Thursday, October 17, 2013

What's it cost to own the world's most adorable car?

I just waved goodbye to one of the last remnants of my 20s -- the 2001 lime green Volkswagen Beetle I bought shortly after I graduated from college.

Parting is such sweet sorrow.
The moment was cinematic: Brad drove home in his new-to-him blue Elantra and behind him was my adorable smiley face of a car, driven by the salesman* coming to collect the title and the spare key. 

I gave the the bug one last hug and watched as it rolled away down our leaf-strewn street -- a single tear gathering in the corner of my eye. 

You could almost hear strains of Sarah McLachlan in the breeze. 
Brad, Bug, tile cutter. (He's not impressed)

So many memories sat shotgun over the nine years I owned the car -- like the time I drove to Philadelphia to pick up a friend from the airport and squeezed four passengers and luggage into it -- getting lost in Camden, N.J. along the way. 

Or, driving to work across town in the middle of a record-setting snowstorm that eventually dropped almost 4 feet of snow (and getting stopped by the police who suggested the Beetle wasn't the best all-terrain vehicle -- Brad and I just flashed our press passes 'cuz the news don't quit). 

Or, using it to haul a tile cutter rented from Home Depot for a weekend tiling project (that might have been the first time a Beetle pulled up to the contractors pickup area). 

Or, driving up and down I-83 in the summer with the windows down and the radio blaring "Funeral" by the Arcade Fire. And watching countless gleeful children point at me then punch each other. 

I loved how the car smelled like crayons. How there were lime green accents in the car's interior. How there was a vase for flowers by the steering wheel. How the car looked like a cheerful little hill on wheels. And how it made me feel young and free and joyful.
Even my mom loved it! 
Here she is looking young and joyful. 
(Photo courtesy of my sister Jen)

All of these wonderful virtues almost made up for the cars' more unsavory qualities. 

Namely, the oft-glowing presence of the check engine light (and the airbag sensor light). The time the button that gave me access to the gas tank broke. Or that time a tire blew off while I was heading down a steep stretch of 322 on my way home from State College. 

Oh, and the nasty habit of various plastic components to snap off or crack as the years wore on.

Pieces that broke included: The knob to adjust the side-view mirror, a driver's side door light, a button on the radio, the passenger's side window control, a large plastic cover on the center counsel, the oil dipstick holder, the adjusters for the passenger's seat (the seat never clicked into place so a passenger could never safely sit there) and all of the cup holders.

On its last days with us, Brad took it to the car wash and the antenna and a seat handle both broke off -- leaving the employees bewildered and apologetic (on the upside, we did get a free wash!).

In an effort to soothe broken heart and expedite the grieving process, I collected all of the invoices of car repairs I'd saved over the years and tallied exactly how much I'd invested (squandered?) on my 'lil buggy.

My stack-o-bills and a Barbie Beetle (thanks Aunt Mo!).
I'm pretty sure an actual-sized version of the plastic-version of my Beetle
would be more reliable than the actual car. If that makes any sense.
The price for cute?


No, that's not how much I purchased the car for used (that number was $14,536.01). Nor is it just the amount for routine maintenance. 

That's the portion of my modest journalist's salary that I used to try to turn off the check engine light for the nine years I owned the car (I think I deserve a refund -- we traded the car in with the light still on because it wouldn't pass inspection) as well as repair or replace various hoses, belts, filters, flanges, rods, meters and other sundry mechanical-type things. Oh yeah, and the transmission. Yeah. That one was a doozy.  

Adding up the final costs I'm mortified that I spent spent so much so that I could drive a car that smelled like the first day of school and made children commit acts of violence. 

I blame it partially on being young and optimistic. I just kept thinking it would get better. That the next major repair would be the last and that we'd drive off into the sunset together, happily ever after. 

Instead, one of the biggest mistakes of my youth slunk off in broad daylight on its way to becoming someone else's problem**.

I'm gonna miss that car.

* I have to imagine that had the salesman (a Bro's Bro) known he was going to have to drive a lime green Volkswagen Beetle from Hanover to York and back that day, he would not have chosen to wear a soft pink polo shirt.

** Brad was shocked they didn't ask us to pay them to take it away when we offered it is a trade-in. The dealership actually gave us money for it!

1 comment:

  1. Well done! I was laughing and imagining you tearing across 83 with great abandon in the Summer months. Love this.