Elastica – Car Song
I need to replace my car. It failed inspection, which was not a surprise, but when I took it to the garage to see about getting it fixed, they advised me not to bother. It’s a 15-year-old car with 180,000 miles on it and the problem that caused it to fail is far from the only thing wrong with it.
I bought this car from my sister four years ago when it had 65,000 miles of hard city living on it. It had a lot of scrapes on the bumper from years of parallel parking on Brooklyn streets, the rear windshield washer has never worked since I’ve owned it, the glove compartment requires a special touch to get it to shut, but we needed a car and the timing and price were right so I didn’t complain.
I have put 600 miles a week on this car just getting to and from work. It’s nearly all highway miles but that’s bound to take a toll. Other problems have developed, as much from age as neglect on my part. I’ve bought new tires, new spark plugs and connecting wires, maybe brake pads once? It smells mildewy, the side view mirror is held together by duct tape, it burns oil, and the odometer light burned out a long time ago. It’s got manual windows and door locks. My kids think it’s so cool that they can roll down their windows without the car being on.
Looking for its replacement, however, is making me see it in another light. I don’t have money to spend on a new car and I can’t really take on a car loan right now either. I’ve been looking on Craigslist and wondering about the chances of finding anything reliable, let alone something that can take my commute. Nearly all the listings say things like, “Runs and drives good. No reverse.” or “Excellent car, great on gas, needs new motor.” Um, no. It is not an excellent, or even good, car if it needs a new motor or you can’t put it in reverse. The ones that don’t appear to have major mechanical flaws have 250,000 miles or more and that just seems like trouble to me.
Today I happened upon a listing for a car that is the same model I currently have, one year older, but with only 100,000 miles. I have never really liked this car but the pictures show it looking in better condition than the one I’m driving. Is it foolish to consider it? I feel like it’s the devil you know. Maybe I could get 80,000 miles out of that one before it succumbs to a similar fate? I should probably stick to looking for old Toyotas and Hondas but ones that are cheap enough for me to afford are so high in mileage that it doesn’t sound smarter. Sadly, public transportation for my route doesn’t exist or I’d jump on that in a heartbeat.
My family has a long history of car problems. When I bought my first car I only looked at new cars, hoping to avoid all the issues that might arise from buying a used car. Twenty years and two kids later, I just want something that isn’t going to fall apart while I make my way to the office. I want to be sure I can get home at the end of the day. Is that too much to expect from a 15-year-old used car? Is history doomed to repeat itself or have I paid enough dues in the old car wars to come through unscathed? Stay tuned.