New Car

After more than 10 years of avoiding it, I've finally rejoined the ranks of the private-car-owning bourgeois. $SPOUSE and I spent the past few weeks doing research and reading reviews, spent Saturday and Sunday test-driving a bunch of vehicles, and ended up buying a brand new Cosmic Blue1 2020 Honda Insight yesterday afternoon.

new car

Why did I buy a new car, anyway?

Yes, I'm aware that a new car loses nearly 40% of its value the moment you drive it off the lot. Yes, I'm aware that there is a glut of delightful used cars in the area. Nonetheless, I decided I wanted a new car. I like having a warrantee that I can get honored anywhere (not just at one used car lot), and I particularly like being able to buy a car without first having to find a reputable local mechanic to come inspect it for me.

Beyond that, if we bought a used car it'd probably be a Prius, and then we'd just get our catalytic converter stolen...

It wasn't my first choice of the vehicles we test-drove, but it was the highest mutually-agreed-upon vehicle. It's got good reviews2, it's extremely familiar to me3, and it had all the features we wanted. It gets good mileage, has a decent factory warranty, and has perfect 5-☆ safety ratings from the NHTSA. We didn't get the best deal in the world on it, but at least we got a couple thousand dollars off sticker price.

My initial thoughts on the car itself:

  • This is not an aggressive car. It goes fast enough to come up to 85-mph California freeway speeds from the obnoxious metered on-ramp to 580/80 near our house, but it's not overburdened with power.
  • Modern Hondas are enormous. This car is 183" long; for comparison, my 1999 Civic was 164" long and my father's comparably-huge Accord in 2004 was 189". Today's Accords are pushing 193". The interior of this car feels at least as spacious as the old Accords.
  • The tech isn't too obnoxious. The car has CarPlay, so I don't have to use the infotainment system if I don't want to. It also has HondaLink secured by nothing more than a 4-digit PIN, with the ability to remote-start the car over the Internet, so that'll be fun when Skynet arrives.
  • Mileage isn't as good as I'd hoped. In its initial shake-down drive from El Cerrito (all stop-and-go city streets), we were barely pushing 39 mpg (6 L/100km). We'll have to see if it gets better once it has more than 7 miles on the odometer.

Most of my thoughts relate to the purchasing process, which was awful. We went to two Honda dealerships (Honda of Oakland) and (Honda of El Cerrito), and they were night and day. Honda of Oakland keeps all their cars under a freeway overpass, where they are filthy (covered in dust and debris) and completely disorganized. It took maybe a half an hour of walking around for the salesman to find any Insights, and when he did they were randomly scattered around. By comparison, at El Cerrito the cars were all nearly grouped by car family and trim level.

Either way, though, the purchasing process is a throwback, and not in a good way. Sitting down in a little room while the salesman goes to talk to [his] manager is kind of quaint the first time, but gets old after the first hour. Once we finally had a price agreed upon, it was time to go to the financing department to actually sign the paperwork. The financing department contained a table-sized, non-Retina resolution touchscreen4 running what seemed to be a custom Flash app from a connected Windows PC. My favorite part of this monstrosity was the dedicated printer it was connected to via a parallel port on the touchscreen. At one point in the process, I pointed out that they'd forgotten a line item and we had to re-do about half of the forms. I guess it's good that I actually read documents before signing them?

desktop touchscreen with parallel port

I'll probably post some more about this new car after I've had it for more than a day.



  1. "Cosmic Blue" is the blue-gray exterior; the interior is "Ivory" 

  2. All of the reviewers note that it's noisy on the freeway. I don't notice that at all. 

  3. I had a 1999 Civic back in high school, and my parents had a long series of Civics and Accords 

  4. It may have only responded to styli; I didn't try touching it without a stylus 


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