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I'm growing up!
singapore sunset
amw
It's scary being adult. Today i rented a car to drive up to a small town about 60 miles away... to look at a car! I made sure to rent an automatic to avoid any spectacular stalls. Drove it home, picked up my roommate, and off we went. I was beeped at once, on a fucking roundabout no less. I hate roundabouts, they're the most stupid traffic invention ever. But after that it was smooth sailing. Arrived at this guy's house to look at the car, an 81 Celica XT liftback. My god, i'm actually thinking of buying a car!

So the car was in reasonable shape. Body looked its age, though it's been touched up and i couldn't find any rust barring a tiny bit of corrosion on the inside part of the trunk. Interior looked like shit. It's ugly in there. But that's cosmetic, yanno. At least it had a CD player. Mechanically it seemed to be sweet. The engine had a nice rumble, replaced in 2003 with a rebuilt twin cam twin carb model. New shocks. New wheels. New short shift stick. And yes, i drove it. And managed to fucking stall it, of course, when i took a corner and went "oh shit, no power steering". D'oh. But that's the whole reason i need a car in the first place. The guy i've had teaching me stick over the past few weeks says i'm at the point where i'm not going to get any better unless i have my own car and practise daily.

At last week's lesson i stalled twice - both times in traffic when i was getting confused with all the stop-start stuff. Hill starts are groovy now. Even groovier on that RWD Celica. But is it worth it? That's the $1200 question. Because it's unregistered i will have to get a temporary permit to drive it the 60 miles back here and take it to a local mechanic for a safety certificate and everything that needs to be serviced (with a bit of luck just tires and fan belt). That will be on the weekend. Then i will have to drive it to the registration center on a week day. Then i will finally get plates. What am i worried about? Getting pulled over by a cop and getting into traffic downtown. Because i'm scared of stalling the car. How fucking pathetic is that. I'm also a tiny bit scared that the safety inspection will turn up something significantly more expensive than just tires, even though everything seemed to be running smoothly.

The question is whether to get a $1200 car that's a good deal (given the engine can go for a grand by itself), but gamble on spending less than a grand on safety... or look for a registered car which will cost me $2500 for something that passes safety but will be equally old and uglier, minus the fun engine. I'm leaning toward going for it, because everyone i've spoken to says there's no way i'll get something nice for under 5 grand anyways. And this is the nicest i've seen. I want it :(

Which leaves me with just two things i need to do within a week. Gain the confidence to drive it back, hopefully without stalling once i hit downtown (heh), and gain the confidence to take a step like this. I've never owned a car. Today was the longest drive i've ever made. I've never owned anything worth more than a grand (my PC is a grand all up, all of my synths are less than that apiece). I've never had to deal with car insurance and registration and all of those wonderful grown-up things. And you know, the growing up thing is probably what's giving me the most anxiety about this. In reality i know it's no big deal and friggin 17 year olds do it for chrissakes, but for ME it's always been some distant thing off in the future. Out of all my friends (both younger and older), only one has a car. It's a whole nother world, and that's scary.
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Owning and maintaining a car is a lot of responsiblity, but it's a hell of a lot of fun, too. Being able to hop in and hit the road on a sunny weekend is a real joy, at least to me it is. Fed up with things last fall, I woke up one Saturday morning and just decided to go somewhere, anywhere. Two hours later I was cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway, taking in all the scenery, forgetting about everything that had pissed me off the night before. It's a real escape.

As far as the car itself, it sounds like it was maintained pretty well. But it's still over 20 years old. (Jesus, 1981 more than 20 years ago, that's just sick...) While it may pass a safety inspection with only a small amount of corrective work, you'll probably find that there will be a good amount of minor issues that crop up. A thorough once-over by a mechanic will definitely be in order. But you know that...

I still can't drive stick. Too much for my feeble little brain to handle. Maybe someday, when I ditch my little Corolla for something a little more bad-ass.

Yeah just taking this drive yesterday with a rental car was a really nice feeling. That's part of the reason why i didn't mind going that distance, it was just nice to be able to take a drive out on the highway and into the country.

The twenty-year-old thing is a bitch. I think i'd speak to a mechanic, ask him to do the minimum for a roadworthy certificate, then come back every now and then for tweaks. The problem is that for the amount of money i have to spend, pretty much any car i get is going to be high mileage, 20 years old, etc. Anything would be somewhat of a gamble. One of the guys at work said his wife bought a ten grand dealer used car and it even had problems after a few months too. It seems like it's going to be a mission whatever happens.

The one thing i don't want is to spend so much money on a car that i have to go into debt. I can't afford to do that when i'm trying to save to get back to America, as well as go back to finish college this year. If i can get something that will drive me around safely for a year that would be sweet. Whatever i get will be somewhat of a gamble, and in that case i feel like i'd rather go with something that i know was owned by an enthusiast than something that's just been driven all over the country without any TLC. But then again... a more boring car might not have been driven as hard so it may be more reliable. Who knows? It sucks ass trying to make this decision.

It is a tough decision to make, but it certainly sounds like you've thought your situation all the way through. Very financially responsible of you! :) God knows there are plenty of cars from that era still on the road... As long as you're not planning on keeping the thing for more than a few years, you'll probably be fine.

Alison, why not have a mechanic check it out first, maybe somewhere close to where the seller is. Sellers can do a lot of things to make a car run well until you pull it out of the driveway. I'm not trying to throw a monkey wrench into your deal but having been there more than once when money was an issue, I just want you to be careful.

E

I don't want to get burned... but i really don't think there is much i can do. He took it to his mechanic and the report was new tires, replace fan belt and wiper blades. I'm just going for it and the hell with it. It's so much stress looking at old cars where all of them have something wrong with them. Given i don't have many friends to help me with it i think i just need to work with faith. The seller seemed like a nice guy, and i do know the mechanic i'm taking it down to down here is a good guy. Somehow it'll work out :)

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