In the past 29 years I’ve owned all of two cars, both purchased new, with the first one pretty much driven into the ground, and the second still running fine at 170,000 miles. Kermit, so named on account of being green, in the over fourteen years that he’s been on the road, has had four sets of tires, a new suspension, one set of brakes (front and back), some minor engine work, and regular maintenance. Out of thin air, I’ll say that beyond the purchase price of $27,000, I’ve thrown in another 5K in those repairs, along with typical service money. Then let’s add 15 grand in interest for a couple of leases and what I paid to take ownership. Fool around with the numbers and my faithful steed has cost me about $280 a month for the duration. And now I pay nothing.
Which is why, short of an unexpected windfall, I’m sticking with Kermie.
I bring this up because we are about to get into the season of car fever, where you wander out to the garage, take a look at the old guy — your car — and start seeing some sense in those dealer tent sales that are just now getting under way. None of us is immune to the lure, of course, and it first surfaces with remarks like “Gee, honey, the old clunker has been around for a long time now, and what would we do if he suddenly dropped the trannie into the street?”
The lure can be serious. Some months ago we began to get the itch for one of those cute (Kris’ adjective, not mine) Cooper Minis. We did our own guesstimate for what it would cost, went down to the local dealer and took one for a test drive. Wow! Some fun! lt was loud, surprisingly quick, and could jump from one freeway lane to another in a heartbeat. Lease price: $450 per month, and that’s f$%^&%# (my adjective) nuts! We thought it would be around $250 — if size had anything to do with it.
And of course there’s that monster fee that you pay just for the privilege of leasing the little —-, about what a new transmission for my car would cost, with no new payments to follow.
Granted, I live in southern California which is one of the kindest environments for a car on Earth. I passed a 1951 Chrysler convertible last week and it looked as though it was fresh off the showroom floor. My car only gets wet a dozen or so times a year. So they do last here. Decent care and you can drive them for 20 years.
On the other hand, what I do not have with my 14-year-old Solara would fill the options list for a 2013 model of nearly anything, and that’s the attraction, when you really think about it. But is GPS, a hands-free phone, an automatic parking system, a sexy girl (we’re assuming here) who talks to you from the radio, means to control the world on your steering wheel, and endless entertainment for you and the kids really worth the money? Is that new definition of “standard’ actually required for a functioning car? (Mine has a CD and a cassette player — hoo-hah — and both are now obsolete.)
Well, and there’s this: Most of the new cars look alike. Truly. There was a new film that was in theaters a couple of months ago called “Lincoln lawyer.” Not bad, actually; you may have seen it. The producers were asked why use a lengthy older Lincoln as a key character, and they replied (like me), “Most of the new cars look alike,” and they went on, “we wanted something that was different.” Hence the choice, hence the title.
So I think I’ll work on urging a few more miles out of Kermit, and in the meantime I’ll wait for that big check.
Still, the BMW 535 is rather nice…