I guess this is the season when a lot of people buy new cars, because quite a few of my friends seem to be upgrading to 2016 vehicles.
“My new car is fantastic!” one friend gushed. “It has a built-in phone, GPS system, tracking, rear-view camera…”
I stopped listening before she said it also prepared her lunch and gave her a pedicure.
I’m not the type who gets excited about new cars – maybe because I’ve never actually owned anything other than used ones. To me, a car merely is something that transports me from point A to point B. I don't care what color it is or how many speakers the sound system has. All I care about is that it runs and doesn't explode into flames when I turn it on.
Which probably explains why my current car is a 2004 that still plays CDs and doesn’t even have power locks. I still have to manually pull up the buttons on the doors when I want to unlock them.
Before I got this car, I was driving a 1991 compact that was so basic, it didn't have the word "power" associated with anything on it. No power windows, no power brakes, no power steering. In fact, it practically had no power at all. If I turned on the air conditioner while the car was trying to climb a hill, kids on tricycles whizzed past me.
The last time my mechanic checked out that car, back in 2008, he said the only thing holding it together was rust. The frame, the axle and the body itself all were so rotted away, he warned me to avoid driving over any large bumps because I'd end up sitting on the ground. And as far as the car ever passing inspection again, well, let's just say I had more of a chance of winning the Miss Hawaiian Tropic bikini competition.
So reluctantly, I decided to go car shopping – for a “new” used car.
When I, in my 1991 compact, drove into the used-car lot, the employee who greeted me couldn’t conceal his amusement.
"People like you are bad for business," he said. "If everyone bought new cars only once every 15 or 20 years, we'd be in big trouble!"
“Well, I really like my car,” I said. “Do you have anything similar to it in a newer version?”
He shook his head. "Haven't seen anything like it in years."
He then added, still looking amused, “So, if you were to buy another car today – one that actually was made in the current century – how much would you be willing to pay for it?”
I thought about it for a few moments, even though I had no idea how much cars were selling for at the time, then blurted out what I thought was a pretty high figure, "$6,000."
The look he gave me told me that for that price, I probably could buy a really fancy bicycle.
"Well, let me show you a car I think you'll like," he said.
He led me to a 2004 vehicle that not only looked really impressive with its shiny red exterior, he said it had power steering, power brakes and power windows – none of which my 1991 car had. So I test-drove it. It was the smoothest ride I'd ever had…that is, after I drove up onto a curbstone because I'd never used power steering before.
By the time I returned to the dealership, I was sold. I really wanted that car.
"It's only $11,500," the salesman said, as if he were telling me something good.
I glared at him. The man, I thought, obviously was a sadist who was deriving some sort of sick pleasure from tempting me with a car he knew I couldn’t afford…at least not until it aged at least another 10 years.
“I guess I’ll just have to wait, then,” I said, disappointed. “That’s nearly twice my budget.”
He took down my name and phone number and said he’d call me if anything in my price range came in. So I drove my old clunker home. I still had five months left before it had to be inspected anyway, I told myself, so I figured I could put off buying another car until then.
The car salesman called me the next day. "Are you sure you don’t want the car you test-drove yesterday?" he asked.
Again, I thought he was being cruel. "Yes, I’m sure,” I said tightly. “It's a great car and I love it, but as I told you, I don't want to spend more than $6,000. So there’s really no sense discussing it.”
"Oh, OK," he said, with what sounded like an overly dramatic sigh. "Then I guess I’ll just have to let you have the car for $6,000."
I honestly thought he was kidding. He wasn't.
So that’s how, in 2008, I became the proud owner of a 2004 vehicle with 45,000 miles on it.
And I’m still driving it eight years later. I call it the “dogmobile” now because there is so much fur in it, it looks as if it has mink seat-covers. And there aren’t any armrests in the back seat because my dogs stood on them so often, they finally broke them off.
But with luck, I’m hoping to still be driving it in 2025.