November 30, 2006

Two Months

It has been a little over two months since I returned my 350Z to the dealership at the end of my three year lease. I really loved that car. Its teardrop profile, smooth handling, fully featured interior, and get-up-and-go made it a joy to drive. Alas, winter in New England did not mix with a rear wheel drive car outfitted with high performance summer tires. Yes, I could have switched tires for the winter months, but the thought of dropping another thousand just to pretend I could drive in winter never really appealed to me.

I debated quite some time about what I would do after I returned my Z. I researched plenty of cars, went to a few dealerships, but never made it past just looking. The nail in the coffin of getting the Z in the first place was the first time I drove it. Part of the reason I didn't want to go any further in the process was a conscious realization that I was "becoming" a yuppie. Some that known me content that is already the case. I still delude myself and say that it is more a case of selective affluence.

While I could have bought and afforded many of the cars I was looking at, it felt wrong. Not wrong at the level of being evil, more wrong at the level of I should know better. I grew up modestly and while I lament that I can't remember as much of my childhood as I would like, what I do remember is not cause for alarm. The most recent issue of Details has a series of articles about yuppies and one of the comments mentioned in Jeff Gordinier's "The Return of the Yuppie" piece reminded me of my car debate:

Douglas Coupland told People "When you've 27 or 28, your body starts emmiting the Sheraton enzyme. You can no longer sleep on people's floors." By 37, the Sheraton enzyme mutates into the Four Season endorphin.

The same thing was happening to me, but with cars. The Dodge Omni I had as my first car was a distant past to what I was considering now. I had to step back and really wonder just what was going on. It wasn't so much shying away from what limited success I've had in my career, but instead wondering more about how I wanted to express it? I'm still trying to figure that one out. Inspiration should come from groups like "Living Life Below Your Means" which is active on the The Motley Fool. Alas, I've not found myself perusing those forums.

Instead of jumping into something that I might regret, I instead chose to delay the choice. I'm now a member of Zipcar. Easy access to a car when I need it, but not close enough to be more tempting than I want it to be. Two months car less has helped me discover what I would really want a car for. Highest on that list is the mundane task of grocery shopping. This is just what Zipcar was designed for. Enter in that not quite as close as I would like factor and it is a trade-off.

Peapod has filled the grocery gap, but not always to my complete satisfaction. Last time we went shopping online which was a couple of weeks ago, Peapod did not offer Eggnog as an online option. There are also many other products that are easily found in the stores but not online. Some of them fall into the yuppie category, but in general I'm willing to put money there as the hippie-go-crunchy products I feel are better tasting and more sustainable.

This leaves me in the position that I still might want to get a car, since while grocery shopping is highest on the list, trips to visit friends and explore the area are also on the list and full day Zipcar rentals get to be as bad as a car payment. I will have to see what inspiration the new year brings.

Tags: 350z life

September 28, 2006

One last trip

I recently returned from what will be the last great road trip in my 350Z. My lease is almost up and I've decided, despite how much I love the car, that it's best that I hand the keys back in. Part of that is the fact that having leased it new had I really wanted to keep it long term it would have been much more financially sound to just take out a loan from the start to purchase it. I instead went in thinking that around this time, late 2006, I was going to be in a different point in my life and that was about the time to give up the Z.

The original plan hatched back around the turn of the century was that I'd be buying a house now and switching to a more practical and inexpensive car would make life easier on the finances. Turns out I was a year ahead on the house purchase, but the fact remains that the 350Z is an expensive car. Not to mention that all of my traffic transgressions have also occurred in the Z. Now part of that is probably just the fact that I was lucky to not have gotten caught in my Maxima, but I think part of it also an unconscious bias that a sports car emits.

By transgressions I mean a little speeding, and a misunderstanding due to lack of road signage (which I'm still bitter about since, mostly because I don't think I defended myself in traffic court very well). Nothing too serious, but I know in my mind that continuing to have such a car just increases the chances that I'll want to use and test the full potential of the car. Yes I know I should just auto cross with it or something like that, but I've always been a little paranoid doing that with a leased vehicle.

The fact that gas prices have gone up since getting the car and that the Z requires premium gas increases the cost of owning such a car. Typically around the city I get really poor mileage per gallon, something in the ballpark of 12-16. Since this road trip involved a drive down to Virginia I was curious to see how it faired on longer drives. These finally tallies were all computed with the in dash multifunction display so I can only assume that they are accurate. I don't have a final tally of how much gas I bought to cross check.

These figures include both city and highway driving. I'm sure the numbers would be even higher if I had only tracked the highway miles. Total distance driven: 1,345.3 miles. Total driving time: 25 hours 26 minutes. Miles per gallon: 27.5. Average speed 52 MPH. Before leaving I filled all of my tires to 45 PSI cold which with the warmer weather heading south and the running temperature increase had me rolling most of the time on 48-49 PSI. Almost doubling my city MPG is pretty nice. I will say that cruise control is a must for long highway drives.

I will also say that most drivers have no situational awareness on the highway. There is no reason to be hugging the far left lane when there are almost no other cars on the road. Riding in the middle lane is just as bad since people will end up passing on the right, which while legal in most places just adds to the mess. And forget about drivers having any concept of a safe following distance. Many times I had to shift into slower lanes and drop my speed to loose drivers that couldn't set their own pace and instead would ride less than half a second behind my bumper.

I sometimes think that it would be nice to rig up an LED on the back of my car in order to flash messages to the other drivers around me. Your left blinker is on and you are in the far left lane. Please don't follow so close, it isn't safe if I need to stop quickly and I can stop very quickly. Traveling in the blind spot behind a tractor trailer is just asking for problems.

Tags: 350z life

April 30, 2006

350Z Recall Notice

Anyone that might have a 2003-2004 Nissan 350Z be aware that the fuel filler hose may crack and result in fuel leakage from the hose while refueling. More details about the recall are on the Office of Defects Investigation website.

Tags: 350z car