We’re getting ready to buy a car, and I feel awkward admitting it, but we’re comfortably enough in the middle class that we can afford to buy the vehicle brand new. Until I met Scott, a “new” vehicle to me was “less than ten years old with fewer than 100,000 miles on it”. I grew up in a family of used cars, and the only new one we ever owned was obscenely expensive and broke down more frequently than the used ones it supposedly outclassed.
The first car I recall us having was a 1968 Oldsmobile. I may be wrong about the car’s year, but that’s how I remember it. (I was born in 1976, to give you some perspective. ) It was the kind of gas guzzling vehicle that, today, would be an open invitation to pimping out. But I’m pretty sure it was just a rust bucket in our hands. The gas gauge was broken, so Mom tried to keep its tank pretty close to full. But we still ran out and had to rely on strangers and friends to rescue us from time to time. She called it the Millennium Falcon, and I loved that car.
Our other car at that time was Dad’s green Dodge truck. Its color was too dark to be properly considered a John Deere green, but entirely too violent to be the color of grass. Instead of anything like a booster seat, I rode around in the truck sitting on top of an old silver toaster oven I called my box. Hey, at least I had on the seatbelt. Most of the time. Except when I was riding around in the back, often sitting up on the wheel wells.
In case you hadn’t guessed, we were rural.
With the exception of the brand-new disaster, a truck that replaced the Dodge when I was about ten, all of the subsequent cars my parents owned were used. My first car was used. Very used. In was a 1972 Plymouth Valiant given to me by my grandparents. (Again, I was born in 1976.) I hated that car. The heater coil didn’t work, so I froze in the winter, and it would have laughed at the idea of an air conditioner, so I broiled in the summer. I loved the freedom it gave me, though, so I’m not complaining now. Much. I kept waiting for it to die so I could replace it with something functional, and I thought that when the engine block cracked, I was home free. But the mechanic, God love him, told Dad “This car’s a classic. You won’t see another one like it”, and a neighbor with a broken down Dodge Dart (which ran on the same engine) sold us the part we needed. The ball joints in the steering column couldn’t hold up to the strain of actual use, and I guided it by driving very slowly using a combination of controlled weaving and wild-eyed panic that served me well when I got pulled over like I was some drunk.
“Officer, I’m going so slowly because I’m weaving and I’m weaving because the ball joints are out of alignment again.”
I was so glad when the second engine block broke on that thing.
My next car was a deep blue 1987 Toyota Corolla SR5. It was a standard shift with those awesome pop-up headlights that they don’t make any longer. And I loved it. I loved the stereo, and the fabric upholstery (the Valiant had cracked vinyl and duct-tape seats), and especially the way it shifted gears. So smooth. When I got into an accident that bent the frame, I was devastated and replaced it with the next best thing, a white 1990 Toyota Corolla SR5. Also standard shift. That car lasted me through a rear ending and quite a lot of grad school before its engine started giving out.
By that time, I had what I considered a real job, paying me ten dollars an hour as an administrative assistant. And I was living with Scott, who was also in the market for a new vehicle. He convinced me that buying new was more money efficient because there were rarely any added costs outside of scheduled maintenance, which was good for budgeting. He liked Mazdas. For my part, I wanted to test drive a VW Golf, but the sales ass pissed me off and I decided Mazda was fine. So we bought matching Mazda Protégés, his in blue, mine in green. A few years ago, we traded his in and bought a Honda CRV, because our family had outgrown the compacts for long travel.
And mine has just now, some eleven years later, reached the end of its useful life. I really didn’t like it much when it was mine, so I wasn’t sorry to see it become Scott’s “around town” car when we moved to Montgomery. But he was definitely right about the maintenance. We kept up on the routine stuff, and the only cost outside of that came when the A/C went croakers on us right before we moved to Montgomery. The Lexington mechanic who fixed it gets full marks for craftsmanship, because the air in that car is still superb.
So now we’re looking at new vehicles. Test driving them and combating the new car stink that dealerships spray in because they think we like it. It looks like we’re going to have to go with an automatic, which annoys both of us standard lovers. And it looks like we’re going to have to either compromise on space for gas mileage or surrender gas mileage for space, neither of which makes for fun decision making. But it will be another new car. The third to have my name somewhere on its title. And considering my roots, I don’t know whether to find that delightful or appalling.