Friday, September 18, 2009

My car fanaticism

I have never been shy to admit that I love cars.  My fascination with cars can be equated to some girls seeing a nice pair of Christian Louboutins, or a Hermes bag.  Although it's not a perfect analogy, this should give you an idea of how much I love it.

Ironically, this passion started right after my passion for mountain bikes died off -- somewhere in high school.  This must be also around the time when I got my license. Unfortunately, one of my mother's decision early on in my driving career only added to this (she later admitted she regretted forcing me to learn how to drive and take my exam with a manual transmission "stick shift" car).  Regardless, everyone needs a hobby, and mine is cars.

I didn't find looking at other peoples cars and debating with other enthusiasts about cars I don't have really entertaining, so one of my goals early on was to own some of these driving machines as soon as I can.  Probably not the best idea.  In retrospect, I would have been better served if I saved that money and invest it in real estate and/or anywhere else vs. a guaranteed deprecating asset. Even in this down market, I would probably have gotten more back, since these investments would have started in 2001.  I will go into my thoughts and review of each car I have had the fortune to own in more detail in later blogs. 

Another obvious reason why I purchased these vehicles is to show off.  Anyone who says they buy cars only for themselves is in some ways lying to themselves.  Many drive these cars to be seen, to satisfy our own insecurities and ego, and to tell the world "I made it"!  I personally have always subscribed to the idea that I only buy the cars for myself and no one else, but I cannot deny that I do feel a slight ego boost when I drive down the street and random bystanders admire or check out my car. 

Fast forward to July of 2009.  I just sold my daily driver, the Porsche 911 Carrera.  A car that I have developed a love and hate relationship over the past 4 years I have owned it.  I love the way the car looks, drives, handles, but hate the maintenance and repair costs.  Note to people who are looking into high performance German or Italian cars: it's not the purchase price of the vehicle that will get you, it's the maintenance and repair costs.  Point in comparison, the 911 ran about $1,000 per maintenance, or 15,000 miles.  I heard Ferrari and Maserati run from $4,000 to $10,000 for the same period of time.

Due to how suddenly I found a buyer for my 911 at my asking price (it was above market), I did not have another vehicle lined up.  This was a first for me as with most people I know, we usually have the next car before selling our current.  At this time it daunted on me that my transportation may end up being a bus pass.

Fortunately, my family had an old 1996 Volvo 850 Turbo that they were planning on donating -- I am forever grateful they ended up donating it to me.  To put things in perspective, that vehicle on Kelly Blue Book ("KBB") was worth in great condition at most $2,000.  Given it was recently in a fender bender and the front grill and hood are both "zip tied" on, I would have to say the car is maybe at most worth $1,000.

What did surprise me was how happy I was driving that vehicle.  Gone are the expensive maintenance costs, the need for premium gasoline, high insurance payments.  My insurance premium went from $2,500/year to less than $400/year for the same coverage.  In addition, I now can go anywhere I want and park anywhere I want without fear that my car may get damaged or broken into.  Recently I drove through a bad area of Oakland where bystanders didn't even bat an eye.  In comparison, with my 911 people would have taken notice.

I have never been one of those guys who would park in two spots and/or park all the way on the opposite side of the parking lot to avoid people parking next to me, but it is a great feeling to be able to squeeze into a very narrow spot and not having to worry about the car at all.  Sometimes, I even debate if I should park illegally, because there is very little risk doing so (besides for the fine).  Deep down I still love nice sports cars, but now I have a new appreciation for daily clunkers.

Be warned, these type of cars are only for the secure, cause you will sometime encounter individuals who will laugh at you for what you drive.  End of the day, you're the one who decides if they matter.

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