Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Passat is dead. Long live the Passat!

After being whacked by hail in South Dakota, my beloved 2002 Passat Wagon ran the same but looked like a silver golf ball. I thought that would make it go better in a straight line, but roads have so many curves...

When we got home, the insurance company sent an appraiser around. He came to the conclusion that repairs -- if they were to do them -- would involve:

  1. Replacing the hood;
  2. Replacing the rear hatchback;
  3. Replacing both strips that start at the A pillar and run to the rear hatch;
  4. Performing paintless dent repair on the roof;
  5. Pulling off all four quarter panels, getting the dents out, repainting them, and putting them back.
He warned me that insurance companies don't do that work if it exceeds 70% of the value of the car. It doesn't take a brain scientist (or a rocket surgeon) to figure that my 2002 Passat with 130,000 km on it wouldn't be worth fixing.

So I started a quick search to see what I could find to replace it. I gave up buying new cars years ago, so was in the used market. I made up a list of must-have features and came to the conclusion that I needed another full size wagon. Turns out there aren't a lot of folks selling wagons in North America. My choices were Volvo (never again -- my last one was horrible), BMW, Mercedes & Cadillac (all way too expensive), Subaru or another Passat. However, VW stopped bringing the Passat wagon to the North American market with the 2012 model year.

I was therefore down to a 2011 or 2010 model year Passat or a Subaru Outback. Now, there's a major difference between the two. The base VW has a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder turbocharged engine that makes 200 hp. The base Subaru has a 2.5 liter 6 cylinder engine that gets 170 hp and 30% lower gas mileage. You can get a bigger engine in the Subaru; there's a 3.6 litre 6 cylinder that gets 265 hp, with 50% worse gas mileage. To me, the choice was obvious.

Finding one was a harder problem. My last Passat had 14,500 km on it when I bought it, and I was looking for a low mileage something. I checked the on-line inventory for the 3 VW dealerships in Calgary. Nada. I spent a day searching and ran across a really good site for used cars: MonsterAuto.ca. There I found a half dozen Passat wagons across Canada with varying mileage on them, which helped a lot establishing value. And I found one in Calgary with 16,500 km on it at Land Rover Calgary. And here, I lucked out.

Because the Land Rover Calgary dealership (as well as several other dealerships in town, including the Subaru dealership) is owned by a friend of mine. I sent him a text asking who I should talk to at the dealership. Eight texts later, he offered me a deal I could not refuse. This was especially nice because unlike some folks I know (my friend Michael, for one), I hate buying cars, and hate the negotiating process.

I also lucked out because the insurance company had e-mailed me saying my car was a total loss, and they were willing to cut me a check for its value -- a value I had researched and was also a good deal (good, not great, but not negotiable). I agreed, and they sent a tow truck for my car.
Bye, bye love
The junkyard folks were picking up 2 cars in town. On had been hit by a falling tree. The other was stolen in Calgary, driven to Canmore, been involved in a police chase, and was wrecked when it hit a mailbox during the high speed chase. I felt sorry for my car being associated with the two. Still, the tow dude said someone would buy mine, fix it up and sell it. Here's hoping it finds a good home.

So 6 days after I found it on line, 4 days after I test drove it, one day after mine was taken away, I picked up my new Passat.
Evil front view 
Elegant side view 
Bulbous back view
My new car has all sorts of go-fast features and a 1,000 page manual that will take me years to learn. My old one was a B5 body style; my new one a B7. While I understand the concept of aerodynamics, I liked the B5 design better for practicality. Wagons are shoeboxes on wheels and should look like it.

In a lot of ways, it's good that I had to replace my car now and in this way. The process was painless (a first for me in the car buying world). My old car was becoming worthless, as all cars do. In 3 years, finding a replacement low mileage Passat will be impossible, and all cars get replaced eventually. It is of interest that I paid virtually the same amount in 2004 for a 2 year old car with 14,500 km that I did in 2012 for a better equipped 2 year old car with 16,500 km. There's no inflation there.

Still, I will miss my old car. She was great. I hope my new one is as wonderful. So far it's looking pretty good.

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