Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My Sonic Hedgehog

My dad loves a good deal. When he saw that an Alexandria Chevrolet dealership was offering $4,000 for any trade-in—four times the value of my 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier—he lit up and emailed me the offer. “Cash for clunkers is back!” I said.

I gave my dad the green light to work his negotiating magic on my behalf for a new 2013 Sonic LTZ turbo. Apparently he is a wizard:

  • Trade-in: $4,000
  • Random rebates: $1,000
  • Taxes, tags, fees and destination charge: $0
  • My parents letting me use their GM MasterCard rewards: $2,500

Estimated drive-away price without discounts: $22,500; my drive-away price: $15,000.

I thought back to the August night my parents bought me the Cavalier when I was 15. Afraid to drive it off the lot which was next to busy Route 1, I switched seats with my mom at an Exxon closer to home. I rolled down the window, turned on mutually acceptable music and lightly touched the accelerator. Despite basic features, cheap interior plastic and it technically not being mine, it was my most prized possession. I would be less excited now if I were to regrow a left ilium. Ownership, or even having the sense of it, is special. Developing nations should consider this when creating property rights laws.

In the Cavalier’s final days, driving it was like taking a quad shot of espresso. Running over potholes felt like an explosion, so I stayed hyper-alert to avoid them. The gas gauge stopped working so I filled up after 250 miles, or pushed it to 330 if I was feeling insane. I loved the total value the Cavalier had provided me, and I still loved it, though parting ways was less difficult after signing for the title to my Sonic.

I carefully pushed all the Sonic’s buttons to learn how to use my new treasure. I connected my phone via Bluetooth and laughed, thinking back to how I used to play music in the Cavalier. My parents called to talk to me through the Sonic’s speakers on my drive home. My dad beamed with appreciation of the vehicle and his wizardry, and my mom wished it was hers.

Before two weeks ago I relished driving a “valueless” car and not paying for it. I even considered becoming a true city boy and going carless. Now I have to deal with crazy DC car and parking laws, and a costly and depreciating asset. But those concerns are trumped by my excitement to take it on its first short road trip to Richmond on Saturday to speak at VCU’s Relay for Life. My car serves more than its basic function, a lesson I had to learn on my own.

Do you want to see it? Here you go, in typical ruBENstein fashion:


Nick said...

Love the video, and can't wait to cruise down Hoadley in this thing.

Benjamin Rubenstein said...

Thanks, and we don't have to drive 90 mph next time. Also, we can use AC instead of windows when sitting in a parking lot and its 100 degrees outside.

Sylvia R said...

Good readingg