Thursday, January 11, 2018

What Is Your Favorite Car That You've Owned?

Answering the questions people have
asked (or I have asked myself) about
my past, present, or future.
I would name my present ride: a 2009 Kia Spectra, mainly because it has had the lowest cost of ownership among the three cars I've owned. I've only had one major repair job on it that wasn't covered by a warranty: an air-conditioner compressor replacement. Everything else has been either standard maintenance or low-cost fixes -- even including batteries, which always seem to go bad here in Arizona after two years of intense summers, no matter what kind you buy. Fortunately, I get the replacements at a pro-rated rate. I get my oil changes for free as long as I own the car, thanks to a perk from the dealer. I think I've cost them at least $500 worth of oil changes over the years.

The Spectra came at the right time, after my 2001 Kia Rio bit the dust nearly 10 years after I bought it new off the lot. After putting about 174,000 miles on it (which was probably double its lifespan), the Rio threw the timing belt, leading to a broken piston and all sorts of nastiness inside the motor. The garage wanted $3000 to fix it, but I figured for that kind of money, I might as well buy a new car -- or some nice pre-owned model. That's when I came across the Spectra after going by a dealer on a whim one night after work, while driving a rental and doing some casual car-shopping. The Spectra was a Manager's Special, with only about 40,000 miles, and it was going for about $11,000. After some haggling with the salesperson, we made the deal.

"What will it take for you to drive off with this car tonight?" he asked.

I knew exactly what it would take: I quoted my down payment, my interest rate, and no longer than a 3-year note. I didn't want to get hosed on the deal like I did with the Rio, where the salespeople used "money factor" instead of a percentage to do the financing, which stuck me with an 11 percent loan. Fortunately, I found a way to pay off the car quickly without the interest taking too much bite. I did it again with the Spectra. That 3-year note was burned in about a year and a half. The auto finance companies have to hate me because they don't make enough interest off my business.

On my first ride, I let the Royal Father do most of the talking. Through his efforts in 1993, I bought a used 1989 Chevy Celebrity from a private owner in the St. Louis area. It already had several thousand miles on it, but we got it for around $3000. This would have to be my second-favorite ride, as it made the long trip from St. Louis to the Rio Grande Valley in 1994, and the trip from there to Tucson in 1999. The car had a knack for going the distance and then some. It originally came from Elliott-Roberts Motors in Plattsmouth, Nebraska.

I'm not completely sure, but I think the place is under a new name and ownership:

The Chevy ran like a tank, but I ended up replacing the mass airflow sensor, some belts and hoses. The air conditioning went in for work several times, and the job became trickier each time because it used refrigerant being phased out by the EPA -- unless I wanted to find some shadetree mechanic who could sneak it in from Mexico. The paint started peeling. The lining on ceiling started caving in. The knob on the shift lever came off. The tape deck in the radio died, along with the fuse on the radio itself when I plugged a power cord for a CD player into the cigarette lighter. It already had a patch on the grille from where a bird flew into it -- at least that was what I was told. The car was turning into My Hooptie.

When the air conditioning died again, I finally decided it was time to move on up to the Rio. Kia made it for about as cheaply as they could, and I knew it when plastic parts on the interior started to break. Then hoses started wearing. At least the ceiling stayed up.

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