Sometimes I really miss having a man around the house. Someone with the car gene, anyway, who understands V-6s versus V-8s, horsepower, torque and the difference between MSRP and invoice. Grunt, grunt. Not to disparage us ladies, but admit it, girls: We don’t know as much about cars as men do. It’s not that we don’t have the capability to stuff our heads with all that useless knowledge. It’s that we simply don’t want to. Shopping for a new car was always my ex-husband’s job, one he took quite seriously. He would fritter away precious hours that turned into months reading the classifieds and pouring over “Consumer Reports.” It was maddening. Ruled by my shopping gene, I would plead, “Let’s just go to the dealership and look around.”
But no, that would be too impulsive. Buying a car required knowledge and research, so he claimed. And he was always right in the end. We’d find a car so perfect it would keep us happy five years down the road. After the divorce, I was determined to make it on my own. I bought a house, supervised a remodel, established ties to a new community and resurrected a dormant career. So when it came time to buy a car, I was empowered. After “extensive” research that amounted to a few weeks of eyeballing passing cars on the freeway, I decided to buy a Honda Accord hybrid. Like my hopes for a second marriage, my next car would be perfect . . . right? “Perfect” now meant “fuel-efficient,” especially in this age of escalating gas prices. It promised 29 mpg city, 37 mpg highway (grunt, grunt). I was giddy from the gas fumes I’d be saving. I was a pioneer, a trendsetter again, a champion for the environment. Still . . . I had nagging doubts. Hybrid technology was so new then, maybe it was a bit risky. Will they be the next DeLorean, the next Gremlin, the next . . . Who am I kidding? I don’t know anything about car history. Anyway, I had my hybrid for over two months—way past the break-in period—and got only 22 mpg. Not the advertised 29 to 37. After talking to other hybrid owners and tapping into online message boards, I discovered that the fuel-efficiency of these cars is grossly overestimated. I was crazed! Feeling swindled, I went back to the Honda dealer. He said, “Look, Lady, 29-37 mpg is just an estimate.” An ESTIMATE? Oh, really? “Well then,” I said, “I’m a 42-D. I know I LOOK like a 36-B, but hey, it’s just an estimate. Something to shoot for.” Ladies . . . don’t ever underestimate the power of visualization when talking to a man. That, and your whining gene. Turns out, that very same gene notorious for causing the breakdown of some marriages comes in handy when buying a car. See, I whined so much about my disappointment with the hybrid, that Honda offered to cancel my lease and get me into a completely different car. Of course I was thrilled . . . I got to go shopping again! Lynn Armitage is a freelance writer who motors around Northern California. She is an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin.