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It's tough to choose the right car

February 05, 1998|By Dennis Shaw

It's tough to choose the right car

I've been talking to my car lately, quoting from a children's book as I drive, repeating: "I think I can. I think I can. I know I can. I know I can."

I hope it's working. I was told Toyotas last forever, which is the main reason I bought a 1989 Corolla station wagon. But it has almost 145,000 miles on it now, and I'm getting worried. My only other car, a 1972 Volkswagen Beetle, was supposed to last forever, too, but it gave out at 146,000 miles.

I want this one to last another two years, anyway. Otherwise I'm in big trouble as an environmentalist. I promised myself the next car I bought would be electric, and I'm not sure electric cars will be available here anytime soon.

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There has been a lot of progress in the electric car field. If I lived in California, I could lease one right now, though it's pretty pricey. But there are drawbacks to the current electric cars. For one thing, they don't go far without having to be re-charged, and there aren't a lot of service stations in Hagerstown that would re-charge one for me.

I'm not too sold on the idea of electric cars anyway. They're pollution-free, but the power plants that produce electricity create pollution. I'm told it's less that way, but it's still pollution. And, alas, I'm sure I won't be able to hold out until there's a solar-powered car available.

There are compromise solutions. Toyota just introduced a model in Japan that runs on a combination of gas and electric and gets 66 miles per gallon of gas. It's supposed to be available here by the year 2001. Maybe I can hold out. U.S. automakers are working on hybrid cars, too, so I should be able to find something when the time comes ... if it's not too soon.

Actually, I'm more concerned about something else. I'm worried about giving in to temptation. Maybe it's because I'm getting older, but part of me wants to buy one of those nifty sport utility vehicles that are all the rage these days - fancy versions of what I used to call Jeeps.

They're powerful and roomy and trendy ... and they're big polluters. Along with minivans and light trucks, they're exempt from the strict gas mileage standards that regular cars have to meet. Not only do they use more gas, they pollute more as they burn it. However, I know I'm going to be tempted to get one when the time comes for a new vehicle.

There is some room for waffling on my part. Ford and Chrysler have promised to offer sport utility models next year that will be no more polluting than cars. But they'll still be polluters compared to electric cars.

In any event, the longer my current Toyota can hold out, the more and the better options I'll have. That's why I'm reciting nursery rhymes to my car. I want there to be a happy ending.

Hanger help




Some readers have responded to my pleas for help to get rid of old clothes hangers. A 94-year-old woman at Potomac Towers says she'll take them for craft work. She covers them with yarn, to protect clothes from creasing, and sells them. And Ringer's Home Laundry at 737 Chestnut St. in Hagerstown will take all the hangers people bring in, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. For information, call 301-733-5256.

Dennis Shaw is a former Herald-Mail editor. Write him at P.O. Box 276, Clear Spring, Md. 21722, or call 301-842-3863.

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