Nearly 15 Years of "Sassy"

Today I went to New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (2199 E. Henrietta Rd., Suburban Plaza) and surrendered the license plates to my 1994 Honda Civic that Ali dubbed "Sassy" (largely because of its temperamental handling in its old age). [And I asked, but they wouldn't let me take a picture of the ceremony.] I bought it on June 5, 1994 from John Holtz Honda (3925 W. Henrietta Rd., Henrietta) with 53 miles on it and drove it to 170,530 miles.

As I wrote earlier, the ratio between the cost of ownership and the benefits of ownership was getting worse and worse. This year, I strongly believe it would not have passed its New York State safety inspection as it has numerous problems ranging from a rusted gas filler and a semi-operational windshield wiper switch to a warped disc rotor, non-existent rear shocks, and a noise that's indicative of a failing constant-velocity joint.

So rather than wait for something to fail catastrophically (and in the process, continue to pay insurance on a vehicle that I seldom drive), I opted to take it off the road for good.

My plan is to disassemble the car piece-by-piece. Some parts I'll keep for other projects or souvenirs, but most I'll either sell them, give them away, recycle them, or — if need be — throw them away. I'd also like to maintain a blog of the process with an associated database, documenting each component part.

See, I'd like to get more experience with MySQL and this is the kind of project that has the ideal combination of sufficient complexity and low risk to conquer such an endeavor. Plus, I'd like to apply some of the things I learned from Chris Guillebeau's book, The Art of Nonconformity: 279 Days to Overnight Success … perhaps applying some of that to JayceLand someday.

But what to call it? I'll register a domain name for the project soon and I'm leaning toward something like "Goodbye Sassy" and specifically avoiding things that mention "Honda" or "Civic" in the title. So get out your creative fingers and drop a comment. With some pestering on your part, your comment makes you eligible for miscellaneous pieces and trinkets left over, or an invitation to the Airbag Detonation Experiment.

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Trying Out Zipcar

I borrowed a Zipcar with Ali and Christina today.

I heard about the program a couple years ago and was quite excited about it. In 2006, they introduced some cars at The University of Rochester (Elmwood Ave. at Intercampus Dr.) and I jumped at the opportunity. Unfortunately, it was only for people affiliated with the university. The other week I was listening to Car Talk and they mentioned Zipcar again so, on a whim, I checked out the site.

The cars were indeed still at the UofR and I clicked to join. This time, I got as far as the page where they asked for my credit card information and noted that I had not been asked about working for the UofR. I called and they confirmed that the program is now open to anyone so I finished signing up.

Zipcar is a car sharing program. It costs about $50/year to be part of the program. In Rochester, there are 5 cars (4 parked at the UofR river campus and the other parked at The Eastman School of Music (26 Gibbs St.)) Each one costs $7 per hour or $60 per day to use — insurance, gas, and 180 miles for each calendar date the car is reserved are included.

I decided to crunch some numbers to see if that's reasonable. I've owned my now-dying Civic for 15 years now. Figuring everything I spent on it, it's cost $0.26/mile for its 170,434 miles or about $3,000 per year. On average each year, it's been about $500 for gas, $500 for insurance, and $650 for repairs and service. However, I've changed my driving habits and last year I only drove about 4,000 miles, so that works out to an ongoing cost of about $0.41/mile. If I estimate an average of 40 miles/hour overall, I only drove the Civic for about 100 hours last year.

Taking the $1,650 annual cost against the $7/hour cost of Zipcar, that's about 235 hours; the daily rate works out to 27 days. In other words, if I get rid of the Civic altogether, I can break-even with Zipcar as long as I stay under 235 hours in a year. As I said, I changed my driving habits and try to do as much as I can by bike — or avoid trips altogether — so it doesn't seem particularly difficult.

The idea behind car sharing is that you don't need a car per se. Almost all the time it's just moving people from one place to another — you only really need a car if you're hauling things. Of course, if you have small children, it's much more convenient to have a car, but you might be able to get away with one car instead of two in a household.

So anyway, I tried it out. I reserved the Honda Element named "Eastman" for a couple hours. Since it's generally used by college students, it was … well … a lot like a college student's car: kind of a disgusting mess inside, what with a McDonald's bag, garbage, and food all over the place. I suspect it was as bad as it gets because nobody wanted to clean it all winter.

But overall it was a pretty easy process. In the future, I'll bike to the pick-up location rather than take the 20-minute walk and just lock my bike nearby for retrieval when I return the car. (That's another thing: you can't do one-way trips — you have to return the car from the place you found it when you're done.) For now I'll hold onto the Civic (and don't forget we also have the wagon) until it fails to pass inspection later this year.

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