Is it just me, or does it seem sometimes like owning a car can be more of a hassle than it’s worth? Of course, being able to move around freely whenever and wherever I want (traffic notwithstanding) is nice and all, but the things have a pesky tendency to generate shockingly large quantities of various expenses when you least expect it. My current car is a 2007 VW Rabbit/Golf (for some reason they decided to bring back the Rabbit name for a couple of model years before switching back to the customary Golf name) that was purchased new right around the time I started this Blog (I think either the second or third post I made here was about buying the car.) For the most part, it’s actually been pretty reliable, and I haven’t really had any major mechanical problems with it in the 7+ years and roughly 73,000 miles I’ve had it for. And yet, even without any major repairs to deal with, the thing still has a way of throwing shockingly large expenses at you on a regular basis.
Granted, I am driving a German car, an actual Wolfsburg-built car, not one of the notorious “Actually made in Mexico” ones that made a shockingly large number of people swear off Volkswagens forever back in the MkIV era. Even though it’s not a particularly fancy or expensive car (by German standards at least) it still comes with some of the infamous German parts and maintenance costs. The short version is that every 20,000 miles or so the scheduled maintenance is somewhere in the range of $500-600 (at least based on the prices at the dealer, your mileage may vary) and even the lesser services run you somewhere between $75-100. And that’s assuming nothing goes wrong. If something breaks or needs replacing (currently my car is due for a water pump replacement, which isn’t an overly expensive part but is a rather involved installation) then things can get even more expensive in a hurry. Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with any of the really big repairs… yet. Oh, and did I mention that I’m just about due for a new set of tires?
Of course, it’s not just the maintenance and repairs that will get you. There’s also insurance, which will put a nice little dent in your wallet every six months or so. And that’s assuming that you never have to actually use it for anything. Unfortunately, “stuff” has a tendency to be unavoidable at times, especially when you have a car that spends a lot of time in narrow parking garages. A couple of days ago I managed to accidentally scrape one of the concrete posts I park next to while trying to pull out of my space, resulting in this lovely little gouge on the right rear quarter panel. The good news is that insurance will cover it, the bad news is that based on my past experience with auto body shops they’ll figure out some way to make this a $1,500 repair job, even though I’d only be on the hook for a $500 deductible plus whatever rate increase they decide to throw at me for the next three or four years. Either way, it means that I’ll be without my car for a few days, and just in time for the nice little trafficpocalypse that WSDOT has planned for I-90 next week when they reduce the whole thing down to a single lane for a whole week right in the path of every possible bus I might take to work. And working from home isn’t really an option for me either, since 95% of my job requires having access to the very specialized hardware I test on. The ironic part is that even though the stuff I’m working on is intended for use in cars, unless it’s actually installed in said car it isn’t exactly the most portable thing in the world (you should see the ridiculous lengths we have to go to if for some reason we need to test the non-navigation model under driving conditions.) So basically, it’s going to be a serious pain to get to work for the next week or so.
And it’s not just getting to work that’s the issue either. I think that for the most part I’ll probably be able to make it through the weekend without too much trouble (I’ll be with my friends for most of it, and there’s a good chance someone else will be doing the driving) but it does mean that I will most likely need to walk to church on Sunday. Fortunately I’m close enough that it’s an option to do so, and if I can get past that I can probably hold out until I get my car back, whenever that happens to be. One of the advantages of living in the Downtown area is that there’s quite a bit within walking distance, and a lot of other things aren’t too much further away. Even so, you don’t realize how much you actually use your car until you have to go without it for a few days. Either way, I don’t recommend scraping concrete posts with your car. It seems to be a bad habit to get into.