I bought my 2000 Pontiac Grand Am in the winter of 2001/2002, my first year in Baltimore. It's been a pretty great car for me, fitting exactly what I wanted from that ages of 26-32. I wanted a sporty car with 4 doors. I wanted a distinctive color. I wanted an American car. I wanted something reliable and safe.
It's been all those things and more. I've loved this car.
That's not to say it hasn't had its problems, most of them being my fault. Within a year after purchasing it, I had let my insurance lapse (that was when I couldn't handle the summers of not being paid) and when I re-upped it, GEICO put the minimum insurance on it rather than the full coverage that it needed. I didn't realize it, because I don't notice things like that and assumed that the GEICO lady was re-upping me on what I had been on before. I didn't realize it until I ran into a curb (obscured by snow on a snow day) and both air bags deployed, and Geico wouldn't pay for it because it was a single-car accident. Thus, I've gone about 7 years without a horn or airbags; they would cost $5000-6000 out of pocket to fix.
About three or four years into my owning the car, I noticed that the power steering made noise when I turned the wheels. As I am prone to do, I just ignored it, although I thought I was just low on power steering fluid and just re-filled it a few times and it was fine for a bit. It turns out that I was slowly destroying my power steering. I'm not good with cars but when I brought it in once to a mechanic, he said the rack and pinion were shot and that the whole thing would cost $2000 to fix. I can handle a car without much power steering, so I just let it go. Around this same time the sun roof also stopped working - when it was open. It was fine because it was the summer, until one day we had a thunderstorm. I ran out to the car and put a garbage bag over it, and brought it into the dealer later. They almost gave up on trying to close it after trying and trying, but finally someone figured it out. The sunroof is now permanently closed and doesn't work.
The most annoying thing just happened about a month ago. My dad, for Christmas last year, got me a GPS. It changed my life. Even when I know where a place is, I turned it on, just so I didn't have to think about when to turn - the device to told me. I get lost all the time and often choose places to go based on not being worried about getting lost. So, the GPS really did change my life. I loved it. However, about a month ago, the cigarette lighter in my car conked out. No apparent reason, and I tried to replace it, to no avail. Probably a fuse or something, something I have no idea how to fix and some mechanic would probably charge me $150 to fix - not worth it.
I've also had some surface problems. My parked car got hit, knocking off the mirror. It was about $100 to fix it, and I didn't feel like it, so I never did. There's also a big crack across the windshield, that I don't care that much about. Plus currently the rearview mirror is dangling down after I hit a big pothole. I've bought the kit to fix it, but accidentally superglued the peg within the mirror, so now I'm not sure if the kit will work. I don't care that much about it.
Obviously, that's my thing. For a long time, I've not cared what happened to this car, because I'm just sort of waiting for it to die. I've loved this car and it's nice to have a paid-off car, but I've needed a new vehicle for some time now. First off, the power steering thing has a capacity to be dangerous, I think. Secondly, I'd feel like a Darwin's Award candidate if I died in an accident because I don't have airbags. Thirdly, the car is not reliable enough to risk on a trip to Michigan, so my trips to Michigan are always more expensive (re: I might have to fly, or rent a car, or both, now) and less rewarding (no gallavanting around the state visiting friends). I barely trust it on a trip to DC.
Still, I love having a paid-off car and, after just buying a new house, don't want to add a car payment to my expenses. I still have a couple thousand dollars worth of credit card on my plate that I'm trying really hard to eliminate before I add a car loan onto my total debt. I only have about a grand saved up. The car is fine for getting me to work and around Baltimore.
I really want to drive home for Christmas, though. And I'd like something a little bigger to cart around my bike or baseball equipment or kids easier. But, I'm not sure what I want to do. I also want something with decent mileage.
I'm having a pretty hard time deciding what route to take. Should I go ahead and just get something cheap, like, say, a 2002 Ford Taurus? I could probably get one for a few thousand dollars, and it might very well be reliable. But how reliable? That's the rub. I'd really like to get a Liberty or a Honda CR-V (both are smallish SUV-types that perfectly fit what I want right now), but they might be too expensive. I don't want to get another bad car loan. I'm not sure whether to save up for something I really, really want, or take the plunge sooner rather than later. We'll see...
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