July 06, 2005

The Frustration of Car Ownership

I am part of a rare breed, not just a native Californian, but a native Angeleno. Yes, that is correct, I was born in Los Angeles and as a native I am part of the car culture.

There is a love/hate affair with cars out here. We love the freedom of just being able to hop in and go somewhere, the beach, the desert, Las Vegas and even San Francisco are easily accessible by car.

But there is also the frustration of gridlock, of traffic that builds up and prevents you from moving more than a couple of miles an hour, pollution from vehicles in industrial areas and most aggravating of all repairs/maintenance.

Because if you own a vehicle there is a guarantee that you will have to take it to the mechanic. You will have to take it in and pay someone to work on it. You hope that the mechanic is honest, that his prices for parts and labor are fair and that these kinds of stops are few and far between.

When I was younger not unlike many others I began my ownership days as the proud owner of 1969 Dodge Dart Swinger with a slant 6 225HP engine. It was like a hunk of metal around that engine, there was almost enough room beneath that hood for me to climb in alongside.

That care was beat up, it had dents in numerous places. I used to go to the junkyards and scavenge parts. I took taillights from this one, a deck lid from that one and gradually the Brown Bomber began to look less like a refugee from demolition derby.

But like so many other vehicles it had its share of mechanical problems and eventually it became less sensible to keep fixing it and so I sold it to a guy from Island Pictures.

My next car was 1977 Chevy Impala wagon. I drove that around for a few years until it also hit a point of being too costly to maintain.

A powder blue 1977 Camaro followed that Impala. It was fast, it was cool and I loved it. It hurt having to give that one up, but again it reached a point where it was not cost-effective to maintain any longer.

The Camaro gave way to a 1990 Toyota Camry Station Wagon. It wasn't the coolest car, but it had its moments and I do have some great memories.

At just short of 200k miles the transmission gave way so I decided that it was time to let that car go, but this time I was not going to stick to a used car. I was sick of paying mechanics to keep my vehicles on life support, I was tired of those vampiric autos and so I reached deep into the pocket and bought my first new car.

It was a 1996 Honda Accord. I still own it and drive it now. For a while I loved that car, but gradually the luster has worn off. When we bought that car it was the low end of the models because that was all that we could afford and it was ok.

But for a long time I haven't been satisfied. The locks and windows are manual, there is almost no power anything in that car. And now the window has broken, it doesn't roll up or down.

I am guessing that it is the window regulator that has snapped. It would be ok if it was stuck in the closed position, but that is not the case. It is wide open and inviting all who pass by to look inside and sample the wares.

Parts and labor to repair it are going to run about $200 bucks or so. At least based on a few telephone estimates that is what it looks like, perhaps less. I am hopeful that this is the high end, but we won't know for certain until they get in there.

On a scale of one to ten I give it a 5. It is satisfactory, but just barely. I am hopeful that later this year we'll be able to use it as part of a down payment on a new vehicle. All I know is that I am really irritated at the thought of putting any more money into this car.

Sometimes being reliant on a car stinks.

11 comments:

lucy van pelt said...

My first car was a 1981 Honda Civic. It had been my mother's car. I got it in 1984 and I drove it until 1993. It sat for a year in the driveway while I was studying abroad. It was kept outside while I was in college and then in graduate school living in apartments that had no garages. And it rocked until about the last six months, when it just started to fall apart, little bit by little bit. It was $100 here, $200 there. Pretty amazing though, all said and done, how long it lasted and how much abuse it took. I live now in a place where I do not need (or would even want) a car. I can't imagine having to shop for a new one. Maybe one of those hybrid dealies?

Neil said...

I'm totally a Honda man. Those cars last forever without maintenance. A $200 repair is cheap these days.

Jack's Shack said...

$200 is cheap, but I since I plan on trading this car in later this year I hate putting any more money into it.

Leese said...

Don't waste any more money on it. If you look at the Kelly Blue Book the dealer won't even give you any money for it. Your best bet is to donate it and get a tax refund next year.

My last car was a 1992 Toyota Corolla. It put in 260,000 miles in it before I sold it. I got $15000 for it. The dealer would've charged me money to dispose of it had I taken it there.

I got a 2004 Honda Accord last year. I love the gas mileage I get from it. I can drive from San Jose to LA without having to refuel.

My tip is to buy your new car around August or September, when current year models are being cleared out. I got my Accord EX for $1900 off the invoice last August. Out the door for just a little over $20k.

leese said...

crap...an extra zero...I meant $1500, not $15k...that would've been a rip off. :)

Jack's Shack said...

Hi Leese,

I'd love to go that route, but I cannot drive around LA with a window that doesn't work.

So I am stuck putting a couple of bucks in to it. I need at least another month before we look to buy something new.

That 2004 Accord sounds nice.

PsychoToddler said...

Same boat, dude. I just dropped $600 into my 94 Prism for a new ingition cylendar, rear brakes and some maintenance. But it's still a hella cheaper than a new or even a new used car.

BTW, my first car was a 74 Buick Apollo that had a vinyl roof that leaked, so my girlfriend and I tore it off and recovered the car with bookbinding tape. After that I graduated to a 72 Torino that only drove if it was sunny out. Then the Geo.

Stay away from American cars.

mquest said...

I had a 1980 honda accord that made it 21 years . when I junked it all it needed a new radiator.

The Misanthrope said...

I hate having to purchase a new car. I love driving it, but they are such a waste of money. I just have to think about how many miles I drive a year and that I might as well enjoy what I drive and be comfortable. There are some good deals out there.

mquest said...

After watching the news from London this morning I am glad that I live in the California traffic jam and that I am not forced to use mass transit.

Jack's Shack said...

If you do any significant amount of driving it becomes necessary to have some comfort. We spend too much time in the car not to be.