We've been squeezing every last drop of life out of the Rav since the move, limiting our driving as much as possible. The good news is we live in a very walk-friendly neighborhood. The bad news is even that wasn't helping the car last any longer. Corrosion on one of the wheels meant we had to add air to one tire every time we went out, and by the time we got to the gas station down the street the entire car was pulsing and shaking. Replacing the coolant pump and ruptured starter hose had to be done when it broke down in June, but there doesn't seem to be much life left in the old girl.
So after copious amounts of internet research, we had a list of cars (hopefully) within our budget to test drive. Toyota's Yaris and Matrix, a Jeep Patriot, Dodge Caliber, Ford Focus, and possibly a Nissan Juke. That's a full day and then some.
We started at Toyota out of some misguided sense of brand loyalty. I say misguided b/c as soon as we mentioned what we wanted to test drive and trade in, the salesman took us for sure things and started rolling back any end of year price cuts. Apparently everyone in Illinois wants a Yaris or Matrix, and we were astronomically lucky to see one of each on the lot that day. Which might have been the case, but who knows. It felt more like a line to feed customers. Actually test driving was a blast though--they had a separate track to go on with obstacles. The wife and I traded off; I took the easy lap with the Yaris, and the obstacles with the Matrix.
The Yaris had more room than I expected but ultimately we liked the Matrix better. The Yaris is a cheaper, less-stylish Mini Cooper. Which would be cool, but I'd rather have a Mini. We talked price on the Matrix, and I was dumb-founded at how little they were willing to give on price. I expected some negotiations with the model year ending and economy in the crapper but nothing was happening. I guess they felt like they would sell it one way or the other. But they didn't sell it to us, and we left there pissed at wasting our time. That, and at the idea of only getting $200 for our trade-in.
The Ford dealership was a little better. We tested a Focus sedan, nothing fancy. No track to test on either but the local streets gave us a better feel anyway. At that point we weren't interested enough to talk price, and still being pissed about Toyota jerking us around, we took off.
Having already been out for over 3 hours we decided to skip the Nissan and hopefully kill two birds with one stone at the local Jeep/Dodge. As luck would have it, they had tons of Patriots & Calibers, and the salesman by the door when we first hit the lot seemed alright.
Both models are actually built on the same chasis and drive very similarly. The Patriot was way too much car for us though. It felt smooth and had good pick-up, but the thing was just way too massive. The Caliber was a little closer to what we were looking for, with a lot of the same features but at a few thousand less.
Add on getting over two grand more for our trade-in, and by the end of the day we went from this:
The funniest thing is the Rav doesn't look half-bad in that picture. But that doesn't show you just how much dirt, sand, & fur we vacuumed out of there that morning, or the smell from the dog barfing in the car Friday afternoon, or the 130K miles we had on it, and the sad rumbling and clanking noises the engine made. It's only been a day but the Caliber is fantastic: we drove it home that night after showing the in-laws and driving them to dinner in it. So far so good. Rave reviews all around. We'll see how it goes Monday night when we have to drive back to hand over the title to the Rav. But that's one car trip I'm looking forward to.
Current beer-scale: 3.3