I like cars. But I tend not to like new, shiny cars. I like beat up older cars. More character, less worry. Certainly better stories.
Shamefully, I have never named my cars. This doesn’t mean I haven’t had great affection for some of them, it just never occurred to me. They seemed to be OK just being called whatever their manufacturer called them, just like every other car of their type. Kinda like naming your new baby “baby.” Or your dog, “dog.”
Thinking about it that way explains how we named our last two cats: Paka and Mazor. Both words meaning “cat” in their respective languages. (and bonus points if you can name those languages!)
But our current car, the 2007 Subaru Forester pictured above, does have a name. Steve. Steve the Subaru. Nice ring to it, no?
This was our daughter’s doing.
We bought Steve back in 2007 when we had our house on top of a hill with a very steep driveway leading up to it. Our trusty front-wheel drive 1993 Accord armed with studded snow tires had no chance once the ice and snow began to fly. Going up hill, the weight would shift to the rear, unloading the front tires, and traction would be gone.
As much fun as sliding downhill backwards on a narrow drive with deep ditches on either side is, it is an amusement that loses its charm quickly. No wonder we never got company in the winter.
So we shipped our beloved Accord out to my pal Fritz where it could live out the rest of its days in peace under the New Mexico sun, brought home Steve and never looked back.
Steve has been the best car we’ve ever owned. It is the car in which our daughter learned to drive and it was the car she smashed into a curb, bending the wheel prompting a tearful call home for rescue and a lesson that sometimes dad is right. Like when he says driving is serious business and the problem is once you get the hang of it, it seems so easy but when things go wrong, they go wrong very fast.
That’s a lesson most often learned thru harsh experience and we are grateful she learned it just bending a wheel.
When she graduated from college and went to work for Americorp, we bought a 2014 Mazda 3 and passed the Subaru, to which she had become very attached, on to her. She promptly named it Steve.
The plan was that she’d use it for a year before heading overseas with the Peace Corp and, when it returned to us, we’d sell it on. No longer owning the house, we no longer needed Steve’s awesome all-wheel drive. We’d keep the shiny new more efficient…
Now the Mazda 3 is a wonderful car and we enjoyed the time we spent with it. About our only complaint was that the beautiful, swoopy lines made seeing out the back difficult. Backing up (let alone parallel parking, an unfashionable skill in which I take great pride and people who have cars that can park themselves should be ashamed to use such a feature), became fraught with risk. For the first time ever, I actually bumped into something hard, solid and stationary.
I spent years wondering why Mazda, which had done such an otherwise magnificent job in engineering this car, would make such a rookie mistake
What finally dawned on me is that the fancy versions of the 3 come with backup cameras. Soon this feature will be mandatory and the 3 was designed with that in mind. But meanwhile, presumably to save costs, the less fancy versions lack this feature.
But I like simple and so, of course, I always buy the least fancy version.
When Steve came back into our lives and I began spiffing him up for his Craig’s List debut, we found ourselves, more and more, opting for him when we needed to go somewhere.
In the end, it was Mary the Mazda (yeah, I agree. I suck at naming cars) that went on the block.
True, we don’t need Steve’s 4-wheel drive abilities anymore and he is more likely to need occasional mechanical attention. He’s a lot more thirsty than Mary, too. But gas is cheap and these days we don’t drive much more than about 5000 miles a year, including our annual trek to Shamba each summer.
Other benefits as we see them:
Not Steve, but a reasonable facsimile
I got to thinking about all this because of a couple of posts Mr. MM put up lately and a recent lunch with my doctor. (Yes, I have lunch with the guy who gives me prostate exams. Deal with it. I have to.)
I include the post above because it gives me an excuse to reproduce his cool chart and because the analysis of the cost of acquiring this new Leaf is so impressive.
Mr. MM is a famous proponent of the financial wisdom that is buying used cars, and indeed he started his search with the goal of buying a used Leaf. But rather than getting trapped by the “buy used” goal, he was able to see beyond it to the more important goal of buying in the most cost effective way possible.
Many years ago, when I was fooling around with rental properties, I read a book titled “Nothing Down.” No link, because it’s not something I’d recommend. But at the time the concept intrigued me and I set a goal of buying a property with no money down. Six months later, I had.
But on reflection a few months in, it occurred to me that, for a variety of reasons maybe someday I’ll write about, the purchase would have been much better done with some money (which I had) put down on the deal.
I got so caught up in the “no money down” goal I lost sight of the much bigger and more important goal: To buy in the most advantageous way.
In this post…
…I was reminded of how successfully car companies have marketed Jeeps, SUVs and Pick ’em Up trucks. Spend tens of thousands of dollars a nice, new shiny one and you’ll be seen as a rugged, outdoors adventurer. Or so they say.
Of course, because you’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars, you’re far more likely to spend your time obsessing about dings and your weekends keeping it looking shiny and new for when you sell it on or, more likely, turn it in at the end of the lease hoping not to get hit with damage charges.
I’ve known a fair number of rugged, outdoors adventurers in my time and what they drive are dusty, beat-up old heaps of most any type. If you want to be mistaken for one, log on to Craig’s and start looking at 10+ year old vehicles that “need some cosmetic TLC.”
Which brings me to my doctor.
During our last lunch I got to talking about the silliness of expensive cars. I had no idea what he drove. As we walked out of the restaurant, he said, “Hey, take a walk with me and check out my car.”
Most times when people say that, it is their new, shiny purchase they are showing off.
His was a 140,000 mile 2006 Honda Pilot. Picture this…
…but much more beat up.
Every panel had scrapes and dings and the metal strip above the window was a series of vertical scratches from the loading and unloading of interesting objects on the roof. Such is the toll of kids and dogs and hauled around skis, kayaks and such.
He proudly showed me the newest and biggest wound; a dent just below the taillight and about three inches deep. Seems some guy backed into him. Upset and apologizing, the guy offered his insurance info. Doc took a look at the damage and said, “Nah. Don’t worry about it.”
Made the guy’s day and gave both of them a cool story to tell. You don’t get that with a 50 grand truck.
You want to buy a rugged image? Go find one like Doc’s. But you’ll not pry his away.
So what do you drive, and why? Let me know in the comments and, if you have a cool story, share that as well!
Some great news for this blog:
Speaking of cool stories, I have some great news.
The banner ad at the top of each page on this site is currently populated with ads from AdSense. While this helps pay the bills, frequently I am dismayed by the sort of companies and products that pop up.
Recently Tuft & Needle announced they were disbanding their affiliate program. While I fully understood their reasons, I was sad to see it go. This is a company I deeply respect and I love, and sleep on, their product. Having them as an affiliate was a great fit for the ethic here and they have my seal of approval (for whatever that’s worth 🙂 ) without reservation.
It took me a week or so (I’m slow) before it occurred to me: Wouldn’t it be cool to have them take over that banner spot? Turns out, they thought so too.
Come November 1st, which coincidently is my birthday, Tuft & Needle takes over that spot. I hope you’ll give them a warm welcome and, if you are not already sleeping on a T&N mattress, check ’em out!