Our New But Used Catmobile

A couple weeks ago, the KIA SUV we use in our nonprofit went to that big multi-level parking garage in heaven when it literally blew a gasket. Yep, it became a worthless hunk of metal after lasting us a mere 60,000 miles. Barely time to get acquainted. I ask you, was that meager performance worthy of a place in heaven?

Anyway, being without a vehicle to carry the ferals, traps, shelters,and re-homing equipment made me feel like a fish out of water, to sneak in a metaphor. Sadly, I’m not original enough to make up one of my own but I’ll try: It made me feel like pasta without sauce.

So the hunt was on. And fast. The phone seemed to ring continually with people needing help. One wanted feral mousers ASAP. One needed a shelter, another a trap to help an injured cat. The pressure was mounting. So I spent hours on the internet searching for a used SUV with low miles and the potential to last 200,000 more.

Here’s how I figure it: I drive 20,000 miles a year for our nonprofit. I’m currently 65. If I do this for another 10 years, that should just about cover it. This time I decided to stick with either Toyota or Honda. Two days of searching online had me seeing double. So many vehicles, so many decisions. What to do, what to do.


I narrowed it down to a 2016 Toyota Highlander located 45 minutes north in Napa. It had one owner and 34,000 miles. So on day 3 of being SUV-less, I headed out to test drive our potential new but used Catmobile…but not before doing my homework on how to deal with car salesmen.

Did you know YouTube has tons of videos featuring past car salesmen spilling the beans on tricks of the trade? Stuff like how they add costs we shouldn’t be paying for, among other sneaky moves. Did I mention I’m not a fan of car salesmen? No? Well, that’s a fair statement. Now don’t get me wrong; I know it’s all part of the dance but I’d rather just cut to the chase.

Anyway, after test driving the vehicle, it seemed like a good fit for us. So when Keith asked me if I’m financing or paying cash, I said I wasn’t sure yet, and said. “Once you give me the bottom line I’ll decide.” (Thank you YouTube.) And when he handed me the lowdown of the costs, I heard myself say, “You’ll have to take this off, this off and this off.” So he went to his boss.

Here’s the thing. When they say they have to talk to their boss, it’s gonna be a long day. Actually, buying a car is ALWAYS a long day. That’s why I packed a lunch. In fact, I felt like telling Keith, “This ain’t my first rodeo” but I refrained, figuring he could tell just by looking at me I’ve owned a few cars in my time.

So I essentially said, “My mechanic needs to inspect it first so I’ll postdate my check 2 days; we want a much better warranty; and by the way, take off $4000 and you have a deal.” Guess what? They went for it. That means the markup is either ridiculously outrageous or we bought a lemon they were happy to dump on us. (I’m pulling for the former.) So an excruciatingly long 5 hours later I was driving away in our new but used Catmobile, hoping I wouldn’t set foot in another car dealership for at least 10 years.

The bad news: My insurance wouldn’t cover the SUV because I registered it under our nonprofit’s name instead of mine. Therefore, I needed to go back and re-sign all new documents, making my 10-year hiatus last less than 24 hours. Then just yesterday, only 23 days since we bought the Catmobile, the dashboard announced: SERVICE ENGINE SOON.

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