Monday, February 16, 2009

At least it's practical

Since I'm lazy, I'm going to plagiarize the email I sent to my family and close friends back home about a week ago instead of writing a new post explaining what happened with my car:

So, two weeks to the day of my accident and everything's pretty much settled (NOTE: written on Feb. 11th). . . .

The repair estimate for my Vitz turned out to be 440,000 yen (my insurance coverage was up to 450,000). The damage really looked a lot more spectacular than it was thanks to the built-in crumple space, but unfortunately it wasn't purely cosmetic damage since the radiator did get damaged/pushed back a little into the engine. If I wanted to repair the car, I would've had to pay a 100,000 yen deductible.

Considering that the car had already been driven over 150,000km and the possibility that undetected accident-related engine problems might crop up later, I decided to get a "new" car instead. Besides, if I bought a new car, the insurance company would give me a "gift" of 100,000 yen to help with the purchase--thereby negating the deductible costs. (Guess insurance companies would also prefer that people get new cars rather than repair their old ones after serious damage.) Also, the cost for junking the car and for the storage/estimate fees from Toyota ended up being only 25,000 yen.
Since my old car was a "white plate" (normal car), I decided I should look for a "yellow plate" a.k.a. K-car. K-cars have smaller engines (800cc compared to my 1300cc Vitz), require less gas, and cost far less in terms of insurance, shaken (bi-annual required maintenance), and car taxes (annual). So I spent about a week being driven around by Andy car shopping. In the end though, I ended up finding a car through my JTE, Tomabechi-sensei. She asked her father about where I could find a good but cheap K-car and he referred me to a friend of his working at the Towada Honda Dealership. After hearing my story, the dealership friend, Komukai-san offered to sell me his wife's car for 420,000 instead of the 500,000+ price it would be sold for through a dealership.

So my new car is a 2000 Honda Life with about 65,000 km on it. (Less than half of what my Toyota Vitz had on it when I bought it!) It has 4WD, a CD deck (some of the cars I looked at still had tape decks!) and an autostarter, and it came with winter & summer tires and wipers. (As a present, he's actually giving me new "aluminum" summer tires--they're apparently very good tires.) Even though it was a personal sale, he did the shaken transfership papers through the dealership (so I didn't have to pay anything extra) and he told me I have a bit of parts/maintenance coverage through the dealership if anything comes up.

I haven't actually heard my new insurance quote, but should definitely be less than the 17,000 yen per month I would've had to pay if I'd repaired my car or bought another white plate (up from 9,400).

Definitely I've learned a bit about buying cars from this experience, and I've also (re-)learned how kind people can be in times of trouble. I mean, Komukai-san didn't know me (or, it turns out, Tomabechi-sensei--he only knew her parents and one of her other siblings!) but when he heard that I was a foreign English teacher who had had a car accident and was looking for a cheap K-car, he offered to sell me his wife's car. Andy's busy with all of his moving preparations (I'll definitely miss him and Rie when they go to Canada in April!) and writing, but he spent several weeknights and a Saturday morning taking me around car shopping. He also gave me an interest free 150,000 yen loan since I had to pay for the car first and then submit the receipt to the insurance company for reimbursement. (Definitely keeping an emergency fund available here in Japan from here on!) So yeah, I'm glad I could learn something from the car accident even though it was a sucky situation brought on by my own stupid carelessness.

Oh, and since the new car is smaller/lighter and has a smaller engine, its handling is the opposite of the Vitz! Its brakes are much more responsive (on my drive home from the dealership today I made a LOT of jerky stops) but it takes much longer to accelerate and you can really hear the engine working. ^^;; It kind of reminds me of the old Honda Accord I drove in high school. I suspect going too fast won't be as much of a problem with this car since it takes so much more effort to even get it up to 50km/hr! From my brief experience driving one so far, it seems like K-cars are designed for an optimal speed of 40km/hr. =P


End of plagiarism, start of original writing.

So I've had the "new" car for almost a week now, and well, at least it's practical.

It's funny because I never thought I would be the type to care about the car I drive--I mean, apart from the van, I only ever drove super old full-size sedans--but after making the switch I'm really missing my Vitz. Every time I see a Vitz (or similar-looking car) on the road now while I'm driving, I can't help but sigh in regret. I really loved the Vitz--the size, the design, the colour (it's immediately obvious when white cars get even the tiniest bit dirty), the handling, the power...

But I chose to be practical instead of repairing it (which was my initial instinct), so there's no use in whining about it now. And it
is a good car that I got at a really good price. Hopefully it'll grow on me.