Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Nov. 5, 2001

My very first new car hated me


I've found that there are some things in life that just can't be explained. As frustrating as they can be, cars have to be one of the most unexplained phenomena known to . . . women.

Fortunately, I haven't had too many problems with the vehicle that I have now, but I, like most people, have had my lemon of a car.

My car was a brand new 1990 Geo Storm. I saw it and had to have it.

I'm not sure what possessed me to buy it. All I remember is thinking how cute it was. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have even considered it.

It was the car from hell. Problem, upon problem plagued me with that dumb car.

Side note: Never, ever buy a new make and model of a car the first year it comes out. The bugs have not been worked out and you will spend more time at the repair shop than a kid spends begging for ice cream.

My problem started out with financing. Being a first-time new car buyer, I didn't have a clue about what was involved in buying a car.

I bought it from a larger dealership in the cities where some salespeople are, ummmm, shall we say, not as moralistic as our friends here out in the sticks. I had very little credit and didn't want to rely on my parents for co-signing, because I wanted it to be my indication to them that I was a full-fledged adult.

I am embarrassed to admit this, because I still can't believe that I went ahead with it, but I paid (are you ready for this?) 18 percent interest on the car. It added up to about $5,000 in interest for the (again I am embarrassed to admit) five years I financed it for.

That was my own fault, and I can't blame anyone but myself. I should have researched what was involved in car buying before I even went looking. All I can say for myself is that it was so cute, and I wanted it as soon as possible.

As for the problems, most of them I had weren't mechanical, although there were plenty of those. The biggest problem was just that it had the worst luck.

The first thing that happened to it was when it was still under warranty. The inside door handles cracked, so I brought it to the dealership to have it fixed. They told me that it would be ready in a couple days.

I couple days passed, and still no call saying that it was done, so I called them. What a surprise I got when they told me that it wasn't finished drying.

"DRYING" they told me.

I didn't know what to say to that. As the story unfolded, I found that there was another red Geo Storm that was brought in the same day to have hail damage repaired. At the shop, they mixed up the cars and accidently "fixed" and repainted the hood, top, and trunk.

Incidently, this car had never seen hail in its young life.

As if this wasn't enough, they wanted me to pay for the repair. I cannot write in this G-rated newspaper what I told them, and I certainly wouldn't want my pastor to read it. But I did have my say.

I can understand that mistakes can happen, but I was not about to shell out hundreds of dollars for someone else's mistake.

So, I got it all worked out, had the door handles fixed, and drove away a while later. Exactly one week later, it was keyed.

I'm not kidding.

Needless to say, this time the car was brought to a different dealership, where it was repaired just fine. Unfortunately, it didn't stop the person a few weeks down the road from backing into me.

Back to the dealership I went (the good one, of course), and I called the insurance company to increase coverage. They didn't even ask why. Go figure.

After that, it suffered from real hail damage, and got a bad paint job that didn't match the rest of the car. So it had to be painted again. I think at one time, I counted that the hood had five coats of paint, and if you know anything about body work, you will know that once the original paint is painted over, the car is never the same.

Gone were the days of automatic car washes because it left tiny circular scratches on the surface. Only time and the sun, can harden the paint job.

It's been many years since this car met its untimely demise by being rolled on a rural road. Luckily, no one was hurt in the accident and neither I, nor my young baby, was in the car.

It did solve a major problem for me ­ getting rid of that beast. And just for the record, it was an accident, although I can't say I wasn't relieved.

Funny thing was, I missed it. It was my first (and only thus far) brand new car. The car that was bought to replace it was so boring, although practical. By that time we went looking for a replacement, I had my first baby and needed a little more practicality.

The Geo had such a small backseat that for people to sit in the back seat, they had to crouch down. Even a carseat was tough to get in there, so a nice four-door, as boring as it was, was a nice change. Not long after, a mini-van appeared in the driveway.

Then I went through my divorce, and a mini-van just wasn't what I needed, with just one small child and myself, so in the divorce settlement, I opted for the car instead of the van.

Shortly after, I traded the car in for another "cute" car. You would think that I would have learned my lesson on cuteness as a priority in car buying 101, but I didn't.

That car was a foreign car with a few quirks. I liked it, but it ended up being very expensive because of repairs and parts, which were sometimes triple the amount of a normal American-made car. It got to the point where it wasn't economical to drive any more.

Away it went. Out with the old, in with the new . . .

Now I have had my green Mercury for almost three years, and it's been good to me. Well, all except for it's three week birthday with me, on Halloween, where the block heater fell out.

I found out later that it was a factory recall, but when it happened, I sure wasn't happy. I was stuck on a dirt road with my sister and a girlfriend, wearing Halloween costumes (and not warm ones at that), and stranded.

It was a rough night, but all ended well. Luckily, I didn't have to pay for the large service bill, since it was a recall.

It sure was cold that night, though. In three years, that was the biggest problem I have run across with this car, and since I've seen the other side of the coin, I am happy with what I have now.

I think it likes me. Either that or it just hasn't realized that I'm a woman. I'm going to count my blessings and hope that it continues on behaving itself until it's time to go for another mini-van. We will have to see about that.

Needless to say, I'm pretty gun shy when it comes to changing vehicles. In a few years, you just may see me in the same green Mercury just for that very reason, rust or no rust.

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