I’m not a car guy, and outside of oil changes, I don’t do much to my cars.
My family always bought GM cars growing up, and you inherit your family’s prejudices. My first car was the family’s old 1982 Chevy Chevette, It showed me that you don’t need much in a car to get a lot out of it. It also taught me to value and take care of an older car.
My next car was a 1994 Chevy Cavalier that I bought used with 30K on it. I tortured that car, driving it for 5 years all over the northeast US, going to college in northern NY, moving to MA, all the while driving down to see family in MD. The transmission starting acting up around 99K, as well as other problem, so I decided it might be time to move on.
I decided to buy a new 2002 Saturn SL2, even when most of my friends were laughing at me for buying domestic. It was the last year of the original Saturn. Today, my car turned 150K on my way home from work, and it’s had very few problems. Other than routine maintenance, I’ve spent less than $2500 total on repairs for this car. Not only that, it’s been paid off for years. Hell, I learned to drive stick on this car and it’s still on the original clutch. It’s been a good, cheap, reliable car, that still gets good gas mileage even though the engine isn’t quite as powerful as it was when it was new.
I’m not trying to deny that domestic cars have suffered in quality, in fact my wife and I just bought her a 2009 Carolla (after a bad experience with a used Hyundai Accent we bought 2 years ago). She has a bias for Toyota and Honda, and at under $16K, it was a good deal too.. that’s the problem with some domestic cars, when you can get a Carolla/Civic/Camry/Accord for that cheap, it’s hard not to get one. But I do believe there are some real diamonds in the rough, and if you haven’t considered a domestic car recently, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t at least look. And my friends? The only one I know of with a car as long as I’ve had mine bought a cheap Ford pickup.
With 150K, and the fact I commute 80 miles a day on the DC capitol beltway, I’ve started to wonder exactly how much more I can expect out of this car. I face the choice of taking on another monthly payment, or keep driving this car into the ground. If I find a good deal on a new Chevy Cobalt, say around $12K, I might just be tempted.
I have no idea what I’ll do, but no matter what happens, I’m happy with my Saturn.