February 5, 2001

Beloved red car teaches financial responsibility

Josh Renaud

This week, I attended the St. Louis Auto Show with my friend John. It's only the second time I've been to a car show, and I really enjoyed it. To me, the most interesting part is seeing the concept cars and trying to guess which of them might actually become production models in the future.

One thing I don't enjoy about the show is seeing the price tags on every car. As we passed from one manufacturer's area to the next, my heart sank. There wasn't a single car company that was making inexpensive new cars. In my advertising copywriting class with Sid Savan, I've been hearing a lot about Volkswagen and the Beetle from the 1960s. As a student on a tight budget, I wish there was still a car company making something small and affordable.

I'm now convinced that I will probably never purchase a new car. Instead I think I will have to stick with used cars for quite some time. It's not as though I'm actively looking for a car right now; I'm perfectly happy with the 1987 maroon two-tone Caprice Classic I drive right now.

You might say I've developed an emotional attachment to it. The red car has been in my family since 1987, when my dad got it to use as a company car. My dad got a new car in 1991, and so the red car was passed on to my mom. When I turned 16, it was time for me to learn how to drive the red car. I've been driving it ever since.

Growing up, my folks wouldn't give me or my brothers an allowance, for two reasons: they didn't have the money, and they wanted to teach us responsibility. We knew from the time were very little that we would have to pay for our own car insurance and for our college tuition.

I was accident-prone when I first started driving. I had two accidents involving other vehicles. My insurance payments skyrocketed. After the final accident, my parents wanted me to break the cycle. They made me file a claim, which increased the payments, and instead of going to a body shop, my dad and I would repair the damage ourselves. Of course, I had to pay for the parts. Paying for the car's insurance and most of its repairs definitely made me take better care of the car.

As angry as I was at the time, it was a terrific experience. To that point, I had only known how to handle the most basic car maintenance tasks. Going to different junk yards with my dad, pulling parts from the cars, disassembling our car, and then putting it back together forced me to learn a lot.

I haven't had been in an accident since then.

My friend Steve jokingly refers to my car as the "Joshmobile." For a long time, my car had its own mascot, a picture of a man we called "Arthur." I don't know how the picture got into my car. But we loved Arthur, and he lived on my dashboard for several years, before the sun finally got the best of him.

Right now, my car is in need of some other repairs. Money is tight right now, and my folks are looking at making some changes to the family fleet. Important decisions will be made in the future, and maybe I'll be using a different car. Until recently, I hadn't ever considered how attached I was to the Joshmobile. I suppose it's like any first love, though. Eventually, you've just got to let it go and move on.

This article was reprinted with permission from The Current.

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