Afterthoughts: Goldilocks Goes Car Shopping

The quest for a little family Fahrvergnügen.

Photo: Linny Morris

I spent the past seven weekends car shopping, and discovered the search for a new car isn’t quite the sport it used to be.

On the plus side, the hard-sell techniques I remember have been replaced by a more relaxed and helpful sales style.

But the whole thing—haggling and all—used to be more fun. Cars were a symbol of youth and freedom, a statement of style, not politics. My first car, for example, was purchased because it was … red. I didn’t care that the car’s engine sounded like a Singer sewing machine. It was red!

These days, one has weightier concerns than color. Airbags. OnStar. Is it safe to talk via Bluetooth? Which is worse: the nickel metal hydride batteries of hybrid cars or the gas used in conventional cars? 

Quotidian concerns like fuel efficiency and car seats sure take the “zoom, zoom” out of test drives. But you know times have really changed when Neil “Rockin’ in the Free World” Young is singing about using less fossil fuel:

The awesome power of electricity/Stored for you in a giant battery/She don’t use much, though, that’s smart for a car.

You think I made up those dreary song lyrics, but they’re real. They’re found on  Young’s latest album, Fork in the Road, which he might just as well called, The Death Knell of Cool, Car-Related Rock. By cool, I mean tunes like “Little Red Corvette,” “Greased Lightnin’” and “Low Rider.” Songs that inspire you to visit the back seat of a car, not make a vegan smoothie.

As we got into our car-shopping excursions, I started to feel like a cranky Goldilocks.

Illustration: Jing Jing Tsong

Husband to car salesman: We need a four-door.
Wife/Goldilocks: Hmm. This car is too small.
Husband: Well, how about this one over here?
Goldi: Hmm. That car is too big.

Goldi: Is this an SUV?
Husband: Yes.
Goldi: How about this one? Is this an SUV?
Husband: Yes. Why can’t you tell what an SUV is?
Goldi: Could we get a car that makes me look tall?
I also wanted something sporty, but not too flashy—no vehicles that could star in The Fast and the Furious, please.

Car shopping started to take over our lives. We couldn’t pass anything motorized without checking out its make and model. Dinner discussions centered on spoilers and rims. Every commercial we saw seemed to be automotive-related.

Husband: That Prius, its wheels are so small.
Goldi: It’s not manly enough?
Husband: Exactly.
Goldi: What if we put some steer’s horns across the front of the car?
Husband: No.
Goldi: What if we put a giant beanbag set of testicles and dangle it off the car?
Husband: No.

Our plans got crazier: We could buy two Cooper Minis and travel as a fleet. 

Two months in, I had narrowed the options down to the Car of My Dreams: It would look like a Lexus SUV, drive like an Acura TSX and have 18 airbags. Oh, and it would be a hybrid that runs on dirty diapers (40 mpg/city; 45 mpg/poopy).

Then, one Saturday afternoon, we finally spotted the car that was just right. Slick enough for him, safe enough for her. Not a hybrid, but not a gas-guzzler, either. We took a deep breath and bought it. There’s only one problem left for Goldilocks.

It’s so nice, I’m too scared to drive it.