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Friday, September 21, 2007

Cars: Greatest Invention Ever or Bane of Mans Existence?

I started this post well over a week ago and have been so busy lately I haven't finished it so I am just going to get it out there. I also want to add a preface to this post I have always been conscientious about getting oil changes and tune on.

I have a love/hate relationship with cars. The testosterone in my veins makes me drool whenever I hear the roar of an engine, or get to stomp my foot on the gas. The brain in my head on the other hand realizes what an incredible waste of time and money they can be. As a teenager the dreams of your first car are always like the car on the left, but the cold hard reality is more like the car on the right. I have owned 6 cars in my life, which I guess isn't too bad considering I have friends that have gone through that many in a year.

I was 17 when I got my first car for 500 bucks. I saved up some money and worked out a payment deal with a neighbor who was selling a 10 year old, white, 1981 Toyota Corolla Tercel. I liked that car, it was a stick shift so I had to learn quickly how to drive it if I wanted to put it to use. That car lasted three years until my mission with little to no problems. I ran out of gas a lot but it was cheap enough then that a quick scrounge in the ashtray or the back seat could get me a couple of gallons. The last year I owned it I was leaving the map one day when I heard a thump and a grind. I stopped got out to look and discovered my muffler had rusted off and was now laying in the parking lot . since it was too hot to pick up and I was running late I kicked it to the side (it was Valley Fair Mall no one would notice) and got on my way. This incident was weird because after the loss of the muffler my car actually ran better it got better mileage and wasn't noticeably louder. When I sold it just before my mission I got 425 bucks for it because they needed to replace the muffler to pass inspection. I only lost 75 bucks on that car, 25 dollars a year I would like to see any new car retain that kind of value percentage. Ever since then it has been downhill.

The next car, I bought after my mission, was another white Toyota. This time it was a 91 Corolla. I got the loan on my own and was paying way to much for it. The interest rate was 14%, but I paid it off in 2.5 years so I didn't spend too much. That car wasn't too bad, but it always had some little thing going wrong with it. It was a slow money leak, but a leak none the less. Shortly before paying it off I had an uninsured, illegal alien side-swipe me. Luckily I had full coverage, but I still had to pay my deductible and the amount I got was minimal. So instead of fixing the minor damage I paid it off. This is began the major problems I think there must be a switch somewhere that makes cars break down immediately after a title transfer happens. 6 months after paying it off my oil pump went out and with no warning the engine seized. I wasn't happy about it, I now had to have a car payment again, and this car was basically worthless.

My third car was very short lived but extremely eventful to own. I decided to splurge and got a almost new car. I bought a black fully loaded 98 Saturn SC2. I loved that car. It was fast and handled like a sports car, all the girls liked it. The only downside was the payment. About 4 months after buying it I was driving down the street with a few friends when some bonehead took a left turn in front of me. I put my drivers-ed defensively driving skills to the test and managed to avoid t-boning him at full speed. We clipped bumpers and it ripped up the front of the car, but no one was hurt, and luckily this guy was insured. I didn't realize there was a trend developing yet so, I got it fixed and proceeded to drive it... That is until one Saturday at 4am when I got up to get a drink of water I was sleepily walking back to bed when I heard a loud crash and the screeching of metal and glass. I got that weird sick feeling and thought (expletives deleted) that was my car!!!!! I ran outside to see a full size Chevy pick-up driving down the street trying to get away. I gave chase and got the license plate number and quickly called the police. When they responded they shortly tracked the moron down a few blocks away and he was obviously drunk. The guy had switched seats with his girlfriend who was in the passenger seat during the accident. Unfortunately for him she wasn't wearing a seat belt and the busted windshield on her side and her corresponding bloody face kind of gave them away. The accident had pushed my car 70 feet into a tree and it looked more like an accordion than a car. The guy's insurance company did the usual posturing and trying to pay as little as possible, but I kept at them and made them pay what was owed. To my disappointment what I was owed was about a buck and a half less than I owed on the car, so once again I was looking for a new car. I only owned this one for about 8 months.

It so happened, that a friend of mine was selling a 95 Jeep Cherokee for a very good price it had fairly high mileage but it was in pretty good shape. I purchased it and I have to say it was probably my favorite vehicle to own. It had its ups and downs also. Driving it was great and I took a lot of camping trips with that thing, but a year after buying it I had a window busted out and my stereo stolen. I eventually got around to having the window replaced, but forever after that gaping hole where my stereo once sat stared out like some sort of eyeless socket. The summer after I got married, through which I got to adopt a Ford Taurus was disastrous car wise. The Taurus and the Jeep had their transmissions go out in the same week. My wife also realized what she had gotten herself into. we decided to dump the Taurus, fix the Jeep and buy a new car. Since this is the Jeep story I will relate the new car a little later.

The Jeep ran fine for 3 more years. In the mean time we moved across the country to Indiana from Utah for Grad school and we paid it off. I have to admit we were very glad to not have a car payment during graduate school. As I mentioned before though, paying off a car somehow signals that it will break down and on the drive back to Utah from Indiana the Jeep did just that. The transmission went out again outside of Grand Junction, Colorado. My father-in-law and I were in the process of moving our stuff back and we just finished the toughest part, driving through snowy mountains towing a Saturn with a Jeep. Now I admit this was probably the cause of the cars death, but it was frustrating none the less. Luckily we could unhitch the Saturn and drive it still. We basically junked the Jeep and gave it to charity and got on with our move and our lives.

This was the first time since we had been married that we only owned one car... the Saturn. In a way it was nice, less gas money, less insurance, but it was very inconvenient. We lived in Provo and I worked in Salt Lake the 1 to 1.5 hour commute each way was killing me, and Mindy had no car all day. We eventually moved to Salt Lake and it was a little better. We bought the Saturn the first summer we were married when the Taurus died and immediately after driving it off the lot we had to spend money on it. I think it is because we paid cash for it and owned it outright it just knew. Over the course of the 4 years we owned it we poured a slow trickle of money into the beasts gaping maw but it finally decided that wasn't enough and one more care joined its predecessors when its transmission started going out. We sold the car (which was barely drivable) for a few hundred dollars and parted company with it.

This brings us to our new car and possibly the biggest piece of garbage ever produced with wheels, a Buick Century. I had heard good things about Buick in the past but we bought this car used and it had a lot of miles on it. It was also possessed with a money (and possibly soul) sucking demon. We have consistently spent money and time keeping this thing going and I am worried because we will pay it off soon and by now everyone reading this knows what that means. I should be happy I guess maybe we can get a better car and break the curse maybe breaking the curse is impossible and everyone suffers with it. I am ever an optimist though, and I still think to myself when I see a Viper streak by, or a restored muscle car roar into life "wow that is awesome I need to get one of those, then I wouldn't have car trouble" The person driving it on the other hand is probably cursing the day they bought it and wishing they just had a good bike.


Mindy said...

I, on the other hand, have a hate/hate relationship with cars. They are a necessary evil which suck life and money out of us all. No drooling over cool cars here, just wishing I lived close enough to everything to walk.

Tamara Wheeler said...

Mindy just needs to move here to Germany. You can walk to everything here or just take a bus or train!

Jeff said...

With exception of that first car, you have always had bad luck with cars. I say Greatest Invention Even. People laugh because I love my Hyundia but that Tiburon has been the best car; fun to drive, and never had a problem. And it's even paid off. I owe you for that car. You showed it to when you bought your Saturn. My wife was not all the way on board, then she drove it. The rest is history. I guess if I were rich and could afford to restore and old muscle car or buy Porsche, Ferrari etc. my tune may change.