An essay on the motivations and consequences of buying super expensive technology
30 October 2004
We all know that recently I went ahead and bought myself a brand spanking new car. At 22 years old, my first car is my first major purchase. Of course, any teenager has been dreaming of buying their first cars since before it was legal for them to drive it anywhere…
I remember myself pining for the all-American teenager’s first car: the Ford Mustang. Back when you’re 16 and you’re making $6 an hour at a job where you can only work like 10 hours a week, a $20,000 coupe seemed like the top of the world. Just a few years later, I got my license and my dad bought me/him a new car to share. Weeks after this car came home, it was just mine. And after a year of driving around a brand new $22,000 car, I realized that this car sucked. It wasn’t anything like me. It was bright red—a very daring and dangerous color. It had the crappiest stereo you could get in a luxury car (do they even come in just tape deck anymore?). The name was there, the luxury was there, but I didn’t pick it out—it just wasn’t me.
So I started shopping around. I’m 17 and I need my own car. I’m going to college and it’s time that I move on. (More about society’s role in shaping everyone’s lives in a later essay about binding moral and social consequence to the mentality of a frail human mind.) And the first way you move on when you’re 17 is the purchase of your own car.
So I went out and test drove a Mercury Cougar, Ford Focus. I hit a Ford Escape. I even flattered myself in a Ford Mustang. I think my new favorite pastime was test driving vehicles I couldn’t afford. So you know the first thing I did when I started my new $32,000 a year job was sign myself up.
And after six years of shopping, I finally passed the point of no return. So when I did pass that point, I started feeling things I’ve never felt before. So with no further ado, let me present…
The Stages of Buying Your First Car
There’s a lot to be said for those goody goodies who all get exactly what they want exactly when they want it. Take it from me, I went to a high school where we had students pulling up in brand new BMWs, SUVs, and the famous girl who threw a fit because her daddy bought her a brand new $40,000 Chrysler in the wrong color. Sometimes you just get upset that your friends have a new car, bought especially for them. The definition truly applies in this situation. So you pine and you stay in stage one until you can save up for a down payment.
So you finally decided to buy a car. It’s been a long time coming. There was always a new pair of shoes or a new evening gown or a vacation you needed to go on that was more important than asserting your independence.
When you finally get your ass over to a dealership to pick and choose, you finally arrive at the third stage of buying your first car. Sometimes you know what you want. Sometimes you think you know what you want. Sometimes you just have no idea. The hundred plus models available for purchase will drive you insane. Myself, I went from a Toyota Prius to a Ford Escape Hybrid to a Mini Cooper to almost a Chevy Impala (they drove so nice in both Miami and Palm Springs) to a Ford Mustang to a Ford Focus to a Ford Five Hundred (I literally cried when I found out I couldn’t afford it) and back to the Ford Focus.
My first real piece of advice comes in stage four: find a good—no, a GREAT—dealership. My first dealer was totally crazy. I wanted to like him, but you always hear about people having bad experiences at dealerships. This is why you always ask around. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I came in to put down a deposit on my Ford Focus and I kept calling him but he didn’t answer… So another dealer puts me in the Five Hundred test drive because it was beautiful. When I came back, my dealer told me that I couldn’t afford the Five Hundred and walked away. Seriously. The next business day (this shit went down on Friday, and Monday morning I went to Huntington), I put a $1,000 deposit down on a custom order from the factory (something the first guy didn’t even want to consider).
When you put that money down, you will immediately arrive at stage five. It’s perfectly normal to think that you made a mistake, that you picked the wrong car. It’s very easy to cancel the check and go right back into stage three. If you’re buying a new car, you may be standing there, waiting for the dealer to get the keys for you to drive it off the lot. You may be waiting for a month for your car to be customized (like I did). These long waiting periods will only make you more and more anxious. Perhaps you’ll take the road less traveled and decide that you bought the right car, but you need it right now…
You know you have the car coming. The dealer will try to get everything in order as soon as possible, but sometimes things take time. I was prepared to wait a month, what I wasn’t prepared for was my stupid ass Mystique to stall on me just as I get the call that my Focus is ready to be picked up. If the car you are currently driving is crap, buy a pack of gum and a cell phone. Like the song goes, the waiting is the hardest part.
I think this is especially true for first time new car owners. You want everything to stay as perfect for as long as possible. I remember that I bought a plastic Rubbermaid for my trunk “emergency pack” because I couldn’t bear the idea of putting that old cardboard box from the Mystique in my new, expensive first car. Even now, I walk around my car and pick off the leaves so they have no chance of getting suck to my new paint. Tomorrow I’m breaking out the vacuum to get the insides clean. Go ahead and ask me how many times I vacuumed the Mystique. That’s what I thought.
You will realize that you will finally slip into the old habits you had before you were a first time car owner. I went to the Michigan State game last two weeks ago and was dead set against letting Don eat the Panera I bought for us in the car. We were soaking wet, so I let it go, losing my control over the situation little by little. I even cleaned up some bird poop several times before deciding to take the Focus (who I’ve named Chocolat Chaud) to the car wash. Immediately after leaving the wash, the “new car” smell disappeared. Now it’s just my car.