Mother always said, “You’re too smart for your own good.”
She probably was correct, but I didn’t take Mama seriously (on that issue), but simply accepted another Mother Curse. You know, like, “You should have one, just one, just like you.” Ok, the latter actually was a blessing.
As children, my two revered older sisters Cheryl and Sheila, used to put me on the spot, jokingly, “What ya got on? Your mind?” Litttle sis Joann, on cue, always rolled over with laughter. From the get-go, my family members have lots on their minds. The underlying goal drilled into us by our parents is leaving this world a better place than we found it.
Husband Gerald (my renaissance man whose input you’ll also receive) and I presented to the universe our version of two stellar citizens, a boy and a girl. Happily, we woke up one day realizing our progeny, like us, are writers and enablers with a sense of humor. We unashamedly boast that we’re producers via Nathan M. Stone inventer and manufacturer extraordinaire, and, on the other, we’re stooges, sharing close DNA with Joe Besser aka Curly of The Three Stooges.
Under various circumstances over several decades, I’ve been paid to share my educated, practical, and oft-times humorous opinons. Our children, now professionals in the world of politics and publishing, urged me to blog. They were not alone in their insistance.
By nature, formal education in journalism and history, corporate communication and non-profit organization employment, and university appointments, others look to me for answers. While this blog is a personal commercial-free effort for my self-indulgence, “they” still pay me to teach graduate courses in communication and philanthropy, in addition to my computer tutoring senior citizens eager to unfold the mysteries of the Cloud and tech connect with their families.
This blog is my less-than-modest attempt to publish what’s on my mind and how to affect tikkun olam, improving the world. From low brow to high ed, you’ll see my offerings relating to ukulele and guitar, drawing, photography, bridge, walking, bicycling, computing, sewing, knitting, carpentry, genealogy, networking, healthcare, languages (especially English, Spanish, Italian, and Hebrew), cooking, and more, surely!
Here’s the More!
Detroit nettled me by tossing away the auto industry
We’re green, not with envy but environment. Ger and I recycle, turn off lights, keep house temps below 75 in winter and above 75 in summer, and for seven years we drove a Prius. Fun to exclaim, “Toyota lied to us promising 60 mpg. We never got more than 58 mpg!”
Feels good, after cruising range of 400 miles, pulling up to refill the tank at 7 never more than eight gallons, usually paying $25 or less. Totally fantastic car that near-maintenance-free Prius, except at this stage, we need a modicum of comfort during those 1,018 miles between Florida and Maryland or 2,680 to California.
Time for a softer ride but loathe foregoing hybrid mpg. We had said when the US offers a hybrid, we’ll buy American. This year, we accidented on the Lincoln MKZ H @ 45mpg.
That’s when we were reminded of the horrors of changing cars.
My sister Joann drives a Lincoln MKZ, but not hybrid. Smoooooth, beautiful! So, I ran first to Consumer Reports then online to Edmunds.com, KBB.com, AutoTrader.com, CarGurus.com, local dealers, among others to read reviews, select brand, model and whittle down to most likely choices.
We looked at Prius, hoping 2014 wheelbase increased. Not wider but yes pricier and Toyota wanted us to give them our Prius, practically gratis.
Lesson revisited: when buying a car whether newly minted or new-to-you, do NOT “give” your car to the dealer. Sell it yourself — benefitting you and your buyer.
After laughing off our tuchas then walking out of two Toyota dealerships, we reviewed other hybrids, until we found Lincoln. OMG! AMERICAN! Beautiful, bigger, 45 mpg, and low range for luxury. Further online research revealed the average price paid for new 2013 and 2014 Lincoln MKZ hybrids. And, we were sufficently knowledgeable about brands, models, and values comparisons and, ready to pay a price satisfactory for us and the dealer. Yep, we’re thrilled with our new, American-made Lincoln MKZ hybrid.
Meanwhile, our grandchildren reached driving age. Oy! I can’t begin to deal with this nerve-racking development, remembering my early car experiences. But our baby’s babies need a good, used vehicle. Thought I, “Why would they buy an unknown used vehicle when we have on the ready a known, reliable vehicle?” Moreover, we aren’t tormented trying to trade in while moving up. Relaxing and feeling good we passed our Prius to the grands.
Then we learn our daughter-the-minimalist, still driving a 2000 Dodge Caravan with 125,000 miles, called to say, “I’d like a new car.” Really! I laughed t myself. We’d try to buy her a car around 2004 before she moved to California. Her reply? “Wait until I find a parking space.” Guess she found one.
I shoulda known better. She didn’t mean newly manufactured, just new to her. Maybe a 2004 or 2005 SUV, enabling her 4’11’ frame to sit higher. Naturally, our car search began anew because neither she nor her husband have any experience in buying or selling cars. To that end, Ger, based on our 50-year experiences (also aided by our parents) of auto acquisitions put together the suggestions below:
Used Car Talk from Ger
1) If you get a lemon, it’s because somebody broke it by abuse – all vehicles these days are pretty good … owner probably drove it too rough or didn’t do fluids maintenance
2) I always buy from an individual, not a dealer or car lot (though I have done so … your brother’s car was found on eBay from a guy who had been selling cars on eBay for 10 years). An individual will price a car $300-$500 more than he/she is willing to take for it and will usually accept $500 less than asking price if offered cash. Dealer always wants at least $1,000 more than an individual, and sometimes a lot more. They have overhead, and know many tricks that make the car look much better than it really is. They will lower the price, but they know what they can get for the vehicle and will hold out for that. Even CarMax, which claims to be selling cheap, is still just a dealer
3) Today’s cars, maybe even since 1990, will get 150,000-plus miles if they’re treated right, but I try not to buy one with any more than about 50,000-75,000, and that’s hard to find in a car that’s more than five years old; a “lightly driven” car should have only about 10,000 per year (people don’t turn back odometers any more; too much online paperwork exists)
4) Yes, a lot of information exists online. CarFax or Kelley Blue Book or AutoCheck are commercial online sites that provide a report on the car’s history, but usually the seller gives an online link or copy of the vehicle’s history) or says “clean title.” Put in the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and you can get what happened to it from the time it was sold, including all other sales and accidents and damages. Don’t buy a used car without searching, but I don’t pay for a history report when, apparently, this is something the seller offers. Don’t buy without “clean title”; no clean title the car was damaged, in an accident and may not be insurable. This kind of information is new with the Internet, but lets you know things like was the car used as a commercial vehicle or had its engine replaced or an in accident that required a police report, etc.
5) Engines. Frankly, the rest of the car doesn’t matter. If the engine is original and in good working shape, you can usually deal with most other problems. When you test drive, try to get performance out of the car: gun it on the freeway; hit the brakes hard on a surface street and then gun it again. Look at the cool-heat gauge afterwards. Open the hood and see if the engine is steaming or leaking. Look for smoke coming out of the tailpipe. If you have a friend who knows cars, maybe he/she will test drive with you to assess the engine. I’ve replaced two engines; car never ran the same afterwards.
6) Transmission. Pretty hard to hurt one these days, but you can usually tell if it’s bad by driving and listening for any peculiar sounds. Brakes. Most used cars will need a break job and front-end alignment within six months. You can figure spending $500 on a used car in the first six months.
Some things to look for:
a. Do air-conditioner and heater work
b. Do electric windows open and close – often a problem; Do electric seats work
c. Is the pickup good
d. When driving 50 mph, can you jam accelerator to the floor and have the car jump ahead to 70 mph response –– needed to get out of trouble on highway, shows good engine and transmission
e. Does the car waggle or veer quickly when you let go of the steering wheel at 35-40 mph – could just need a front-end alignment or might be a serious steering issue
f. At about 40 mph, jam on brakes to see if the car stops quickly, and does it pull to left or right
g. Ask seller about when water pump and fuel pump were replaced – usually fail at 75,000-90,000, and these are $300-$400 expenses each
h. Ask if timing belt was replaced – usually needed at about 100,000
i. Sometimes a dashboard warning light will be on … maybe an electrical wiring problem, which can be a precursor of more electrical problems.
I worry that people sell cars because the cars have some problems (air-conditioner doesn’t cool enough, transmission slips, engine overheats, needs another repair that will cost the person $400). So why do I buy used? Because my experience is that the problem may be minor, and maybe the person just wants a newer car … always ask why they’re selling (and evaluate their lie).
Obviously, if I had been stung on used cars from individuals, I wouldn’t buy them. I’ve had good experiences, especially buying locally where the guy selling might be worried that you’ll come back and visit him next week or next month (dealer doesn’t care) or spray-paint a four-letter word on the front of his house.