I drive a fairly old car. It’s 13+ years old. It has no loan attached to it. There is no rust on the outside (or in that I know of). It has a newish motor, oil pump and turbo. It easily holds 3 kids, 2 adults, a small dog, and several boxes to drop off at the Thrifty Shopper. It’s a wagon and I bought it solely because I had read these cars could last for 1-2 MILLION miles. I thought that was pretty cool.
My million mile car was 4 years old when I bought it. A year later the transmission died. God was gracious because it died 1 week BEFORE the warranty ended and I got the transmission, belts and water pump replace for about $200. Two years ago the turbo died on an ill fated anniversary trip home from NYC. We were stranded in Orange, NJ. If you have never been to this particular place. Let me sum it up by what the cop said to us when he rescued us: “You’re not from around here are you?”
That particular breakdown was not as blessed. We had to rent a car to drive home then return the next day to rent a U-haul with a trailer to get the car home after getting it out of the “pound.” It was at the garage for about 8 weeks. We knew about the turbo but once we had gotten the part and they took out the old one, they found that the oil pump needed to be replaced also. AAAAnd once they removed the oil pump they found that the motor was filled with what was basically charcoal and tar and it needed replacing as well. I ended up spending about $5000 total on the whole experience. To fix a then 11+ year old car. Ugh.
So I did some math. If I was to buy the car new at that point my car payment would have been over $400 per month which is about $4800 per year so I figured the car had to last me at least a year to make up for the hassle. So far it’s lasted 2. That’s still $200 per month plus I’ve gotten new tires and about $500 in repairs since then. When do you cut your losses?
Right now the transmission seems to be on the brink of disaster again. On 50-60 degree, humid days, it starts bucking as I drive up the hill to my home. Apparently this car prefers the cold. Perhaps I should send it on a one way train trip to Alaska…
I won’t fix it again. No way. I’ve been saving toward a replacement and every month that the wagon lives is another month I’ve saved on a car payment and more $ saved towards the down payment. I will drive this as long as possible though. I have pipe dreams of being able to save enough to pay cash for its replacement when it finally kicks the bucket. If it keeps bucking I will have to dream harder.
The part about this that is the hardest is that I am a “car person.” I love shiny fast cars that make you feel young and alive while you recklessly speed down the highway. I like gadgets in the car that I don’t know how to use. I love old Mustangs and Oldsmobiles with loud engines or whatever it is that roars when you hit the gas. I like big huge Cadillac SUVs that you could live in comfortably with your extended family. I like big trucks too. Yet, here I am driving an old wagon, feeling vaguely soccer mom-ish. Sigh.
It doesn’t sound all too “minimalist” does it? Wanting the latest and greatest, or at least the shiny and loud and fast? Probably it isn’t. Unless you are someone whose passion is to fix up those old muscle cars and you have freed up all of your other “space” so you can devote your time to what you love to do. That isn’t me. Or maybe you race cars for a living. Or you live on a farm and need the big old pick up for hauling trailers of equipment and livestock. That’s not me either. I’m just a mom and nurse practitioner who needs her car to get me from point A to point B. So as long as the car keeps doing that, I will keep driving it. More sighs.
Now I realize that the sheer fact that I even have a choice in this is a function of my living in the US and having access to credit (read: DEBT) and a steady income. This whole post would be ridiculous to someone living in abject poverty in a third world country. I feel guilty even worrying about this when there are people suffering in Nepal right now after the earthquake. So call me privileged yet cheap with a conscience. There are a lot worse things that I could be called.
Tomorrow I will let you know what I’ve decided to do when I finally get to replace my current car. Stay tuned! In the meantime, don’t forget Nepal. Please consider donating to a relief agency working over there. My favorite is Doctors without Borders.