ain't gettin' in; and even if you could, the car won't start. Four doors & a hatchback, a spiffy display with all sorts of info and settings (including an animation of which way energy is flowing during various operations), three knobs on the steering column containing gangs of combined functions which I may need an infusion of gingko to remember, a wee shift lever on the dash, and a button you push to put the car in park, instead of shifting. That Park button is probably the weirdest thing about this car. Oh, and it also has a rear-view camera that shows you on the display what's behind you when you back up, which is just slicker'n snot.  :D

The only thing I'm not wild about is the color--black. But for a deal like this, I can freakin' paint it someday. And it does look sharp.

The Prius is different, but not intimidating (well, only a little, and just because it's still early days for me). I've only had it one day and I hearts it big-time.  :)

I think I'll keep this car 'til I die, then be buried in it.


Daisy said...

Congratulations on your new "baby"!

Thumper said...

Nice! If I could have found a Prius at that price a couple weeks ago, I would have bought it. You can't pass up a deal that good, not when they're selling for over $30K right now.

I settled for a Yaris. Got a great deal, and it gets 40+mpg...probably not as comfortable a ride, but it's fun to drive.

Anonymous said...

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Shaggy, Scooby and Scout said...

You sound like my husband. He will watch stuff he wants to buy, most recently a 52" flat screen, getting to know all the regular and sale prices, what is a good deal and what is not.He really does the research and it usually pays off We got the tv just after Thanksgiving on one of those sales and it has never been at a lower price since. Score!
Congrats! Doing the homework pays off!

Cat with a garden said...

You stalked the prey, pounced at the right time and got it! Concats!

las794 said...

Hee hee--Minnie's not the only Heap Big Hunter in this house! :D

Susan said...

Concerning the "getting out of debt" thing, I was able to finally get a handle on my debt by paying off my vehicle (5 years) then immediately going to the bank for another car loan and paying off my debt. Then I was paying the bank a reasonable 12.5 percent (which was the rate for a used-car loan then) instead of the 23 percent my cards were charging, and it was all in one payment. In three short years, the debt was gone. I got a debit/Mastercard and cut up all my credit cards and use only "real money" now. So if you still have debt when this car is paid off, you might consider that option.