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This car could be a lot of fun - or a lot of frustration if a minivan would better suit your needs. (BMW)
This car could be a lot of fun - or a lot of frustration if a minivan would better suit your needs. (BMW)

Drive, She Said

Have you ever bought the wrong car? Add to ...

If you’ve been catching yourself absentmindedly stroking your upper lip, or doing a double take as you pass by your reflected image, you’re probably growing a moustache for Movember. It’s probably itchy, or at least it was, but now you’re heading into the final days of this fund-raising initiative for prostate cancer and male mental health, and the razor is in sight.

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Maybe you’ve always wanted to try the look, and this is a great excuse. If anyone laughs at you, you can laugh, too, and say, of course it’s not for keeps. Or if the general consensus is that you’re really working it, you can keep it, a public risk gone right.

It would be nice if we could do this with cars, too. Make that bold selection, then drive off the lot, secure that if you’ve really screwed up, you can switch it out. After all, that’s a lot of money riding on a bad decision.

That cowboy shirt can be tucked in the back of the closet or the heels you can’t walk in returned the next week. Bridgestone will let you hand back tires – no questions asked – a month after you purchase them, and some stores will let you trade mattresses after you’ve had a few weeks to literally sleep on your decision. But that new car? Sign on the dotted line, grab the keys and off you go.

Ever made a mistake?

I bought a van once, thinking it was a lovely shade of bronze. It wasn’t; it was poo brown, unless it was in just the right light, which it rarely was. Upon replacing it, I made a worse mistake.

At a time when my life was in upheaval, I sighed at the options on renewing my lease and said, “Just give me another one the same.” After all, apart from the colour, the van was fine and fit the family needs. The problem? This time around, option packages had changed slightly, and things I’d become accustomed to weren’t there, replaced by things I didn’t want. I’d signed too soon, and I’d been too distracted. And why would any manufacturer remove the radio control buttons from the steering wheel? Purchasing a car – like driving one – requires your full attention and the cost of distractions can cost you dearly before you even get it on the road.

A normally conservative friend fell in love with a high-end car and, mesmerized, bought the turbo. A week of his daily commute had him kicking himself for his momentary infatuation; it was sucking gas like beer through a funnel at a frat party. Stupid? Probably. But most of us have acted on some questionable impulses; if you’re lucky, you’re just not driving around in it.

I’ve watched people buy too much car, imagining the merry family holidays as they stuff everyone (and everything) into a maxed-out minivan, only to do their daily commute in that mostly empty van, realizing too late that, for one holiday a year, it would be cheaper to rent. I’ve seen the reverse, as new parents struggle with car seats and a two-door car.

What gets forgotten? That the 13-year-old yelling at his little sister will be learning to drive on this car. That you’re the only one in the family who can drive a standard. That two years from now, you’ll be falling in love, getting married and having twins. That the heated seats that seemed so silly when you bought in July would have been worth every penny come December.

Maybe you signed the deal first, and then checked the insurance rates. Maybe you negotiated a great deal on that German beauty, only to find out later that an oil change costs three times what you’d been paying on your Ford.

I’ve seen people love everything about their car – except. Except the shallow cup holders, except the seat release that jumps like a jack-in-the-box, except the fact there is no convenient place to put a phone, a purse, or a key fob.

There is no feeling like a low-slung sports car – until you realize you can’t reach the button to exit your parking lot. Every day. Maybe you inherited a car, and can’t justify getting rid of it because of few silly nuisance things.

A month with a scratchy moustache, especially for a great cause, is a tiny commitment compared to a car. Ever goofed? What makes or breaks a car for you, what can you live with (or without) and what do wish you could have a do-over on?

*****

lorraineonline.ca

 

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