I’ve been into cars my whole life. If I could sell my long-gone childhood Hot Wheels collection, I’d be a rich man.
My idea of fun reading is a car magazine. I love learning about a vehicle’s performance, design, value, and how it stands up against the competition. As a result of a lifetime of study, I know a lot about cars. I may not be able to diagnose why your car won’t start, but I can tell you which vehicle is the best in the class you’re considering.
I’ve never formally been a car salesperson. But I’ve recommended cars to many friends over the years.
Here are some of my favorite tips…
- Skip the lease. If you buy a car, you’ll save a lot in the long run by buying a lesser model for the same as the lease payments for a fancier model. “But I’d have a monthly payment anyway,” is not a good argument when you consider where you’ll be at the end of the lease – having to start again compared to having a paid-for car. Better yet, keep driving your old beast and save up to pay cash.
- What’s your primary use? If you’re going to live in the mountains with serious snow to plow through every day for months, then all-wheel drive is a good option. If you spend the vast majority of your time driving around town and live in a place that gets snow, a good set of snow tires and front-wheel drive will get you to your destination 99% of the time.
- If you’re buying from Craigslist, be sure to take the vehicle you’re seriously considering to a reputable shop nearby to have a mechanic check it over. That could save you thousands in repair costs. The shop may turn up a serious problem you won’t see.
- Make sure it has a clean title. If the used vehicle you like has a salvage title, you’ll save upfront but you’ll never recoup the difference when you later try to sell it.
- Reliability makes a big difference five years down the road. Spend $10 on a month-long membership to Consumer Reports and find their ratings on the model you’re considering. You’ll discover, for example, that the Mazda CX-5 has much better ratings than the Hyundai Tucson.
- Make sure it runs on the lowest octane. 30¢ a gallon adds up to a lot of money over the course of a year. (If you’re considering an electric car, this obviously does not apply.)
- Finally, have fun. I’ve shared many practical considerations. But it’s worth spending a little more for a vehicle you’ll enjoy.
Disclaimers: I am not judging you if you lease your vehicle! And as with many things, do as I say, not as I do… one of our two vehicles has all-wheel drive. (The other, however, has front-wheel drive with snow tires – and it works great in the snow.)
The dashboard photo is courtesy of Claude Gabriel on Unsplash and is used with permission.
BMW decided to change the face of their vehicles. They went from subtle double-kidney grilles to massive gaping mouths. In their attempt to go for a menacing look, they went too far and landed on a face that not even a mother (or father) would love.
Car and Driver magazine agrees: “Do whatever it takes to ignore the new BMW M4’s toothy grille…”
Sometimes designers go too far on purpose to push the envelope. Over time, what was outrageous becomes acceptable.
I have to eat my words on Kia’s design decisions (see this post). Two years ago, when their Telluride large SUV came out, I thought it was quite ugly. Now I’m used to the look.
I’m not sure if I will ever get used to BMW’s new face.
So I did a little work in Photoshop on James Lipman’s photo and made the grille more the size that God intended. (See above.)
Let’s push the envelope, but not too far.
I love to do what I can to help our planet.
Recently, I’ve been hit with ads for bamboo toilet paper and paper towels on Instagram.
Another set of ads features an environmental advance hitting the world of laundry soap. You can buy soap for washing clothes that comes in sheets. Buying those prevents manufacturing and disposing of those giant plastic containers the soap comes in and shipping 80% of the product’s water to your local emporium.
But there are two serious problems with these products:
- Cost: they are way more expensive than most alternatives.
- Shipping: it’s a big environmental cost to ship those things one-by-one (or even two-by-two) to your door.
We bought a “make your own shampoo” kit from a small company recently. It came in a nice cardboard package with no plastic. It consisted of a small bar of soap that we broke up, melted over the stove, added water and shook vigorously.
The shampoo is nice – very silky, and it makes our hair nice and clean.
But it was shipped to the US distributor from New Zealand!
So the two principles of bad cost and worse shipping definitely applied.
I know that early adopters must help fund cultural change. But count me out, in these cases. When they finally hit the supermarkets, I’ll be 100% on-board.
For now, at least, we are buying cardboard boxes of powder laundry soap – you know, the way it used to be sold.
- I wrote these posts on bamboo toilet paper: one and two.
- That lovely photo of a bamboo forest in Kyoto, Japan, is courtesy of Adam Dillon on Unsplash and is used with permission.
My daughter loves Lululemon.
She worked at a Lululemon store for a few months over winter break and got the inside scoop on the Lululemon Life.
She has almost made more money buying used Lululemon apparel at the Goodwill and reselling on Poshmark than she made working at the Lululemon store. (Well, not really.)
During one of her Goodwill excursions, she discovered and very kindly bought me a long-sleeved Lululemon shirt at a fraction of the original price.
I like it.
After wearing the shirt about five times, I discovered words inside the cuffs!
“FIND YOUR FOCUS” was inside one sleeve and “LOOK INSIDE” graced the other. (And I just realized the double-entendre of “look inside.”)
What a great idea – giving customers a hidden feature to add a tiny bit of extra delight.
If you’re in business, think of ways to give hidden delight to your customers. You could convert a peripheral customer to a loyal fan. (Don’t worry – that’s not really going to happen for me with Lululemon.)
p.s. I thought it would be hilarious if Lululemon put “EXERCISE REALLY ISN’T THAT GREAT” inside one of its sleeves.
Kia woke up and came back to the mainstream.
Kia’s design department went through a recent rough patch, during which they headed in a rather oblique direction with the look of the front of their vehicles.
The 2017 Kia Sportage typifies their ugly period. (Let’s just be honest.) You’ll see that in the left side of the photo montage above. Think of a carp’s face.
They finally decided to come back to the rest of the automotive universe. The right side of the photo montage is the 2021 Kia Sorrento.
The face is the most important part of any car design. We can relate to a car’s mouth (grille) and its eyes (headlights).
For the 2021 Sorrento, they decided to go in a more snarling mean-looking direction. It works. SUVs are supposed to be rugged.
The left photo is courtesy of Car & Driver. The right photo is courtesy of Kia. Both are not used with permission.
The pandemic has forced us to slow down. And that’s a good thing.
One of the slow-downs has sped up life for many… delivery services are overloaded. A good friend drives for Amazon. He has been regularly been putting in 60-hour workweeks. Knowing him makes me very thankful to all the delivery drivers out there.
An upside to overloaded delivery services is that we have to wait. Amazon Prime used to mean next-day delivery. Now it can mean two-week delivery.
Some of the things we “need” we really don’t need.
We have some friends in South Africa. They live near Cape Town, a beautiful place that would be fun to visit. That’s on my list of dream destinations… if only the airfare was less. (Sigh.)
I sent them a letter last summer and received it back a month later. A stamped message on the envelope informed me that South Africa no longer has any mail service.
I take for granted the privilege that mail is.
Before the pandemic, one of my sons lived in Sicily, Italy. Two months was the normal time for my letters to reach his mailbox.
Living in America is a privilege.
You have to find space in your life.
Life has seasons. When our kids were seven, five and zero years old, we had little space in our lives to think, plan or relax.
Now that we’re semi-empty nesters,* there’s more space.
* Our college-age daughter is temporarily home on break and staying busy with work and friends. Our two sons are no longer living under the same roof.
No matter the season, I’ve always tried to carve out space to let my mind recover from the stresses of the week.
Saturday morning has been that time for many years. I wake up at the same time as on weekdays, so the house is quiet for about two hours before anyone appears.
I enjoy the newspaper. (Yes, we still have it delivered. There’s something about consuming information on paper that is more satisfying than looking at a screen, especially on the weekend.)
I love my coffee-press coffee.
I savor the quiet.
I would encourage you to carve out some space in your week. Let your mind breathe.
Maybe it’s just a five-minute walk around the block.