Researching the Next Step

Been doing some more musings on replacement cars… this is a bit long, and a lot of it is for my reference.

Honda Fit. I’m still trying to decide between the base trim and the sport trim. The sport trim adds some options I want (200w AM/FM/CD with Aux jack, alarm system, perhaps cruise control), but a lot of stuff I don’t (fog lights, spoiler, 15″ wheels, leather steering wheel, shift controls on wheel)… and costs a little over $1,200 more (the base is $14,036 invoice/$14,650 MSRP; the sport is $15,297 invoice/$15,970 MSRP). If I went with the base, I’d want the following dealer-installed options [more info on each] (which I can’t price easily): Locking Fuel Filler Cap, Security System With Remote Entry*, Apple® iPod® Music Link® [if this is what adds the “Aux” port]*, Floor Mats, Cargo Cover, and the Cargo Tray [*d items are standard on the Sport]. I don’t know what this would add to the price. I think the choice will boil down to what is available on the lots, as this car is in short supply. Most of the standard stuff is just fine (including a decent sound system). It also has a 5-* safety rating. It does have a Drive-By-Wire Throttle System(TM) Drive-By-Wire Control for Throttle, which makes us a little nervous (same reason we don’t like Airbus), but I think all cars are heading in this direction. The Fit also has a lot of different modes, which give it quite a lot of space.As for colors: I’m thinking (in order): Taffeta White w/Beige Int., Lunar Mist Mettalic w/Beige Int., Storm Silver w/Black Int., or Vivid Blue w/Black, Reading the reviews on Yahoo, there may be some first model year problems, but those are usually the outlyers.

Toyota Matrix. This car is slightly more expensive, gets slightly lower gas milage, but is roomier and heavier. It has a fair number of standard features, but we would need to add a lot of options that drive up the price: 4-Speed Automatic Transmission With Overdrive, Vehicle Stability Control System, 4-Wheel Anti-Lock Brakes, possibly Cruise Control, Driver and front passenger front seat-mounted side airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags, Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Tire Pressure Monitor, Intermittent Rear Wiper/Washer, Power Package, … plus the following dealer accessories: Toyota Vehicle Intrusion Protection (V.I.P.), Carpeted Floor Mats, Cargo Organizer, and a Cargo Cover if they have it. According to Edmunds, this brings the cost of the vehicle to $17,986 invoice, $19,712 MSRP. Reading the reviews, they seem to be mostly good, with the occasional problems. I’ll note this is the same thing as the Pontiac Vibe, but the Matrix has a lower invoice price. The Vibe may have incentives, but I’m not sure they would offset the difference.

Scion xB. An odd looking car, very boxy. Very in with the “kids”. Inside, it is surprisingly roomy in the passenger area, although there is very little storage in the bag. To fit in my tubs of games, I would have to fold down the seats. The base car is a little cheaper than the Fit, but I would need to add an automatic transmission, raising the price a bit to $14,088 invoice, $14,830 MSRP. I’d want to add some dealer accessories: Pioneer® AM/FM Radio With iPod® Control, Floor Mats, Fold-Down Center Armrest, Scion Security, Cargo Cover, Cargo Net, and I don’t know the cost of those. The standard features are impressive. The reviews are a bit better than either the Matrix or the Fit, but that could reflect the younger-skew of the Internet (the car is geared towards net-heads).

Here is an overall comparison of all three. You might be wondering which cars were runner-ups. Here’s the list, unordered: Mazda 3 Hatchback [more expensive than the others, slightly lower reliability, built on the Volvo platform and partially owned by Ford]; Toyota Yaris 3-dr Liftback [just too small, and only a 2-door]; Scion xA Hatchback [smaller than the xB, which was borderline]; Scion tC Sport Coupe [although a hatchback, only a 2-door, plus the sporty nature would make insurance higher]; Nissan Versa [although it looks good, it is not quite in the showrooms yet, and Nissan quality of late has been spottier].

What is the timeline for this? This morning, my wife went down to clean the last stuff from the car (I would like to, but that just didn’t work out schedule-wise… and thus, I really don’t get to say “goodbye” to the car… as if it knows). She was also going to post some pictures, which I’ll post as soon as I have them, along with a summary of the damage. The shop has pulled out the aftermarket radio we put in: we might be able to sell that. We’re then planning on releasing the car to the second estimator, who is the one who confirms that it is totalled and comes up with the initial offer. We expect to counter that initial offer with evidence of excellent maintenance, low milage, etc, which should raise it some. Once we know it is totalled for sure, we’ll start going out to actually buy the new car (we don’t need to wait on the check; we’ll just deposit that back into whatever account from which we pay for the car). The only time-limiting factor is that we only have the rental for 3-days after they give us the check. My guess, since I’m working from home Wednesday next week, is that will be the day we’ll go get the new car, if we have found the right dealer and the price.

Now, about that last sentence. Given that AAA is our insurance and they work with car dealers on replacement cars, our first line of attack will be to work with AAA and our favorite Honda and Toyota Dealers. We will have researched the invoice price, and will also contact fleet managers (faxing all local dealers) with offers. We’ll also work through the credit union fleet office. We may also go the internet query route (which is much easier now than in 1999 when I purchased the Civic).

So that’s what I know at this point.