June 12, 2009

What you want and what you get

I saw an article that named the top five cars newly licensed teens wanted. It listed:

Toyota Corolla
Volkswagen Beetle
Honda Accord
Honda Civic

And the number one most desired car is a Ford Mustang.

I’m not sure if old models were acceptable or if these kids polled wanted a brand spanking new ride.

Insane as it is, I know there are kids that are handed keys to a brand new vehicle for their sixteenth birthday.

Others get the family hand-me down.

Some have parents that'll pick up a used vehicle for a couple grand or maybe co-sign a loan for a used car.

Then, there’s a few, like me, whose parents felt if you want a car, buy one you can afford. This was another example of where I learned what you want and what you get are often two very different things.

I started working part-time when I was fifteen but I was seventeen before I was able to collect a fair amount of savings to purchase a car. Prior to that, I drove my mom’s mini-van when I had permission. After awhile, I was desperate for freedom. I decided my piggy bank was as full as it was gonna be, I had about $1500 to spend. I shopped the Pennysaver. This was before Craigslist and regular use of the internet. Hell, my family had just gotten a home computer and dial up. I can remember introducing my mom to AOL. What a mistake that was, but that’s a story for another day. I found an ad for a 1979 Monte Carlo. I took it for a test drive. I was in love. It could’ve only been sweeter if it were a Chevelle. Sadly, the Monte was not meant for me. It needed some work, the price was more than I could afford and they didn’t accept my best offer. Disappointed, but I was back on the hunt. I had trouble finding a reliable car in my price range. Then, my mom mentioned a friend she made on AOL (ironically, enough) was selling a car for a grand. It was an ’89 Nissan Sentra. It was beat up and worn, the body was rusted midway up the doors, but it ran well. I offered a couple hundred less than the asking price, he accepted. It might not have been the Monte Carlo or a Chevelle, but eight hundred dollars bought me freedom. All things considered it was a small price to pay.

That Sentra got me everywhere I needed to go. It wasn’t cute, it only got uglier over time, the windshield cracked, and the driver’s window stopped rolling down. Other than regular oil changes, the only time I put money into it was when I slid on ice and hit a median on the way to class one snowy cold day. I did a number on my control arm, but it still got me where I needed to be. I couldn’t complain.

I drove that car for a couple years and racked up miles with 25 mile commutes between home, work and college classes. Eventually, I was ready to take on a monthly car payment and I was able to get employee pricing on a Ford Contour (Frank was working for the dealer, at the time). I couldn’t get anything for my trade, so I sold it privately. My dad’s coworker had a daughter that just turned sixteen. $250 and it was hers. I’m sure it wasn’t what she wanted, either, but it meant freedom. I was happy to pass on the torch.

So, what did you want? And what did you get?


Unknown said...

I wanted an Alfa Romeo Spyder convertible. I got a Subaru Legacy wagon. But not until I graduated from college - I was carless until I was 21....

I still love convertibles, and my husband even owns one, but I don't remember how to drive a stick shift (I learned when I was 18 - mom had an Austin Healy Sprite) and hubby won't let me re-learn/practice on his baby.....

KathyinNY said...

This is an interesting story since I too had to bust my butt to buy my own car. When I received my license at sixteen the "family" car was a Ford Pinto. Just before I graduated from high school I bought that car from my parents for $600.00 - it wasn't just given to me. Two days after graduation I was working a full time job and within a year I bought my first brand new car - a 1984 candy apple red Dodge Charger. Oh how I loved that car. Ah sweet memories.

Kellee said...

Ooh! A spyder would be nice.

I attempted to learn to drive stick as a teen. It was too much work.

A Pinto, classic! The Charger had to feel real nice.

Dave P. said...

I used my parents cars for the longest time. There was no real need to have one in college, so I didn't get my first car until I was 21, had a job, and could take on car payments. It was a 1986 Buick Somerset, a very short-lived 2-door version of the Buick Skylark. And not very reliable. When the stereo wasn't working in this brand new car, it should have been a sign. Then the smoking dashboard in the first month. Then the new head gasket. I pushed it to 115K miles before I gave up on it.

Then I got what I really wanted - and Acura Integra. That made it to 215K miles. Great car.

Then I needed a 4-door car, and I wanted an Acura TL. (The $75K Acura NSX no-back-seat was out of the question). But pricewise, the TL wasn't practical. Got a Toyota Camry instead. That's up to 170K miles.

Now, I'm back in the market. I would like an Acura TSX, but I need more legroom in the back seat. I would like an Acura TL, but prisewise, again, it's not practical. So it's looking like a Honda Accord, which I think I'll still be happy with.

Kellee said...

I'm surprised you got that many miles out of it considering the problems early on.

I've heard nothing but great things about the Camry and Accord. Maintenance costs are higher but they run forever, from what I've been told.