Zoom, zoom.

Dear friends,

Joan’s preferred automotive flavor of the day, the Volkswagon CC.

It’s less than 30 days until Kate leaves for college. I believe the last time I mentioned “days until college” in a post, she still had 72 days at home. I’d like to point out that the fact I’m NOT publicly counting down the days — in fact, that I’ve let some 40 days slip by with nary a mention of the countdown clock — is a sign that I’m dealing.

(Or that I’m in denial at the moment but headed for a major breakdown soon. You pick.)

Anyhoo, we spent the weekend car shopping because Kate’s pending departure has spawned a family crisis.

Three vehicles ÷ Four family members = Automotive Angst.

Yes, I realize it’s a first-world problem that Kate will no longer be here to share her pickup with Parker and that Mr. Mom and I aren’t keen on either sharing or driving the boy around all the time, but it’s our problem nonetheless.

The biggest dilemma has been whether to:

  1. Spend something south of $5K to buy Parker a beater. (16-year-old beggers can’t be choosers.)
  2. Spend in the $10K to $15K range to buy Kate an economical and reliable (possibly new or almost new) car that will get her through college and a few years of her first job, thereby handing down her pick-up truck to Parker.
  3. Spend something north (possibly far north) of $20K to buy me a new (or almost new) car, thereby handing down my seven-year-old Honda Accord to Parker.

Oy, the choices!

Complicating the selection is our personal automotive Rubik’s cube and the seemingly endless combination of factors. After all, it would appear the easiest and most financially conservative route is to buy Parker a beater. But cheap cars are often not cheap, so you have to calculate the potential cost of major repairs to a high-mileage car. Add to that scenario the fact that Kate’s pick-up truck is a gas hog and she will be driving long distances to and from college means the cheapest option might not really be the cheapest option when you consider potential repairs to Parker’s hypothetical car plus Kate’s fuel economy. Also, Kate’s pick-up is the oldest of our three vehicles and really ought to stay close to home where Mr. Mom can fix it should anything go wrong. All of these factors are strong arguments for why option 2 — buying Kate a car and giving Parker her truck — is the best route.

One thing is certain: buying me a car so I can hand down the Honda to Parker is definitely the most expensive option. (I can’t hand down the Honda to Kate and switch the truck to Parker because Kate can’t drive a stick. See what I mean about automotive Rubik’s cube?) We spent three hours at two dealers on Saturday and drove a variety of models in the running for option 3, the most reasonable of which could be purchased pre-owned for around $25K, while the ridiculously extravagant but awesomely cool option topped $40K brand new. Um, I don’t think so, is what I eventually concluded after test-drive fever wore off.

So . . . we’re still in the hunt. Tomorrow, Kate and Mr. Mom are off to test drive a ’09 Corolla with 50,000 miles that can be had for less than $10K. The only downer — it’s brown and ugly and seriously cramps Kate’s college-girl style. (Mr. Mom sniffed derisively when this fact was mentioned out loud, but I’m a girl and I can’t honestly disagree with Kate on this one.)

Of course, one other option which just now occurred to me and may be totally feasible is to do nothing more than throw a few extra dollars a month at Parker so he can pay for gas for all his friends who haul him around town. Yeah . . . I’m REALLY liking that one!

With gratitude {for our resident automotive expert who keeps us grounded and the good fortune to actually have options in this economic climate},

Joan, who for a moment or two on Saturday actually considered Parker’s “Mom, you really need a Nissan 370-Z” fantasy