The Fast And The Frivolous
Cars. America, and Americans, are obsessed with their cars. Cars represent freedom, or that’s the storyline we’ve created. This is seen in our movies, our pop-culture, our music, and permeates throughout virtually all aspect of our lives. Why? Cars are convenience first and foremost, but in a status-focused society such as ours they also serve as identity. I say – “Meh”. Actually, a big, giant MEH.
From a guy in his mid-forties who grew up in the 70’s, you might be surprised by this. My generation was raised in the glory days of muscle cars and V-8’s. I spent more hours than I’d care to remember as a child playing with Matchbox cars, and the “Herbie the Love Bug” movies were probably my favorite silver-screen treats, as silly as they were. Cars dominated life, and in some ways still do.
You Are Not Your Car
The movies associated with the snarky title of this post have made countless zillions, and Americans apparently still love watching attractive people race and smash up hunks of metal with 4 tires. NASCAR generates over 3 billion annually (yes, with a “b”) and is a quasi-religion for countless men in America.
I won’t go into the negatives that 70 years of car-dominated culture have created, this Atlantic article does it better than I ever could. The deaths are what is most shocking to most, they’re like a slow-dripping blood-loss over time. All told, since the inception of the car in America in 1899, 3,681,499 people have been killed in car crashes though 2015. And the number of annual deaths has gone up quickly in 2015 and 2016 after years of decline. Smartphones…… don’t get me started….
So why would you pay $34k for functionality that you can get for $4K? It comes down to wants vs. needs, vanity, peer pressure, and our national obsession with cars-as-identity. It violates what the Happy Philosopher brilliantly calls the fork-utility-happiness rule.
In my journey I’ve owned a teal Ford Aspire (or as my friend Marc affectionately coined it – “ass-pirate”) and a teal Ford Escort Wagon. I don’t really care for teal, they were just deals that were too good to pass up, presumably ‘cuz no one else wanted them. Each cost under $4000. After I got tons of miles and hassle-free years out of those two gems, I upgraded to a blue Ford Focus Wagon, for $5200. Big bucks for me. That thing rocked. I put up with this kinda stuff a lot….
But I didn’t care. As a lover of all outdoor sports, it hauled my bikes, kayaks, and stand up paddleboards like a champ, with all associated gear. When I traded it in, I still got $2000 for it, after 6 years of hard use. During that time I had to fix one broken power window. Cost? $350 – less than what the average American dumps into a car payment EACH MONTH.
Sure, I put up with endless jokes from my buddies about my vehicle choices, as they drove their BMW’s, Mercedes, and even Porche’s. I’m FI, they’re not. They’re still my buddies and I love ’em, it’s just a different set of choices. I’ll be sure to drive my jalopy by their office in the middle of a workday when I’m early-retired and give them a honk. Yes, my horn works just as good as theirs does…..