Remember that cool Jeep Wrangler I leased a few months ago? Remember how I announced that I have become a “Jeep Guy,” complete with my Jeep sweatshirt, prepared for off-road adventures? Well, I just turned my Jeep in early and instead bought a 2018 Toyota RAV4 with over 46,000 miles on it, complete with a low-level trim package – no GPS, no automatic push-button key, no leather seats.
Why the change? The simplest answer is that I did not like driving a car that’s cooler than I am. I felt like a bit of an imposter. I did go to 4-wheel drive once, while pursuing butterflies in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but that’s it. The roof could be removed so I could be a cool guy cruising about, but I can’t even imagine doing that, especially with our winters. Ditto with the removable doors. The height of the seats off the road might come in handy for spotting caribou or driving through snowdrifts, and I hope whoever gets the car next will enjoy those adventures, but for us the high seats mean difficulties getting in and out of the car, even with all the extra grab bars and steps we added.
Don’t get me wrong – there were some positives. The main one was that the tall boxy shape made it easy to spot in a parking lot, a real benefit as I’m getting older and, you know . . .. The Jeep also has a great back-up viewing system, with a picture comparable to our television. Along with that is a good warning beeper when I’m backing into traffic, a device I used from time to time. (My RAV4 doesn’t have a beeper, or I haven’t figured out how to turn it on.) And the leather seats were comfortable, once we managed to climb up into them.
You might be wondering – probably not – what was the process that led us to the purchase of the Toyota? First off, we have driven a lot of Toyotas in the past, so I felt I would be comfortable with the controls. I never did figure out the sophisticated and expensive GPS on the Jeep, but this will not be a problem with our Toyota, as our Miser’s Trim Package does not include GPS. I also did a check in Consumer Reports – no contest.
But what really made it happen was our experience at the Toyota dealership. It was far from perfect – we were there for over four hours, mainly just sitting there waiting. But we connected with the sales people we met. We were greeted by Nolan, who we asked to see a hybrid, but of course there weren’t any. We asked to see a used Highlander, but the one he showed us was too nice and too expensive. Kim told him that we didn’t really care what it looked like, “just a jalopy to use for a while – an interim car.” (Yes, my Kim said that.) He said he had just what we wanted and brought it out. After a two-minute test drive, we said Yes. We were pleased that there was no dickering about the price. Though Kim is great at negotiation, she dislikes game-playing and bullshit. Kim said Nolan is “real,” which is high praise from her. We spent maybe an hour with him, which included 3 minutes of paperwork and the rest just chatting. We went to lunch, then chatted with Cory – another salesperson, and Jim, co-owner of the dealership – as we waited for multiple credit and identity checks. They built relationships with us, and we trusted them, and this trust somehow transferred to the car. But still, I was careful to dispose of our coffee cups in a distant wastebasket so they could not collect our DNA.
All of this is unimportant, as is the car I am driving. When I still had the Jeep, I took an online survey about my experience, and one of the things I was asked was how much I see the car I drive as an expression of my identity. “Not at all,” I answered. So, it’s ironic that the car I’m now driving shares some qualities with my identity: used, good in snow, a few years old with a few miles on it, but reliable. I did spring for an Extended Warrantee – for the car, but there was not one available for me. I will try to rotate my tires every 6 months.