This started off as another text-light update, as the words just weren’t flowing of late. However, the subject matter apparently stimulated my writing mojo, so apologies in advance for all of the detail.
New Wheels for Miss Debbie
Yup, we’re now the proud owners of a 2017 Honda Accord Sport SE, four-door sedan. We bought it on Saturday after facing up to the realization that we: (a) have two 10-year-old vehicles with 120,000+ miles; (b) neither of those vehicles are practical for day-to-day domestic ease-of-use; (c) given their age, mileage and lack of practicality neither are really suitable for long road trips; and (d) a nice reliable car that gets good gas mileage is what we actually needed.
The New Car Business Case
So, it has been an interesting couple of weeks in terms of our vehicle fleet. Long time readers may recall that about a year after we refreshed our 2006 Toyota Tundra with new wheels, tires and a mild front-end lift in April 2014 the rear differential decided to wear-out, followed by a solenoid in the transmission and then pretty much the rest of the front end components, e.g., ball-joints, control arms, tie-rods, etc.,
All told, I guess I put about $3k into the truck between April and June 2015 but reckoned it was still a better financial move than replacing the truck. We also had a few issues with Debbie’s little Honda S2000, such as a rear-wheel bearing going bad. Hey, with both vehicles showing 120,000+ miles some things are bound to wear out, right?
Well, sort of. It’s not so much that they wear out, but not knowing when they’re going to wear out that has become an issue. More specifically, since the truck is our “primary car” when it goes down for service our alternative transportation options are a motorcycle or Debbie’s little two-seat roadster… which barely has enough room for Debbie’s purse when there are two people on board! Of course, it really gets interesting when Debbie needs to take her mother or the grandkids somewhere: that’s when we realize neither vehicle is really practical.
None of this is anything new to us as we’ve often talked about either adding a sedan or — gasp — replacing the Honda S2000 with something a bit more practical. Of course, once we started searching for a replacement we’d invariably end up looking at used prestige cars and other vehicles that would be just as problematic or impractical as the two we already owned, e.g., used Infinity G37 Convertibles, Dodge Viper SRT Convertibles, and a few sports cars. No, what we needed was “a good car” but there was really no reason to hurry out and do anything about it. However, that’s not to say that I hadn’t been doing a lot of thinking about what “a good car” might be and constantly on the look-out for the right balance of practicality and style.
Finding the Sweet Spot for Style, Performance & Value
I should volunteer that since getting my driver’s license in 1975 I’ve only owned one four-door sedan: a 1985 Mercedes Benz 190E 2.3-16V. In fact, that would be the only sedan that Debbie and I have owned as well, where our vehicle fleet has typically been a mix of Extra-Cab or Quad-Cab trucks, SUVs and two-door sports cars or convertibles. So, whenever I would think of sedans my sense of style and performance would drift towards vehicles like the Mercedes E350 & E550, Audi A6-7-8, BMW 545i & 750i, Lexus ES350, and the Cadillac CTS… all of which are cost-prohibitive even when they hit the resale market.
I also considered replacing the truck with a “nice” crew cab from Ford, Chevrolet or Dodge. However, in addition to being larger than our Toyota Tundra Double Cab but with a smaller bed, the darn things are all $40k – $60k now-a-days; yikes! That level of sticker shock is what continues to send me back in search of “a good car.”
The car that I had stuck in my head as being in that sweet spot for “a good car” was the 2013 Honda Accord Sport that I saw in front of Costco a few years back. It was just after they’d introduced a new body style for the Accord and at first I didn’t even recognize the car as a Honda until I looked for the badging. Everything about the car looked just right to me: it had stylish body lines, 19″ wheels with wide, low-profile tires, aerodynamic front splitter, side skirts, rear valance, a small deck lid spoiler and the interior while cloth was NOT overly cluttered with buttons and switches. Just add leather seat covers and it would be perfect. Well, other than only having a 4 cylinder motor… but surely there must have been a 6 cylinder version? I went to far as to take a photo of it and send it to Debbie who, as expected, wasn’t all that thrilled by the sight of a sedan: her little Honda S2000 was doing just fine, thank you very much! Nevertheless, ever since then the Accord Sport models have always caught my eye in a good way. In fact, there was one that I’d see every morning on my commute into work parked on a side street near downtown Marietta that never failed to catch my eye.
Timing is Everything
Well, a few week ago and the truck developed a noise at the rear axle that sounded an awful lot like the bad differential noise we experienced 18 months ago. I tried to convince myself it was an out of balance tire but a trip to 4-Wheel Parts Center where I bought the tires & wheels confirmed the noise was mechanical and not a tire issue. I dropped the truck back off at our friend Tom’s shop back on Monday, November 14th so they could diagnose that and some other new noises coming from the left front suspension.
By the end of last week the best-guess was a right-rear wheel bearing, but further diagnosis was still required and is still ongoing. With the truck still out of commission and the weekend upon us we were down to just the one car — Debbie’s little roadster — and the motorcycles. As I made out my to-do list for my off-Friday and the weekend I found myself having to plan around not having the truck available and was reminded that the reason the truck has as many miles as it does is because Debbie’s little car, while a joy to drive, is very impractical for just about anything other than her solo commute to work and grabbing a few bags of groceries.
I went ahead and found ways to work around not having the truck by changing up my home project plans, adding in a bicycle ride to take advantage of planned projects that had to be delayed and the like. Riding the motorcycle to meet Miss Debbie for lunch was a joy in that we were having very unseasonable temperatures. Also, by adding a trunk bag to Blue (our Road King touring bike) I had enough storage capacity to pick up a few items at the grocery store and a few other odds and ends while I was out running errands.
However, throughout the day I became more and more convinced that we needed to get serious about looking at a new car and the car on the top of my list remained the Honda Accord Sport. I jumped on the internet to check out the pricing on new and used models and found the MSRP for new was between $26,700 and $27,600 for the two different Sport model trim grades. The Sport ‘Special Edition’ (SE) had black leather heated seating with red stitching details in place the non-heated cloth and vinyl seats in the base Sport model and a few other little upgrades. The 2013-2016 models I was finding on the used market were all selling in the $20,000 – $22,000 range with 12,000 – 60,000 miles on the odometers. Of course, I’d have to factor in another $1,200 for Georgia state sales & ad valorem taxes to come up with the actual out-of-pocket cost for comparison purposes.
Debbie and I talked about it as we drove to Loco’s in her S2000 and again on the way home and she agreed that it might be time. If nothing else, Debbie agreed that we really did need a proper car she could use when taking her mother out to events or appointments and for our two 1,500 mile round trip drives to Pennsylvania each year. It’s hard to believe but of the 124,000 miles on our Toyota Tundra, nearly 30,000 of those miles were put on going back and forth to Pennsylvania since buying the truck in October 2006. I’d guess at least another 40,000 miles were put on driving to and from tandem rallies and rides during the same time, with the rest being a mix of short trips and my commute to work when I opted not to ride the motorcycle. It all adds up!
True Car & Honda Carland of Roswell: Let’s Make a Deal!
I was up early on Saturday and decided to check-out the internet-based car buying services to see what kind of pricing dealers were offering in the direct on-line marketplace. True Car was the one service that came to mind, most likely due to heavy advertising during college and professional football games.
It was probably around 8:00am when I punched in the brand, model and color of the Honda Accord Sport SE for which I wanted pricing data and in about 15 seconds I received their results as well as three Emails from local Honda dealers.
The pricing on two of the three was ho-hum, but Honda Carland of Roswell was really attractive. About 3 minutes after the Emails came in I received a phone call from the Cartersville Honda dealer who wanted to confirm I’d received their pricing data and encouraged me to come in for a test drive. I told them I’d let them know something later in the day as we’d just started our search.
He confirmed which model and color of car we were interested in, re-checked his inventory and then went on to describe their various programs and promotions and said he’d send along a confirmation Email with an offer price on the car we were interested in. Moments later, there it was and the deal looked really good… really good. Like $21,700 or about $5,500 below MSRP for the base-price. Yes, there’d be taxes and dealer fees but we were very close to used car prices for 1-2 year old vehicles with 12,000-16,000 miles on the odometer.
After Debbie and I talked about the car a bit more we agreed it would probably be worth our time to go over and at least test drive a Honda Accord just to see if we were really ready to make the jump from trucks and sports cars to a four-door sedan.
We make the 45-minute drive over to Roswell, Georgia, arriving at the Honda Carland dealership around 11:30am. It took about 20 minutes before Tarik was freed-up from other on-line customers before he could show us a few cars and take us for a test ride. The color was called Modern Steel Metallic (basically a dark grey) and it just looked nice with the black interior and black and chrome wheels. As for the test drive, it took a few moments to get accustomed to the sound and feel of the smallish 4-cylinder motor, but there was more than enough power for our needs… but not necessarily our desires! Debbie opted to pass on the test drive and said she’d trust my judgement when it came to how the car handled, etc.
We were back at the dealership around 11:40am and spent a good 20 minutes working on the numbers with Tarik’s team partner, Kauai. All the numbers looked about right except for the grossly inflated “protection package” (trunk liner, molded mud guards, wheel locks and floor mats) which Kauai agreed to “split down the middle” to get closer to a reasonable number.
Before making a final decision — and remembering we only planned to go tire kicking when we left the house — I suggested to Debbie we go and get some lunch. That would allow us to “cool off” and talk about the car, the deal, whether we should finance or buy it outright and otherwise be confident in whatever decision we made. We told the folks at Carland we’d be back one way or another to give them a firm up or down decision on the deal. Again, based just on the numbers we were seeing from the other dealers and the ‘target price range’ shown on TrueCar.com, we were actually very well positioned below the average price paid.
We went about a mile down the road to Dreamland BBQ where we enjoyed a couple of chopped pork sandwiches and talked-over our pending decision. Debbie was really happy with the car and, frankly, so was I. It was everything we needed and nothing we didn’t. The deal on the table was also pretty darn good. If there was another $200 worth of wiggle room left in the deal it would have been in the documentation fees, as the transportation fees were gone and so was 1/2 of the protection package. No, it was a good deal on a car that we really did need and we had enough cash on hand in various accounts to write a check and take it home and that’s what we ended up doing.
It was around 3:30pm before all of the paperwork was done and we were on our way. Not exactly the plan we had in mind for our Saturday when we went to bed the night before, but all-in-all it was seemingly the right time to buy for us.
Of course, the problem we faced back at the house was where to put the all of the vehicles.
We’re now mulling over putting either one of or both the Honda S2000 roadster and my 2011 Harley-Davidson Wide Glide up for sale to address the clutter and added expense of having more cars and motorcycles than we can accommodate or operate frequently enough to justify the expense and hassles associated therewith. The Harley will sell, but only for a fraction of what it should be worth. I’ve posted several rants about Harley flooding the market with product and the dwindling size of the target buyer’s market so I won’t rehash that. At this point I’m just hoping to get a serious buyer who is willing to make a reasonable offer as this is the fourth time I’ve put it on the market since August 2013.
As for the Honda S2000, before I can even list it I need to address some burned-out bulbs in the dash that I just discovered when we drove over to Loco Willy’s in the dark on Friday. It’s fairly rare that I’ll drive the S2000 and it’s almost never in the dark, so imagine my surprise when I found the dash side pod instruments to be dark instead of illuminated. The bulbs I need are not in stock anywhere in Atlanta so I’ve had to order those from California: There are 10 of them and they cost about $4.25 each + $9.00 shipping. Installation is also a pricey affair to have done as it’s about 3 hours of book labor. Actual time is probably 90 minutes as the steering column needs to be dropped and then the dash is removed to give you access to the back of the side instrument panels. Cest le vie. I also want to take it in to have a pre-sale inspection performed just to make sure there aren’t any lurking issues that I should disclose to a buyer and I’m also thinking the starter isn’t properly disengaging after the motor starts. So, yeah… chances are it will stay with us beyond the 30-day grace period on the current insurance policy and we’ll have to write a new policy on the Honda Accord in about 20 days.
Anyway, that’s the news from Kennesaw this week. Oh sure, there was plenty of yard work, a bicycle ride, base molding work in the kitchen, a couple visits to Loco Willy’s, and a slew of other activities over the course of the weekend, but the new car was clearly the lead story!