The New Car Conundrum: What Should I Get?

Russell's 1994 Mercury Villager

My 1994 Mercury Villager mini-van has served me well over the years but it has to go according to the U.S. Government. Since it gets a measly 17 combined miles per gallon according to, my van is a certified clunker and eligible for the Cash for Clunkers program. This means I can get $3,500 off a new car purchase that gets at least 4 more miles per gallon or a $4,500 discount for a car that gets at least 10 more miles per gallon. That’s a sweet deal considering the Kelley Blue Book trade-in value is at most $1,550.

The thing is I don’t really need a new car. I get to work using public transportation leaving the van only for small errands. Once a year we will take it on a road trip to Ocean City but that’s about the extent of my driving. I fill it up maybe once a month and according to FuelFrog (my review) I’m getting about 22 miles per gallon.

FuelFrog Miles per Gallon for my 1994 Mercury Villager

Because it has 130,000 miles on it, the tune-ups can be a bit costly about every other year. I have started noticing a high-pitched squeal whenever the accelerator is depressed and one of these days it will die.

With this opportunity I decided to do a bit of research on Yahoo! Autos. I found 21 cars that fit my criteria including the 2010 Honda Insight, 2009 Honda Fit, and 2009 Honda Civic hybrid which all caught my eye. Kristina doesn’t like any of these because she already has a small sedan and strategically it would make sense to get another type of vehicle. I can agree with that, but bigger cars are more expensive.

Three Honda cars to replace my van.

There is also the option of brokering a deal with my dad for his Toyota Rav-4 with 100,000 miles on it in exchange for a car with the discount. He was the one who bought the van 15 years ago and paid it off before handing it over to me but such a deal sounds complicated.

I just feel a little weird about getting a new car and then having it sit at home for most of its early life. So this is where I seek advice from the wisdom of the interwebz. What should I do?

On the plus side an auto loan would help me build my credit score for when we eventually buy a house 🙂

The Touch Book From Always Innovating

Always Innovating announced a new tablet/netbook hybrid today at the DEMO conference. What’s unique about this tiny notebook is the detachable tablet screen that has a magnetic backing so you can stick it to a refrigerator and turn it into an instant wall computer. Both the tablet half and the keyboard half have their own battery which is being touted to last for 10-15 hours. It is designed to be always on just like a cell phone and with 10 hours in between charges, it will probably surpass my T-Mobile Dash. Unlike most other netbooks on the market today, the Touch Book uses an ARM chip instead of a “power-hungry” Intel Atom processor.

The Touch Book by Always Innovating is a sleek netbook/tablet hybrid

The included operating system will be a Linux derivative developed by Always Innovating featuring a unique 3D UI. But since the device is open source, according to their FAQ you could “install many OSes on the device, including Google Android, Ubuntu, Angstrom and Windows CE, though we would not recommend the latter.” If it can run the gorgeous looking Jolicloud OS from Netvibes founder Tariq Krim then I’m sold. Who needs an Apple netbook anyway?

Jolicloud mixes desktop and cloud software with large icons that make it easier on Netbook users.

I don’t believe any of the tech media has had a chance for a hands on review, but I’m anxious if this device lives up to it’s hype. Coming in at $399 for the tablet and keyboard or $299 for just the tablet, this little ultra portable really piques my interest. It is expected to ship in May or June of this year but is available for pre-order now.

Speaking of ultra-portables, I was at a Microcenter over the weekend and I happened to see a Fujitsu LifeBook U820. This thing was tiny! The dimensions are 6.73″ x 6.14″ with a 5.6″ screen. I had to squint to see my mouse cursor and the keyboard was just small enough for fat-finger mashing. Sometimes there is such a thing as “too small.” The scary thing is it runs Windows Vista Business. has a good picture of it in use.

The Fujitsu Lifebook U820 requires tiny fingers.

Other coverage of the Touch Book:

Irony: MacBook Pro And A Zune

Irony:A MacbookPro and a Zune (closeup)

That’s right, I use a Zune with my MacBook Pro and it works just fine.

Irony:A MacbookPro and a Zune (wide)