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How To Live On $0 A Day: Finding Your Next Set Of Wheels

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Even if your clunker didn't qualify for any cash, it's a great time to pick up a new fuel efficient vehicle suited to your current needs. Since I've already been through the drill, I thought I'd share my research to help anyone else who's in the market.

FAMILY-SIZED AND ECONOMY:

  • Costco shopping carts Costco carts are humongous and totally lacking in style. But that's part of their charm. In fact, it's the only part of their charm. Two-toned in black and grey steel, the design is no-nonsense--boxy and utilitarian. Made to schlep almost a ton of your most important belongings, even the 60 inch plasma TV you can't bear to part with. Ergonomics are mediocre. A highly placed handle bar could contribute to shoulder and neck problems with continued use. The wheel system is primitive, yielding a rather bumpy ride. All in all, not a great choice unless you're a hopeless pack rat or a Gosselin+ sized family (in which case I also recommend finding yourself a publicist).
  • Target shopping carts Target carts are sleek, shiny and well-designed. Metallic silver with accents of red, somehow these carts possess a sporty air that belies their massive size. Steel wheels and well maintained turning valves guarantee a smooth ride. A flap down child seat makes this the perfect cart for people with families who haven't lost their style. Rumor has it, next year's model will have a tin cup holder.

MID-SIZED:

  • Safeway shopping carts A solid cart that holds a lot of stuff. Silver all over with particularly wide grids, the Safeway cart comes in a choice of Red or Blue plastic accents. it's not the most efficient vehicle for transporting smaller items like jewelry, knickknacks and cosmetics which can slip through the holes (I lost my favorite Lancome lipstick to this cart), but it's great for larger objects like your shoes, purses and winter coats. There's a foot bar near the base on the driver's side that makes it particularly fun for popping wheelies -- it's like having a built in gym.
  • Albertsons shopping carts Frankly, these are the Pinto of shopping carts. It's not that they're unattractive. They're well designed from a aesthetic point of view. But practically speaking, they're one of the reasons Albertsons are closing all over the country. The wheels don't turn properly, they're imbalanced and are always getting stuck. Particularly in the ice cream section. But even if they were drive-able, these carts were obviously designed by someone who only uses shopping carts for groceries. Obviously, they've lost touch with the American consumer.
  • Lucky shopping carts The Lucky logo on your shopping cart shows that you have both style and a keen sense of irony. Design-wise there's nothing flashy about these carts. They're your basic middle of the road, well-constructed, durable cart. They have plenty of room and the ride is smooth. A nice ergonomic touch, the hand formed rubber handles provide an exceedingly comfortable grip. On the downside, these carts are prone to rust, so you have to be careful to keep them out of the rain. Not recommended for Pacific Northwest dwellers unless they have a second cart.

LUXURY AND HYBRIDS

  • Trader Joe's shopping carts Neither luxury or utilitarian, a Trader Joe's cart is the rare hybrid that's both practical and sporty. The lines are jaunty and clean, it comes in a hot fire engine red, the wheels are aligned so it corners like a dream. And while the cart is compact and agile, it carries a lot of stuff. I managed to fit an aquarium, 20 lbs of newspaper, several figure skating trophies, my two cats and a margarita blender in there without it seeming cramped. The best of all worlds. This cart makes up for Trader Joe's frugal free food samples.
  • Whole Foods shopping carts Definitely the status cart of the bunch. Sleek stainless steel design with forest green accents. Ergonomically designed handles and baby seat. But like so many coveted vehicles, the Whole Food cart has some fatal flaws. The wheels have a tendency to stick, which makes running from the law or creditors problematic. Such thoughtless engineering is all the more unforgivable considering that shopping at Whole Foods helped you go broke in the first place.

Thanks to Deb Lucke for the illustration.