Monday, May 12, 2014


Anna June had to come along with us when she was very small and we needed to buy a car. I had hoped she wouldn't have to endure the process again until she was much older. I was hoping it would be later, but she got to do it at the age of six.

Several times.

Because I cannot make up my mind. And when it comes to making a very large purchase, I have an even harder time.

At first, I had one dilemma. AJ's bike is too big for my Spectra, so if I wanted to get a different car anyway, maybe I should look at a station wagon or an SUV (at least a crossover) to fit it inside. As it stands now, if you fold down one side of the back seat, it fits in the Scion XB (Ben's car), but just barely.

We went to Carmax, hoping to find good deals like we've found there in the past. Call us crazy, but we brought along the bike.

It didn't fit in a single thing that we liked. We got frustrated and put it in the back of a Chevy Traverse. AJ loved the car. We hated it.

Ben and I disagree on many things, but we agreed that we did NOT want a full-size SUV.

So we just started exploring our options.

First, while Grandpa was in town - since he insisted that we not change our plans on his account - we test drove the Mazda 5 at Med Center Mazda. It was a great car. Ben and AJ went to Serra Mazda the following Monday (when school let out early due to the threat of tornadoes), and took the bike with them. If you folded down both the third row and half of the second row, the bike barely fit. We would be no better off, then, than the Scion. Mazda is about to stop making this car, and it was a really good deal. But I didn't want that much car to drive if we couldn't fit the bike.

Then, we drove the Ford C-Max at Adamson Ford. This is a hybrid vehicle, and was a quiet ride. We really liked it, but it was more than I wanted to spend. We talked about a used one. There was a plug-in version, but it wasn't available in Alabama. So we explored other options.

Ben went and test drove a Dodge Dart at Benchmark Chrysler Dodge. He liked it so much we went back on our date that night and I drove it. I liked it, too, but it was a little smaller than I had hoped. AJ will be tall and needs the legroom.

Then, we checked out a Chevy Cruze from Hertz's rent-to-buy program. This is a neat idea, but the execution at the Birmingham location was questionable. First of all, there is not currently a downtown Birmingham location, so we had to go to the airport, which was closer to our house. The Hertz outpost had a guard shack and those spiky tire puncturing things, so we proceeded to the terminal to the counter there. After parking and waiting in line, we were told to go back to the freestanding office. We parked outside of the gate to walk in, as we were terrified of the spikes. We found the manager, and he gave us the Cruze. After a short drive home, AJ and I had pretty much decided this was not the car for us. Ben drove it and found that the huge blind spot was a true deal breaker.

We were back to the drawing board. I had emailed Ben my list of requirements, in order of importance. He wrote me back and said, "You forgot the unicorn." Point taken. I am picky. I was also having a very hard time with knowing that my paid off car was going to have to go away. There were expensive problems that I was not sure could be fixed. Better safe than sorry.

One of the main things I wanted to do was to buy a brand that had a dealership in downtown Birmingham, as it is close to where we live and work. Many makes have moved out of the city, which is fine for them, but not fine for me. Simply getting to Gardendale to have my Kia serviced was one of the major drawbacks to owning the Spectra. It was still under warranty when we bought it, and that was the closest dealership. Even though another location opened (possibly closer), we went back to this one repeatedly as they didn't completely fix our problems - and we had to keep trying on their dime as often as possible.

This left Ford, Chevy, and Nissan.

Because he had been studying this problem non-stop, Ben came up with the idea of the Nissan Leaf, an all-electric vehicle. The more he talked about it, the more I liked it. It never had to go to the gas station, and it never had to have an oil change. There was a federal tax rebate.

Later in the day on Sunday, after we returned the Cruze, we stopped by the end of the Eco-Wheels event at Railroad Park, sponsored by My Green Birmingham. We talked to various dealers about their environmentally friendly options. Nissan was not there, but there we learned about a rebate from Alabama Power as well. It was looking better and better.

We had already taken the Spectra back to Carmax for an appraisal, but were delayed in selling it to them because we had JUST mailed in our registration renewal and the new tag hadn't shown up yet. 

We were ideal candidates for an electric vehicle. We have another internal combustion engine car already, and it's really no problem to share a ride if we'd like. We usually don't go very far - my round trip commute, including picking up and dropping off Anna June, is about 10 miles per day. Some people I know have to drive 10 miles before they even get to the interstate to drive in. 

On Monday, we test drove the Leaf at Serra Nissan in Center Point. Our salesman was a pro. He made us a great deal. There was one big problem - the car was white.

Did I mention I was picky?

When I began to think about my new car, I looked around my floor of my parking deck. As I got out of my silver Spectra, there was a silver SUV on my left and a silver minivan on my right. The whole entire side of the deck was either silver, black or white. I felt like I needed to inject some color in the high side of floor 2. I wanted a red car. For the record, blue would have also been acceptable. If cars only came in purple...

So on that Wednesday, Ben got me a red car. We had to drive to Tuscaloosa to get it, which is just barely inside of the range it can go on a single charge.

The car is very quiet, even though it has to make a noise when it backs up. It has 4 doors and cloth interior. It plays CDs and has enough cup holders. It is cayenne red.

Meet our 2013 Leaf. It is last year's model, but it is brand new, and as next year's models are about to come out, we got a good deal.

I can't stress enough how excited I am that Ben did ALL of the legwork on this, from reading (and memorizing) Consumer Reports to negotiating with several dealerships in Alabama to advocating for a better deal on our trade-in. He's dealt with the power company and the electrician, as we're about to upgrade our capacity for quicker charging times. Times like this are when I am really thankful to have such a competent, wonderful husband.

When we got back to Birmingham to pick up AJ from my dad, AJ said, "Thanks for making my dream come true." We asked if she had always dreamed of owning an electric car - it has always been an incredible impossibility in my mind. She said, no, that wasn't it. "I was just hoping that I wouldn't have to keep going to car dealerships every night!" Whew.

The dealership, Townsend Nissan, took our picture and put it on their Facebook page. Here it is, used without permission.


Anonymous said...

Hey! The pictures disappeared! but not before I had a chance to see the car. I t is a very sharp looking little car! LOVE the red!! ( I wanted a red car too; but settled. At least mine's not silver!) This whole idea OF AN ELECTRIC CAR BLOWS MY MIND!I cannot quite get my mind around this -no tail pipe. No gas . No oil. It surely is cutting edge. It does look VERY LOW, however, like , only 2 or 3 inches off the ground ??????would not be good in a Wisconsin snow storm . I hope that it proves to be a great choice for you all........for a long time. AND SAFE!!!!This will be interesting , keeping up with your experiences as owners. ( It sure is a cute car!)

Laura Gallitz said...

I am not sure why you can't see the pictures - I have looked from several devices and can still see them. Weird.

It is pretty low to the ground, but we so rarely get snow here that it should work for most of the year. I hear they are popular in Canada, so maybe they are OK.

It seems to have a lot of good safety features. Hopefully we don't have to use them!

Anonymous said...

Loved the " Unicorn " comment!