In September of 2002, I purchased my first, and only, brand new car. I’d always told myself that I’d never buy a new car… as new cars, as we all know, are for suckers… but my old Jeep, which was built from salvaged parts by the kids in a rural Kentucky auto shop class, was on its last legs, and I wanted to demonstrate to the powers that be that there was a market here in U.S. for hybrids. If you can remember back to 2002, there weren’t very many hybrids on the roads, and the analysts were all wondering if they’d actually sell here, as the American people, despite global warming and peak oil, only seemed to want SUVs, which were becoming more obnoxious and ridiculous by the season. (I believe that it was around this time that Cadillac began incorporating “power-retractable assist steps” in their models, as the monstrosities they were creating had grown too large for people to actually enter without robotic assistance.) I called all of the domestic automakers, asking if they would be bringing hybrids to market anytime soon, and I ws told that none of them were. Honda and Toyota, however, had new models on the market, and I chose the Honda Civic Hybrid, which I’m still driving today, 11 years later. The only difference is, instead of getting 42 miles the gallon on average, as it did for the first 10 years of its life, it’s now getting about 26, and every single warning light on the dash is now lit up… And that’s why I’m posting this today.
It would seem that everything is failing at the same time, and, consequently, I’m in a position where I have to made a big, adult decision.
I’ve taken really good care of it over the years, but it would seem that, regardless of how you treat these cars, battery packs don’t last forever. Eventually they need to be recycled and replaced. And it’s an expensive process. A new battery pack, I’ve been told, costs about $3,000. I’ve known for a few months that I need one, but I’ve been in denial… hoping, I guess, that, if I don’t think about it, it’ll get better. But it’s not getting better. Every day another warning light starts glowing amber, and I lose another mile per gallon. (I don’t just need the new battery pack. I also need a new oxygen sensor, which will cost about $500.) Well, yesterday, I finally broke down and called a dealership, asking what I might get for a 2003 Honda Civic hybrid with 115,000 miles, a malfunctioning oxygen sensor, and a bad battery pack. The answer was a measly $500 to $750.
So, now, I’m turning to you, my invisible internet friends. I need your help thinking this through. I could break out the credit card, invest $3,500 into the car, and hope that I can get another few years out of it, or I could trade it in for something else. As I don’t want a car loan, I’m inclined to say that I should invest the $3,500, but, of course, there’s no guarantee that something else won’t break in the coming year. It is, after all, an 11 year old car. Still, though, Hondas generally hold up pretty well, and 115,000 miles isn’t all that much for a car that’s never missed an oil change.
There are, of course, two other options. One is that I try to exist without a car. The other is that I just drive this car until it expires alongside the road, like a exhausted, frozen Tauntaun. The first, I don’t think is practical, given the demands of my job, the tight time constraints I’m often under, and the various activities I’m involved with that don’t take place along bus lines. And the second, I think, isn’t terribly responsible, as I often have the kids with me, and I don’t think they’d much appreciate it if we got stranded somewhere late at night when it’s 20-degrees below zero outside.
So, with all that said, I’d like to roll out the first official MarkMaynard.com poll… I’m not promising that I’ll do what you tell me to, but I’m curious to know your thoughts, as all things car-related make me feel like an insecure, panic-stricken ten year old.
And, if there’s any doubt as to how much I hate buying and selling cars, here’s how I explained the process of buying my car back in 2002:
…This is the first time I’ve bought, or tried to buy, a car through a dealership, and I’m starting to understand and really appreciate the gut-wringing stress that I’ve heard alluded to throughout my life. It sucks. The whole car-buying process sucks huge, gnarled, boil-covered cocks…
[Mark Maynard Trivia: The day I bought my car in 2002 is the same day I conducted my worst in-person interview ever, with David Cross.]