Monday, December 06, 2004


We went car shopping at the weekend. We didn't intend to buy the first car we saw, but it was in such good condition and (after some nifty negotiation from my father-in-law, who enjoys and is good at such things) such a good deal that it seemed a shame to pass it up.

We paid for it and picked it up this morning: a 2001 Focus ZX3 hatchback, automatic, lots of extras, in yellow. Bright yellow. At some point over the weekend it got called "the lemon" — out of earshot of the sellers, as "lemon" has meanings beyond colour in car sales — and the name seems to have stuck; the lemon it is.

So, we're independently mobile. And it feels good.

Manual transmission ("stick shift") is the exception here, rather than the norm as it is in the UK; and it's usually seen as a liability in used cars. Manuals are harder to sell, as fewer buyers want them; and, in lower-end cars at least, manual transmission has boy-racerish connotations that suggest that the car will have been driven hard. Hatchbacks are very rare here; most cars are of the saloon body style ("sedans") with a few estates ("station wagons") and even fewer hatchbacks. We wanted one, as we want a lot of load area but didn't want an SUV.

And yellow is an exceptionally rare colour, at least around here. The standing joke of the weekend was "it's easy to find in a parking lot", and it's true: only once today did we see another yellow car (a new Beetle) in anywhere we parked. I love the yellow; Melinda was ambivalent at first but says its growing on her.

I'd worried about insurance, as again we're starting again from scratch as far as driving and insurance history goes. Well, it was expensive, but not as nose-bleeding expensive as I'd feared. Most policies here seem to run for 6 months, not the year we're used to in the UK: this seems unnecessarily cruel, given how painful it is shopping around for insurance, and the cynic in me suggests that it gives 'em two opportunities a year to hike your premium. Time will tell.


I James, I think you can get a rebate or a bonus on the car insurance rate if you give the company the proof that you've been insured in the past and have had no big issues... It's like a driving (not credit) history.