Have you driven a ___ lately?

Long post is long. I wouldn't blame you if you skipped it. Wyl and I have been sneaking around. We drive around, late at night, pulling into certain driveways, crawling at a snail's pace past shadowy rows of hulking shapes. We mutter between ourselves, debating different features and merits of one over the other.

We're car hunting.

Luckily, we're not in a bind. Both our cars work, for now. My 2008 Outback has been through so much - being sideswiped while parked in Chicago, being rear-ended, chips in the windshield, spiders nesting in his side mirrors, two Wisconsin winters, and almost 45,000 miles in only two and a half years - but still purrs as beautifully as the day we bought him. Wyl's car is a 1994 Volvo station wagon affectionately known as Turbox. We don't know how many miles are on him - his odometer stopped at 240,000 miles (or thereabouts), and that was years ago. Turbox has been across the country a couple of times, braved the sands and dust of Southern California and the deep freezes of Wisconsin, hauled brush, hauled boxes, hauled furniture, hauled us. He's been a wonderfully reliable, steady old friend. Lately, though, we can tell he's starting to feel his age. We'll have to replace his muffler soon (he still has his original!), the windshield wipers are ineffectual at best, and there's the occasional incident when his wiring fails and we're down to one car.

So it's only a matter of time, we know, until Turbox sighs his last sigh. In an ideal world, we'd get another Volvo. They've long been the safest, most reliable cars around - Hubs actually walked away from a ridiculously nasty wreck as a high school student because he was in a Volvo - but since the brand's been sold to China, we can't trust them any more. And before you accuse me of racism, check out some crash test videos of Chinese cars. Our second choice probably would have been another Outback, but I'm vastly disappointed in this year's redesign of the line... and it would be above our budget anyway.

My Virgo of a husband has a huge spreadsheet on his computer comparing all the cars that have caught his eye to his Turbox - cost, gas mileage, capacity, towing ability, power, everything you can think of about a car. Right now, he's leaning towards a Ford Escape.

And whoa, are there pros and cons.

Pros:

  • For Hubs, it's the best balance he can find of practicality and fun. He's looking towards the future, thinking of dogs and houses and kids. So his desired Mustang is out (maybe when we're empty nesters) but the thought of a minivan makes him want to slit his wrists.
  • It's pretty fuel efficient, and even more so if we could get our hands on a hybrid model.
  • It would be great for Midwestern winters.
  • Ford quality has skyrocketed - the days of avoiding American cars are long gone, thanks to the recent near-death and rebirth of the industry.
  • It's got five-star crash test ratings in all but one category. That's pretty major.
  • We've gotten to the point where our favorite thing about our Subaru is dual-zone climate control and heated seats. I know... spoiled. But dude, if you like it 75 and your hubs likes it 65, the mood can get pretty testy pretty fast. The Escape comes with these features, and peace would reign.
  • We do an insane amount of interstate traveling. We need cars that are going to work when we need them to and be able to carry us safely and comfortably for hours at a time. This seems to fit that bill pretty nicely.

And the cons. And there are a lot of them:

  • That one category without five stars? Rollover. And it only gets three. Pretty standard for an SUV, I understand - but if I'm hauling my future bebehs in there, I want only the best.
  • Which leads me to my biggest con: I hate SUVs. Even the small ones. People driving SUVs are almost universally clueless or obnoxious (sorry, it's true, not gonna lie) and I don't want to be one of those people. In addition, SUVs are anathema to everything we believe in as a couple: no bigger than needed, local, green, practical. Whereas a wagon would fit that perfectly, if it was available.
  • Wait, I thought of a bigger con: I'd have to have a second job for us to even consider a car payment. Holy crap, we have no room in our budget whatsoever. I went and "built" one at the Ford website, and figured out how much our payment would be using the excellent rate we could get through our credit union - and it's still about $200 over what we could afford a month, and that's stretching our budget like crazy.

That last one is terrifying me, y'all.

You wonder why we're not looking at dinky used cars to tide us over. Well, it may come to that, but we both have the firm philosophy of buying quality for long-term use.  Used cars have too many unknowns and variables and they've given their best years to someone else. And again, it's not just us we're thinking of. There's future bebehs to consider. So neither of us are very keen on that.

Pray that Turbox lasts through W's grad school.... three years to go. Gulp.

(I have these visions of Ford coming across my blog and offering us a free Escape in exchange for a review. What do you think the likelihood is?)