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The New Not Coolmobile

Faithful readers of Whatever will remember that in December, Athena totaled her car on Interstate 70 after running over debris from an accident involving two other cars. This was unfortunate, but she was unharmed (as were the two people who had the accident she came across), and really, as far as we were concerned, that was what mattered. In fairly short order, we got another car for her to use, a 2013 Chevy Equinox, much of which was paid for through the insurance settlement for the now-totaled car. So, a happy ending, as much something like this could have a happy ending.

Well, until three weeks ago, when Athena’s car suddenly started developing engine trouble, and by “engine trouble” I mean “shards of the actual engine suddenly appearing in the motor oil.” We took it in to be serviced and or local mechanic told us that in very short order the engine was going to tear itself apart. We had bought a lemon, basically.

And what can you do about a lemon? Well, in Ohio, there is a lemon law, but it only applies to new vehicles. Moreover, we were sold the vehicle “as is,” so, as a matter of law, we were pretty much out of luck. However, two things happened next: Krissy was morally outraged she had been sold a lemon and was determined to seek satisfaction, and the car dealership decided to be decent about the fact they had sold us a terrible car and/or quailed at the wrath of a pissed-off Kristine Blauser Scalzi. After they checked the car out in their own shop, they decided to allow us to swap the lemon for an equal-or-higher cost used car on their lot (if higher cost, we would pay the difference).

Which led us to this, a 2015 Honda Odyssey, which our own mechanic assured us was in very fine shape. And it is indeed in very fine shape; outside of scuff marks on the tailgate where clearly stuff had been repeatedly shoved in and out of the back, it looked, smelled and drove like new. As it happens, Athena’s first car was also a Honda Odyssey, specifically our 2003 model, which she had loved and had been sad to let go of at the end of its life. She was thrilled to be able to come back to the make and model once more. I’m happy because Hondas are, at least in my experience, ridiculously reliable. She’ll be driving this for a while, I’m sure.

If you’re wondering why I’m calling it the “Not Coolmobile,” that’s because when Krissy and I bought our 2003 Honda Odyssey, I got the license plate “NOT COOL” for it, on the basis that if you’re driving a minivan, you have accepted the fact that any pretense of coolness you ever might have had has just gone out the window. Minivans are practical and useful, but not ever cool. That being the case, why not have fun with it? People seemed to enjoy the plates, and every now again on the freeway we’d see folks passing us looking into the cabin of the car with a smile on their face. We’d wonder why and then remember the license plate.

The plates stayed on the minivan after Athena inherited it, and then, when we swapped the Odyssey out for the car she drove after that, the plates went onto it. But it was an SUV and so the “Not Cool” signaling was not quite as strong. However, now, the plates will be going back on a minivan. Time is a circle, it is.

I’m annoyed we bought a lemon but I am pleased the dealership chose to do the right thing by us in letting us switch the cars; that’s good service and I’ll remember it the next time I’m in the market for an automobile (notwithstanding the Ford Lightning we’re theoretically getting one day).

So, welcome to family, Not Coolmobile Two. May you last a long, long time.

— JS

By John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

30 replies on “The New Not Coolmobile”

My kiddo turned 15 a week ago today. Here in NC that means she can start the driver’s permit process.

We were going to trade in our old Toyota Sienna minivan when we bought our new car last year, but instead have handed it down to her.

Now I’m tempted to get a “NOT COOL” license plate for it. But, she being 15, she already hates me so I might not inflict this on her.

If my experience with Hondas is any indication, the Not Coolmobile 2 will be around for quite a long time, unless you decide to trade it in. And although it is definitely NOT cool, it really is an amazing piece of equipment. If you somehow hit 88 MPH at the right moment and wound up in the 1950s a la Marty McFly, people would think you were driving a spaceship–and a luxurious one at that.

Congrats to Athena! Used car roulette is as frightening to me as getting a new job or moving across country. But I seem to be a lodestone for vehicular lemons like garbage to raccoons. God help me. Please.

My ex-wife couldn’t believe I bought a Honda CRV. I tried to argue that it was a ridiculously reliable vehicle that was very comfortable to drive.

Three months later, she went car shopping. She ended up buying one from the same dealer.

Hondas are really nice. Congrats on getting a nice car!

My 2000 Accord is still on the road. When I bought a used Toyota Camry three years ago, the Accord went to a friend. It was a huge upgrade from the dying Ford, of similar vintage, that she was dying.

At the time, I mention to a friend that it had only 150,000 miles on it and he started laughing and asked me whether the car was a Toyota or Honda. Here in California, it’s not unusual for those makes to last for 250,000 miles.

My wife got a 2018 Civic with a 1.5L turbo engine. I call it a “lukewarm hatch.” It won’t win any drag races, but you can have a lot of fun tossing it around the winding roads in my area.

My car is starting to develop electrical gremlins at a quickening pace. I hope it will hold out long enough for more EV options to emerge.

We’re still driving our 2005 Odyssey, and probably will for the foreseeable future. We generally have one major expense per year, but all in all, it’s a solid and dependable drive, with space for my wheelchair lift and enough bells & whistles (power everything) to make it easily driveable for me on my own. May Athena and her new Not Coolmobile have many happy and safe miles together. You know she’s now the designated driver for all her friends, right? You can fit a ton of people in those three seats…

The decade-old minivan my niece indirectly inherited from my mother got dubbed “Cool Whip”, and they acquired a suitable decal for the back window. When she upgraded to my castaway Prius, it became “Cool Whip Too”, and “Cool Whip” got passed along to her little sister.

DH wanted to take our 2008 Honda Civic to the moon, but it only made it to lunar orbit at just shy of 200k miles when it developed a steering pump issue. We sold it and DH procured a Tesla, which makes us happy. I’m intending to keep my 2013 Fit (The Shuttlepod’) as long as I can. It has incredible cargo space and since I frequently haul a lot of junk (most recently our library’s new lawnmower), that and the legendary Honda reliability make me love it.

It’s nice to hear about dealerships doing right by their customers, especially when they’re not legally obligated to do so. Long may the NotCoolmobile reign!

Wait, what? Odysseys have an end of life? Don’t tell Ulysses.

Ulysses is our 2004. We got him used in 2006. He’s been passed down to a family member, and now he’s pushing 180K miles and still doing fine.

Lest you think we’re some kind of car frugal people, Ulysses has shared garage space with 2½ BMWs, a Lotus, and a Tesla over the years. Least cool, slowest, but capable of schlepping ridiculous amounts of stuff in any weather.

I’ll just hang onto my 2012 370Z. It’s coming due for a mid-life upgrade as the OEM equipment begins to need replaced–a true catback dual exhaust, competition clutch and lighter flywheel, and ceramic brake pads with slotted discs and metal brake lines.

Even runs to the grocery store are fun; the 15 minute round trip has been known to stretch to well over an hour if the weather’s nice.

Surprisingly (at least to me) I’ve never been challenged at a light by anyone but minivan and SUV drivers with stick families on the back window. My experience seems to be a common one among drivers of performance vehicles; we figure it’s people who paid extra for the SE (Sports Edition) logo on the back of their minivan/SUV who want to show they’re still cool. It’s really easy to smile and let them beat me to the next light if it makes their day; there’s not enough joy in the world and I’m all for making other people happy.

I know three people who’ve owned Equinoxes from the last two product generations, and all have horror stories. Including the one who had to pay $6k to replace the transmission shortly after the warranty expired. Your outcome is actually the best I’ve heard

I had a 2012 Chevy Cruze, bought new, which convinced me to never buy an American car again. I only buy cars from people who know how to build them.

At 15k the intake manifold broke. Intake manifolds are not wear items. Just shy of 50k the manual trans lost 2nd gear. While that was getting replaced under warranty I went to the VW dealer and got a Beetle convertible with a tdi.

That is why businesses – which, after all, are in business to do business – do kind things like this: they want to earn your appreciation and future customership. When I get that I try to give them the benefit of that.

For instance, I bought my Honda from a dealership a few miles away instead of the nearby one, because they had a better sales department. They gave me a good deal and asked in return that I do my servicing with them. And I always did.

I always liked all my Honda cars (I’ve had 4 over the years). That I’m no longer driving one is emphatically not Honda’s fault.

When our two kids started having friends from day care and school hang around we bought the first of our three minivans. My wife drove those while I either rode one of my BMW motorcycles or drove one of the BMW 3-5 series cars we owned simultaneously with the vans. She did not like me very much during those years.

Holy crap, you cannot go wrong with Odysseys. I bought new in 2014 and this thing has been bulletproof. Easy to work on if you’ve got a set of tools and YouTube videos to help you along, comfy, reliable as heck, and fun. I’m about to trade mine in, but only because it’s coming to a point where some expensive routine stuff (timing belt, etc.) are coming due, and I’d like to get into a hybrid or an electric. But man, I’m gonna miss my own Notcoolmobile, I think.

Coming from a pretty hardcore car guy I have never understood all the hate minivans get. They aren’t sports cars or off roaders, or even luxurious. But for moving people and/or stuff there really isn’t much that is better at it. Great party vehicles too. Put a cooler in the back and load up your friends and you are road trip ready.

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