Necessity behind the wheel of vehicle search

He made me feel like some sort of a pervert. Or at least a thief. Seems shopping mall officials frown on people looking into other people’s cars. Even when you’re a harmless-looking, middle-aged woman with a semi-plausible excuse for your behavior.

“Looking at the size of the cargo bay, eh? That’s what everyone says,” the security guard confronted. I found myself caught in the unenviable position of telling a truth that was less believable than the average lie. I hate it when that happens. It’s obvious I am a better liar than a truth teller, and yet the truth was all I had to offer.

I stuck to my story and eventually something more important than my petty offense, perhaps a shoplifter or a fender bender, forced him to release me and my questionable intentions. So much better than having my fleeting attempt at alleged criminality upstaged by a dead battery or someone with keys locked in a car. That would have been truly humiliating and a blow to my already precarious self-esteem. It’s nice to know how you rate.

For the record, I really was sizing up the vehicle’s cargo bay. And if my actions seemed rushed and gaze furtive, it wasn’t because I was about to do something illegal, but rather something desperate and totally unethical. I’m on the verge of violating my own value system: I am looking to purchase another vehicle with time and money I don’t have. Because I have to.

My 2002 Nissan Sentra is close to needing to be retired before it drops dead on the job. Right now it’s behaving as my 16-year-old dog, Sousa, did: still rolling along fairly well, but waiting to expire at the least provocation and the most inconvenient time. As summer heat was to Sousa, winter cold is likely to be to my Nissan. The final straw.

Checking out on me without notice seems to have become a pattern in my life, from pets to people. Its disquieting effects sound a loud alarm. “It’s gonna happen again soon. Mark my words! Another check-out when you least expect it.” Therefore, I’m hoping to beat my Nissan to the punch and have a replacement vehicle warming up.

Car shopping should be much more glamorous than this. In an ideal world, I would be car shopping because I want to, not because I have to. And my choices would be fueled by my wants, rather than fuel economy. I’d have ample time to compare options and money enough to make the best decision. No grinding gears or squealing brain belts, just a smooth ride of looking for a smoother ride.

But that’s not the reality in which I find myself. Reality is always such a letdown. My reality informs me the replacement vehicle I don’t want but need will need to be paid for from retirement savings. Not a good plan. But it’s the only plan I have at this point, based on the state of my personal economy over that past two years.

Despite being a creative type, I have a solid grasp of business and an even stronger grip with penny pinching. My frugality focus is what has me unflinchingly driving a dented10-year-old, 235,000-mile car with the rear bumper only marginally attached since I rolled the vehicle on an icy highway last winter.

Necessity is keeping my vehicle search needs-based and space- and mileage-focused. While I would love to purchase a Nissan Altima for durability sake, I need to get a vehicle that will fit my family’s growing needs, yet enable us to haul around things other than just our butts. The dream of also having a pick-up and/or a trailer is pie so far in the sky it looks like a military bomber trained on me.

Thanks to multiple owners of small SUVs and mechanic friends tolerating my extensive questioning in the name of market research, I have narrowed my vehicle search to a couple of models. I won’t name them here because I don’t want an onslaught of additional information. Let’s just say my children will be grateful when I stop spending more time outside in the mall parking lot checking out vehicles than I do inside shopping.

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