Thursday, December 24, 2009

1/4 down :-)

Today the Volvo crossed 125,000 miles on the odometer, which means I'm 1/4 through my time with the car.  Entry on my trip to Harrisonburg will show tomorrow :-)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Not much distance...but...

I’ve really truly been trying to update at least once per week.  I was planning on updating on Saturday morning, however as I’m sure you heard from the national news that the Washington DC metro area absolutely got crushed by a massive snow.  Said snow left me trapped at work, and sans computer for four days.  Not only did updates not happen, but I’m just now finishing getting through the mass of e-mail that has been waiting.

To give an idea of how little I've driven, since my previous entry on Thursday just under a week ago, I've put merely 43 miles on the car.  Tomorrow, however, I'll have pushed it a bit further.

The past few days have reaffirmed my position that people are complete and total idiots when snow starts falling. 

On Monday it took me two hours to get from a shopping center a few blocks from my house to my house.  Why?  Some guy in a Honda Civic decided to stop while going up a snow covered hill.  He was surprised when his car got stuck.  We had to sit and wait for him to back down, while waiting for him, a few more people had gotten stuck.  After 45 minutes of waiting, I gunned the engine and went around them.  In winter mode, the Volvo crept up the hill, right around the people who were stuck.   In winter mode, the Volvo crept up the hill, right around the people who were regular all-season tires no less.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Day Spent in Beltway Traffic:

I really do love living in the Washington DC metro region.  I promise.  There is so much to do in this area, and so much more to do within a 3-4 hour drive that the thought of leaving this area scares me...even if it's just heading up to Baltimore.  Fortunately, I'm not going anywhere any time soon.

Unfortunately for me, that means I get to spend many more hours listening to my local NPR and News Traffic and Weather Stations.  My previous mileage entry was on Tuesday at 124,602.  Yesterday (Wednesday) when I pulled into my parking lot I had 124,721.  The real kicker?  I didn't drive all that much.  Or so I thought.

It wasn't that exceptional.  Aside from a trip to the dry cleaner (ok I admit, the clothes are still hanging in the back window of the car because after working overnight on Tuesday when I got home from my final exam today I was too tired [ahem...lazy] to pull them out) and dinner and a movie with a friend this evening, my driving has only consisted of a trip to and from work and a trip to and from school. (Above: The Volvo at Gravelly Point Park.  File photo)

The trip to school today, however, is well worth mentioning.  My final exam started at 7 pm sharp this evening.  If I was not in my seat at 7pm, I would not be permitted to take the final. I assumed leaving my house (30 minutes away with no traffic, 40 minutes in rush hour) at 6 pm would be plenty of time.   Heading down 267 (Dulles Toll Road) was no major concern.  Actually, I felt like that section of the journey went by quicker than normal.  I breezed through the EZPass lanes and then traffic came to an absolute screeching dead halt.  I watched the minutes tick by as I sat there hopelessly in queue to get on the beltway, fidgeting more and more as the time inched closer and closer to 6:30.  6:31. 6:32.  Finally at 6:39 I pulled on to the beltway, again it went to an absolute dead stop.

I remembered then, it's the holiday shopping season, and I was sitting right in between the two exits to the largest shopping area in the entire DC metro region.  Tysons Corner Center. 6:42.  At this point my palms started to sweat.  In perfect traffic, from where I was sitting it takes exactly 5 minutes to get to a parking spot on campus.  At a near dead standstill, it could take 15, which would leave exactly 3 minutes to walk from my car (who knows how far out I'd be parking...) to my seat in class.  Finally, at 6:44 I passed the 7/495 interchange.  The final Tysons Corner exit and traffic was free flowing yet again.  I didn't come to a stop again until 6:48 when I hit the light in front of my school red.  By 6:49 I had pulled into a parking spot.  Bookbag, check.

I was at a near dead sprint into the class, and digging through my book bag.  Textbook, check.  Notebook, check. Final paper, check. #2 pencil, check.  Scantron form, shit.  No scantron meant a bypass to the school book store on the way in, which is a 2 minute run from my seat in class.  By 6:53 I was in line, 6:56 I was out the door running to class.  I ran around the building, right into someone who was clearly also late for an exam, in the opposite direction.  We picked ourselves time for formalities, and continued on our merry way.  my Blackberry said it was 6:58 when I hit the door of the building. It was just in front of me.  I saw the classroom, my professors head was sticking out the door. I caught his eye, he walked out the door.

"The exam was delayed 15 minutes, go get a drink, I heard about all the traffic in Tysons and wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to get in."

Well, at least I got some exercise.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Making it pay--how driving an older vehicle can actually pay you back!

Well, not in a literal sense anyway, but the thing you have to remember as you're picking out your next car is every mile the car gives you, you're getting some of your money back from the vehicle that you're driving.  What you need to decide is how much.  For every mile I drive any of my cars, I say the car pays me back $.10.  That means that in it's entire 125,000 mile life, the Volvo has now paid back $12,500 to it's respective owners.  Since I've had the car for approximately 25,000 of those 125,000 miles, the vehicle has paid me back $2500.

The nice thing about this, is you can decide when a car has paid you back, and when it hasn't.  I use $.10 per mile because it's a nice round number, and very easy to calculate in my head.  If I'd bump it up to $.20 the car would have already paid for itself...and up to $.25 the car would already be paying me back.  At $.10 per mile any car over $20,000 would never pay back the person who bought it originally without keeping the vehicle for years.  The reason for this is many of the repairs those of us have to put into an older vehicle.  To give you an idea, I've put nearly $3500 into repairs and maintenance on the Volvo, which means I would have to drive the car 35,000 miles for the car to pay back those repairs.  If you've already driven your car 200,000 miles, chances are you're not going to want to put another 35,000 miles on it just to pay back some repairs you made...and you're certainly not going to get $3500 for any car with 200,000 miles on the odometer.

If somehow I can make it to 200k without having to put any more money into repairs, the Volvo will end up paying me back $7500 over the course of it's life.

So, that being said, what method do you use to calculate when your car has paid you back?

December so far...

Current Mileage: 124,602

So far the majority of my December has been spent driving back and forth to work, and fighting for parking spaces in shopping mall parking lots and garages.

Shopping mall parking garages are a nightmare this time of year.  It's almost as if people forget that they drive in them five days per week for work, but forget how they work.  If you're in a parking garage stopping at the first car that appears it is getting ready to leave and turning on your blinker is no way to make friends.  In fact, in the time I spend sitting behind you waiting for you to pull into the spot for someone who may or may not be leaving shortly, I could have been on the next level in a spot that was, in fact, presently vacant.  Two separate occasions of this made me late for work last week.  Surprise!  It's no shorter of a walk to the elevator on the fourth floor than on the 2nd. Just keep driving, you will find a spot, even if it's not on the first floor!

We got our first snow here in the DC metro region this month.  I love how my car looks when it's covered with road salt.  While I know in my mind it's not good for the paint, it brings the car to life, and gives it personality it otherwise wouldn't have had.

On the maintenance front I got the oil changed.  New belts and hoses coming in January.

My December road trip has been postponed, however, because of my work and school schedule.  Watch for the road trips to kick back in sometime in January.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dealing with your mechanic...a fact of driving an older vehicle.

While driving an older vehicle has its benefits (most notably no depreciation, lower personal property taxes, sales taxes, insurance premiums, etc...) There is one major thing that drivers of older cars cannot avoid is repair bills.

Fact: most major repairs can be completely avoided with routine maintenance (oil changes, transmission fluid changes, etc...)

However, there are some parts of a car that maintenance will not prevent from breaking.  Hoses and belts need to be they wear out.  Your thermostat eventually will fail regardless of how faithful you are to winterizing your car.  Suspension components eventually wear out and break, the fan motor will one day burn out, your water pump will one day fail etc...

I keep my mechanic honest.  I use two of them, and neither one knows who the other is.  If both mechanics agree about a repair that needs to be made, I make sure it gets done, and then I get bids from both of them.  Don't hesitate to get a second opinion on any work that is suggested or recommended.  Also pay attention to recommended service that comes attached with a brand name, such as BG.  Some recommended service may really need to be done, which is why you get a second opinion.  So far, I've had over $1200 worth of work that has been suggested to be done on my car, by both of them, which hasn't, in fact, needed to be done.  

Sometimes, a less expensive fix can solve a problem quicker and easier than an expensive one.  The most notable one was one of the two recommended replacing all of my front ball joints for approx. $2000.  When I took it to the other mechanic, they took apart the front suspension and found I only needed CV Joints for $500.  The CV Joints fixed the problem, the ball joints, while they should be done at some point, would not have solved the issue I was experiencing.  Find your limit, and whatever it is, when a repair goes over that limit get a second opinion whenever a repair goes over that amount.