My first car that was really mine was a Saturn SL2. It was red, of course, and I named her Scarlett. She wasn't necessarily the car I wanted. I had also test-driven a Pontiac Sunfire that appealed to me for its sportiness and pick-up. But it was only a 2-door and I tended to be the driver among our circle of friends. I knew my friends Carl and Dan wouldn't fit in that back seat and Nick and Andres wouldn't be much happier, so I bought the Saturn. It was pretty and shiny and red, so I did love it. But it always had air conditioning issues, which made me hate it in July and August.
Somehow I finished paying that thing off while I was in law school. I kept it for a few years after graduation, too. But after two and a half years of full-time employment, I was ready to buy a new car. A brand new car. My first ever no-one-but-me-has-ever-driven-it car. I looked at websites and researched and compared the red paint colors. I settled on a 2003 Honda Civic Coupe. I could get a 2-door car this time as I had long since moved away from both Dan and Carl. It was cute and sporty and very, very me. I got a sunroof. And my favorite feature of all: the in-dash 6 cd changer (yes, only 10 years ago was pre-smart phone mp3 ubiquity). Most importantly, the air conditioning worked every time. While her name was never as well-known and used as Scarlett's, she did have a name. Frankie.
I expected to drive that car to death. I thought I would put 250,000 miles on it. But it didn't have a great spring. After some warning lights, some rough drives, and one very bad day, I took it in for a diagnosis. And it was bad. Blown head gasket. Oil seal leak. Belts. Brakes. Struts. Everything on that car decided to crap out all at once. But I was only at 164,000 miles! And it's a freakin' Honda, for crying out loud! I don't like to deal with things. The uglier, more difficult the situation, the more likely I am to shut down and not deal with it. This car situation, so totally unexpected, was exactly the sort of thing I want to pretend isn't happening.
My parents happened to be out of the country for a while, so I was able to borrow my mom's car for a few weeks while pondering what on earth to do, and crying if anyone asked me what I'd decided. Spend $2,000 to fix this car up and drive it for another several years? Or buy a new one? Or just drive my mom's car and bury my head in the sand for a few more weeks?
Well, Mom reclaimed her car yesterday, so I couldn't bury my head too much longer. I gingerly drove my car to the gym this morning, and then drove to a dealership just to check out my options. Which is how I found myself 3 1/2 hours later driving home without my pretty red coupe and having spent $20,000 of someone else's money. Man, they'll loan money to just about anyone, won't they? This morning, I owned a car free and clear and hadn't made a car payment in 5 years. This evening, I owe an astounding amount of money and will be expected to hand over $300 each month for the next 5 years.
And now while I should be working, all I can do is sit on my couch, stare out the window at the shiny new not-red car on my driveway, and think, "What the hell have I done?" On the one hand, I can now drive to work every day without worrying that my car will die (as long as I make the payments and it doesn't get repo-d). On the other hand, I will be eating ramen in the dark for the next decade.
(Funny side note: in the midst of all of this, I learned that according to CarFax, my 10 year-old Honda that I drove off the lot with 30 miles on it had 2 owners, the first of whom had the car before it existed and for the first 5 years I owned it... Based on this first interaction with CarFax, I don't have a whole lot of faith in the accuracy of their reports. Happily Autocheck, the title, and common sense verified that, no, I had always owned the car.)