Browsing Tag: cars


    Have you ever owned a lemon?

    June 5, 2023

    (As in a lemon car, not the fruit!)

    I’d heard some horror stories over the years about how car manufacturers will fight to the grave to avoid replacing obviously defective cars. One friend told me last year that he had to take the car manufacturer to court, won the case, got a new car, and had his attorney fees paid.

    So I was a bit nervous in January when I sent registered mail to Toyota HQ in Texas telling them that my 2022 Camry Hybrid was a lemon. But the story begins long before this….

    I’d been driving a Corolla since 1999 and it’s still running but I don’t trust it for long drives. I debated over getting a Tesla or another EV, or getting a Toyota hybrid. Cari and I love her Highlander Hybrid, so I decided to get a new Camry Hybrid.

    I started car shopping in Summer 2021ā€¦when pretty much no one had inventory on their lots. Emailed five Toyota dealers within a 1-2 hour’s drive and no one had what I wanted.

    That December, I placed a special order at our local dealer for the most tricked-out Camry Hybrid possible — added just about every option/package possible! šŸ˜… I figured I’d been driving a Corolla for 22 years that was 100% manual in every possible way and had nothing more advanced than a cassette player. And figured my new car might be my last car, so it’s time to splurge.

    My sales guy submitted the special order and said he’d let me know when Toyota alerts him that the car was in production.


    I checked in each month and the sales guy said he couldn’t find a single Camry anywhere in the country with the combination of options that I ordered. It was literally gonna be a one-of-a-kind car.

    Finally, in March 2022, Toyota alerted him that I’d ordered two options that, when combined, were only intended for East Coast dealerships. (Bizarre, right??)

    So back to square one. I contacted all the local dealers again to see what was available or on the way. Answer? Nothing like what I wanted. Expanded my search to dealers as far away as Coeur d’Alene (a 3-hour drive for you non-locals). Still nothing.

    Then, last May, the Coeur d’Alene dealer said they were expecting a Camry that was really close to what I was looking for. Decided to go for it. Put down a deposit and then waited for it to arrive. Cari and I drove up there on July 31 to pick up the car. Loved it! Beautiful red/maroon color, drove beautifully, really comfortable. šŸ˜

    One problem: As we started the test drive, a weird error message came on the dashboard. The sales guy didn’t know what it was. He said to turn off the engine and restart the car. Error message was gone, test drive was great, etc. I was a bit nervous about the mystery error message but more than anything I was tired of waiting for a new car, so we bought it and took it home.

    The error message reappeared on the drive home. šŸ˜¬

    Cari and I got off the freeway, did some research, and decided it was safe to drive. Called the Idaho dealership, but it was a Sunday and no one was in the service dept. Our sales guy tracked down the service manager at home, and he also confirmed the car was safe to drive — but I should take it to our local dealership right away.

    That’s what I did. Turns out the error message was telling me that the sensors the car uses to figure out when I’m about to hit a person or a wall or another car weren’t working. BUT THEY WERE WORKING! The sensors beeped every time I got close to another car or pulled into the garage. When the error message was triggered, it covered the dashboard so I couldn’t see anything, and also turned off the cruise control.

    The local Toyota dealer tried everything to figure out why the error message kept showing up. I must’ve taken it in 4-5 times between August-November. There was one point in November when they had the car in their possession more days than I’d had it in mine. They had service techs come in from other states to look at it, and nothing they tried worked. Without ever using the word “lemon,” the local service guy made it pretty clear that they’d run out of options.

    That was around Thanksgiving. I’d been researching the Idaho lemon law already, which (among other things) says once I declare the car a lemon, I have to give the dealer one more chance to fix it.

    The wording wasn’t clear, so I thought that meant I had the give the Idaho dealership a chance to fix it. It was already snowing a ton up in Spokane/CDA by this time, and I was not gonna drive three hours in that weather in that car. So we waited until late January to start the process. Figured it would take 4-6 weeks for the legal paperwork to process and for Toyota to decide if they were gonna fight me or replace the car. If we needed to go back to Idaho in March, okay.

    Well, it only took two weeks. Got a notification from Toyota on Feb. 15 that they were gonna do the right thing and replace my car! Placed an order for a 2023 version of the same exact Camry Hybrid with all the same options — and one extra: a heated steering wheel, which Cari’s Highlander has and was really helpful for my nerve endings when I drove her car over the winter.

    Picking up the car today was interesting. No one at the dealership had any idea how to process a lemon — because it was so rare for a Toyota! One person said she’d never done a lemon replacement in all her time there. One guy said they haven’t done one since 2009, which tracks with what the service guy told me last fall. He said he’d been working in their service dept. for 15 years and only had one car they couldn’t fix. But it only took about an hour to do all the paperwork and drive awayā€¦not too bad. Toyota had given them very specific instructions on what to do, so it was pretty quick and painless.

    The new Camry is black because they said there was a backlog of red orders and I’d have to wait another month or two if I wanted red again. But that’s okay. It matches Cari’s black Highlander and I love it!


    Tesla Photo Tour

    May 27, 2013

    I saw several Teslas on the road a few weeks ago when I was down in the Bay Area, and I’ve read a fair amount about them, too. But I’d never seen one up close until this weekend.

    We were over in the Seattle area for the weekend, and came upon a Tesla “store” inside the Bellevue Square Mall. It was pretty crowded, no doubt thanks to the cherry red Tesla right in front. Everyone was gawking at it, so we had to join in. And a couple people were sitting in it.

    So we waited our turn and then got inside, too.


    Seriously beautiful. I’m not even sure what words to use to describe it, so how about just seeing the Tesla photos that I took? That should get the point across.








    I’ve read that Tesla’s usually run in the $80-90k range. One of the sales people said that this model, decked out as it was, cost about $110,000.


    But still … W.O.W. Stunning vehicle.


    Random Thoughts: Car Dealers or Car Stores?

    September 4, 2011

    salesmanBuying a car can be a really stressful event, right? Not many people actually look forward to going into the car dealer and getting the high-pressure sales pitch then having to sit through a torturous negotiation process.

    So when you hear the phrase “car dealer,” it probably has a lot of negative connotations. Who wants to go to the “car dealer”??

    Not me.

    I don’t think the problem is the “car” part … it’s the “deal” part. Pretty much everything else we buy in life (aside from cars and houses, mainly) is pretty easy: There’s a set price and you either pay it or you don’t. It’s easy.

    But making a “deal” isn’t easy. It’s not fun.

    So, at the risk of sounding like Andy Rooney, have you ever wondered why the auto industry hasn’t tried to change the name of its businesses? Rather than “car dealer,” I think they should call them car stores.

    Car store.

    Doesn’t that sound so much less intimidating? A lot of people enjoy going to the store. No pressure. No negative connotations.

    “Let’s go to the Chevrolet store and see what they have.” That beats the heck out of “I have to go to the dealer and look for a car.”

    I really think they should start rebranding the whole experience now. And start with the name. They’re car stores, not car dealers. (It would also help if they’d get rid of the high-pressure salespeople and the insufferable process that buying a car entails, but hey … gotta start somewhere.)

    (Stock photo from Shutterstock.)


    Google’s Getaway Car

    December 17, 2010

    Google has a large campus down in Mountain View. Large. The main campus is big enough on its own, but they’ve also spread out to several other buildings in the surrounding area.

    To make travel easier for employees going from one building to the next, they also have little multi-colored bikes that you can just grab and ride and leave behind when you’re done. Well, by “you” I mean — if you’re an employee.

    I was down there earlier this week for some meetings at the Geo/Maps building, which is off the main campus about a half-mile away. Then I had to get back to the main campus for more meetings. Hoped I could maybe use this as my getaway vehicle…

    Google Street View Car

    … but no such luck.

    Still, it was pretty helpful finding the right building. Hard to miss all that on the front lawn of an office building!


    My Next Car…

    May 17, 2008

    … won’t actually be a car, it’ll be a Toyota Highlander. Like maybe this one:

    Toyota Highlander

    In late 2006, when I started working at Marchex and was faced with having to drive the 200+ miles from West Richland to Seattle at least twice a month, I had a feeling my little Toyota Corolla (the 1999 model) wouldn’t survive much longer. So I started looking for something bigger and sturdier to get over the mountains in winter, and decided on the Highlander. Never bought it, though, because the company let me work from home over the winter months while Snoqualmie Pass was more like an ice rink than a highway.

    Fast forward to two weeks ago, when we’ve rented a mid-sized car for our vacation back in Philly, except when we get to Avis they’ve upgraded us to a brand new, only-5-miles-on-the-odometer, 2008 Toyota Highlander. YES!

    I’ve been wanting to drive a Highlander ever since ’06, and this was my chance. I wasn’t disappointed. The thing drove like a charm — super smooth, very quiet, all kinds of comforts in the passenger cabin. And, much to my surprise, it went more than 300 miles on 3/4s of a tank of gas! We drove from Bristol up to NYC and back, then down into Philly and back, and didn’t have to fill the tank until the day before we were coming home. There was still 1/4-tank of gas and we’d gone more than 300 miles. When I went to the gas station, it took a little more than 15 gallons … so 300+ miles divided by 15+ gallons … more than 20 MPG for a big SUV. I’m sold.

    Only problem is, it might be years before I get one. I don’t buy new cars until my current car is dead. And my ’99 Corolla, like all Toyotas, just keeps going and going and going and going…..