© 2010 Leighann Lord
Ok, the Lexus “Christmas to Remember” commercials are getting to me. Who wouldn’t want to have a new car for Christmas? But you have to live in the right neighborhood for that. If you don’t, that shiny new car under the big, beautiful red bow might become the sad, dirty bow laying car-less in the street.
A brand-new car is always more exciting than the day-to-day banality of car ownership: gas, tolls, insurance, maintenance. This was on my mind as I took my 2005 Honda Civic in for an overdue inspection and tune up. There’s nothing like sitting in a chilly garage waiting room to make you think seriously about getting a new car, if not a Lexus then maybe a BMW or a Mercedes. I’m intrigued by the cars that can park themselves. I’ll be really excited when they start paying for themselves. When it can hide itself from the Repo Man, call me.
My dream car is a Volvo C-70 coupe, convertible. Now that’s a sexy whip. In my fantasy it never runs out of gas, needs repairs, or gets stuck in traffic. And while the wind blows through my hair as I zip around town, it still manages to look perfectly coiffed when I stop at very rare red light lights. (Lest you think I’m completely shallow and self absorbed, I also dream about world peace, space travel and free cable.)
Chatting with my mechanic about possibly buying a new car, he reminded me that upkeep on high end cars is expensive. “More features? More problems,” he said. Last week he had just done a transmission oil change on a BMW: $700. Yikes! Where’s the black market when you need it? Bottle for bottle, I know transmission oil is more expensive than motor oil (actually I only recently learned this from my Mechanic, nodding in agreement when he said it so as not to look like an idiot) but good grief.
Another lady in the shop received the news that the left axle on her 1999 wagon needed to be replaced yesterday. “Do I have too?” She said. “Well,” the mechanic said gently, but firmly, “You can replace the axle or use the money for bus fare.”
Suddenly my five-year-old Honda didn’t seem so basic and boring. It’s my third. My first was a 1989 Accord. I road-tripped the hell out of that car, may it rest in peace. It got totaled in an accident. My favorite Honda, the one I miss the most, is my 1992 Civic: red, two-doors, sun roof. Sigh. You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t cute in that car. I remember being parked one Summer night on the Belt Parkway – yes, I said parked – and I opened the sun roof to sit and look at the stars, while listening to a news report that assured me the parkway was wide open and traffic free.
I might still have that little cutie car too if not for the intervention staged by my family. “I can get one more year out of it!” I said. But at the point you’re thinking about replacing the engine, again, it’s time to let go and move on. But in a world where cars start losing value before they’re finished being built, Hondas are – in my humble opinion – one of the few that are built to last.
“You have to do a lot to kill a Honda,” my Mechanic said. “If you take care of this car, it will take care of you.” Today, “care” cost me $288.51. At the dealership it would have cost me double. But like people, the older a car gets the more care it needs.
Next up on the preventative maintenance list is the dreaded transmission oil change. Given the price, I may have to slip it onto my Christmas list. It’s not quite a Lexus but I still want it wrapped up in a big pretty red bow.