When it comes to cars, the most important feature I look for is not having a car payment.
I have had only three cars over the last 20 years, and frankly, that actually seems like a lot to me. I drive my cars as long as they can still serve their intended function, which is getting me from point A to point B.
My current car is a 2010 Honda Civic that is creeping toward 200,000 miles. It replaced a payment-free 2000 Ford Explorer that was well over 100,000 miles when it was removed from service by someone running a red light, plowing into me and getting his fifth (fifth!) driving without a license ticket. That beaut of a trooper replaced my 1994 Honda Civic, which I had driven since college and I had to get rid of because my wife and I added a second child in 2003 and found out that a 1994 two-door Honda Civic did not really accommodate two car seats.
But, alas, I am afraid I may need to add my next car in the lineage. My current noble steed has served me well, having traveled these United States and ferried my family on gas-efficient adventures throughout the country. It has gotten me to and from work reliably, save for that one time I drove over some lawn-dart looking thing on my way into work and blew a tire out, but I can hardly blame the car on that.
I started wondering if I was going to be due for a new car when it began having a few little problems here and there. The first thing was the auxiliary cable port going out. This was the thing I could use to plug my phone into the car stereo system so I could listen to podcasts, because I am a 46-year-old dude and am required by law to not only listen to podcasts but start least three conversations a week with, “Oh, so I listened to this new podcast…”
Next thing was the parking brake. The problem – it kinda falls apart. It can be put back together, and appears to still work, but generally speaking, I’m fairly certain that having the handle splinter off into three separate pieces each time you engage the parking brake is not ideal.
And then the steering wheel started to, well, disintegrate kinda. The top part of it started peeling away, and then chunks of rubber started falling off, to the point that the top of my steering wheel is exposed metal. And that is fine sometimes. And then it’s super not fine when you live in the South and your car gets 8 billion degrees inside in the summer.
But these were problems I could look past. After all, refer back to my car’s prime directive: Point A to Point B. Check that box!
And then my air conditioner stopped working, and I quickly recalibrated my car’s prime directive to read “Point to A to Point B without soaking your clothes in sweat on a three-minute drive.”
I took my car to a couple of places to find out how much it would cost to get my AC fixed. Turns out, AC is one of those things in your car that, when it breaks, you have to pay a good bit of scratch in order to find out what is wrong with your AC. Eventually, I paid one place a nominal amount and was told it would cost me about $3K to fix my AC.
So I’m at decision time. As the temperatures are currently fine, I can enjoy windows-down transit. But as the temps begin to creep up, I have a decision to make. Do I need to pay a little bit to see if I can get another estimate on repairing my AC? Or do I read the writing on the wall that this proud servant has been a dedicated warrior in my daily transportation journey, but it’s time to retire it? Or do I ride out the upcoming summer without an air conditioner?
I don’t know the answer to the first two. But I sure as sweating heck know the answer to the last one. No, no, and not a chance.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Mt. Pleasant. You can e-mail him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike or at www.mikeslife.us.