The Great Car Saga of 2010 is almost over. As you may recall, after a brief flirtation with fixing Lil' Red and trying to get a couple more years out of her, I decided putting that kind of money into a nine year old economy car just wasn't the smart thing to do. My new plan involved using the insurance money as a down payment on a new car. So far, so good... but then I hadn't actually begun car shopping yet. My first stop was Northtown, where I'd gotten Lil' Red nearly a decade earlier. They didn't even have one Accent Blue (Blue is the entry-level ultra-budget model that weeks of internet research had convinced me was the right car). They had deals on the next trim level up, but none of the three on the lot had a manual transmission. I'm not fussy about many things but a stick shift is a must. So it was out to Grand Island to pay a call on Billy Fuccillo. Again, no Accent Blues on the lot. I started to realize this was going to cost me more than I'd bargained. I steeled my nerves and asked to see a GS. There was only one on the lot, and my brain refused to even see it until I found out how much it would cost. The answer was a lot more than I'd bargained for. All sorts of thoughts and fears and worries were racing through my head, and it seemed like an eternity before I realized the salesman was still talking. I wasn't quite paying attention but words like "rebate" and "discount" fought through to my brain, and when I finally put it all together I realized that yes, I was indeed going to pay more than I had planned but not that much more, and I was going to get a much better car. I looked at the little GS again, really seeing it this time instead of going through the motions. I liked what I saw. Outside, the Icy Blue paint sparkled in the sun, and inside the laundry list of features made me even dizzier than the sticker shock had a few minutes earlier. And not stupid features like "ash tray" that the Accent Blue has to list because there's simply nothing else. Real features like cruise control or power windows or anti-lock brakes or a stereo that's not only adequate but sounds pretty damn good. I looked over at Lil' Red, and realized that skimping on features may have saved me a few dollars but it also left me with a car that had virtually no resale/trade-in value. I looked back at the GS, and maybe it was a trick of the setting sun or maybe it really did sparkle. I don't know. But in a few hours it's going to be my new car. And now, an ode to Lil' Red, a car that was ridiculously inexpensive and yet ended up being more reliable than I had any reason to expect. I got nearly nine years of trouble-free driving, and other than one fairly large repair bill a couple of years ago, she never caused me a moment's stress. I certainly didn't need to worry about speeding tickets.