Saturday, January 21, 2012

Why I Didn't Buy A New Car Yesterday

(also known as "Why I Paid $4000 for a New Battery Instead".)

I’ve had my hybrid for almost 8 years now, driven it almost 150,000 miles and most of that was long range cross country driving (at least 10-15 trips). But when the good ole check engine light went on accompanied by the IMA battery light, I knew I was in for the day every hybrid owner dreads from the day you are first handed your keys. For those of you who don’t know there are 2 batteries in a hybrid, 1 is the usual car battery that all cars have, (that turns the car on, powers your radio, and can be easily restarted by flagging down a neighbor with a pair of jumper cables). The IMA (or Integrated Motor Assist) battery is what helps make a hybrid a hybrid. It’s what transfers the energy caused by braking to recharge the battery and adds additional power from the electric motor to increase fuel efficiency. But when the IMA battery is set to crap out, that’s when the tree-huggin’, reusable bag totin’, organic market-shoppin’ hybrid owner threatens a fatwa on Honda Motor Corp.

I previously had one of my IMA batteries replaced, but a dealer thought I could still be eligible for the 10 year/150,000 warranty that California had extended. No dice. After some fine begging by Gail of Lundgren Honda of Auburn, MA, we were told even though the car was bought and operated in California for most of ownership, since it was now registered in Maine, warranty: null. I could however pay to have the car shipped back to California, have it re-registered there and then they’d honor it… but doing the math, it seemed this would just end up costing me just as much (and the ecological impact of that seemed ludicrous).

So out came the credit card (actually several, since I had to pay for the battery and shipping in full before it was ordered) and now we wait for it to arrive from somewhere far off magical land (most likely Japan).

Some might think it’s crazy to shell out $4000 for a car that’s already 8 years old, but there is method to my madness. New car manufacturing is an unbelievable resource hog. And I have made a promise that my next car will get better gas mileage than the one I have now. When my 8 year old car still regularly gets 45-50 mpg, I think it’s safe to say, I’m not going to find a used car with that kind of mileage for around $4K. And the battery replacement fits into my ethos of “use it up, make it do, or do without”. Another teaching lesson here, is discovering a forum of fellow 2003 HCH owners, ( which may or may not turn me into one of those “My Car is Better Than Your Car” aficionados. This community shows me that HCH owners are getting upwards of 200K miles and still going… my goal drive my little ‘brid till they take it out of my cold dead hands!


jose alberto said...

My car battery is almost about to reach its end of life. This post just makes me happy to know that I am not the only person out there who wants to keep their hybrid after owning it for a long time.

CBD Simplist said...

If you're a HCH owner, this blog is a great resource for officienados!

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