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Beating the secret society of car repair people
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Last summer, my 20-year-old daughter, Alex, needed a car. For the past two years, she had been driving a 1993 GMC Sierra pickup truck, a gift from her father. It had the Southern comfort styling with genuine wood inlay interior. But after a couple years, it began to run rough and had already required some expensive servicing. The leather seats were cracked, and the air worked only during local travel, not on the highway. Plus it got lousy gas mileage and was a major cash-burner, requiring upwards of $75 to fill the tank when gas prices spiked past $3 a gallon.

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Alex and I went to a Honda dealership, the same one where my husband had purchased a new 2005 Honda CRV only three months before. (I don't like to drive it, so it's his car.) When we arrived, I announced that we were looking for an inexpensive car that my daughter could tool around in while attending college. The sales guy immediately brought our attention to a 1993 Honda Accord, old-style body, with 77,000 miles on it, in garage-kept condition. Only one problem: Alex hated everything about it and said she would not be caught dead driving it. I loved it. Its plush purple seats showed no trace of wear and had a luxurious velvety feel. The price tag was $6,995.

Alex's eyes alighted on a 1999 fire-engine-red Ford Mustang with 83,000 miles and a price tag of $8,995. She was immediately smitten.

We took both cars on test drives. Alex at first refused to get behind the wheel of the Accord. It drove like a dream, except that the steering wheel vibrated quite a bit. The Mustang seemed to drive OK; no shaky steering wheel, anyway. Hours of negotiation ensued between my daughter and me.

How would you have handled it?

  1. Should I force my will and demand that we get the Honda, or give in to her desire for the Mustang?

    Get the Accord. That car is barely broken in, and can easily last for another dozen years.
    Get the Mustang. It's a more recent model. The Honda may not be as reliable as you think.

Next: The negotiations begin.
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