Friday, June 22, 2007

An Aging Fleet

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that we currently have three cars for (usually) two people in my household. Before you label me as totally decadent, consider that their combined age is 40 years and their combined mileage is 360,000.

Our oldest car is a 1985 Volvo wagon we bought for $5,000 in 1996 when our oldest child got his license. The goal was a solid car that was too old to go very fast. It fit the bill perfectly. The old gray wagon bears the scars of many small scrapes with parking garages and the like, but it’s never been in a major accident, having now been driven by both my children and my friend Deborah’s daughter as well. Today it mostly sits waiting for a child to come home and usually needing a jump start to get it going again. But it is a rather simple car and it was obviously built to last. The thing that amazes me most is the fact that the automatic door locks and power windows still work and have never been repaired.

The “middle” car is a 1991 standard transmission Honda, purchased new for $14,000. It is ostensibly MY car. In all these years it has never left me stranded. It’s seen a couple of minor accidents, but nothing amounting to much damage. It’s on the second or third timing belt and maybe the second clutch, but it’s not guzzling oil and it’s still reasonably peppy. At 180,000 it has lived a very good life.

Our “new” car is a 2005 Prius, by far the most energy efficient of the three and with an initial sticker price much higher than the other two combined. It is deluxe by anyone’s standards, with things like a GPS and all sorts of graphical information about fuel consumption and you name it. (When I drive the Prius, I turn off the GPS and all the glitzy graphs because they drive me crazy.) It is HIS car. It’s also so much better for his back than the Honda or so he says, so rarely do I drive the newest addition.

I’ve been considering what to do when the two oldies bite the dust, which is inevitable. I can actually imagine getting by with just one car eventually. We’re both retired with fairly flexible schedules and we both have good bicycles.

So here’s my plan: take the money that would have gone into a new car for me (it would be MY turn) and buy a grand piano. It would never leave my living room of course and could easily cost as much as a new hybrid of any sort. It would bring me untold enjoyment. After all a car is just a means to an end. A piano, on the other hand, is a means to a beginning – a new level of music making. And by all reports, it would be far better for the environment than any automobile.

How do you vote? Should I be thinking Steinway when the old cars are no more?


Anonymous Bengal said...

Barbara, as for the current car "situation," there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. (I'm suppressing the urge to write something facetious, such as, "Shame on you! You're not doing your share to uphold the mindless, gotta-have-it-all, gotta-have-it-now!, borrow-and-spend consumer culture and economy in this country! What are you and Dave, some kind of Communists?") It sounds like the Volvo has already served it purpose; perhaps it can serve the same purpose for another family with a teenager before it's ready to bite the dust.

As for the Steinway ... go for it! Just do it! It will bring you so much more joy than any car ever could. You are so fortunate to have the skill (and, now, the time) to bring such an instrument to life.

11:33 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I could not agree with Bengal more heartily! Get the baby grand!


2:44 AM  
Blogger Jamy said...

I vote for piano!

9:17 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Wow. That's great! Piano. Piano!

11:18 AM  
Blogger GEWELS said...

Absolutely- Steinway for sure. After all we should all be taking more public transportation.

We also ahve 3 cars- the third being my FUN car that I won't drive in ice or snow. So, keeping the old mini-van around for those days. Besides, it can haul way more stuff than the jag.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

My answer, (sung!) "I love a piano, I love a piano,I love to hear those a piano, a grand piano,....p-i-a-n-o-o-o-!

4:56 PM  
Blogger Old Lady said...

Bikes, public transit, retired, one car, one grand piano. Perfect.

1:10 PM  

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