There’s a flipside to my decision to move to SF, a sacrifice which I don’t absolutely have to make, but probably should.
That sacrifice is my car.
I fell in love with her, and for some reason coined the name “Betsie”, the instant I saw her on the lot almost exactly a week after I landed in San Francisco. I’ve always had a thing for Jeep Wranglers – they just look so effortlessly confident and yet somehow quaint… almost cute.
And given that I’d moved here to experience America, what better way than in an all-American car?
She was everything I could have hoped for. Without any doubt, she’s the most enjoyable car I’ve ever driven, particularly on a scorching Californian day, zipping along with the top down.
But she’s expensive. In part, that’s because I didn’t get the best finance deal when I bought her, because I couldn’t. I didn’t exist at the time – no records in computers, no social security number. I hoped that a car finance plan was the best way to put myself on the map, credit history-wise. It worked too, as my first “You’re pre-approved for a credit card!” junk mail last week can attest.
Even if I refinanced now, the sum of insurance, taxes, parking, gas and finance payments will probably be around $800/month. $800/month I could be saving, or spending on having fun.
There’s also another irritating downside to owning a Wrangler – they get pretty crappy gas mileage (the EPA reckons 14mpg city/18mpg highway, although my records suggest closer to 16/21 – still crap). This annoys me, because they’re amazing, fun cars to drive, and I refuse to believe that Jeep couldn’t improve that mileage significantly if they spent a little time on it. They are possibly making some headway on this, with the Gladiator concept pick-up which runs on diesel (a good alternative once sulphur content regulations tighten up in 2006), and would get gas mileage significantly north of 20mpg. Still crap, but better.
So why do they have to ruin it with ridiculous ideas like the Jeep Hurricane? An off-roader with two 5.7-litre engines? How in hell is that useful to anyone without their own private oil refinery? And let’s not dwell on the irony of the chosen name, given this summer’s debate about whether the storm season is a symptom of global warming…
Of course, gas prices are rising (even if they’re still 1/3rd of what they are back in the UK), and the increasing cost-per-mile of driving is a concern. Actually, though, the thought of the pollution I’m creating by driving a gas-guzzler bothers me more than the cost to my pocket. I can juggle my finances. I’m not sure the planet’s doing so well with all our CO2 emissions.
And since I probably drive more between Sunnyvale and SF on weekends/evenings than anywhere else and Yahoo! provides good commute alternatives, I won’t need a car nearly as much when up in the city. For the times when I do there’s always rentals, which at probably $300/week, only when I need it, is a cheaper (and greener) option.
I’m still wavering on the decision (because, really, I love this car), but I think that selling her and paying off the finance contract with the proceeds (should be more-or-less break-even) is probably the right thing to do. The painful thing, but the right thing.
Which leaves me with three major tasks:
- Working out the details of selling her for the most money I can get.
- Making sure I enjoy my last few months driving her.
- Planning a feasible car-free life in the city.
Wish me luck…