Say hello to Martha.

Okay, since the last post pretty much made everyone want to freebase Prozac, let's talk about something happy!

As I've mentioned in the past we live a tiny life. Our house is pretty small (less than 1,000 sq ft) and our cars are small (a Chevy Aveo and a PT Cruiser). We are pretty content with our small house but I'd be fibbing a bit if I said we didn't long for a larger car. Until recently that just wasn't in the cards. We've recently consolidated our debt, but it hasn't freed up enough money (yet) for a big car payment. Then we got an amazing gift. My brother used to work for GM and received a buy-out about two years ago. With that buy-out he received a voucher for $25k worth of GM products (worth $15,500 after taxes). The catch? My brother doesn't drive. The voucher was useless to him. So it sat unused for the better part of almost two years until he recently offered it to us. Just so there is no mistaking, I am totally bragging about this. ;) Unbecoming, I know but it's so awesome I can't help it.

This is a HUGE blessing for us. I don't know if my brother realizes how much he has helped us. I do hope he knows how much we truly appreciate his gift. The cars we had, well they are both nice little cars in their own right. But the PT Pooper being over 10 years old was a money pit and the Aveo - well god forbid anyone rear end us at a high speed. That thing is like driving around in a roller skate.

God I love the internet. You can find pictures of ANYTHING!

We looked at a few GMC and Chevy products before we finally narrowed it down to the Travese and the Equinox. We had a lot of temptation to go bigger. Why not? We had this huge chunk of cash. Let's go nuts and get the Acadia Denali. Thankfully though our frugality got the better of us. We didn't need all those bells and whistles. We wanted a car with good fuel economy, more room, and most importantly, safety. We also decided that since we had just paid off the Aveo, we should try to finance just enough money to have a similar car payment to what we had on the Aveo (ie: really small). Financially, this was the smartest move for us. We could have bells and whistles now or we could have a brand new car paid off in half time of the loan agreement. So it was either going to be the Equinox or the Traverse and we were leaning heavily toward the Traverse.

We arranged for my parents to watch Izzy for a few hours and went out to test drive a Traverse. I have to say that the first dealership we went to, I didn't like it at all. Our salesperson was nice enough, but it seemed like she was practically frothing at the mouth to make a sale. This woman didn't start out on a good foot with me. She greeted us on the lot while smoking a cigarette. Then she was asking a lot of questions that were frankly very pushy and quite nosy.

We test drove the Traverse and I'll be honest, it was nerve wracking. That is not to say that the Traverse is a bad car. Its an awesome vehicle. It was just way too much car for me. The dashboard has so much going on. Its what I image using LSD on the Vegas strip might be like - but crammed into a car. The size, it's like driving a bus. I guarantee you I would have killed at least one person driving that thing or at the very least taken out a few small economy cars. Pretty sure the Traverse eats Smart cars for breakfast.

Really though, the Traverse is a really cool cross-over. It's just too much car for me - someone that has driven small cars all her driving life. If you have like, 10 kids and you don't have ADD, the Traverse would be a good choice for you.

We wanted to test drive an Equinox but the only one they had was the model in the showroom. We could only sit in it and get an idea of what it was like. Furthermore, according to this sales person the Equinox was sooooo popular that we'd have to order one and that could mean a month or more of waiting. Seriously?!? At this point I felt like I was getting scammed.

Later in the week we decided to go over to Nucar. Going to Nucar was the best thing we could have done. From start to finish, from test drive to driving our brand new car out of the showroom, the experience was fantastic. Well....okay that is stretching it. Here's the thing, we didn't really think we'd be buying a car that night. We thought we'd check out what they had in stock, sit on it for a few days and then come back and buy if we were so inclined. That means we didn't bother to leave Izzy with a sitter.

If I can ever give you a piece of advice, DO NOT take your child to a car dealership. Ever, ever, ever, ever, evAH. It's painful for all parties involved.  I'd rather go through water-boarding than take a 2 year old to look at cars again. I'm pretty sure our salesman, bless his heart, feels the same way.

Christian did a really smart thing beforehand. We knew exactly what we wanted in our car. He called ahead to the dealership the night before and spoke to Dave Heit, one of the salesmen at Nucar. Christian told him everything we wanted, Dave made sure he had it in stock, made an appointment and had a car ready for us when we arrived. Since we didn't feel like fiddling with the car seat, Christian and I took turns waiting with Izzy. Dave was kind enough to change the channel on the waiting room TV to Nickelodeon for Iz.

I was dreading the test drive. I don't like driving other people's cars, rentals or anything new. I am not the world's best driver, I can admit this. I am convinced that magnetic trees will suck me off the road and into their path. I was also not looking forward to the small talk I'd have to make and was afraid that I might get interrogated like we had been at the last dealership. I'm not good at small talk. But the second I got in the car with Dave, it was like we were just two pals hanging out, trying out this car. Dave was super easy to chat with, answered the few questions I had, listened to my concerns and had lots of helpful insight on the car he was selling. Never once did he try to up-sell me. He knew what we wanted and he was respectful of our plan and the fact that we didn't want a fully loaded vehicle. Christian took a turn and we were sold.

Poor Dave. Seriously, if you ever need a car and you know yourself to be a little high maintenance, go see him. The man should be declared the Patron Saint of Chevy - he has so much patience. He saw the many moods swings of Kelly that night. I was so tired to begin with and the paperwork seemed to go on and on. Izzy was literally climbing the walls, rolling all over the floor, squawking for attention and generally just being an insanely bored two year old trapped in a boring process.  I tried to be patient, I knew she was suffering but by the time we reached hour three I was on the verge of freaking out and having an out of body experience.

It was time to talk loans and interest rates, so I bowed out and let Christian handle it. Iz wanted to sit in our car - which happened to be the one in the showroom. So we climbed in and she pretended to drive. She loved pressing all those buttons on the console. You can imagine how much I loved it when she pushed the already activated On-Star button not once but twice. All I could think of was the time our security system alerted the fire department of my bad cooking. I was so embarrassed that I had to tell the same On-Star person twice that my kid pushed the button. I warned Izzy that if she wanted to see three, she'd keep her mitts off that button.

Finally Dave came and got our car, moved it outside, gassed it up and I installed the car seat. I could almost smell the freedom and it smelled like new car. Then he reminded me that we had to finish the On-Star set-up.

Dead. I felt dead inside.

I could see Dave ever so slightly recoil. I think that man's life was flashing before his eyes and he was regretting not taking a job at a different dealership. ;) But none of this was his fault. Really, I can't sing his praises enough. He was such a nice guy, doing everything he could to speed things up and get us exactly what we wanted. But I was sure he thought this On-Star thing would be his undoing. The agent we got on the system was...well the guy must have been on a bender. I could barely understand what he was saying and he kept taking these weird pauses. Then he kept trying to sell me different features and Izzy is in the background screaming. Finally after the second time I declined to give him my credit card information I said 'Listen man, I've been at the dealership for four hours and I have to get my kid home. You wanna wrap this up?'. After the On-Star guy hung up Dave and I just stared at each other.

Finally we were headed home in our wonderful new, spacious, fuel efficient cross-over. It was like the road home was paved with gold. I can't be sure what I was happier about, the car or getting the hell out of the dealership! Despite the hiccups, this was the best car buying experience I have ever had. I HIGHLY recommended Nucar in New Castle and Dave to anyone looking to buy a new car. And if Dave's boss is reading this, this man deserves a raise!

A little about the Equinox:

We bought the AWD, 1LT. It comes with lots of fancy buttons in the dashboard, bluetooth, a USB port for your iPod, rearview camera system (awesome!), controls on the driver's seat that I am sure are also in the space shuttle, and a crazy deep center console compartment as well as like 500 other nooks and crannies for me to shove my trash into. This next thing might seem silly but I loved this feature in our Aveo. The CD player will play data CDs in addition to audio CDs. Meaning I can load up a CD with MP3 files and play them. I don't have to burn an actual audio CD.

The fuel efficiency on this cross-over is fantastic. On the highway you can get about 32 mpg. If you switch to ECO mode, it will cut the car down to 2 cylinders and you can go nearly 600 miles on a tank of gas (highway).  I really love the safety features like the steel safety cage, all the airbags (six!), Stabilitrack which helps to prevent roll-over accidents. It basically takes over the steering and I got to experience this a few days after we bought the car. I went over some ice and slid a bit and could feel the vehicle correcting itself. It was pretty damn cool!  We've also got On-Star free for six months - I'm hoping to never need it. :)

I am in love with our new ride. I never thought I'd be in love with a car but Martha (so named for my brother telling me to 'Punch it, Martha' when I'd drive too slow) has sped her way into my heart.

Now, I am thinking personalized plates. What do you think?