Buying An Affordable Car

My 2002 WRX Wagon

When Kate was pregnant I had the typical dad-to-be nightmares of being forced to give up my car and get a minivan.  Ugh.  Automotive castration.  However, my Subaru WRX proved to be a fine car for car seats and all was right with the world.  However, being an older car it had its issues (and was covered in hail damage) so when the check engine light popped on last week I made the tough decision that it was time to get a better family car.  I wasn’t zipping around the hills of L.A. anymore or driving the Pacific Coast Highway up to San Francisco, I was poking to and from home and work with a kid in the back seat.  I needed something simple.  So I set out to find something in the $15k used car world that met this criteria:

  1. 4 door
  2. Better MPG
  3. Front or 4 wheel drive
  4. Under 70k on the Odometer
  5. Safety for kids
  6. Front seat legroom
  7. Good back seat
  8. Reliability
  9. Automatic
  10. Curb Appeal
Kate’s M-Class

There are simply some cars out there that I’m not interested in because they are the cars I rent all the time for work such as the Corolla, Impala, Cobalt, etc.  I knew I would be looking at compacts but also knew there was no way I could fit into anything like an Aveo since I’m 6’4″.  I found some fun options like an ’06 Exterra, an ’08 Volvo V50 Wagon, and an ’08 Outback but they didn’t quite grab me so the search continued.  Of all the cars I checked out my favorite was the 2012 Ford Focus Hatchback, when fully loaded I think it is one of the best cars on the market right now…except it missed out on one criteria…price.  It was still a contender till Kate’s 1998 ML 320 broke down leaving us completely car-less!  The Focus was just more money ($19k-$20k) than I could justify to go outside my budget so I narrowed my search to these two used cars:

  1. 2008 Volkswagen Jetta
  2. 2008 Honda Civic
2008 Jetta

The Jetta was my top choice no doubt!  The interior was awesome, it had all the amenities, the mileage was low, the turbo gave it speed, and the mpg was decent.  It certainly had curb appeal, the sunroof was a great perk, the electronics were very nice, the air flow system was great, and the trunk was huge!

The Civic was the smart choice though.  It had everything the Jetta had except for much less curb appeal and power at the wheels…but the mpg was the winner.  I was torn between the car I wanted and the car I needed.  Being used cars I wanted to talk warranty and reliability: VW offered me a 3,000 mile 30 day warranty which is the used car equivalent of “good luck!”  The used Honda dealership offered my a 3 year 30,000 mile warranty which was outstanding.  Next I talked to my mechanic and he strongly advised me against the VW as he had seen a plethora of them in his shop over the years and explained the issues he frequently saw with the Jetta.  I was still torn, I really liked the Jetta but Honda was offering the warranty, reducing the price, and their customer service was by far the best in Wichita (seriously).  I now knew that I was going to buy the Honda Civic.  It was the right price, had the mpg, met my important criteria options, came with a real warranty, and frankly I wanted to do business with Scholfield Honda because they were so incredibly nice (with no pressure).  However, I knew I was lacking a solid 3rd option to give me a balanced look.  I had 1 last car maker I wanted to visit; Kia.

When I drove on the lot I was going to look for a used Kia.  We looked at a number of options and they were great but still nothing was standing out at me.  Then we hopped in a used Soul and I was shocked to find that I really liked this little hamster-mobile.  Enough so that I wanted to add it to my list of the top 3.  It was, however, slightly more than I wanted to spend so I was ready to walk when we started talking about a radical idea I had not really considered…buying a new base model.  Base models in cars usually suck…that’s why they’re called base.  Then I got in the base model Soul and was shocked to see how much bang you got for your buck in this little car.

  • Hands Free Bluetooth
  • Wheel Controls
  • Satelite Radio
  • Cruise Control
  • USB/Auxiliary Input
  • Outside Temp Gauge
  • Streaming Audio

…and so much more.  It was slightly outside my budget but it was a new car.  New.  The base model had everything the fully loaded used cars had except a sunroof and some other things you don’t need.  I don’t need alloy wheels, a sunroof, etc.  I need mpg and reliability.  Since I had just sold my Subaru due to 5th gear synchronization issues due to the timing belt I was pleased to see the Soul had a timing chain.  It was very roomy inside and my wife enjoyed driving it.  It had curb appeal.  It gets 27/35 mpg on average and with the eco setting turned on is even better.  Then came the kicker…the selling factor…the reason there is now a 2012 Kia Soul parked in my driveway:

100,000 mile 10 year warranty!

My New 2012 Kia Soul

Boom.  That is amazing!  I was happy to spend a little more to get a new car with that warranty and the safety features it has.  A new car!  My first new car since 1995!  That was 17 years ago.  It felt great driving it off the lot and I have great plans for what I will do to it over the next year or so to make it into the next step up from the base model…but I’ll do it at my own pace as a want and not a need.  You won’t see me drag racing down the highway, you won’t see me off roading up the mountain, and you won’t see me hugging tight corners.  That was back when I had a Bronco or a WRX.  You also won’t see me at the gas station as often, in fact I can drive from Wichita to Kansas City and back on 1 tank of gas.  I’ll be streaming Nas to my stereo en route to work and Raffi en route to day care.  I’ll be making calls with voice commands, driving Max to the park, picking up groceries, and generally enjoying my little compact, gas-saving, smaller than an SUV, sleek, tiny-wheel’d Kia Soul for as long as I can.  Maybe if it lasts 15 years it will be Max’s car.  Either way, the Dadmobile is in the driveway and I’m excited about the adventures my family will have with this car.

Only 19 miles on the odometer
Looks good in the driveway
I’ve got Soul
Max tested – Max approved!

The next time we drive to see ya – we’ll be in a Kia!

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