My first car, and probably my worst investment in an emergency, was a 1998 Buick Century with some ~150,000 miles on it (I never knew for sure, the odometer was broken!).
Once I realized the $2,500 deathtrap was going to end my life in an awful way, I sought out a better car.
I got the Buick in a hurry due to circumstances not worth going into, but let’s just say I unexpectedly became a commuter student while attending college and to pass my classes I had to find a mode of transport (the wild west does not have busses).
And what did it end up being? Why, a much older vehicle of course! A 1989 Ford Crown Victoria in “good” condition. Also around 150,000 miles when I got it (now at 167,000). I got it for $600, plus $100 in repairs.
Which leads to the story about the best investment I made in my entire life: one very large car.
Sometimes I feel like Fred Schneider. As I take off, I say in my head, “I’ve got me a Chrysler, it’s as big as a whale, and it’s about to SET SAIL!!” (Yes, I know Chrysler isn’t Ford).
The whale part seems most appropriate as I go down the road with the most worn shocks I have ever experienced. Hit a bump, and I bounce for several feet down the road. It seriously is fun, even if I really ought to have those replaced.
My choice in the Buick was, ironically, to find a safe car for winter driving. It had front wheel drive, ABS brakes, and fairly good traction handling. I was afraid that the Crown Vic wouldn’t hold up to this standard of safety. Turns out, I was very wrong.
See, a 4,500lbs car does a really good job sticking to the ground. Sure, stopping distance is a different factor, but I was well-trained at driving on snow and ice. Rear wheel drive on a vehicle of this weight in the snow handles surprisingly well, especially if you stick a load of bricks (or sandbags, if you’re normal) in the trunk during the winter.
I first decided I loved this car when someone walked from the trunk to the front and said, “Wow, that’s one long car!”
This car has all the options. Automatic climate control with A/C, basic interface computer, power seats on driver and passenger side (which means it is a split bench seat), “premium sound” (which meant higher quality speakers and a radio that was both AM and FM, now replaced with a modern stereo), vanity mirrors, and automatic headlights (dead).
Something awesome is the car’s computer. It shows the driver the time, date, total time of trip, digital trip meter in addition to the mechanical meter, average miles per hour, average gas mileage, current gas mileage, and fuel used. An invaluable tool and feature not found factory for many more years.
A $700 car comes with its disadvantages. The paint job is well-worn and flaking, it has a big-ol dent, the interior is alright but has damages expected for its age, and it has a very dorky racing steering wheel (up for replacement soon). But, I love it, and I hope to drive it until the wheels fall off. Someday, I will find a Ford of the same vintage in better condition and have a vehicle that I can pamper. For the time being, my huge go-mobile works quite well for a college student.