I’ve been dreaming about what kind of new car I’d buy for years now, after we bought a Honda Accord to replace Jen’s Saturn. The thinking then was that we’d have two kids and I’d need a commuter with enough space to move them and all their crap, and I wanted something that got reasonable gas mileage. For some reason I focused on a midsize sedan, and we looked at several Accords at the local CarMax. This decision was also influenced by a trip to Gettysburg I took with my folks; my Dad had just come back from a serious health scare and wanted to do some things on his bucket list while he was feeling healthy, and I needed something big enough and easy enough for him to enter and exit without a child seat. We looked at several Accords and I settled on a gray off-lease LX model with the barest of options available.
It’s been a solid car for our family since we got it, rarely complaining and completely dependable over the course of 60,000 miles and eight years. I paid it off as quickly as possible, and without that monthly hit to the bank account I’ve been maintaining it carefully, knowing it would be with us until the wheels fell off. But it’s a sedan and not a wagon (I am solidly a wagon person), the steering wheel is completely uncomfortable for long-distance travel, the passthrough from the trunk to the rear seat is tiny (big enough for a pair of skis or four 2×4″s) and the headlights are way too dim. and, it’s a sedan. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of replacing it for something else that we all like better (Jen is not a fan) and which might provide more utility vs. the lack of a car payment for several years now. I clearly missed the most obvious gift I could have been given: sky-high resale rates on used cards during the pandemic. Oh, well, I thought. I’ll just keep on keepin’ on with the Gray Ghost here.
[cue ominous foreshadowing music]
Finn and I loaded up for a trip to Mom’s house for Thanksgiving and set out Tuesday afternoon, and made our way through rain and fog and the darkness in Pennsylvania with little trouble. We were about 3 miles from Mom’s house, Finn was asleep in the seat next to me, and I had a podcast playing in my AirPods. A flash appeared from my left and suddenly the windshield filled with a very large buck, who we hit at 65mph pretty much head-on. Both airbags blew immediately and the car slewed to the left; I turned into the skid but all four tires had lost grip and we did a 360 until we were sitting in the fast lane facing back over the other way. Finn woke up and asked why the airbags were in her lap, and I asked her to roll the window down to help air out the car. I tried to call my Mom but the phone failed to connect, and found that I couldn’t call anyone in my contact list. I did call 911 and while I was talking to that lady a cruiser passed us on the other side, hit the lights, and made a U-turn to get to us.
Finn and I waited while the cops set up some flares, and another officer loaded us into his cruiser to take us over to the Costco to wait for Mom. I sat in the perp cage and gave him my info and he gave me a printout of the police report to pass on to the insurance agency. We both made out fine; there’s no injury at all other than a slight burn on my right hand from the airbag, but the car is totaled. I stopped over to the towing lot to empty it out the next morning and was shocked to see how much it had pushed the radiator backwards into the engine. She isn’t coming back from this one.
With a heavy heart I emptied out all of our stuff, going so far as to pull the jack and tools from the trunk and all of our registration information, and left her to her fate in a rural impound lot miles from home. She was a good car and treated us well, and I’m sad this was the way she went out.
So now I’ve got to figure out what we’re going to replace her with. I have looked longingly at crew cab pickups for years, and the utility of having a four-door vehicle with a bed outside the crew compartment is very tempting. I’d go with a mid-size Tacoma or maybe even a Ford Maverick depending on their price. Another option is to double down and get a newer CR-V, although their interiors have gone more upscale and the U in utility has been downgraded somewhat. Jen has requested a manual transmission but the options there are few and far between; basically we’d need to buy an astronomically-priced sportscar or one of three crossover-type vehicles (hello there, Bronco) but she doesn’t want a Subaru.
I’m going to take some more time with this decision and try to find a vehicle we’ll all be happy with for a long time; working from home means there are only a few times when not having a car will jam someone up—but it’s going to be tricky.