The Stages of Car Ownership

Car ownership, like many experiences in life is characterized by a number of recognizable stages found commonplace amongst enthusiasts. One may not experience them entirely, in order, nor at all, but they still hold true. I’ll try to supplement this with my own photos as best I can…

The Hunt

The hunt for a car can manifest itself in many different ways, be it weeks at local dealerships, months scouring Craigslist and Auto Trader or a happenchance discovery in an abandoned lot across town. For many this can be the most exciting and agonizing stage, and a daydream fantasy for others while practicality or money dictates reality. Emotions run deep during the hunt as you take those first (or second) test drives. Stranger in the passenger seat be damned, you’re trying to gage a lifetime in a mere 10 minutes while “Bob” extols the finer brochure points.

Some window shopping …

The Honeymoon

OK, you’ve secured your dream-ride (or at least a grocery getter). Now begins the honeymoon stage of car ownership. Like any true relationship, you have a few weeks or months before you’ll notice any downsides to your car. That awkward button interface or door latch, forget it. You grin ear to ear and show your purchase off, taking the busy route home as sunshine bounces off freshly detailed paint. The wife gives you the solo garage spot. The neighbors take note. Life is good.

Day 1 of ownership, still no clue how to operate a manual transmission… whoops.

The Doldrums

One would hope this stage takes a backseat to the first days of ownership, but often the 100 mile drive home from XYZ Craiglist poster’s house becomes a living nightmare. Hidden zip ties give way and a mysterious smoke billows out of unseen crevices, your neighbor’s 10 year old son decides to doodle with a sharp object on your freshly waxed car. Mechanical and cosmetic failure aside, suddenly that brand new car is a year old and 12 months into loan payments. The interior doesn’t look as great and the front bumper has become a shrine to bug carcasses.

Yep. This car is no longer the joyful machine it once was, rather a finicky time and money pit. Things just aren’t the same, and it might take a weekend in a Hertz rental Corolla to remove the sour taste from your mouth.

Wandering Eyes

Late at night on Craigslist you find you could be driving a 6speed Cayman S for peanuts more than you spent. Open this month’s Road & Track and come face to face with the new model of your car, now 100lbs lighter and sporting a factory warrantied turbo. Suddenly your car isn’t flavor of the week and everything seems more tantalizing than the sorry pile of metal in your driveway.

Wandering Eyes can set in years into ownership, or for those particularly afflicted… nearly daily. The grass will always appear greener and a broken record of what-ifs will haunt your existence.

SOON says the FR-S in the upper right corner.

Reality Sets In

Remember the doldrums? However unhappy or overextend you might be on the car, it is still your car god-dangit. You have learned to live with the flaws and temperamental check engine light. As a A to B car things are just fine, only the emotion has been forgotten or lost. Who knows, perhaps it is time to trade this sucker in and get back on the Hunt.

The FR-S being practical…

Enjoyment

Hopefully a car is something you enjoy on a regular basis, yet we all know some days the world is against us and the car is in pieces, broken down or simply not fit for stop-n-go traffic duty. I often find myself enjoying my car most as I take the scenic route home from work on a friday, hearing that familiar grunt as I start the engine and roll out of the parking lot. A few minutes later, I make it to my favorite overpass, and promptly blast underneath at 7500rpm just to hear the exhaust growl. Nearby home, I exit the freeway and roll the windows down. This is the best time of day, as the sun dips low and scatters its way through the thin tree trunks. Small leaf tornadoes kick up around the car and the exhaust burbles as I pull into the driveway. I wish every drive could be like this one.

Retirement

Sometimes, a car has to be let go. Whatever the reason, financial, logistics, old age or an upgrade, it’s a strange sensation much like shutting the door on an old path in life and beginning anew.

For some this is a constant process across one car, and for others across a collection. Pretolicious wrote about car monogamy and how experiences may differ, check out the link below

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