plonq: (Dashing  mood)
Well, their coffee and ok in the most mediocre sense of the word, but I'm tired of their leaky lids. It's bad enough with a regular cup and lid, but when their indifferent, minimum-wage droids can't even be arsed to grab a cup that isn't pre-crushed it makes me question anew why I keep buying their coffee. [ profile] atara was grousing about their steeped tea as well this morning. I guess the short answer is that we keep buying their mediocre products because they are convenient. The longer answer is that there is not much better to be found in the area.

I would actually prefer McDonalds's coffee if given the choice. Their coffee is measurably better (subjectively, of course), and they have vastly superior coffee cups and lids. Alas, they are not a practical option for us, and this city has a dearth of good, independent coffee outlets. While some might see the lack of quality coffee houses as a business opportunity, I think the lack of them is actually a reflection on the city itself. People in this town would not know a good cup of coffee if it came up and dumped itself down their gullet. The typical resident here would cross the street to drink motor oil over good, fresh-roasted and brewed coffee if the oil was priced a penny cheaper.

Tim Hortons
Here is the cup in all its crushed glory. It's no wonder it was leaking and dribbling all the way to the office!

In other news, this has been a nervous week for me. I cashed out some of the stocks I have been buying through our Employee Purchase Plan so that we would have enough to pay off the new car when it is ready for us to pick up. When I was cashed them out, I first went in and changed my banking details so that the money would go into a special savings account that we set up specifically for buying a new car. We originally set it up when we bought the Eos, but once that one was paid off we co-opted it for the Outback.

I sold the stocks on Monday, and then went all OCD on our on-line bank account, checking the balance several times a day for the rest of the week. When I got the deposit notice from the broker house yesterday morning and the money had still not shown up in our bank account this morning, I started getting a bit more nervous. Had I entered in the right account number? Had I put in the wrong transit number and routed the money to somebody else's account? Were my cats secretly plotting against me? So many worries! I was going to wait until the bank opened today and give them a call to see if there was a problem with the transfer, but before I called I decided to check the balance once more and lo! Our money was there! We are momentarily rich!

I got an email from the car dealership earlier this week saying that they were still waiting for some of the parts we'd ordered to come in, so the car likely won't be available until sometime next week. We could pick it up this weekend if we wanted, and then take it back to get the missing parts added once they arrive, but we decided to just leave the car with them until it is all done. The dealership is all the way across town from us, and we don't feel like making the trip more times than we have to. I guess one way we could amuse ourselves while we wait is to go shopping for a bike carrier this weekend. I think they make a one size fits all style that would work with this car.
plonq: (Happy Mood Too)
After doing a lot of research, a couple of test drives, some more research and another test drive, we finally settled on one of these to replace the Saturn:

2011 Outback Sport

The Sport package came with (most of) the features we wanted in a car, but after we tricked it out with all of our desired options and upgrades it came out at the high end of our car budget. On the other hand "at the high end of the budget" means that it still fit inside the range we were willing to spend, so we put a $500 down payment on it today.

The dealer only had one car in stock that matched our criteria, but it was not in our first choice of colour; we had our eye on the green one. On the other hand colour was not a deal breaker for us, and we both agreed that the graphite scheme looked pretty sharp as well. To be honest, that was my second choice after green anyway so it wasn't a big sacrifice. We did the same with the EOS when we took the white one over the blue one, and we've never wallowed in regret over the decision.

If all goes well, and our extra parts show up soon enough then we should be picking it up next weekend. We could have driven the car home on Tuesday and gone back for the additions when they arrive, but the dealership is at the far end of town from us, and we didn't want to make the trip more times than necessary.

Among the upgrades we bought were upgrades to the stereo. Normally I wouldn't have bothered with that for a utility car like this, but I decided it was a quality of life upgrade in the event that I end up commuting to our new office next year.

In other news, my company is moving our office next year. I may rant about that in a friends-locked post later since I will probably end up saying things that might upset my employer.


Sep. 10th, 2009 11:24 pm
plonq: (Fark Off Again)
Here in my car
I feel safest of all
I can lock all my doors
It's the only way to live
In cars

We took [ profile] atara's car to our usual garage today to get a few things checked out, and to get it ready for the winter (yes, even with the weather as warm has it has been here this week, winter is just around the corner in these parts). While there is nothing major wrong with the car, there has been a series of little things that have been cropping up over time.

- The "Service Engine Soon" light has been coming on lately. Sometimes it will go out on its own, but in the past couple of weeks it has been staying on more than off.
- Every couple of weeks the car's idle will jump to around 2k and stick there.
- The electric trunk release broke
- the brake light sporadically cuts out (we knew that this was just a flaky bulb, but figured we may as well get them to just drop in a new bulb while they had the car anyway)

They managed to find and fix the problems with the Service Engine light, and the sticking idle (coming in at about $175 total for parts). They by-passed a broken plug to fix the trunk release, which also fixed the license plate light (which we didn't even know was broken).

We expected them to squawk about the brakes, but they pronounced them good for at least another year. We got the coolant flushed and replaced since that's something we've never had done, and we figured that we may as well get the oil changed while it was in there anyway. In the end, it came out to a bit more than I was expecting it to cost, and less than [ profile] atara was anticipating. The car is starting to show its age, but we've taken good care of it, and it is holding together well. I expect to get at least 2-3 more good years out of it.
plonq: (Angsty Mood)
When we bought a car with more electronics and moving parts than many Disneyland rides, we half-expected to have some potential difficulties, even with the backing of quality German engineering. I was waiting for the car to pull a HAL on us, and try to decapitate us with the roof, or suddenly forget that it had traction control on a slippery mountain corner.

Certainly I did not expect something as mundane as the air conditioner to be broken on delivery. This past weekend was the first time that we have actually tried the AC since we got the car. If we had been exercising due diligence, we would have been testing every feature from the day we picked it up, but we have just been testing them as they are needed. Until Saturday, the weather has either been too cool to bother with air conditioning, or nice enough that we simply put down the roof and render the AC moot.

On Saturday, the weather was very warm, and quite wet, so I was driving around with the roof closed and the car decided that it was warm enough to warrant turning on the AC (this car is wont to making semi-autonomous decisions like that). It succeeded to the extent that the AC light came on, the compressor started making strange noises and warm air blew out of the vents. A few minutes later it was still making strange noises and blowing warm air, and I finally made the leap from denial to annoyance. Did they forget to charge the unit at the factory?

I called the dealer on Monday and spoke with the salesman who sold us the car. He recognized my voice before I could even identify myself or what I had bought from him, earning him a few points in my book. He agreed wholeheartedly with me that it sounded like something was not quite right with the car, and he promised to check with his service department and call me back. Two minutes later, he was back on the phone with a date and time for us to stop in with the car. [ profile] atara dropped it off with them this morning, and after pouring over it for a few hours, they traced the problem to a leaking O-ring. They replaced the ring, pressure-tested the assembly, re-charged it and declared it cured. When we took the loaner car back and claimed ours again, we immediately fired up the AC to confirm for ourselves that it was working, and it responded with a delightfully frigid blast of air in our faces. Then we shut it off and dropped the roof.

Hey, we didn't buy a convertible so that we could sit in an air-conditioned cabin.
plonq: (Gnar Gnar)
We have narrowed our car search down to a field of one for now, and I am going to be calling this morning to set up a test drive. The 2008 reviews are not out yet on this car, but last year's model (which is virtually identical) has garnered nothing but positive reviews. Unless something happens in the test drive that totally puts us off, then I think our main concerns will become those of colour and options; e.g., we really don't need the ski package.

The other, arguably more important question is how we are going to pay for it. Some of our options are:

- Cash. I have been putting money into company shares for the past couple of years. If we cash out about 3/4 of those, cash out [ profile] atara's savings bonds and pull out about half of our savings, we could buy this car outright.

- ~75% down. Cash out a few less shares, cash out the savings bongs and leave the savings account alone. Put a 3/4 down payment and finance the balance at .9% over 18 months.

- ~40% down. Dip into all three cash reserves and put down about 40% on the car, then finance the rest over 36 months. The payments would be doable, but we would have to start budgeting ourselves when we dine out.

- Lease. We don't see any value in this if we plan to keep the car.

There are various benefits and pitfalls to each of the scenarios. If we pay cash, we have the benefit of clear title from the moment we leave the lot. On the other hand, if we blow our savings on the car then it means we may have to finance the work we are planning for the house (the roof if nothing else). At .9%, financing it would doubtless be much cheaper to borrow for the car.

If we got with 3/4 down, it still leaves us money to spend on the house, and we could have the car paid off before the end of 2009.

If we went with 40% down, we would still be paid off in a comparatively short time, and it would give us much more flexibility to do more on the house (like replace windows perhaps).

I can think of no compelling reason to lease a car, but if you have any persuasive arguments in favour I'd love to hear them.

One of the stronger arguments I have heard for using dealer financing for the majority of the purchase is, "your money will earn way more than .9% if you leave it where it is." While that is true for the money we have stocked away in RRSPs and mutual funds (which we won't be touching), that's not quite true with the company shares. The shares tripled in value over the first bit, but they have been virtually flat for the past 18 months. The dividends that I get on them are negligible, and most of the gain I have been getting on them is the 30% that the company matches for every dollar that I invest.

[Poll #1167168]

plonq: (Irked mood)
Within the past two years I've had both rear callipers replaced on my car because they took turns seizing on me. I was a little irked that they would both go on me in such short order, but given that my car is a 1993 model, I figured they were about due.

The left calliper stuck again while we were out driving today. We reefed on the parking brake pretty hard because we were parked on a hill, and when we released the brakes, the car refused to coast properly, and it groaned to a stop as we approached intersections. I suspected the parking brake right away, and my suspicions were confirmed when I pulled on the lever and there was no resistance. Fucking great - just what we need when we're over 1000 miles from home with two days left in our vacation.

When we got to [ profile] atara's parents' place, the rear, driver-side wheel was hot enough to be smoking. I crawled under the car and hammered on the mechanism with the Club until it loosened up enough to release again. I got [ profile] atara to re-apply the parking brake and it promptly stuck again - though not quite as solidly. I'm wondering if a shot of WD-40 would fix it for now? In any event it looks awfully rusty for something that the mechanic allegedly replaced about 18 months ago. =/

While I was looking over the brakes, I noticed that one of the keyed lug nuts on the front passenger-side wheel was on the verge of falling off. I was supposed to take the car in to get the lugs re-torqued after I got the new tires put on, but we never got around to doing that before our trip. I dug the lug wrench out of the back and cinched them all up again - though the only two that were loose were the two front key-lugs. Curious.

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