Archive for June, 2013|Monthly archive page

All About A Car



[oh-lee-aj-uh-nuh s] ˌoʊ liˈædʒ ə nəs/


1. having the nature or qualities of oil

2. containing oil.

3. producing oil.

4. unctuous; fawning; smarmy.

1625–35; < Latin oleāginus of the olive, derivative of olea olive

See also: Used car salesmen


Vancouver is a great city to be carless in. Everything is within walking distance, the city has more cycle lanes than roads, and the public transport system doesn’t smell like urine.

It’s a win all round.

So, for the last six months, my boyfriend and I have been car free. We’ve caught the bus to the ski fields, walked to the local restaurants, and cycled to work. And mostly, we’ve not really felt the lack of car. At least, not in Vancouver. Head out of city, however, and suddenly it’s another story. Want to go to Golden Ears Provincial Park for the day? It’s a forty minute drive, or five hours by bus. Thinking of skiing at Mt Baker? That’s a two-hour car trip, or a very, very long way by bicycle. Need to visit Abbotsford? It’ll take you an hour by car, or fifteen hours by public transport. Via the US.

So, with both of us once more gainfully employed, we decided to get a car.

The first thing we had to figure out was what kind we should get.

I wanted something small, economical and with all the modern conveniences. My boyfriend wanted a cheap old 4WD with character.

This was probably not going to be easy.

Of course, as my mother always told me, relationships are all about “compromise” – an old latin word apparently, meaning “neither of us gets the car they really want”.

I objected to a 4WD for environmental reasons; my boyfriend, however, pointed out that we were only going to use the car for occasional skiing and weekend camping trips, so the fuel inefficiency wasn’t really such an issue.

Also, having done a six-day, 1000km off-road journey across the Australian outback in my old 2WD Mazda sedan, I had to admit a 4WD did have a certain appeal.

After much debate back and forth, we agreed that we would look for a small, reasonably priced, modern 4WD, with low mileage, and an “interesting” look.

Yeah. That car doesn’t exist.

We ruled out the Subaru Forrester (too boring), the Subaru Outback (too bogan), and the Subaru Impreza (too “boy racer”). We looked at the Kia Sorento, and Suzuki Aerio (both too boring), and the Audi Quattro (until common sense kicked in). We considered the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V (again, too boring) and the Nissan Xterra and Ford Explorer (too big), and checked off the Suzuki Sidekick and Tracker (too old). I vetoed anything with the words “Dodge”, “Chevy” or “Ram” in the name.

Eventually, however, we narrowed it down to a Jeep. Then we narrowed it down further, to a Jeep Liberty. Then, we narrowed it down even further, to a Jeep Liberty Limited Edition.

In hindsight, this may have been a touch too narrow.

As my boyfriend was working full-time, and I was idle until my new work visa came through, the bulk of the car hunting fell to me.

It turns out, I don’t really like used car salesmen.

Some treated me as though they were afraid any kind of technical information would make my poor wee lady brain explode.

At one car yard, the owner even told me he was helping me because he “didn’t like to see girls get taken advantage of because they don’t know what they want”.

Good thing he was there, otherwise I would have thought that the weeks of intense research into cars had clarified exactly what I wanted.

The owner then proceeded to give me some fantastic car hunting tips, including “avoid a car that’s been in a flood” and “don’t buy a car that’s been bodged up”.

Very helpful.

Others were – believe it or not – worse.

They operated on the assumption that if I liked them, I would trust them – a foolish assumption, given that I don’t even trust myself half the time. They tried to ingratiate themselves with me in any way possible; calling me “ma’am” (which mostly just confused me), agreeing with everything I said, and “bonding” over personal details – even if they had no idea what they were talking about.

One salesman, when he found out I was from New Zealand, talked enthusiastically about his trip to Phillip Island.

Phillip Island is in Australia.

After about five minutes in their servile, obsequious company, I kinda had the urge to run them over with the jeep.

Several weeks of car hunting later, and I was ready to give up. I was sick of being lied to or talked down to by used car salesmen, and I had spent almost all of my holiday catching buses around the suburbs to meet random people from Craigslist*.

Every car I found within our price range was too old, had too many miles, or was in poor condition.

We considered increasing the price range, but buying a car in Vancouver is expensive. Not the actual car – that’s cheap compared to Australia – but the ancillary costs quickly pile up. Not only is there a 12% sales tax on top of the advertised price, but Third Party Insurance is both mandatory and a monopoly here. That’s about as cheap as it sounds, and unfortunately for my boyfriend and I, without a BC driving history, we weren’t eligible for any kind of claim-free discount. Our first year’s insurance was going to cost several thousand dollars.

Then, we found the perfect car. It was in good condition, had decent mileage and was well within our budget. It even came with heated leather seats.

I was immediately suspicious.

Sadly, it turned out to be for good reason; the car didn’t belong to the lister – he was selling it for his “overseas brother”, a fairly common Craigslist scam to offload stolen cars.

We decided not to risk it, and walked away.

A week later, undone by the car hunt, and we regretted that decision.

I mean, heated leather seats.

So, I tried every trick I could think of to prove the car was a scam, from looking into the car’s history, to checking out the seller’s background. I even arranged an AA inspection to make sure the car wasn’t going to fall apart five miles down the road.

It all came back… fine.

At this point, broken by the car hunt, we decided to heck with it, and bought it.

The transfer of ownership went smoothly, and so far, everything seems to be okay. I mean, it goes through gas even when we’re not driving it, but the wheels haven’t fallen off, no one’s come to repossess it, and there’s no smell of dead body coming from the trunk.

Maybe, sometimes, someone really does need to sell a car cheaply for their brother overseas.

Now we just need to figure out what to name it.

My boyfriend thinks the jeep looks startled, and so wants to call it “Eep?”.

I like the name “Henry”.

This is probably not going to be easy…

*In hindsight, probably not the safest past-time.

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