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June 5, 2008

My Car

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It’s been almost six months now since I bought my first car (the 1990 Dodge Spirit that my parents bought when I was a Sophomore in high school doesn’t count).  It’s a 2008 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL (pictures here). Some thoughts as a first-time buyer after having lived with my purchase for a few months:

  • Be very wary of the person sells you finance for your car.  For me, it was a completely different person than the salesman who got me to buy the car in the first place.  When I got my car, I took a three year financing special at 1.9% APR, but after all was said and done I was definitely duped as a first-time buyer with nobody else there who knew better.  When the guy offered the “gold” package saying it was only $100 more per month (which is a very deceptive ploy) I agreed to it.  Although he claimed that it was only about $2000 overall, it was more like $5000.  Now I can have all the lipstick stains on my leather that I want!
  • The details were worth it.  I probably could have spent 25% less and still bought a pretty comparable car, but it would be missing a lot of the stuff that really make me happy with my car now.   Stuff like the paint color, auto-on/off headlights, line-in, mp3 CD player, push-button start, folding rear seats, keyless entry, xenon headlights and nav system are what make the purchase worthwhile.
  • Mileage should probably have played a bigger factor in choosing the car.  My car has averaged very close to 20mpg since I bought it (although I’ve only put about 1500 miles on it).  Fortunately, we carpool to work, so I’m not hit as hard by the rising gas prices.  However, when I *do* need to fill up my 20 gallon tank, it costs a pretty penny (about $70 last time I went)
  • Both the gas and brake pedals on my car are extremely touchy.  Perhaps it’s a Nissan thing, perhaps a Japanese thing, but it actually wasn’t something I noticed as much when I went for a test drive.  Even after six months, I sometimes accidentally jerk forward a bit when accelerating.  Fortunately, the CVT kind of balances things out, since I can accelerate from 0 to 60 and not really feel the gears change =)
  • edmunds.com is an awesome site.  They have a great comparison system that let’s you see things like shoulder and leg room for various cars side-by-side (stuff that is hard to find on other sites).  They were also really good about getting quotes from dealers.  I just checked a few boxes after picking out the options I was looking for an within a day I usually had two or three quotes from local dealers (sometimes it was within minutes!).

All in all, I’m pretty happy with my purchase - four and a half stars =)  In hindsight, there are a couple things I would have done differently:  I think I would have bought the hybrid Altima instead of the 3.5SL (I’m always amazed with how quiet hybrids are when they’re just on their electric motor) and I would have kept a closer eye on exactly what “extra options” I was getting.  Other than that it was actually a fairly painless experience for someone who was totally unfamiliar with the buying process.

camera, reviews, tech

April 30, 2007

A Month Later

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It’s been about a month since I got my Pentax K100D and half that since I bought the DA 50-200mm lens for it. The camera is really nice, although it’s often not worth it to switch lenses. I find most of the time I want to zoom in more than I want to zoom out, so I’ve kept the DA 50-200mm one on most of the time.

K100D

The camera itself takes nice pictures, although I keep forgetting to change the shooting settings (so I end up trying to take a picture of a perfectly still flower in the “action” mode, which doesn’t make much sense). Unfortunately, I haven’t had many interesting things to take pictures of, so almost everything is of Lily or of our backyard. One annoying thing about the telephoto lens is that it’s difficult to focus on things close up. I need to jump back about a foot more than I prefer to get a close up of a lot of the flowers in the backyard.

I got to play with Peter’s Canon Rebel XT yesterday also, for comparison. It was really good at taking quick shots where I find myself waiting for the auto-focus to finish on my camera. It seemed like it didn’t focus as well, though. I always felt like it didn’t quite have the smaller depth of field I wanted.

Either way - I’m pretty happy overall with the camera. It’s nice to be able to get new lenses if I want to try shooting some different things. There are some crazy telephoto lenses out there and lots of cool macro lenses. I can also upgrade to the K10D (or whatever new DSLR Pentax comes out with) in the future, if I really want.