Monday, December 15, 2008

Feeding my "ooh, shiny!" reflex

Anyone want to buy a Mazda? I've had my car up on for a month now. Spent some money getting it into shape for the technical test, which it passed with flying colors - and then realized that I've had it for almost two full years now. In that time I've put less than 20,000 km on it, and most of that was a couple of extended trips to Riga and a lot of time spent on the Tallinn-Tartu road. Most Estonian bloggers will have bad things to say about that road, but honestly, it's an acquired skill. You have to get used to driving the best part of two hundred klicks on a windy, dark, icy dual carriageway. One can always tell a driver with extensive experience on the Freeway of Death, because they don't blink if a car bears down on them on a kamikaze overtake before getting back into its own lane a few inches from their bumper.

Other than the black bumper (ripped off the old one in a parking lot, decided not to paint the replacement - good decision, retrospectively) and a few other scars, there's nothing really wrong with the Mazda. The point is simply that it's a big family hatchback, and I hardly ever drive with a passenger, let alone more than one. In the winter, it takes me longer to scrape the ice off the car than to actually drive to work. I have no pressing need for a 626, and I'm a bit bored with it. I suppose I might as well drive it until it explodes, but just in case, I put it up for sale. The price is probably higher than I'd actually expect to get for it, but it's the one I would let the car go for.

Thing is, I've been looking at the ads, and there doesn't seem to be much to replace it with. I don't, strictly speaking, need a car - in Tartu I can just as easily walk everywhere, and the occasional cab ride would still come out to a lesser cost than the petrol, insurance and maintenance on the car. So the replacement would have to be something special. I don't want to get a big car loan, just out of a general sense of imminent apocalypse, otherwise there's a sweet WRX STI wagon being offered in Tartu, with 15,000 km on the clock, for the price of a middling Kia. Without external financing, and assuming I could either sell the Mazda or trade it in, my budget stretches to maybe fifty or sixty thousand kroons. And the sad thing is, in that price range, there aren't really many cars that are worth the hassle. For a '93, my Mazda is stunningly comfortable (I'm reminded of this every time I drive someone else's car of a similar vintage), as fast as I could practically need it to be in Estonia, and depressingly reliable. It has that Japanese econobox quality, there are plenty of small niggles that make me think of getting something newer, but ultimately there just aren't enough things wrong with it to justify throwing it out. It's never, to use the favourite expression of Rolls-Royce owners, failed to proceed. Almost anything else in this price range will be, at best, marginally more comfortable, fast, or reliable. Though many will be more cool than a dirty-green, fifteen-year-old Mazda with an unpainted front jaw. But even then there are pitfalls. For example, I would never buy a BMW. Objectively, I know that they are fine cars, but I really don't want to be the sort of person who drives one.

I used to be a massive gearhead, but like a lot of people in deepest, darkest December, I guess I just find it hard to get excited about anything these days.

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