1. A depreciating asset. It is not something that goes up in value; it is constantly dropping in value. So, it should be treated as such.
2. A tool. I drive it to and from work. Nothing more. Nothing less.
So, I want something that is reliable and comfortable.
Over the last year our 1998 BMW 328i has been on a death watch. We have been waiting for that next bill to come along were we look at the price and say ‘not worth fixing, buy a new car’.
That time almost came in the summer/fall a few times:
- We put a huge scratch in the passenger side while pulling it into the garage while attempting to miss the $13 garbage can. That is $750 (We just left it, instead of fixing it. After all .. why fix aesthetics if it on a death watch?)
- Two new snow tires and some maintenance work: $750. Nope, keep driving as that is less than the monthly payment of a new car.
But about 2 weeks ago, the time came. I was driving into Toronto and a light came on. I laughed and thought ‘That is a new light. Never seen that one before’. When I got to the office, I looked in the manual and it was the brake lights. The manual said something like this:
You are toast. You have not bothered to have the brakes checked in a really long time. They are about to fail and you could go crashing over a bridge in a ball of flames if you don’t get them fixed right now. Do not pass go. Go straight to a mechanic.
Well, I had a Christmas lunch to go to so I went to that first, figuring I would drop it straight off after the lunch. Bad idea.
I started driving and a funny thing happened … the brakes started to make an awful grinding noise. Now, I am no mechanic but I know that is bad because I have been around machinery all my life. After all, I have the scars to prove it in the form of a long burn on my shoulder from where a piece of hot metal fell while I was welding the muffler back onto my Hyundai Pony with my new girlfriend watching (She is now my wife, who wouldn’t marry a University guy who knows how to weld?)
Anyhow, it starts grinding really bad. Every stop is a terrible noise. People are looking at me funny. Parents are moving their kids away from the edge of the sidewalk as who knows when this thing will blow. I limp to the lunch and during the conversation, bring up my current car grinding situation. A brilliant compatriot suggest ‘use the parking brake’. BRILLIANT! Well, good enough. It gets me to the mechanic.
I drop off the keys; they say they will call me with an estimate. I get a call 2 hours, later: $1300. Oh no. This is too close to call. It is December. Do I really want to buy a car when entering the winter or wait for the summer? We may move, how does that factor in? Is that large enough to do it? I decide to do the work. I will get through the winter (After all I just bought new winter tires) and buy in the spring.
The next day they call (Saturday). Sorry, could not get the parts. Will have it done end of day Monday. Shoot, that is inconvenient but ok.
They call Monday. Sorry, wrong estimate. It is actually $2000.
Three hours later, I had a new car.
But I did not trade in the BMW. I wanted to get some money for it. That story is for the next blog.