Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Suburban assault vehicle

Is this another step in my Americanization? This summer my 8 year-old Chevy Malibu ticked over 190,000 miles and it was time for a new vehicle. It needed 4 new tires, the air conditioning had died, and it was leaking oil. It needed far more money poured into it than it was worth. After much thought and lots of test drives, I decided on an SUV - a Toyota RAV4. I drove the Toyota Matrix and the Pontiac Vibe, which are basically the same car and they were OK. But then I drove a used Subaru that was on the lot at the Pontiac dealer's. (I would have liked to test drive a new one, but I couldn't find anywhere to park at our local Subaru dealer's, the lot was so full of cars!) The Subaru had a lot more oomph to it which was nice, so I decided to try the RAV4 and the Honda CRV. The CRV somehow felt very truck like/barebones. I think it had something to do with the strange traytable between the 2 front seats. The RAV4 on the other hand was very comfortable and just felt right. ("And the first car Goldilocks tried didn't have enough horsepower, the second felt too much like a truck, but the third was just right." OK, so I tried more than 3 cars - I'm clearly spending way too much time with little kids when I start seeing my life in terms of fairy stories )

Technically the RAV4 is a 'compact crossover SUV', which means that it's not as huge and gas/petrol guzzling as some. It's supposed to get around 28 mpg in highway driving, which means I'll average less than that. I haven't checked to see exactly what I'm getting, but I will do soon. Although this vehicle almost certainly gets worse mileage than the one I just got rid of, I've done a huge amount to reduce my contribution to global warming simply by switching jobs. I used to do a commute to work and back of over 130 miles a day and now I'm commuting less than 30 miles a day, so I don't feel quite so guilty about buying a car that gets fewer mpg than my last one. Eventually I think I'd like a hybrid. Hopefully, by the time I buy my next vehicle there will be more of them and the concerns about battery life and cost of replacing the batteries will be non-existent.

The RAV4 is by far the biggest vehicle I've ever owned, but probably the most comfortable too, despite the fact that I bought the base model with only a couple of options. It has 4WD, which I decided I really wanted for the new commute. The old commute was long, but on major highways which are always very well maintained in the winter, and I didn't have to go in on snow days anyway. I still won't have to go in to work on snow days, but the road is not a major highway, it's very steep in spots and quite twisty (and worse if I take the shortcut that cuts a mile or two off the route.) I know enough not to think that the 4WD is going to make me invincible, but it will be reassuring to have.

One really big surprise - the insurance is only $10/month more for exactly the same coverage! Oh, and the same vehicle (or the closest I could find listed anyway) in the UK would have cost me around $10,000 more!

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