My first car was four years old when I bought it – and I thought it was a little old.
Now? My 19-year-old Toyota seems newish. At least to me.
Well, I realize it’s not really newish, but there’s some good news for me: I don’t drive an old junker. I’m just slightly above average, because most of us are driving old cars.
The average age of a car or truck in America is 11.4 years, according to the Polk research firm. That means that the “average” car on the road this year is a 2002 model.
In car age, even 5 years used to be old. But 11.4 years is average now.
I’m above average.
Like everyone, I have a relationship with my car. It’s kind of a secret, forbidden relationship, since Mrs. Brad treats the greenish Tercel like an outcast – kind of like she did my old Monte Carlo, Honda and Hyundai.
I’ve owned it for two years (it only cost $800! Plus $3,100 in repairs, but still . . . ). In two years, Mrs. Brad has driven it once and been a passenger a couple of times. She hates it. She thinks it smells like it belongs to someone else. She thinks it’s gross. She frequently talks about other cars I could get.
Which just makes me love it more.
If you own an older car, you know how I feel. Having an old car – and based on this story, “old” means at least 15 years old – makes you defensive. Criticism makes you defend it. The more criticism you get, the more you contend for it. You become like a teenager who supports his troubled friend. Or a Raiders fan who argues that the team is still great.
My Tercel has a weather-beaten hood with most of the paint missing. The heater doesn’t work. There is no air conditioning. One of the tires has a slow leak. Until I spent $50 at a local shop, I could only pick up one radio station. The trunk has a baseboard that sways under any weight. The tailpipe belches smoke when it starts. It goes from zero to 60 mph in about five minutes. There’s a whistle in the cab at 50 mph.
You think it’s bad?
Well, you don’t understand my relationship with my car. It’s been through a lot – at least since 2011. It hasn’t been towed. It passed a smog test. It gets me to the gym, to work, to the store and back home.
A week ago, I drove it to Rio Vista to interview racing legend Craig Breedlove. As I pulled up to his home, I could tell he was eyeing my car. The man who has driven faster than 600 mph was probably envious.
After all, the Tercel topped 55 mph a couple of times on Highway 12. While going downhill. With a tail wind.
Think that’s funny? Don’t get smart with me. I love my old car. It’s from 1994, the year O.J. Simpson led police on a slow-speed chase in Los Angeles.
My car saw the emergence of the Internet and the terrorist attacks of 2001. It was on the road (I presume) on the days Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama were elected president. It survived the tech bubble and the housing boom. It was on the road when Lady Di was alive and still driving when her grandson was born. My Tercel deserves respect.
It’s not old. It’s classic. And who needs a working heater anyway?
Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bradstanhope.