Things I am looking for in a new car

by Brian Clarey

Things I am looking for in a new car

New or used

It looks like it’s time to put my old Subaru Outback down. Over the last five years I’ve put about $5,000 into its care and upkeep, but like a workhorse with a broken leg, there’s just not much more that I can do for it. So I’m going to trade it in — or maybe I should partake in the federal Cash For Clunkers program, which as I understand it will give me $4,500 for my car if I use it towards a new one. But I am looking for value, so I’m leaning towards a used car, known in carsalesman parlance as “pre-owned.”


I can likely get about $4,000 or so for my Subaru, if the Kelly Blue Book website is to be believed. In the car world, that is not a lot of money, so I’m probably going to have to take out a short loan. But I’m pretty cheap, and I don’t want my car note to exceed $150 in payments or a year or two in duration. Obviously this limits my choices significantly.

Craigslist vs. car lot

Yes, I could likely get more for my car were I to sell it privately via the internet or one of those used car publications that nobody seems to read. But as I am looking for the path of least resistance here — and because I will need some financing — I will likely trade in my car to a dealer and buy one from the same dealer.

It’s just business

Likewise, I am picky about where I will spend my money. I like to do business with people who do business with me. Alas, there are currently no car dealership advertisements in the pages of YES! Weekly, which complicates matters. And although I don’t actually sell anything, I am not above leveraging this purchase to entice a new client to come into our fold.


I am almost 40 years old. I am losing the hair on my head and gaining more hair on my back. I smoke cigars. I don’t look so good in cool clothes anymore, and I am more concerned that my shoes are comfortable than if they go with my belt. Mid-life crisis, anyone? I think a convertible would go a long way to restoring my sense of badassery — or, at least, give me a nice suntan on my bald spot.

Cool factor

Convertibles notwithstanding, I am not in the market for an old-man car. No big buicks or Cadillacs. No geeky sedans. No station wagons, and definitely no minivans. Color matters to me as well: I think red cars look like smacked asses. Brown is no good. Ditto for maroon. I prefer something in silver, black, green, charcoal, navy or, in a pinch, metallic beige. It’s possible there are other acceptable colors out there; I’ll know it when I see it.

kid stuff

Balancing my desire for coolness is my need to be practical; I have three kids, after all, and there are car seats, cup holders, DVD players, trunk-and-junk space, stain resistance and lockable electric windows to consider. Four doors are better than two in a car that children ride in. And there are safety factors as well. I like the idea of side air bags and anti-lock brakes, but not as much as I like the idea of a sound-proof partition between the front and back seats.


My current vehicle, an all-wheel drive wagon, gets pretty crappy gas mileage, affecting me on two levels: I bemoan my massive carbon footprint and I am bitter about filling it with gas every week, particularly when the price spikes. Last summer it cost me about $60 for a fill-up, putting a sizable dent in my disposable income. I want to fill my tank on average twice a month, and I want to feel morally superior to the SUV crowd.


I did not learn to drive a stick shift until I was about 21 years old. In fact, I didn’t even know they still made manual-transmission vehicles until I left the Long Island suburbs for the Deep South. But once I learned to slide it into first gear I was hooked, and have looked for stick-shift cars ever since. They give you more control over the car; they get better gas mileage; and my kids will be seriously impressed when they see me dropshift around a corner as the engine roars.

air conditioning

The air conditioning in my Subaru has been broken for three years (though the heat works just fine). A short blast of Freon would likely rectify the situation, but as I’ve said I’m pretty cheap and it doesn’t cost a dime to roll down the windows. My kids, however, act like a bunch of babies every summer when they are “forced” to ride in the Subaru — which, in their defense, has a navy-blue interior and will remain about as hot as a sauna inside until October. So this time around I want a car with air conditioning so powerful it will blow back my remaining hair and make my eyeballs dry. A man’s gotta dream, right?