Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Let's talk cars ... math included!

Because why not?

I took my car in to get an oil/lube/filter and tire rotation. $25.00 spent in the preventative care of my car. Money well spent, yes?

I was told that my transmission fluid is a little dirty, and I'll need to get the fluids flushed soon. This is not preventative care, so much as it's more ... urgent care. I was quoted roughly $140 for this little procedure. Which really, as car repairs go, isn't too bad.

At some point, I also need to get one of the hoses replaced in my engine, mainly because it's the factory hose, and soon I'll be running on borrowed time as to when it starts to fall apart. This piece of auto surgery will cost about $350. The part itself only costs about $25 - the labor is the sticky wicket on this venture.

Also, I have a monster crack in my windshield that I've lived with for 5 years. Luckily, it doesn't, nor has it ever impeded my vision while driving. But it's worth a fix-it ticket at least. This is also the 2nd windshield I've had on my car, so I'll be working toward #3 ... replacement windshields cost anywhere from $200-$250 for most small to midsized cars. The cool part, is that you can get companies to come to where you are, pop out your old windshield, and install the new one right there. I've seen it.

So let's tally this up:
$140 transmission fluid flush
350 engine hose replacement
225 replacement windshield (this is the median price, I figure)
$715 total repairs

So, $715 and my car is as good as new... minus the 71,000 miles it already has on it.

Now, according to Kelly Blue Book, my 2003 Mazda Protege DX with my car's particular specs, would sell for $7,180. That would wipe out my debt AND put a little in my pocket.

Now, subtracting the $715 I would need pay BEFORE I sold my car, I'm really only looking at about $6,465 in profit. Still, not too shabby. My car is also completely paid for, so I don't have to worry about paying off a car loan.

Here's my predicament. Where I'm moving, I'm not really going to need a car. The Southern California megatropolis is one of the few thriving cities that has sub-par (and let's face it), crappy public transportation. LA County is getting better, but the OC really has such little hope. Trust me, friends ... I've seen cities with competent, even ingenious public transportation. It's not a myth!

I have a huge moral dilemma in owning a car. I realize that in living where I live at the moment, I need one. I really do understand that. But in this increasingly maddening climate rise, I cannot justify pumping more carbon emissions into the air than I absolutely need to (I have a similar moral objection to bearing children, but I'll save that for another time). And the only reason I do need to, is because I live here. And in fact, I want to leave. My solution then, seems clear. Sell the car, and go.

My hesitation arises from the "what if?" factor. What if I need to come back to work for a little bit? What if I will actually need a car in Calgary? What if selling my only financial asset at the moment is a bad thing? And so on, and so forth ...

But this is not a time for pragmatic fence-sitting. This is a time to be brave; a time to be bold. I think most of us have, or are now starting to have similar moral objections to the way our world is being treated. Yet we cling to this old dogma of stuff; the mantra that we are nothing without things ... things make us, things define us, things communicate our worth. Hooray for neo-capitalism! I'm actually very low-maintenance when it comes to collecting stuff. Music, DVDs, books; these are typically as far as I go down the road of acquirement. My car is, and has been, my Achilles' Heel in this category.

I've had the long standing belief that cars equate freedom, and liberty; just like Jack Sparrow waxes poetical about The Black Pearl. When I was 16, I was given a great freedom - not just because I passed the driver's test for my license, but because, for the first time in my life, I could dictate where I went, when I went, and didn't need to rely on others for the cargo of my person. This was a really big deal for me, because as a child of divorce, I spent about half of my time in a car with either respective parent. Driving was always such a hassle for them, even though my parents only lived about 35 minutes apart. And the day when I drove my car from my dad's house to my mom's ... on my own ... was possibly one of the top five days of my life, to date. It also doesn't help that my car was a college graduation present from my family. And the amount of memories, road-trips, and friends I've experienced in my car ... I've driven across the country twice. How many people can say they've done that?

What I'm trying to say, is that I have a ridiculous amount of emotional attachment to my car. Independence to an independent person is mother's milk; it's a necessity. I hate asking for rides almost as much as I hate borrowing money. It's simply not in my nature.

But what's more important? My emotional pride in the illusion of providing for myself? Or helping the planet? To me, that's essentially what this dilemma boils down to. What I need to remember is that public transportation is the happy medium in the crux of my problem; I can be independent and get to where I want to go, without sucking down fossil fuels or having a high carbon footprint.

I find this hard to remember, however, in an area where public transportation is treated like a bonus, and not requirement.

And maybe if I can be bold, and cast off my cloak of automobile attachment and dependence, maybe I can inspire others to do the same.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world."

Ghandi is my homeboy.
This blog post is brought to you by:

The Weakerthans
Brie, salami, and multi-grain cracker finger sandwiches
My car: Trinity


Phoenix said...

As an automobile dependent girl, I salute you. If I weren't in LA, I'd try to follow suit.

Jen said...

I will admit I'm often too lazy or too rushed to use Portland's adequate public transportation system. I have often thought about getting rid of my car to force myself to use it. But then I remember that public transportation doesn't take me to the middle of nowhere past Mt. Hood, and it has to stay.