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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Its the small pleasures in life

Small pleasures...  
I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time the other day and pass that good fortune onto both buyer and seller of a great little car.  
I was visiting a friend and he mentioned he had decided to sell his little car, and inquired if I might know anyone looking for a great little car. I had admired the car before, but asked for details. Its a '98 Saturn Wagon with... wait for it... 69,000 miles on it. (yes- 069,012 on the ODO)
We talked about it inside, then went outside to look at it and he told me it had sat for over ten years only driven every few months. Pristine. Sweet inside and out. Clean and new-looking underneath. I wanted to hear the engine, and told him so. He went to fetch the keys and I finished checking it over (under?); all four sides underneath, door and window rubber, tires, brakes, glass, mirrors... found a couple minor nicks in the paint. Otherwise. Nothing but factory like-new everywhere. And its a 5 spd stick shift- it just keeps getting better.
Returning with the keys, he fired it up and it sounded perfect from the first instant. Again, nothing to report as far as engine noise. Smooth, quiet, clean... Popping the hood revealed everything in immaculate condition. A very minor oil leak from the valve cover gasket (no big deal) was the only thing I could find as far as possible issues. No ammo for negotiation there, thats for sure. He was asking $2700, but would accept $2500- that sounded completely fair to me, but I had not checked KBB.com yet.
  I asked a few questions and got the answers I wanted to hear, including fuel economy. “How does it do on fuel”, I asked, “about 40ish?” His reply was “No, only 38 MPG on the highway”with an underhanded smirk. LOLz and Hmph.  
 When I felt satisfied about it, I called my parents. They have been looking for a small, low mileage, high fuel economy, reliable, 5spd car for a few months now, and here it seemed to be. They were both excited to see it, and after a several mile test drive, we were all amazed by it, and they were pretty much set on buying it. I explained that they would be trading all-wheel drive in their Subaru for front-wheel drive but 10 or more MPG in the Saturn- other than that, they are pretty much equal in size, comfort and amenities- not to mention 160k fewer miles on the Saturn. 
We went back to the sellers house for introductions, details and arrangements. Soon after arriving and trading names, agreements were made, hands were shaken and contact info was exchanged. In under two hours, I had helped to arrange a sale between a friend with a really nice little car to sell and my parents who needed exactly like that. That feels good I gotta tell ya- big s#it eating grin like. My folks are going to drive it for a bit until they can get the valve cover gaskets and tune-up parts, then I will change them and all the fluids as preventative maintenance. Beyond that, I am intending that it gets them another 150k miles without major work. Since I am planning to move many thousands of miles away (again) it will be peace of mind for me as well. I built their home to take care of them and cost almost nothing in utilities in their golden years, I want the same for them in a car.  

PS- As an aside, back 10+ years ago in Michigan, my Mom had a '93 Saturn SC1 5-spd (the sleek, sporty model) that she LOVED and treated her extremely well all year round- it was a great car, no doubt. She would play a game with herself to see how good she could get her fuel economy. At well over 200k miles, she could still get the car to give her 42 or more MPG on her 35 mile commute to work. Nice work Mom! I told her on a visit back to Michigan that her car needed a timing chain soon- I could hear it chattering like only a worn chain can. After I had gone back home to Colorado, Mom called me saying she had taken the car to her mechanic who in turn told her that the engine sounded normal and not to worry. Two weeks later she started the car for its morning warm-up and the timing chain broke and destroyed the engine. She called me moments after it happened, sad, angry and frustrated, to tell me what had happened. The idea of having another Saturn of the same era put such a beautiful smile on my moms face, I knew it had to be right.

  PPS- Upon getting home later that day, I checked KBB.com and found the car to be worth $2501 in 'excellent' condition, and $2376 in 'very good' condition. Works for me... Soon, MW.

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