Have you ever bought the wrong car?

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.

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 quite 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, wondering if their kid will ever be out of them.

What gets forgotten? That that 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?

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9 responses to Have you ever bought the wrong car?

  1. Sandy says:

    I bought a car this year, first one in 13 years. Drove everything I could get my hands on and finally settled on a 2009 Lexus RX 350. It was the first one I drove that just ‘felt’ perfect. It also had a good spot for me to put my purse. After 13 years with a van, that had become something I was used to and found to be a problem in most of the vehicles I was testing.
    All was wonderful until my first stop at the gas station. I opened the door to refuel and saw the sticker that said “Premium Fuel Only”
    Just about puked. All the money I thought I would save on gas based on the estimated fuel economy of my new chariot, went out the window when I had to put that expensive fuel into it.
    I still love it, it does get the mileage that they quoted, but the higher price tag took away most of the savings I was hoping for.
    You just can’t always remember every question to ask.
    There is always going to be something.

  2. Kerry says:

    Ouch ! That hurts .
    But what you lose on gas you’ll gain on repairs . The RX350 has a reputation for lasting for ever . Out side of regular maintenance they’re seldom in the shop and are good for hundreds of thousands of kilometers . Not really exciting to look at or drive according to the reviews but if you want a no fuss , no muss SUV you’ve bought it .

  3. The Artful Dodger says:

    The only advantage of leasing (except tax advantages for the self-employed) is that you can toss the car in a few years if it ‘s not what you were expecting.This guy finds it a little bit funny about the purse thing though. Anybody remember the “pink car” blog? I like to keep a car for like 7 seven years or so and as a result, maybe I should own an RX350 from what Kerry says but not from what Sandy says. So what does Lorraine, the automotive guru, think of the RX350?

  4. Lorraine Lorraine says:

    Ahem. I have no problem with any car colour that floats yer boat. I have a huge problem with condescending ad campaigns.

    The RX is lovely. Rides like a dream. Nice seats. Premium brands are premium in upkeep, too. The premium gas thing can be a surprise, sometimes (the Mini springs to mind), but I do wish sellers would be upfront.

    • The Artful Dodger says:

      It’s not so much the car colour but the reality is that men and women have different things they look for and want in a car. If I had a “murse”, I would need to know that I have somewhere to put it, just as I would need a big enough vehicle to fit my hockey equipment in. The hockey equipment reminds me of an old Ford Mustang I made the mistake of buying.

  5. David Craig says:

    I bought a Lotus sports car three years ago. I suppose it was a mid-life crisis sort of thing. I’ve always liked tiny cars and stick shifts so this seemed like a good fit. Well it was a good fit since I’m still in love. I drive this car every day even in winter and could not be happier.

    • Lorraine Lorraine says:

      Heh. I love seeing people love their cars. There seem to be some that inspire a cultish love more than others, I’ve found, and Lotus is one of them. Kinda nice when you can drive what you love. I’m waiting for everyone to move out, so I can too.

  6. Kerry says:

    I bought an 04 Impala from my mechanic because it was certified and emissions passed for 200.00 over the wholesale price when the body rot on my 90 civic 2 door hatch back caused a severe electrical short . The civic was fun to drive and practical . The Impala’s reliable and you could fit 3 hockey bags in the trunk but it doesn’t inspire me to go for a drive for the sake of driving . After owning the Impala for over a year I finally put the stereo from the Civic in it . And yes , the stereo was worth more than the civic . ( and my twenties are long gone )

  7. Ron B says:

    I bought a Honda Prelude once, but the standard transmission drove me nuts (pun intended) in rush hour. Traded it after four months at a considerable loss for a Honda Accord which I still driving nine years later. While a car with standard transmission is fun to drive, I don’t think I’ll buy another ever again.

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