By on April 11, 2012


Commitment. It’s one of those words that is either an affirmation of your beliefs, or a fear ridden long-term deal with the devil.

Commitment also happens to be the double edged sword of automotive ownership.

It means sacrificing the fickle fashions of tomorrow for a vehicle that may gradually become more of a ‘daily companion’ than a passionate lover. While many of your friends and neighbors find new love and new trysts, you must chose to do more with an all too familiar partner for the open road.

Yes, the acceleration will gradually be in the rear view mirror of tomorrow’s front runners. The seats will age. The maintenance needs will lighten your wallet, and the avant garde of newness will give way to the less thrilling realities of beaterdom.

But then again, some partners offer a far better bang for the buck. Even when you’re reelin’ in the years and rollin’ away the time.

Marry The One You Love:  Have you always longed for a 1st generation Miata? Then buy one! Even if it cost a little bit more to buy than say, the late Mercury Capri on the front end, the dividends of having your chosen chariot for a long-term relationship is far more intrinsically valuable and rewarding.

Car buyers who buy what they love usually take better care of their vehicles,  drive them for longer periods of time, and in the long run… spend less.  They also on average get far more money when it comes time to sell their car.

So forget about ‘the deal’ serving as priority one when buying your next car. I have yet to find a car owner who has told me, “I’m in love with the rebates, incentives and APR financing for my car!” But then again, most of my friends don’t drive stripped out Cobalts.

Keep It Young: A nice day out in the sun may make a 20-something look even better. But years of UV exposure do a devastating number on your skin.

The same is true with your car. If you are one of those people who uses their garage to hold various forms of worthless bric-a-brac instead of your daily ride, do yourself a favor. Throw out or move all that unused furniture, storage containers, and sentimental drek and put your car in it’s rightful place.

Keep it waxed once a year. Give the interior the occasional cleaning, and you’re good to go for a decade plus. If you have the true inclinations of a long-term keeper, a session with a dent removal specialist once every two years will also be money well spent.

You would be surprised how ‘new’ an old car can be.

Don’t Play The Field: Are you looking at car porn again? Geez! Don’t you know that what you’re looking at isn’t quite real?

No joke. That nice pciture of a 370Z doing a drift down some winding road in Deliverance country is about as relevant and realistic as a porn star’s moaning and groaning. Yes, it can be done. But the guy with that car is a trained professional and, Ron Jeremy is…  well… let’s forget about that analogy!

Truth be told, the more ‘goodness’ you put into your car, the less willing you will be to leave it.  So the next time you get the urge to dream about the un-doable, go to Ebay and buy that loving companion of yours a nice bra!

Fall In Love… Again: It’s easy to fall in love again when it comes to cars.  In fact, I would argue that it is easier to fall in love with an old car than it is to revive a dormant old relationship.  An old car can almost always be brought back to the personality it once had. Struts, seats, body parts, engines and transmissions can all be replaced with the very best the aftermarket has to offer.

You can always change a car’s personality. Old friends and ‘associates’ are not nearly as malleable.




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36 Comments on “Hammer Time: Choosing Partners...”

  • avatar

    In because greyhounds.

    It’s amazing what some people frown at because “it’s old”. Why? Because there is no useless touchscreen, ipod connected radio (which can easily be retrofitted)? Because it doesn’t look like a jellybean pillbox? Remember that everything gets old, but not everything can be timeless.

  • avatar

    Some cars are just keepers. I’ve had my Triumph Spitfire 18 years, and God willing and the creek don’t rise I expect to have the little guy in another 18 years. I feel the same way about my 328i – it seems like the last of a dead breed. RWD, 6spd manual, station wagon, insanely smooth six. I expect to have it a long time.

    Steven is spot on about keeping a car up – it amazes me how people let cars get decrepit. Broken plastic bits, filthy, dent covered. If something breaks, fix it!

  • avatar

    Well, it’s been about 40 years since I got the Hudson, and it’s still in the garage. Got married about the same time, and still have the same wife.

    The Terraplane has been around for about 30 years.

    The 60 Chrysler arrived about 25 years ago.

    So I know a little about keepers.

    The 70 Eldorado has only been here for about 2 years, but I think that one’s a keeper.

    On the other hand, the Mark VIII, Cougar XR7, various Caprices and Impalas, and the LaSalle were definately not keepers. Good for a while, but ultimately they wore out their welcome and had to go.

    The 2007 BMW might be a keepr. Still too soon to tell, though after 80,000 miles, I still really enjoy this car. We’ll decide when the extended warranty ends.


  • avatar

    If I ever get rid of my ultra-reliable 05 xB, I think my kids will believe I’ve committed car adultery; two of them were with me when I bought it, the younger one being only 6 at the time. It seems to be a keeper, but I must admit to ‘playing the field’ as you call it, thanks in part to TTAC!

    • 0 avatar

      My ’04 xB is going pretty strong, though it only has 60k, and the box is such a practical shape for my 6’3″ frame. I have to admit I’ve been looking for something new. Eight years was more than I planned on driving something with only 108 horsepower. I will miss her when she’s gone.

      • 0 avatar

        Same here – 6’6″, 66k miles. I had hoped to keep it a while, however, since I had kept my prior two cars only 3 years each, but the one before that went 12 years. I would like something with a bit more power, and quieter.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I keep cars a long time, but not for sentimental reasons. I hate the fricitonal costs and depreciation that go along with frequent vehicle changes.
    Sales tax especially gets my goat. So, to keep total cost of ownership low, I have developed some mechanical skills over the years that enable me to keep my heaps rolling at minimal cost.
    My wife says I’ll make a fine geezer some day.

  • avatar

    My ’09 Fit, thanks to my commute of 120 miles (round-trip), already has 77,000 miles on it. I would really like to get 8 years out of it, which in my case will mean somewhere around 250k miles. (Not only am I cheap, but I’m also a stick in the mud so I like driving a car that I’m used to.) Judging by how trouble-free it’s been so far (plus the fact that almost all my miles are easy highway miles), I think I have a decent shot.

  • avatar

    In a climate with harsh, salty winters, I’ve decided to store my car for 4 months every year, as did the owners before me. I can easily do without a car over winter – actually with the hassle of parking on city streets in snowbanks, it’s preferable – and the up side is that I have a car that will last at least twice as long. I’d sooner buy a cheap beater than drive my “nice” car through the salt. The result: when I changed out my suspension last month ($2,000 in quality aftermarket stuff), there was barely even surface rust on the underside of the car, and people think I’m baller because they believe my ’99 is a brand new car.

    I agree with Steve: find something you love, take care of it, have a happy driving life.

  • avatar

    We use our garage for its intended puropse – to keep our cars. We have three, admittedly the Impala sits outside much of the time unless it is going to be bitterly cold, then I kick out the MX5…

    We love all our heaps and do keep thwm for the long haul. So far, our 1990 Acclaim made it to 10½ years before we traded it. Our 2002 CR-V will beat it. My Impala is only 8 years, so far.

  • avatar

    My old Accord was still beautiful, and fun to drive at 12.5 yrs. I should get similar service out of my ’08 civic unless I fall hopelessly in love with the BRZ or whatever the Scion version will be called.

    Steve: do you think I couild resurrect a Peugeot 404 back to original personality? If I could even find one?

  • avatar

    Love (or like) sometimes cannot survive changed expectations (or circumstances). We bought our Mazda6 HB because our truck was showing signs of impending death. The Mazda was supposed to replace the SUV, at least the way we use it (carry pets and assorted crap). And it does that.

    The problem is that the truck didn’t die and is so old that it only makes sense to drive the truck until it requires a repair that just cannot be justified (think engine, transmission or rusted out body). So the decision is to keep the car until the truck dies, or trade/sell it for a vehicle that better serves my current needs or desires.

  • avatar

    I have had too many changes in my life to keep the same car. I have no relationships to them. I have had dozens upon dozens of work cars, all of them brand new from every make, model and style. Trucks, cars, SUV, CUV – they are wheels to get my job done. Ever since college, I have used new cars as I use computers – tools.

    They are like horses. Some folks love them like pets. I don’t.

    Right now I have a car on the verge of being outgrown because of my growing family. It is a fine car. But it is too small to do the job anymore. I’m ready to get a F-150 four door with the ecoboost 6. The minivan is becoming even more of a health risk. We need either a new vehicle – god not another minivan! – or the county may condemn the one we are driving now.

    I love cars and trucks. I don’t have time for them, other than to gas them up and visit the dealer for maintenance, however.

  • avatar

    I keep my cars meticulously maintained. They do have a priority order, though. The Mustang lives in the garage,and is driven regularly,but never in rain, snow,or salt. I plan to leave my Mustang to my grandkids. The Impala is used for long cruises. I try not to drive it in salt,but sometimes I have no choice. I will drive the Impala untill it becomes economicly unfeasable.

    I also still have my wifes 2009 2dr Cobalt. [She no longer drives].

    I really don’t know what to do with it. I might sell it and take the loss. My kids would love me to give it to them. I might do nothing, and just wash, and detail it,and drive it. With gas here at over five dollars a gallon,…..not such a bad idea.

    • 0 avatar


      Perhaps, just for fun (or seriously), Geozinger might be interested in your Cobalt, after all, he is an aficionado of “Cockroaches of the Road”©, currently driving a Cavalier!


      • 0 avatar

        @Zackman….Truth be known “Geozinger” and others comments, have a lot to do with why I keep it.

        I figure, that every mile/klm on the Cobalt is one less on the Impala. It may take me a long time,but I will recover some of my cash out of my little silver Cockroach.

    • 0 avatar

      Give to your kids the cobalt, unless they are under 20 do not do it, sell it to them at a very fair price yes, if they pay for it they will respect it much more than as a gift. A 2009 car should last them about 8 years if they treat it right,

  • avatar

    I recently read a comment on a forum that I thought was great. It read something like this:

    Lots of people use their garage to store boxes of worthless junk and let $80,000 cars sit in their driveway and rot.

    So true!

    • 0 avatar
      beach cruiser

      I have this example in my own fine neighborhood, a family down the street has their 3 car garage packed to the ceiling with junk. They have a sort of tunnel that allows them access to the house from the garage door. Mean while their two cars, a late model BMW and a two year old Corvette Z06 sit outside. I bought my house 25 years ago and have always kept 3 cars in the 3 car garage. This makes me the weird guy in the hood.

      • 0 avatar
        Japanese Buick

        Well in fairness to the junk filled garage owners with the tunnel to the house (of which I was one until last week) no one intends for that to happen. It accumulates over time and when you realize it’s happening it’s too late. Then it becomes a matter of finding the time and energy to clean out the garage, which many people do not have. I ended up taking a vacation day from work clean out my garage enough to park the MX-5 I had just acquired. The Lexus and my wife’s Explorer still sit outside… I did the easy part, cleaning enough to get a 2nd car in there will be twice as hard. I’d like to do it but I gotta work, volunteer, do my taxes, etc etc.

      • 0 avatar

        Seems like a pretty straightforward problem to solve.

        1) Rent dumpster. They’ll drop it off.
        2) Place all contents of garage into dumpster. Exclude only tools and other vehicular items.
        3) Send dumpster away.
        4) Park car in garage.

        I’ve been in a lot of garages that were full of junk, and helped several people rehabilitate their crap-filled space into a real working garage. I don’t recall ever seeing something out there that was actually worth holding onto.

        Anything that can go months or years in the garage without being opened or used can probably be safely thrown away.

    • 0 avatar

      Thinking of my own street, I am nearly alone in parking both cars (relatively large ones, at that) in my garage. Others’ are filled with junk, or have become suburban driveway living rooms, complete with couches, dart boards, beer fridges, and TVs.

  • avatar


    I’m currently plaing around with the idea of buying a 97 Twingo…Problem is it’d have to do as a daily driver. The one I’m looking at, the paint is not so good (specially roof), but it’s quite sound mechanically. All bits and pieces are working.

    I’m tired of paying through the nose for brand new cars. Figure I’ll give the beater idea a roll. Or not.

    What do you think?

  • avatar

    I’m always a proponent of getting something you love and keeping it forever, or at least until you outgrow the love. I was going on 6 years and 100k with my RSX-S before leaving her for the greener pastures of a 2000 S2000 with 90k on the clock and a new top.

    I’m an enthusaist and keep my cars meticulously maintained, have a whole slew of fluids and parts in the basement to freshen up the AP1 with this weekend. I figure the car is good for a couple years as a daily driver and at least a decade as a weekend toy.

    Which brings me to the “I’m in love with the financing/rebates” comment above:
    My wife’s 10′ Mazda 3 Hatch. I love the car. It is a blast to drive, and has enough convenience features to make it useful for a long time and gets decent gas mileage. It will be mine one day when she gets whatever mom-mobile we do when the child situation warrants it. But it was the 0%/5 year incentive that got us in the door to buy it in the first place. I don’t know what it counts for, and probably saved us $10k price and interest over the CPO’d A3s we were looking at, but I love the 3 for the price and incentives Mazda was willing to throw at us at the time as well.

  • avatar

    My partner of the last 9 years has a drinking problem. It never bothered me too much until recently. I’ve been getting by, by seeing a Miata on the side but that is getting played out. What to do…

  • avatar

    I’ve only recently stopped being a car whore. It was a very expensive hobby that in the economic bubble and pre-scrappage era meant that I could own every obscure ’70s and ’80s car out there- Rover SD1, Lancia Gamma, Citroens- GSA, GS, CX Pallas, Wartburg, Ladas, Austin Allegro and the list goes on… (I’m an expat living in the UK and wanted to drive the esoterica that we couldn’t get back in the states)

    Finally, the cheap ‘like new’ classic car supply dried up around the same time I had to take a salary hit. It was for the best. I now have a one owner ’79 Volvo 245DL, which I’ve had since 2009, a record for me. You’re so right about falling in love and staying in love. It was an automatic, and I wanted a manual. Instead of giving up such a lovely car, I just swapped the gearbox over. I hated only getting 25mpg, so instead of getting a penalty box, I converted the beast to LPG. I wished I had a sports car, so I spent some money at IPD mail order- and even more on shipping/customs. Now it handles. I didn’t like the vinyl seats, so I fitted a velour GLT interior in the same blue. Right now, I’m a bit annoyed by my early model’s heavy manual steering with my wider wheels, but a power rack and pump from a scrapyard for £50 will fix that. Best of all, I know it inside and out, I know what parts are new, what will break, and where to get cheap parts. I know what noises are just character and what are signs that it needs more love. I know that 3K mile oil changes with a genuine Volvo filter will make it last longer, and I know how to change my own heater matrix.

    I realised (particularly when changing said heater matrix) that Volvos aren’t great cars. They are mortal like any other, but they tended to rust a bit less than everything else and they are easy to fix and modify. I think the real reason that the bricks have become legendary isn’t because of any intrinsic quality in the cars themselves, but because of the owners who buy them. For some reason, Volvo owners are (or at least were in the pre-Ford era) automonogamists, hence my ability to acquire a 30 year old car from its original owner who was giving up driving. Sure an A-body Century or an LeSabre/Delta 88 3800 may be just as reliable (okay probably more reliable,) but in the under 75 demographic, they just don’t inspire the same loyalty and love as an old Volvo does. Volvo used to advertise that its cars had an average lifespan of 17 years. I’d put a substantial wager that the majority of those 17 year old cars were still in the same family.

    • 0 avatar

      You sir are sick and I for one understand your sickness as mine is Saabs ( I had a 86 900 turbo vert that I had for ten years, the wife hated it as it was a stick only one of 100 made that year out of 350 and said get rid of it no garage , you do not drive it enough… I sold it to someone in France who will restore it and I still miss it so I am looking for another saab vert to replace her. I feel for you and have a Volvo 2000 xc with 175 k waiting for my daughter to take over in the fall when she drives. And well the FIAT 124 … well that is another story

  • avatar

    My rule is to give me ten good years and it will be time to get a new one. During those ten years, the car gets a garage spot, waxed two times a year, and maintenance done exactly to the manufacturer’s schedule. More often than not though, life throws you some curves that get in the way of the rule. Time to have children? Goodbye Rabbit GTI (my all-time favorite car). Wife has shoulder surgery and can’t drive a stick anymore? Goodbye Lancer Evolution VIII. Kids need a car to go to school/sports/extracurricular activities/mall/ad nauseum? Goodbye gas-guzzling and rollover-prone Pathfinder.

    If life could be simpler and a Miata purchased when you were 20 would be all the car you would need for the next two decades, but it usually doesn’t work out that way.

  • avatar

    This article really makes me miss my old 1988 Mercury Grand Marquis. Would have another in a heartbeat if I could stomach the fuel bill. I wish I had the money and the knowledge to put a modern powerplant and transmission into one. I think the old Windsor only had like 150 HP – I could get that out of a modern 4 cylinder without too much trouble, have similar power/torque, modern reliability, and far lower MPG….ah, if only.

  • avatar

    Great post! We have three Hondas, all with over 120,000 miles. We have no plans to get rid of any of them until my kids are done with college – 6 years from now.

    My strategy for keeping cars long-term is this: If you have one niggling problem, let it slide. But the instant you have TWO niggling problems, make an appointment to get them both fixed. Sure, it feels silly and expensive to sit in the dealership all morning while they replace a dashboard lightbulb and address a loose speaker wire. But this way, you avoid those little problems that add up until you say, “Hey, this thing’s a POS – time for a new one!”

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