The Joy (and pain, oh the pain!) of Car Ownership

This post is part of The 30 in my 30s List.

Last week I popped over to the tire shop across the street from my office to get my snow tires swapped out in the hope that this act would signal to Mother Nature that it is officially spring and, under no circumstances, should it snow again until November. About five minutes after I returned to my office, the phone rang.

It was the attendant at the tire shop. “Um, these tires you want us to put on your car in place of the snow tires are in really bad condition. Like, it’s illegal to drive on tires that are this bald,” she said.

“Whaaaat?” was my response. I asked her to repeat herself a couple times while I registered what she said. As I started calculating the potential costs in my mind, she moved on to her next point, which was that I needed new tires. And that they would cost me nearly $400. I asked her to repeat that last part a few times as well.

I bought the car – a gold 2007 Subaru Outback (because it’s required, if you’ve lived in Colorado for over five years, that you own a Subaru) – from a guy off Craig’s List at the end of last year. It was a great deal, the car is in excellent shape, he had just installed brand new studded snow tires on the vehicle and – bonus! – he gave me the spare set of rest-of-the-year (or whatever you call them) tires, which I promptly tossed in the basement of my office building and never looked at or thought about again until last week.

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I reluctantly shelled out the cash for the tires and spent the rest of the week sulking about the fact that I’d just spent a chunk of my spring vacation fund on my stupid car.

I whined about the situation to some friends over brunch that weekend, who pointed out that situations like mine are exactly why owning a car isn’t always everything it’s cracked up to be… oh, did I mention this is the first car I’ve ever owned? It is.

I had spent my adult life up until the purchase of this car taking busses, walking and riding my bike everywhere. And when one of those options wasn’t available I was left to the mercy of my friends with cars and have spent more times than I like to admit begging people for rides. Not having a car was a giant pain in the ass, although, as I recently discovered, it was significantly cheaper.

So I mulled my friends’ comment over the next few days and pondered whether or not I was better off with a car in my life. My mind wandered to the time I had to take a Greyhound bus to Denver for a concert.

It was a Mumford and Sons show at Red Rocks Amphitheater in late August 2012. The plan had been for my roommate to drive us both down for the event. However, a twist of fate at the last minute had her driving to Denver for work earlier that day and me unable to ride with her.

I frantically sent out text and Facebook messages to try to find someone else going to Denver that day, fretted about how I was going to make it work – I had been looking forward to the concert for months – and definitely threw some major tantrums. No, grown-up tantrums aren’t very mature, nor are they pretty, but I was sick to death of these situations. I just wanted a freaking car already.

After exhausting every other option, it became clear that the Greyhound was the only way (or at least the only way I could afford). As I approached the large smelly bus at the Vail Transportation Center, I noticed the driver was in a heated conversation with another passenger. The gist of the interaction was that the man was too drunk to get back on the bus and he wasn’t happy about it. I side-stepped them, took a deep breath (BIG mistake, it really did smell awful) and hopped on.

I felt like an awkward pre-teen entering a packed school bus on her first day at a new school. There were few empty seats and the ones that were open were clearly claimed by items belonging to other passengers. I was nearly to the back when a kind (dirty, quite possibly a criminal) cowboy moved his backpack off the seat next to him and gestured for me to sit down. I smiled, sat down, inserted my ear buds and hoped for the best.

The journey was slow, hot and stuffy… and did I mention the smell? Ugh. But I did eventually arrive and make it to Red Rocks just in time for the band to take the stage. And it was a great night.

I realized last week that I’m so thankful for this experience and others like it so that when I have to unexpectedly shell out $400 for new tires, I can say that without a doubt I am still beyond grateful to have that Subaru in my life. As my friends at Mastercard would say (with whom I became even closer after my trip to the tire shop last week), it’s priceless.

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6 thoughts on “The Joy (and pain, oh the pain!) of Car Ownership

  1. So many things here resonate with me. Tires – I’m a tire fanatic. I read tire brochures like some men read Playboy. When I’m at Costco I always take time to stop in the tire sales area to smell the fresh rubber.

    I’m a fan of two sets of tires per car myself. When I was responsible for three vehicles it meant owning (and swapping)24 tires, 12 on cars, 12 in the garage. I’ve applied so much tire shine that I can no longer grip anything in my hands.

    Thanks for a wonderful perspective on car ownership and car maintenance. I’ll be thinking of it over the next six months as I repair and renew the inside and outside of my 26-year-old Mustang GT. And I’ll likely start by swapping winter for summer tires/wheels.

  2. Oh,one more thing … Red Rocks. If you get the opportunity to see Umphrey’s Mcgee there, please take advantage of it.

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