The Quest To Fill The Spacemobile Hole - 2/1/05
As much fun as it's been biking and busing everywhere in LA for the past 3 weeks, it's time to get a new car.

Anyone close to me knows that I am not an impulsive decision maker. I tend to be deductive, over-analytical, and patient to a fault when it comes to making big choices. So when it comes to buying a car, it would be an understatement to say that I started out prepared to do my homework. I did, however, set out with two core tenets that would guide my car-purchasing decision:

Tenet 1 - I want a small car that's gas-efficient, reliable and preferably Japanese.

Tenet 2 - The only way I wouldn't get a Japanese car is if I was able to cash in on the $700 discount I've accrued through my General Motors credit card (mostly on purchases of gas and beer). For anyone lacking in automotive knowledge, GM umbrellas such brands as Buick (which I would never buy), Pontiac (which no one would ever buy), and Chevrolet.

I initially considered a hybrid, but was quickly disuaded by several dealers who convinced me I'd need to drive roughly 150,000 miles to recoup in gas mileage the added cost of buying such a car. Small Japanese cars already get great gas mileage, and 150,000 miles is a long way for a guy whose primary car use is late-night McDonald's Dollar Menu runs.

Toyota and Honda quickly emerged as solid competitors, given their well-known reliability, affordability and Japanibility. A few different Chevy models emerged as well to satisfy the discount-loving aspect of my personality, and all together these candidates were amalgamated into a ridiculously anal spread-sheet. After wasting a whole night of security playing with said spread-sheet, 4 finalists left the others in the dust:

Honda Civic
MSPR: $15,900
MPG: 34/38
Consumer Reports rating (1-5): 4
Discounts: None
Pros: Outrageously good gas mileage, highly rated, you can shoot the engine with a gun and it'll keep running.
Cons: I think my grandmother used to drive a Civic.

Toyota Corolla
MSPR: $16,200
MPG: 32/36
Consumer Reports rating: 4
Discounts: None
Pros: Highly rated, highly reliable, we've had great experiences with Toyota in the past.
Cons: Apparently Corollas can't come with cruise control or manual transmission. What?

Chevy Cavalier
MSPR: $17,400
MPG: 28/32
Consumer Reports rating: 2
Discounts: $4,500 dealer rebate
Pros: Ridiculous discount.
Cons: Possibly a piece of crap.

Chevy Cobalt
MSPR: $17,300
MPG: 24/32
Consumer Reports rating: N/A
Discounts: $1,500 dealer rebate
Pros: Endorsed by Noah, Brian's friend Jamie, and Maxim Magazine as "cool".
Cons: Too new to rate. Breaks made squeaky noises when I test drove it; salesman explained that it was caused by "rust". Like the Cavalier, American-made, so also possibly a piece of crap.

It should be noted that in the Consumer Reports rating, no car received a rating higher than a "4", making the Civic and the Corolla the #2 and #3 rated cars out of 25 small cars. No car received a rating lower than a "2", making the Cavalier the lowest rated car out of... every other car in the book.

It should also be noted that apparently I only like cars that start with the letter "C".

I also considered the Mazda3 and the Ford Focus, but these cars never made it the semi-final round where they get their pictures posted on my website. Both were highly rated by Consumer Reports, but the Mazda3 was eliminated because the nearest dealership is 15 miles from my house, out of biking distance. The Focus was eliminated because, well, it's American. And the only way I'll buy an American car is if I get a fat discount... we've covered this.

No Volkswagens were considered in this contest. My ire toward Volkswagen has mushroomed to the point where, not only will I never buy a Volkswagen again, I'll never buy a car made in Germany again. In fact, I'm even considering never again buying another car made on the continent of Europe.

So I guess you could say it's time to cast your vote. I'm hoping to make a decision by the end of this week (today I spent a total of four hours on or waiting for buses - I think I'm about over this little mass transit kick).

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