My car turned 15 years old this week.
Well, actually it was “born” earlier in the year, when it was manufactured, but I bought it in September 2001.
I vividly remember the experience, even after all these years. It was just nine days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and I was feeling patriotic about buying a car to help the economy — even if it was a foreign make and model.
It had been years since I had bought my last new car — 14 years to be exact — and I was ready to trade.
I had milked every last mile out of that 1987 Toyota Tercel, and when I brought it to the Killeen Honda dealership, the salesman smiled when I asked how much he’d give me on a trade-in.
He offered me $500, and bought it himself to fix it up to “bum around in.”
It’s hard to believe 15 years have gone by since that day.
In that time, my wife and I have gotten engaged and married, lived in two houses, owned two cats and she’s changed jobs a few times. We bought a new Honda Accord together in 2011, which we happily finished paying on last month.
But I’ve still got my old Civic — now with more than 120,000 miles on it.
I took it to the dealership Monday for a state inspection and oil change. When you have a car that old, you hold your breath while they’re looking it over, because you never know what they’ll find that might keep it from passing inspection.
Needless to say, I was relieved when the service adviser came over and told me the car was ready, and that everything was fine.
I went out to my car, but before I drove off, I stood and looked it over for a few moments. The gold paint had dulled over the years, the pinstripes were dim, and much of the black plastic trim around the windows had flaked off over time, but it was still a good looking little car — especially since the dealership had given it a free wash.
The car’s interior is another story. It’s got crumbs in the cupholders and dust on the dash, the seats could use a cleaning and the headliner is coming loose near the rear window. And it definitely lacks that new-car smell.
My wife has told me I need to bring it to a full-service car wash and get it detailed from top to bottom — and I know she’s right, even if it would be a bit pricey.
After I got home from the dealership Monday, I thought back on all the cars I’d owned.
The first car I bought was a beat-up old Volkswagen, back in high school. That thing was anything but fancy, but it got me to school and to work, and back when gas was 40 cents a gallon in 1973, I could fill up for $3 and drive on it for more than a week.
Since my little Beetle, I’ve owned a Chevy Vega, a Mazda GLC, a Dodge Dart, a Ford Maverick (which I moved to Texas in), another Mazda GLC (ever so briefly), a Pontiac Bonneville (for about a week) and a Toyota Corolla, before I bought my little blue Tercel.
I don’t know how many cars most folks own in their lifetime, but 10 cars over a period of 43 years would seem to be about average. That’s a little over four years per car.
But when you figure I’ve owned the last two for 29 years, that math goes out the window.
How much longer will I keep my old Civic? It’s hard to say. Right now it’s running great and it’s still fun for me to drive — and that should count for something.
Still, those new cars on the showroom floor sure were calling my name. I almost felt guilty looking them over while my old vehicle was being serviced.
But as I got back into my old car, I had to smile as two words came to mind: PAID OFF.
That settled things — for now.
Dave Miller is deputy managing editor for opinion of the Killeen Daily Herald and editor of the Harker Heights Herald. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7543.