Saying goodbye to an old friend

I vowed I would never panic buy a car again. In fact, in order to avoid that, I pumped thousands of dollars into my 1999 Tan Ford Escort Wagon, the car that I had been driving for the past 12 years. I have systemically replaced this car piece by piece over the past 5 years, or so it seems like it. The standing joke I have with my mechanic is that I have singlehandedly put his son through college…of course, not even close, but I have dropped a lot of money there. They kept telling me that the engine was sound and it was still cheaper than buying a new car…until it wasn’t. I was spending $300 about every 2 weeks in the end.

In 2003, my previous car, a Royal Blue 1993 Chrysler Plymouth Sedan, met its unfortunate demise when I came speeding out of an alley without looking to my left and was hit by a brand, spanking new, Nissan which was being test driven by a very nice family. There was a Nissan dealership at the top of my street. It had been an extremely difficult morning with my then 3 year old son, who at the time was at the height of his uncontrollable crazy little self. I was late for an appointment and am fond of Chicago alley travel for expediency. To this day, I still remember the cracking, crunching, crashing, horrific sound of 2 large metal objects attempting to occupy the same space at the same time…immediately followed by the surprising pain in my left hip which was the point of contact between my car and the Nissan. The hematoma that developed the next day was truly mindblowingly purple, black and blue. I felt terrible for this family who was test driving a car.

The noise was such that several people from the Nissan dealership came out to see what had happened, so there was no fleeing the scene. Not to mention the fact that the tire on the front passenger side of the Plymouth was in a completely undrivable orientation. It had to be towed to my mechanic a few blocks away. Within hours, it was “given its last rites.” I borrowed a friend’s car for my evening client appointment, then walked into the same Nissan dealership the next day and bought the 1999

Ford Escort Wagon Courtesy of

Ford Escort Wagon
Courtesy of

Ford Escort for $8,995.

I knew the wagon was on its last legs and I had even started asking my mechanic and other people if they knew of a good used car for sale. But, I was hoping the Ford would last through the summer so that I could recoup a bit of the money I had just spent. I decided it was time to take a road trip to Carmax which is inconveniently located on the frontage road next to the Edens Expressway in Northbrook. I hadn’t taken the Ford on the expressway for several weeks since it was sputtering whenever I started it after short journeys and it lurched if I had to stop suddenly. I decided to take a chance. My husband, Martin, and I set off for Carmax last Monday morning. It started happily and we made it to our destination without any apparent problem. We were SO wrong.

The first thing I said to the Carmax rep was “we are NOT buying a car today.” It was hot out on the lot. There were no cars under $10K and I knew they were all overpriced due to their “no haggle” pricing policy. We were satisfied with the information we had gathered and were waiting to find out how much Carmax would offer us for the Ford. The appraisal was for $50 and the rep told me they were afraid to drive the car. I thought nothing of it since the car had been acting funny for months at this point. We got in the car, I turned the key in the ignition and it made a sound that in my 45 year driving history, I have never heard a car make, followed by burning. I knew we weren’t going anywhere in that car.

Part 2 to follow…

I’m sure there are many of you who have great car buying stories. I would love to hear from you!

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Filed under: Humor, Life's Lessons

Tags: car buying, Carmax

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