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January 2006 - Posts

I own a Prius!

As of January 25 I've been an owner of a Prius!  It's a nice one too, Barcelona Red and dark grey interior fabric; nice.  I was going to get Driftwood Pearl (beige) and Bisque (beige) interior, but after seeing another car with a red exterior and black interior I just had to switch.  The move cost me since the dealer had put a rush on the other one -- apparently -- so I had to pay $500 more to get the red!  Sucks.  But, oh well, I'll have the car for a long time and be happy with the color so that's why I agreed to pay the surcharge.  I really got everything I wanted in this car, nothing that I'll wish I would've gotten.  The red color; check.  MP3 playback ability; check.  Navigation system; check.  Sure it's going to cost me a lot but I wanted what I wanted.  Plus 2006 Priuses get a $3000 tax credit so that'll help out with the cost too.

I'll post pictures later, but so far I like it.  The acceleration from stopping could be vastly improved but that's my only gripe.

Posted: Sun, Jan 29 2006 6:12 PM by Humpty | with 3 comment(s)
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I'm getting a Prius!

I've decided to get a Prius rather than keep my Dodge Neon.  I spent all of last week deciding what to do: keep the car or get a new one.

There were a lot of good arguments for each choice.  In keeping the car I determined that I could've gotten it fixed for $1800 rather than the $3600 the insurance company would've had to pay.  I got a low price like this by agreeing to pay in cash only, hence a side job done by a guy in the shop rather than the official per hour charge.  If I did that I would have about $2000 or so left in cash, plus a car title that would be re-branded to indicate it was totaled thereby reducing its resell value.  For a car this old, 6 1/2 years, I'm not expecting that much anyway, but having a branded title really reduces how much you can expect to get.  To help offset lowered resell value though is the fact that I would have two grand in the bank, lower car insurance versus a new car, and cheaper property tax.  And when I say cheaper property tax I'm talking about $484 back in 2000 versus $84 last year; big difference.  I like my Neon too, it still runs great, another selling point.

But, the swaying factor for me was that I've been wanting a Prius ever since Toyota redesigned the 2003 models.  That's two years I've been lusting after this car!  I decided to take a test drive in one by going to a dealership last Thursday and I was sold.

The inside of them is amazing, it truly reminds me of the bridge of the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek, no joke.  Since it uses a continuously variable transmission there's no need for discreet gears anymore thus no gear selector!  There's a lever next to the steering wheel that you use to indicate what to do with the car: drive, reverse, neutral, or brake, but that's more of an indicator of what you want to do rather than some physical mechanism changing.  The parking brake is where the clutch would be on a conventional transmission car so the center of the car is a lot cleaner and less cluttered.  The dashboard is totally digital, no analog dials for anything.  The fuel gauge, the speedometer, everything up there is digital.  And speaking of digital there's even an LCD screen in the middle of the car to the right of dashboard!  Again, all digital.  Climate control, stereo, outside temperature, you name it, it's there.  About the only manual controls on the car are the CD controls.  There's even a start button on the car, no cranking it up!  This is truly one high tech car.  And oh yeah, it gets great gas mileage too, somewhere around 60 MPG in the city according to the sticker.

Driving it is so weird.  When I got in I noticed myself reaching down to change the gear from park to reverse only to realize it wasn't there.  I had to get used to reaching up near the steering wheel to do that.  Some cars are like that anyway so that's not too high tech, but it's just different from most modern cars.  Also, depending on the options you get, the car has a back up camera that shows you what's behind you on the LCD screen.  That is so cool, seriously!  Driving it is different too.  The car is quiet, real quiet.  At low speeds, apparently up to 35 MPH, the car doesn't use the gasoline engine but uses the electric motor to power the car.  That means there is hardly any noise at all, mainly just noise from the wind.  It's so weird because I'm used to being able to hear and feel how fast a car is going, but that breaks down in this car.

There are two things I didn't quite like but I think I'll get used to.  First, the car cuts off the gas engine when it's stopped.  It makes sense, you save gas that way since you don't waste it with an idling engine.  The problem comes in when you accelerate and the car has to "come on" again.  Rather than mashing on the gas pedal to go fast like I always do, you have to be patient and wait for the car to build up speed on its own.  It's not too slow, but I'm used to faster.  Merging on the highway is no problem, about the only one is that it's hard to tell by hearing and feeling alone how fast the car is moving.  I easily got up to 70 MPH without noticing because I was expecting to feel the transmission shift gears, which of course never happened.  Second, looking out the rear view mirror is a pain.  Not the mirror per se, but the hatchback design limits viewing a little.  It's not too bad, but it's definitely something that will take some time to get used to.  And maybe that's just car design and other hatchback designs have this issue.

All and all I really enjoyed driving the car.  I was grinning from ear to ear after I was done -- I'm sure the dealer knew I was sold.  Luckily for me I'm getting the car now rather than later.  Thanks to good ole George Bush's energy bill new hybrids bought this year get somewhere around $3000 in tax savings!  Even luckier for me is that the dealer apparently forgot to write on the sticker a markup on the car to profit from this tax credit.  So to get my business he agreed to sell me the car at MSRP if I bought it right then and there, no dealer markup, just a $500 deposit for it.  That's not really bargaining, I know, paying at MSRP, but this car has such a long waiting list of people waiting to buy it dealers openly advertise their markup and people still buy it!  Back when I first looked at this car two years ago there was a waiting list of at least 30 some people to get the car so I definitely believe the dealer on his truthfulness of the markup.  So getting a Prius at MSRP is a steal, whereas for other cars that would mean you're being robbed.

I'm going to adjust my tax withholdings on my paycheck to take advantage of the tax credit, which I learned can zero your tax liability but not generate a refund for you.  I'm getting about $5000 from Geico for them totaling my car and keeping it.  Really they valued the car at $6000 which is a lot higher than Kelley's Blue Book valued my car at, but my deductible reduced the amount I got to $5000.  I couldn't even trade my car in for that amount, nowhere near.  So it would seem getting the Prius at this time is probably the best time to get it: I'm getting more money for my car, I can take full advantage of the tax credit hybrids get, and I even lucked out and actually got one period, for MSRP too.  I'm definitely excited to get my hands on this car.  I've waited two years for it and now, it seems, the wait is finally over!

Posted: Wed, Jan 18 2006 1:10 AM by Humpty | with 1 comment(s)
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Songs from the ether

 Tori Amos - Winter
 Madonna - I Remember

Two days ago I had the song "Winter" by Tori Amos stuck in my head all day.  (Note, you can play a sample of it at the start of this post.)  For some reason I just had a fascination with the song.  I hadn't been listening to her the previous days and I only have two songs by her in my entire collection, so the fact that I was playing the song over and over in my mind fascinated me.  I wonder what it means.  It could be some random thing, but...it's too odd.  Why did I have a sudden liking of this song after hardly listening to it?  The song isn't even one of my favorites either, far from it.  I wonder about things like this: was someone thinking of me that liked this song, was there some message in the lyrics for me...  Who knows, but it does fascinate me.

A while ago, maybe a month ago, I had the song "I Remember" by Madonna in my head as well.  (Note, a sample of it is above like the other.)  Now I like this song more than "Winter", but I still hadn't been listening to it recently when it popped into my head.  And like the other song it disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared.  In my head one day, gone the next.  Hmm, all the white horses....I wonder.

Posted: Fri, Jan 13 2006 2:02 AM by Humpty
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To total or not to total...

That's the question I face now, total the car or not.  I think not, since the car is still drivable.  True, the frame needs to be realigned some and that'll knock down the value of my car, but the engine is fine.  It's pure economics when it comes to totaling a car.  I used to think that when a car was "totaled" that meant the car was pure crap!  Now I know it's an economics decision.  If the repairs for your car exceed a certain threshold of the market value for your car then an insurance company can decide to total it rather than pay for the repairs.  So that's how you end up with weird scenarios of some new BMW suffering major damage in an accident but being deemed repairable, but an older car that gets dinged gets totaled.  Crazy.

I had an auto body mechanic cold call me the day after the accident saying he'd give me a discount on my repairs.  After Geico deemed my car would be totaled, without even checking under the hood I'll add, I was suddenly more inclined to listen to the mechanic.  Turns out he can do the work for about $1500 or so and Geico wants to pay me roughly $4000 to total my car and have me keep it.  (They'll give me $5000 if they keep it after totaling it.)  So I can get my repairs done to my car and end up with a $2000 profit!?  WTF!!  Damn, sometimes the psychology of insurance economics baffle me...  Well, I am somewhat risking this guy fixing my car right, but since I can actually drive my car -- it just looks kind of weird -- I don't think I'm risking too much.  Most of the damage to my car is cosmetic, busted frames and such.  What's even funnier is that I can get my car reinspected for free, apparently, after the repairs and get insurance on it again!  So Geico will basically pay me $2000 to fix my car and then re-insure it, neat.

I was considering getting a new car as well.  The Toyota Prius is the car I'd get if I were to get a new car.  It's new technology and gets 44 - 48 MPG!  BTW, don't trust the inflated EPA claims of 60 MPG; I'm hearing.  But I don't want to get into new car payments, higher property tax, and a higher insurance cost for a new car, so I'll just fix my lowly 2000 Dodge Neon.  Man, after driving a rental, a Neon as well, I miss my car.  My car can handle turns so much better!  I feel like I'm going to slide off the road in my rental while turning.  Admittedly I do turn kind of sharply, but that just goes to show my car is for me :)

Posted: Wed, Jan 11 2006 1:18 AM by Humpty
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Crash...Boom...Bang...

Oh, and Cruuunch...  That's the sound of two cars violently scraping together in ways that they weren't meant to be, and what happened to me last night.  Yep, after almost six and a half years of being accident free I was involved in a fender bender.  It sucks.

It was a dark and stormy night...  No, really, it was.  Okay, so it wasn't exactly storming, more like raining a lot.  Anyway, the ground was wet, my driver side window caked with raindrops and the lamp post I thought I saw as I was pulling out of a grocery store was really the headlights of an oncoming car.  I thought the light from that lamp post acted kind of funny so I did stop my car after inching a few inches into the road.  Oh well, hit I was.

Everyone was okay.  The guy's car that hit me had its front fender totally off.  My car suffered a broken driver side headlight dome, bent driver side fender, scarred front fender, and a shifted over hood.  He was Hispanic and didn't speak English all that well.  It turns out, after the cops came, that he wasn't even driving with a license and probably wasn't supposed to be in the country either!  Not like that was the cause of the accident though: I could've backed up quicker, he could've moved into the other lane, or slowed down / stopped.  I did have an instinct to back up, I should've trusted my spidey sense.

I will say my passenger was a great asset and help to me last night.  I haven't blogged about her yet so she doesn't exist to my blog readers, hahaha.  Nevertheless, I deeply appreciate her being with me last night.

Posted: Tue, Jan 3 2006 7:59 PM by Humpty | with 1 comment(s)
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