I challenge you to find a self-proclaimed “car guy” who has a more boring and practical car history than I do.
Since you’re already a loyal and devout follower of my blog and read my last post, then you already understand that my relationship with the family’s 1983 Dodge Aries Station Wagon was a complicated one. Upon reflection, I now realize that my disdain for that car originated from the simple fact that it wasn’t the cool, weird 1965 Volkswagen that was also in the family during my younger days. But regardless, that Aries became my first car, at age 16.
My car history had an “ugly” start
The first day I drove that car to school and parked it in the student parking lot, I walked out at the end of the day to find a note written on a paper towel under the wiper that said “ugly car” and, in their defense, they weren’t wrong. To this day, I don’t know if that note was a joke from a friend. It may have been a genuine attempt from a classmate to call to my attention the fact that a 16 year-old flesh-colored, rusty, brick-shaped station wagon was, actually, not beautiful.
The Aries was in rough shape by this point. The engine would stall out all the time – especially when cold, but even when coasting at speed. If your foot wasn’t on the throttle, the engine might cut out. One day on the way to school, the engine stalled so I popped the column shifter into neutral, cranked the engine back over, and put the car back into drive – all while coasting down hill at 45-50 miles per hour. We donated that car, and my mom cried. At the time, I could not understand why for the life of me.
Then I drove a 1990 Mazda 626 that we purchased from neighborhood friends of ours. It had high miles (175,000 when we bought it, I believe) and a slipping automatic transmission. But it wasn’t a tan station wagon, so I was happy to have it. During my senior year of high school, I was driving it home from my part-time job. There was a bang, and then all forward gears were gone.
I’d go through four cars before getting my bachelor’s degree
Next in my car history was a 1995 Toyota Camry. I used the Camry to commute to our local community college. It was champagne gold, and I named her Barbara. These cars are notoriously bulletproof, and I’m pretty sure I could still be driving that Camry to this day. But, stupidly, I traded it in. I was working a full-time job, and wanted something cooler than a gold Camry.
For about 9 months, I drove a 2002 Volkswagen Golf. This car was exciting to me because it was my first car with a manual transmission, and it had a sunroof. Then I traded that car in for a brand new 2004 Chevrolet Malibu. I had recently graduated from community college and was an adult now, you see, so it was time to have a vehicle that better fit my high level of maturity. I drove the Malibu for another 9 months. It had a more expensive monthly payment, and didn’t get great gas mileage either, so I traded it in.
The Sonata era
Then in 2005, I purchased my 2002 Hyundai Sonata. It had about 35,000 miles on it and was dark gray, a base model with cloth seats – nothing even remotely flashy or exciting. But it was a great car. Over time, it started to feel like a loyal companion. I owned the Sonata when I graduated from college and graduate school. She moved me from New York to Rhode Island to Virginia to North Carolina, and I drove that car up and down the eastern seaboard having fun with friends throughout my 20s. By 2013, I had added another 133,000 miles to the Hyundai’s odometer. The costly repair bills she needed seemed to be doing little to prolong her life.
When I traded in the Sonata, I cried. Not merely shed a tear, but full-on cried. She was a simple car, but she stood by my side and took me wherever I wanted to go for many years. We had been through a lot together. I almost felt as though I were putting a loving pet to sleep. I finally understood my mom’s reaction to unloading that freaking Aries those years earlier. Of everything in my car history, this old plain Hyundai was the one I loved the most.
It’s Prius time!
My next car was a white 2013 Toyota Prius. It was brand new, and I leased it for three years. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a card-carrying tree hugger (but I’m not not a tree hugger), but I thought the hybrid technology was really cool. I appreciated averaging 45-50 miles per gallon, too. The Prius served me well for my three years with it, but when the lease was up, I was living in the Washington D.C. area again and was struggling to justify the expense of a car payment (and let’s be honest, struggling to afford a car payment itself – that area is so expensive) since I was able to walk to work, at the time. My parents ended up purchasing my Prius for its buyout at lease end, and that car is still running strong.
Best dollar I will ever spend
Next, I took $1.00 from my laundry quarter stash and purchased my dad’s old car – a 2001 Honda Accord. He bought that car during my senior year of high school, and (at my insistence) it was a stick shift. Years of long commutes meant the Accord already had 212,000 miles on it when I got my hands on it. But its monthly payment of $0 was easy to work into my budget.
The Honda was good to me for about 2 years, but its (original!) clutch had been slipping throughout my time with the car. I decided that I would keep that car until the clutch was totally shot. When it was, that would be my sign that it’s time for something new. Almost as if the Accord knew when the timing would be best, the clutch began to very quickly deteriorate about one week after I closed on my first house. After all, better to suddenly need a car loan after closing rather than in the months leading up to securing a mortgage.
Hello, Linda – the end of my car history, for now
I hastily went car shopping one afternoon and purchased a 2014 Subaru Legacy, which continues to serve me well to this day. Her name is Linda – Linda the Legacy.
Thank you so much for reading my car history full of bland and practical vehicles! Please head over to Tom the Car Pro on Facebook, give the page a “like,” and if you or any family or friends need a hand with your next vehicle purchase, please get in touch. I would love to help!