Around Town: The path to new-car ownership

If you see a black Honda coupe with Rusnak paper plates on Foothill Boulevard, it's probably me. Rusnak is not in the business of selling Hondas, but when an affable elderly gentleman sideswiped my 1997 Toyota Avalon, we decided that it might be time to buy a new car.

The Avalon had 315,000 excellent miles on it and was poised to hit 500,000 with the original engine. The secret is to change the oil every 2,500 miles.

The Avalon had cool stickers on the rear window: “Stanford,” “Fear the Goat” and “Marine Corps Mom.” Both our kids learned to drive on the Avalon and I was sentimentally attached.

Even though cars are not people and there is no soul in the machine, I was unabashedly attached to the creaking sounds of my Avalon in the morning. I viewed it as a metaphor for my own body, which occasionally needs a tune up or the replacement of a hose or tire.

Our insurance agent called to say that the elderly man's insurance company had not accepted liability. He suggested that I give them a call.

“Ms. Brenner,” said the elderly man's adjuster, “What do you recall about the accident?”

I decided to tell the truth.

“He got out of his car,” I said. “His hands were shaking and he said, ‘I need my medicine.'”

“Uh, I think we'll accept liability....” replied the adjuster.

Thus began several weeks of research. My husband wanted me to buy a brand-new car, but the only ones I liked were out of our price range.

Suddenly, I saw the Honda on my USAA iPhone app. Rusnak in Pasadena was selling a pre-owned Honda Accord coupe that had been traded in for a new Audi.

Rusnak has a La Cañada Flintridge connection. Her name is Liz Rusnak Arizmendi and she supports local events in our town. For example, she has sponsored the hole-in-one car for our charity golf tournament, the 2LT Andrew Torres Memorial Golf Classic. Liz is awesome.

The highlight of the purchase was when the staff told my husband to park our car inside their lot, rather than feed the parking meters on Colorado Boulevard.

He backed the Avalon into a narrow spot. To the left were four Maseratis, all different colors. To the right were four more Maseratis. In the middle was our 1997 Toyota Avalon.

So here I am driving along Foothill Boulevard in a Honda coupe. The tags will arrive in a few months, but in the meantime, I'm enjoying the panache, plus the heated seats and Bluetooth system.

The Avalon was considered totaled. The cost of repairs exceeded the insurance company's idea of its Blue Book value, but we settled for an amount that made me happy.

I was afraid the Avalon would be scrapped for parts, but on the day the auto auction driver picked it up, he said, “Why would you give up a car like this? It has everything you need. Power seats. Chrome wheels. It's a great car.”

If you go to New Mexico or Arizona and you see a black Toyota Avalon with a “Fear the Goat” sticker, give me a call. In the meantime, the Honda and I are driving around town. Right here in La Cañada Flintridge.

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER can be reached at Follow her on Twitter@anitabrenner.

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