May 15 2010

The Joys Of Driving An Old Car

Tag: transportationDonna B. @ 10:20 pm

My car is 12 years old and now has almost 160,000 miles on it. I’ve owned it for 7 years and 70,000 of those miles. The biggest joy occurs every month when I don’t make a payment on it.

And… over those 7 years, I’ve spent money on a new radiator, new shocks, belt, and hoses. Each one of those things was less than the average monthly payment on a new car, so I am happy.

Yet… when the Service Engine Soon light came on and stayed on just 50 miles short of my destination on this last trip… and the engine was obviously in distress, I figured my happy cheap driving days were over. As I parked the car in an out-of-the-way place in my daughter’s driveway, I decided I would not even think about it again until after her baby was born.

Priorities, ya know?

Of course I thought about it anyway. I googled the symptoms and got results indicating it could be a blown head gasket. Or not. The oil was clear. I checked the value of the car in great condition and tried to decide what would be a reasonable amount to spend on repairs. It was all depressing.

And then there’s the problem of finding a reliable shop for not only the diagnosis, but also the repairs. The only thing I was sure of was that a Cadillac dealership would cost me more than I could afford.

I stopped at a Checker Auto Parts store located between my 3 year old granddaughter’s pre-school and the Taco Bell she always wanted to go to for lunch. I asked the clerk where he would take his car for repairs and he referred me to his boss who sent me to Dr. Dan in Apache Junction, Arizona.

Frankly, had Dr. Dan suggested any repairs under $1000, I would have been content. But Dr. Dan made me very happy. He fixed my car (replaced a coil and fixed a coolant leak) for under $150.  And rotated my tires!

Dr. Dan restored my trust and faith in my fellow man… these were running a little low after my horrible experience with a stinky hotel room rented by a hateful innkeeper and dealing with my Amazon, Facebook, and gmail accounts being hacked. Those are topics for another post or two.

And owning a car that old is probably good for another post or two also. There are some electrical problems that I have to decide whether I want to live with or not… no cruise control, one window that can’t be rolled up from the driver’s door controls, no windshield washer, no moving the passenger seat… all electrical problems that scream $$$ to me to fix. Maybe it’s time to be looking for a newer car.

But… will I find a newer car that is as comfortable, as powerful, and gets 30 mpg highway?

Jan 11 2010

A 37 Year Relationship

Tag: nostalgia,transportationDonna B. @ 4:18 pm

In order to accomplish this, I had to rid myself of a 37 (almost 38) year relationship with Big Insurance. Since I was 19 years old, I’ve had auto insurance — the same policy — with State Farm in Texas.

They have, literally, seen me through thick and thin. Through four teen-aged drivers, through ::mumble mumble:: speeding tickets and at least one outright bizarre accident.

One of the silliest accidents I was ever in involved two people backing out of driveways directly across from each other at exactly the same time. Yes, we both looked and nothing was behind us or approaching us… until we approached each other. We each got out of our cars asking “Where did you come from???”

My agent even advised us not to buy motorcycle insurance with them. He said, we will insure them because you have had other policies with us for so long, but we don’t want to and it’s going to cost you a lot more. He recommended Geico, and we took his recommendation. That is true customer service.

If all my renewal credits and the relationship could have been transferred to Louisiana, I’d have stayed with State Farm in a heartbeat. But, unless I just got a quote from a clueless agent here, that was not to be. I couldn’t see paying more than double, when Geico offered, believe it or not, a slightly lower overall premium.

I hope the service is as good. Well, actually I hope we never need to test the service.

Jul 23 2009


Tag: transportationDonna B. @ 11:11 pm

The first thing I’d like to note is that one does not appreciate or miss one’s favorite mode of transportation until one is deprived of it.

Horse theives were universally vilified were they not?

Having been raised in the West and living almost all of my life more than 5 miles from civilized “services” I can tell you that my car is of not only a utilitarian necessity but also one of psychological necessity.

Were my husband and I careful, it would be much more than a month before we’d be hungry based on what is in our refrigerator and cupboard now. Of course, if electricity were to be cut off, we’d be hungry much sooner. So why is transportation so necessary?

We have 5 vehicles that are currently running and capable of getting us miles and miles away from our current location. However, we both have our favorites.

Neither of us wants to drive the ancient motor home far. (Actually it might not get us far… it’s utility is iffy except it is home to a very reliable generator.)

Nor do we want to make any long trips in the near ancient Mazda pickup. It’s handy for many things, but is used most often as a lock for the garage — if parked close enough, the garage door cannot be opened.

The 19 year old F150… well, we have a sentimental attachment to it, but not to its gas mileage or odometer reading. Really, after 450,000 miles doesn’t a vehicle deserve to be put out to pasture… so to speak?

Enter the two vehicles we drive every day. There’s my husband’s 1996 Chevrolet pickup and my 1998 Cadillac. The pickup is holding up very well, though I think it could do with some new shocks/struts… whatever. It bounces a lot, okay?

My dear 1998 Caddy, purchased used in 2003 with 90,000 miles has another 70,000 on it (that’s six years worth, so I’m not REALLY complaining.)

And now… finally, I get to the point of this post. My dear Caddy has been overheating (little by little… a degree here, 10 degrees there) and I have not felt truly confident in driving her for some time. Today, we had her radiator replaced.

And I am so happy! I no longer feel that I cannot set off for Arizona, South Carolina, Colorado, or Dallas at the drop of a hat.

What is amazing is the relief I feel knowing I can do that easily, comfortably in my car, at my whim, without imposition on anyone else do that.

I’ve never been without the capability of going anywhere I wanted to go. But… to go on my terms is worth a lot, if not quite priceless.