J-Co

It is best to keep your mouth shut and let people think you are stupid than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Archive for the tag “cars”

I fought the law, and I won!

Most folks tell stories of how their run-in with the law was unpleasant, embarrassing, and costly.  Mine is one of a different type, whereby the officer that issued my citation actually spoke on my behalf at my court hearing.

On a cool Friday evening in May 2002, my fiancé decided to head out of town for a friend’s graduation party.  She was going away just for the weekend, so she packed several bags of shoes, kissed me goodbye and headed out West.  So there I was, deciding what to do – I contacted a buddy of mine to see if he wanted to get together after work for a few drinks.  He quickly obliged, as he never passes up an opportunity to spill with his pals.  I told him that I would pick him up around 8pm, and then we would go hit the town.  I got dressed, hopped into my new car (silver 2000 Honda Accord Coupe ex V6), and sped off.  I was very proud of my first car, as I had just purchased the ride upon my college graduation in 1999.

Our first stop was to meet up with a local girl that he had been talking to at a pub nearby around 8:30pm – unfortunately, we did not get there until 11pm.

After picking him up, I drove into the city just after dusk, and eased my way into one of those round-abouts where cars are circling from every direction and you do not know if they are exiting or getting on the circle.  After successfully entering the circle and making a quick exit, I noticed the old blue and red lights flashing in my rearview mirror.  My first thought was, “Was I going too fast?  Nah, I was only doing 30MPH or so.  Perhaps I turned without signaling – can’t be, I always use my signal.”  I calmly pulled over, just two blocks from our destination.

The officer came up to my window and asked for my license and registration.  I reached into the glove compartment and grabbed whatever paperwork I had, and handed the papers to the officer.  We waited a few minutes, then he came back and asked me where did I get the car from, and who paid for the vehicle.  Puzzled, I told him the name of the dealership, and that I had paid for the car in full.

A few minutes quickly passed before three more police cruisers rolled up next to us.  My friend and I looked at each other and wondered what on Earth could be going down.

The officer then asked us to exit the car (at this point, a light rain began falling upon us), and asked me whose name is on the registration card.  I looked at the card and realized that I did not recognize the name.  The name on the card had the same last name as mine, but the first name was way off.  The officer then told me that the reason why he had pulled me over was because my license plate tags had expired.  In Maryland, we are required to update our tags ever two years – however, given that this was my first car (and my first time living in Maryland), I had no idea.  Furthermore, since the registration was in someone else’s name, I never received the notice to renew my tags.

The officer speculated that there must have been a mix-up with the MVA, and they had issued me the wrong tags and registration for the vehicle.  So the reason for the additional backup officers to arrive, is that they saw the wrong plates on the wrong car with incorrect registration – thus concluding that this could be a stolen vehicle.  Two of those officers that arrived approached me and began questioning me on how I did not realize that my name was not on the registration card.  One of the officers was a Sergeant, the other was his sidekick – and the sidekick was repeating everything the Sergeant said (similar to “Proctor” from the Police Academy movies).  This dynamic duo began grilling me as if this whole situation was my fault, and that I should be locked up.  He instructed the officer that pulled me over to issue me several tickets – one each for driving a vehicle with incorrect tags, possessing a vehicle with incorrect tags, driving a vehicle with incorrect registration, possessing a vehicle with incorrect registration, and then to impound the car.

Gasping, I could not believe what was going on.  The officers huddled up to discuss the situation, and then they broke up and left – leaving just the original officer with me.  The officer actually apologized to me, saying that he was just going to give me a warning and asked that I go to the MVA to have this situation fixed as soon as possible.  However, because that particular Sergeant showed up, he had to impound the car and issue me at least one ticket.  I sadly waited and watched as a tow truck came by and took my baby away.

After all of the officers left, my buddy and I walked the rest of the way in the rain to the pub and had few drinks to laugh off our experience.  His lady-friend gave us a ride back to his place, whereby he gave me a ride home.

The next day (Saturday morning), I asked another buddy to give me a ride to the MVA.  I would have taken my fiancé’s car, but she took her keys with her.  So my friend gladly gave me lift.  However, upon arriving at the MVA, I was disappointed to see that the office was closed for the Memorial Day Weekend Holiday.  To make matters worse, he locked his keys in the car.  While we waited for AAA to show up, I called the dealership where I had purchased the car, and calmly told them my situation.  I explained that they issued me the wrong the registration card, and that they were at fault for the situation.  They told me that they understood, and would gladly reimburse me for any out-of-pocket expenses.

Since this was a holiday weekend, I had to wait until Tuesday to correct the matter.  My plan was simple – I would drive my wife to her office (which, fortunately for me, was only 2 miles from the impound lot), drive to the MVA to get a new set of tags and registration, drop my fiancé’s car back to her office, walk to the impound lot, get my car, and drive back to the dealership (~50 miles away) to get reimbursed.  All the while, I had to take the day off from work to get all of this done.  My process went very smoothly – the new tags and registration was $140, the impound fee was $110, and the citation was $250.  Upon arriving at the dealership, I spoke directly with the owner, and he agreed to pay for my new tags, registration, impound fees, and lost wages for taking two days off from work (one to get this corrected, and another for my court date).  I also asked for an additional check to cover any fines that may be imposed upon me – if no fines were issued, then I would return the check.  I was issued two checks, and quickly left.

Flash forward to my court date, I waited patiently for my name to be called.  I approached the desk, and entered my plea of not guilty.  The officer and I were both sworn in, and before I could mention anything further, the officer told the judge that he believed that this was just a simple mix-up with the MVA, and that I should not be held accountable for the incident.  The judge thought about the situation for a moment and agreed with the officer.  I was free to go with no penalties or fines.

Car buying Experience

While many folks fear the “car-buying” experience, I look for any opportunity to embrace the challenge.

The opportunity arose for me and my family when I asked my wife to take her 1999 Lexus RX300 (125k miles) into the dealership for a routine oil & filter change (normally $30). While waiting for her car to be worked on, a service consultant emerged and informed her that there are some “issues” that she might want to address. The services they “recommended” were around some oil leaks (gasket, oil pan, etc.) – total bill: $3,000. She immediately called me and asked me what to do, hinting that this service cost exceeds 50% of the trade-in value. I checked our garage floor, and there was no leakage of any kind on the ground. However, I know that this dealership has been good to us over the seven years that we have owned this car, and are probably a key reason why the car is still in excellent running condition. Nonetheless, a big decision needed to be made, and we were not going to make up our minds over the phone. Thus, we told them to hold off on the service, and we will commence our car-buying process.

Granted, buying a car is not a task that should be made over an hour, a night, or even a week. After all, the buyer is planning to spend thousands of hard-earned dollars, and just throwing the money around is rarely any fun. The fun part for me, however, is haggling with the salesman (I would say sales people, but I have yet to meet a car sales woman). Before haggling can begin, I needed to do my homework. I spent several days researching reviews, specifications, prices, etc. on other sport utility vehicles. I used a funnelling process whereby we would start with the features that are more important to us, and eliminate all others.

The most important feature to us is safety, followed by reliability, cost of maintenance, fuel consumption, options (V6, AWD, leather, sunroof, heated seats, navigation, interior space, etc.), and finally appearance. Our population quickly filtered down to four vehicles: Acura MDX, Ford Edge, Chevy Equinox, and Lexus RX. I firmly believe in buying only used cars for the following reasons: cheaper, better fuel consumption (typically, most cars do not achieve their projected miles per gallon rating until after the first several thousand miles), less depreciation, whatever bugs the car may originally had would have been ironed out by then, and more wiggle-room in negotiating a price.

So after we had our top four choices, I made calls to our nearest dealerships to schedule test drives. My wife and I got her parents to watch our 4-year old son for the day while we went cruising. I wanted to keep the process as smooth as possible since my wife is eight months pregnant, and thus a lot of driving around could be tiresome on her. Thus, I asked each sales person to have the keys for the test drive ready upon our arrival. However, I figured that the outcome of our test-driving would be 50% chance that we would not make a purchase, 25% chance that we would buy a Lexus, 15% chance that we would by an Acura, and 10% chance that we would buy the Ford.

My research told me that the Acura MDX was rated the top midsize SUV, so I wanted her to drive the “benchmark” first. We had a 10am appointment and arrived at the Acura dealership and examined a green 2006 Acura MDX with 72,000 miles. We were most impressed with the optional third row of seating. This car had all of the options we desired, plus was certified up to 100,000 miles. My wife took the car for a spin and really enjoyed the ride, however, the high mileage turned us away. Upon our return from the test drive, the salesman informed us that they would buy her car for $6k. I thanked the salesman for his time, and told him that we would consider the offer. He gladly handed us the keys, and told us to keep in touch.

Driving away, I was glad that he complied with my request of speediness, but somewhat disappointed that he did not attempt to close the sale right then and there. My guessing is that he was sympathetic to my wife’s pregnancy, and was more interested in her getting some rest.

Our second stop was at the Ford dealership to drive the Ford Edge at 11:30am. I really wanted this car to be the choice, as the vehicle the salesman brought out to us had everything we wanted, plus at a very good price. The car even sported the panoramic sunroof – very cool! Unfortunately, my wife could not get comfortable in the drivers seat, and complained that there were too many blind spots. Additionally, the brakes were too loose, and the car seemed too “plasticy” – almost like the vehicle was made in Mexico (which is true by the way). Our test drive ended rather quickly, and we informed the salesman that we were not satisfied with the car. He tried to persuade us to re-consider, and even got his manager to talk with us. He also tried to pull the “I’ll hide your car keys trick to keep you here longer”. None of their tactics worked, as they did not even mention pricing. We thanked them for their time and headed out for lunch.

After lunch, our next scheduled stop was to be at the Chevrolet dealership to examine the Chevy Equinox. However, I knew that they did not have one with leather available, so we decided to skip that car for now. Thus, we went to the same Lexus dealership where we have been servicing our car since our purchase seven years prior. We had called ahead and asked to test drive a RX330 and/or RX350. Upon our arrival, they claimed to have none available, only a 2006 RX400h with 57,000 miles (just in) for $25,000. So we gave that a car a whirl. The drive was smooth and exceeded our expectations, but we noticed too many problems (no heated seats, the air conditioning was blowing hot air, etc.), and I refuse to buy a first year model hybrid (at least without a warranty on the battery). Interestingly, they only offered us $5,600 for our car (supposedly without knowing of the work that needs to be done).

Thus, we left for the day in our original car, still searching for the next addition to our family. But we were not disappointed, as we still enjoy the current car. However, we do know that we need to make a decision soon, as we want to some value for our car in a trade-in.

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