Yes, dear readers, our car is no more. After many years of successfully avoiding things, our insurance policy is finally being put to use. The Zafira is dead.
It was one of those stereotypical nights that would feel right at home in a Hollywood movie – the sky was black, the wind howled menacingly, the icy rain hurled itself at the ground, and small furry creatures everywhere ran and hid. And I sat at home reading Samuel a bedtime story. It was only when my mobile rang on page 2 that it became apparent that the weather was indeed a bad omen.
In all fairness, Ellie has only been driving on her own for a month. And it’s not exactly a small car. And the conditions were awful, as I’ve described above. And it was a very narrow road. Squeezing down a poorly lit residential street she slightly misjudged her position on the road, and clipped the back of a parked car as she passed. She was only in second gear apparently, and it took her completely by surprise. She was surprisingly calm on the phone though, which in turn helped me to be surprisingly calm too, as I skipped to the end of the book (andtheyalllivedhappilyeveraftertheend) and hastily put Samuel to bed without brushing his teeth. To be honest I was more relieved than anything else – given the sort of accidents new drivers usually have, this was nothing.
Thankfully the owner of the other car was very understanding. In fact, apparently it was the third time this had happened to her. Which tends to suggest it’s not entirely Ellie’s fault after all… but I doubt the insurance company will see it that way.
Ellie wasn’t hurt at all, incidentally, as she wasn’t going particularly fast at the time. In fact, on inspection in the light of the following day the damage didn’t seem too bad. But because Ellie had mentioned about the steering not feeling quite right we decided to play it safe and leave the car where it was until it could be looked at by a garage. So we arranged for the car to be collected, and today I heard back from them with their assessment of the damage. There was some cosmetic work that would need doing, such as replacing a few body panels (front bumper, bonnet, front wing), repainting (the aforementioned new panels, plus some deep scratches on the doors), and a new headlight unit. But the thing that really swung the issue was a bent and snapped steering rack. Ouch. Presumably when the two cars collided they bumped wheels, and even at that slow speed it was enough to cause significant damage. The cost of repair was quoted at more than I paid for the car in the first place, so understandably it has been deemed a complete loss.
It makes me wonder though how cars last so long when they’re banger racing. If a gentle knock can sheer a steering rack, how can scrap cars survive being repeatedly rammed and still pull themselves along?? I also wonder what banger racing will be like in 20 years time when all the ‘old’ cars are made of plastic.
So on Friday, straight after a work end-of-year conference in Yeovil, I went and picked up a hire car that we’d booked for the weekend, and spent most of Saturday looking at cars. I had already looked at the AutoTrader website, and had decided that a Ford Focus was what we needed. Significantly smaller and cheaper than the Zafira, but still with just about enough space inside for us to get by on a day-to-day basis. A long term goal at the back of my mind is that now that Ellie and I both drive it might be more sensible for us to have two smaller cars rather than one big one. So I picked out the best options, we piled into the tiny Corsa we’d hired, and set off.
The first car was in Frome, and was being sold privately rather than by a garage. I thought it looked good from the website, so I was feeling positive. However, the man selling the car didn’t do himself any favours at all. He knew practically nothing about the car, because he hadn’t had it long and hadn’t bought it for himself, and had allowed the MOT to run out. That meant that we couldn’t legally take it for a test drive, despite his offers. It also had dubious interior additions (who uses CB radios these days???), two balding tyres (both on the same side of the car, so all four would need replacing), the engine sounded rough (even for a diesel), and it just didn’t feel right. So we left without even moving it off the drive.
The next one on my list was back in Shepton. It looked miles better, despite a little rust on the rear subframe, so we took it for a spin. It was okay, but not great. The brake discs felt warped, and juddered a lot when braking, which made the whole braking experience very unnerving. It was also didn’t like going into third gear. It was a nice enough car, it just didn’t feel like ours. So we said no and went home to grab some lunch.
Armed with a broader range of options, having succumbed to the idea that I might be wrong in declaring that we needed a Focus, we set off in the afternoon to see three more cars: a Zafira and a Focus Estate in Frome, and an Astra in Trowbridge. We went to Frome first on the basis that they were closing earlier. The Zafira was like ours, only a slightly higher spec model, so we took that as read and had a look at the Focus Estate, just to see what the difference was. It looked lovely, a wonderful big boot, great condition, and none of the rust issues that the other Focus had had. Taking it for a spin we both very soon agreed that it felt like our car.
So we bought a Focus after all, albeit a bigger one than I’d expected. God led us in exactly the right direction, once I let him, and it’s being delivered on Sunday afternoon. Yay! I’ll put photos up in due course, for those of you for whom a blog post of this length is just too much effort.