For pretty much my entire life, I’ve been told that new cars are a waste of money. If you’re looking for value for price, getting a used car is the best way to go. My family has always had used cars, and I’d definitely heard the old adage of how “new cars lose half their value as soon as you drive them off the lot”, so I wasn’t planning on ever buying a new car.
Now, I’ve only been driving by myself since September of 2017, but I’ve been through 2 cars in that short time and am now on my third. After all the problems I’ve had with cars from September 2017 to when I finally bought my new car in July 2018 (yes, literally less than a year), it’s no wonder I went new.
Are you ready for a good story? Here we go.
Part 1: The Corolla Named Corey
After having lived overseas for my teenage years, I had missed the quintessential part of growing up where on your 16th birthday you go and get your learner’s permit. So I went through university and after without being able to drive.
It wasn’t until I started dating the boyfriend and we started planning on moving in together that he really pushed me to get my license. The midpoint between our two workplaces was unfortunately in a transit zone that wasn’t efficient at all, and late at night coming home from dance I wouldn’t be able to get home at all without a car.
My first car came by way of his mum, as they had an extra car since his sister was upgrading to an Audi. Corey, as I named it, was a 2004 Toyota Corolla. Nothing fancy, although at that point anything would be better than my current 2 hour bus commute to and from work every day. He came with an upgraded speaker system too which didn’t hurt. His price was originally $1000, but then got brought down to $500. The boyfriend’s mum then refused to cash my cheque, giving me the car as a gift, saying that even if the boyfriend and I broke up that I should keep the car. In the end, I got the car for free.
The flat tire
Now all things considered, a flat tire isn’t too bad. I had driven over some glass on my way home from work in October, a month after I started driving, and the tire went completely flat overnight. I didn’t notice and tried to drive on it, only to get barely onto the road before I realized the tire was flat.
After a quick tow down the road to the Canadian Tire (which comes up again in our story, so remember it), it was fixed and I was on my way. I had to go to dance, so the boyfriend was nice enough to drive me and deal with my car while I was in class.
In February, I got into a car collision right down the road from my house. I was on my way out one evening to grab chicken nuggets since we just got a new deep fryer, and if I ever tell the story of how I messed up my ankle you’ll realize this is funny because that story involves chicken nuggets too. I think the universe is trying to tell me I shouldn’t eat so much processed meat, but I digress.
The collision happened on the feeder road to the main road right down from where I live. Basically, you get off the main road, go down this road for a little bit, then turn onto my street. Basically, anywhere you want to go takes this road. I was going down this road to the grocery store and I hit a patch of ice, causing my car to spin sideways across both lanes (thankfully going in the same direction as there was a division between the directions), and a car ran into my driver’s side. The airbags didn’t deploy or anything, but it was super scary.
Even though it’s been a year since it happened, I still avoid this street as much as possible, taking a 3-minute detour so I don’t have to drive that section. For like a month I was terrified of turning left just because that’s the way my car swerved after I hit the icy patch. So now there was a massive dent in the side of the Corolla. And the thing is, I had gotten so used to seeing the dent that I didn’t even realize how sketchy it was until I saw the boyfriend driving it down the road from one of our parking spots to the other one that I realized how ghetto it actually looked.
Who needs brake pads, anyway?
So after I got into the collision, I was a bit spooked. I got the car checked out and everything, but driving was giving me a bit of anxiety. So when I started hearing a grating, scratching noise, I went to the boyfriend to ask him if he knew what was wrong with my car. In the past he had been a good source of information about cars, so I assumed he knew about cars. Turns out he doesn’t, but that’s not really important to the story. He thought that the grating sound was some ice or snow stuck in the tire, so I didn’t worry about it.
I think like a month went by driving with the scratchy noise that I didn’t even think about it anymore, until one day I was driving to work in the left turn lane when suddenly… I wasn’t stopped anymore. Scared, I slammed on the brakes and thankfully sorta stopped, at which point I called the boyfriend in a panic while slowly driving to work trying to time the rest of the lights so I wouldn’t have to actually stop at any of them. (Which, by the way, is a feat in and of itself.)
So we called CAA to tow my car, the boyfriend had to drive all the way out to work so he could be there when CAA showed up. It was a big ordeal.
What I learned had happened was that one of the brake pads had fallen off my car, so I literally didn’t have a brake pad anymore on the left front wheel. I have no idea how brake pads fall off, but apparently it did. Maybe it was during the collision, but I didn’t see any debris so I’m not sure.
I ended up getting it fixed to the tune of like $600, which for a car I paid $0 for, was a lot. Once I got back home, I vowed that if I had to fix or replace anything else in the car that I would just get rid of it.
I just wanted to get the oil changed.
Come April, and I was ready to get the oil changed and winter tires changed for my summers. It was a Wednesday, and I had the tires in my car. My plan was to get everything done at the oil changer place down the road from work where they don’t do the lift-y thing, but have the mechanics under the car working (can you tell I know all the car lingo?). Anyway, I take it there and they tell me that they can’t work on my car because the bottom of it is too rusted, and that I need to take it to one of the mechanics that has the hoist instead.
Now, at this point, my parents told me that they could give me the car they have in storage, which was much nicer than my now beat up Corolla. Heated leather seats, a sun roof, tons of storage space. To be honest, at this point if it didn’t have a massive dent in the side of it, I considered it a step up. So I knew that I was going to get a new car when they were back in the country in a month and a bit, and I didn’t need the Corolla to last too long.
I decided that the next morning I would take it to the Canadian Tire down the road on my way into work. Get there when they first open, be first in line, and get to work so no one’s the wiser. Now, if you haven’t been to a Canadian Tire before, the work isn’t the best and they’re expensive, but at that point I knew that my car was reaching the end of our journey together so I just needed it done.
Almost getting screwed over at Canadian Tire
I waited in the Canadian Tire waiting room for 3 hours for my car, only to have the manager come out and tell me there’s more stuff wrong with my car. As we’re walking into the mechanic part so I can look at my car, he tells me it’s going to cost like $800 and that I could take out a credit card so I would only have to pay $15 per month or something ridiculous. First of all, who takes out a credit card for an $800 purchase? That’s what an emergency fund is for. Also, who gets a Canadian Tire credit card?
Nevertheless, he’s got the front left wheel off my car and starts moving the disc behind the wheel back and forth, and tells me, “yeah, I shouldn’t be able to move this…” Turns out there was a problem with the ball bearing behind the wheel. He said it was a serious issue and I shouldn’t be driving the car, so I asked for a quote and got to work while they finished changing the tires.
I first called the boyfriend up and sent him the quote so he could ask his mechanic how urgent the fix on the car was. While he was calling his mechanic (who we trusted a hell of a lot more than this random guy at Canadian Tire), I called my dad to ask him about the car I was going to get when they were back. Thankfully he was still awake and could call his car guy in our old city (which is a 3.5 hour drive from where I live now) to see if he could get repairs done sooner rather than later. The boyfriend calls back and tells me that his mechanic would have to see the car to be able to give a definitive answer, but that the tire could literally fall off the car anywhere from a day to a month from now.
Getting Harold the Volvo
Not taking any chances, I asked my dad to expedite me getting the other car, took out $1000 cash for the repairs needed to get the car in working condition from being in storage for the past few months, and coordinated with the boyfriend on getting down to the other city and back on the Tuesday to get the car (and yes, I took a sick day to go get a car).
Thankfully with tons of coordination between my aunt and uncle still in the area, my parents’ mechanic, and I, we were able to get it sorted where I could pick up the car on the Tuesday. The boyfriend drove me down in his car that morning, then we both drove back in the afternoon, me in my new car. And that’s how I got Harold the Volvo V70.
Part 2: The Volvo Named Harold
Each of the cars I’ve had have had their own personality. Corey the Corolla was like a surfer dude. He was wild and crazy and ultimately not very good for my sanity. Like a summer fling that you end up regretting right after because it ended up being expensive and altogether a bad decision.
Harold the Volvo, on the other hand, was like a refined British butler. With the heated leather seats and automatic everything (the Corolla didn’t even have automatic windows. After I was in the collision I couldn’t even use drive-thrus anymore because the window physically couldn’t roll down. How depressing is that?!), Harold the Volvo was there to make sure my trip from point A to B was pleasant.
After getting used to driving what feels like a literal tank, I was pretty impressed with the Volvo. My dad for years had been obsessed with this car, and I actually had to call him up and confess that I was a Volvo convert, too. I was proud of my soccer mom car, and made a few IKEA runs just because I could fit everything in the car. To put it in perspective, I got Harold the Volvo in April of 2018.
Does anyone even look at their dashboard?
Having the Volvo was pretty sweet. The AC worked amazing, and I even tested out the heated seats on some of the brisk spring mornings. Everything was great for a couple months, until one of the hottest days in July.
I remember hitting up the bathroom right before leaving work because I wasn’t sure how long the commute home was going to be and I passed by a woman with the same plan I had. She joked that she always went to the bathroom before she left work. At the time I laughed, but after today I have never left work before going to the bathroom again.
It was a ridiculously hot day, so on my way home I stopped for a smoothie. While I was waiting to turn into the little strip mall with the smoothie bar, the Volvo did this DDGJJJGDDJGJJGJGJDDGGJDJD… click noise, and the AC turned off. After all the stuff that had happened with the Corolla that you’ve just read about, needless to say I was scared out of my mind. So I got my smoothie and called a friend to accompany me on the phone while I drove home. Well, I pull out onto the parkway (a 70km/hr zone, one lane traffic each way) and all of the sudden it does the DDGJJJGDDJGJJGJGJDDGGJDJD… click noise again, only this time, all the gauges and display screen on the dashboard go black. I can’t see how fast I’m going, I can’t see how much gas I have. I can’t see anything.
Thankfully I knew of a random parking lot on the side of this parkway that I pulled into and turned the car off. I called my dad in a panic to ask him what the heck to do. He told me to relax and turn the car back on again. When I did, the orange caution sign in the middle of the dashboard lit up, and the notification screen said “SRS AIRBAG / SERVICE URGENT”. Now at this point, with everything else having gone on, I was not comfortable with driving my car home, even though my dad assured me it would be fine. I ended up calling the boyfriend and he came to my rescue and we switched cars to drive them home. I remember sitting there on the side of the parkway crying from stress, thinking to myself how good of an idea it had been going to the bathroom before I left, because there was no way I could’ve held it for that long. I was also wearing thin pants and kicking myself, because I was very much overheating. Since then, I’ve always made sure that my water bottle is filled, I have snacks, and that I’m dressed appropriately for the weather (or that I bring clothes with me so that I could be).
Fixed but not fixed
So my next task was researching Volvo mechanics in the area, and once I found one I had the boyfriend drive the car there for me and I picked him up in his car. The mechanic was able to take me pretty much the next day which was awesome, and my car was fixed. No panic, it’s fine.
Until I was driving home and idling in traffic, and the car revved really loud then dipped. I pulled over into a side street and called the mechanic, who assured me it was fine. I was about halfway home at this point with only like 5km to go, so I stuck it out and drove the Volvo home. When I got home though I burst into tears from the stress of dealing with cars, so the boyfriend told me I could drive his car the next day.
This was a big thing. The boyfriend has a 2016 Mazda 6 and rarely let me drive it (because he was there when I was learning how to drive and likes poking fun at my driving skills), so the fact that he let me drive his car for the day meant a lot to me.
Driving his car was amazing compared to the Volvo. It wasn’t a tank, and didn’t want to kill me. I was in heaven, going to work, dance, then home without issue. As soon as I walked through the door that evening I was greeted not with a “hey sweetie, how was your day?”, but a “it’s not just you being paranoid, there’s something wrong with your car”.
At this point, I was done with the Volvo. I had had enough of cars crapping out on me, and I joked that I was “car palliative care”, because cars came to me to die. So I went searching for a new car.
Before I tell the part of the story about getting my new car, I’m going to tell you about what happened to Harold.
I was able to get my new car super quickly, but that left the question of what was going to happen to the Volvo. Well, my parents told me that if I ever wanted to sell the car, that I should give it back to them so they could sell it. They were going to take a road trip from where my sister lives, through where I live, and down to my old hometown soon, so the plan was that my Dad was going to pick up the Volvo on the way and drive it down to be sold by their old mechanic (who they bought the car from originally, albeit used as well).
Well the day comes, my family and I hang out for a bit, and they ask me where the closest gas station is on their way out of the city. It’s about 2km away, and right after they leave with Harold I get a panicked call from my mum. They found the gas station, but my dad doesn’t think the car is going to make it the 300km to their mechanic, so they’re bringing the car back.
The fact that my dad didn’t even trust the Volvo at that point was proof that I wasn’t crazy. I’ve seen my dad do some ridiculous things with this car (and the car of the same model we had when I was a kid), like towing a heavy trailer full of mulch up a super steep hill in the middle of the Canadian winter, rolling backwards a bit, and keep going. But that he “nope”d out so quickly of this car really assured me that it wasn’t just me.
Back to the mechanic
So we ditched that plan and got the car towed back to the mechanic I had taken to it before, who found out it was a transmission issue as well as the electronics issue he had fixed previously. As the boyfriend described, it was like driving a manual car that was downshifting, only you were accelerating. I’ve never driven manual (and at this point don’t think I ever will), so that means nothing to me, but apparently that’s not what’s supposed to happen.
Anyway, we ended up driving the car down to my parents’ mechanic another time, with the boyfriend taking the Volvo this time instead of me (after it was fixed of course), and it now leads a happy life driving around the city and not crapping out on people.
Part 3: The Mazda Named Max
I’ll admit right now that I did in fact take a sick day to go car shopping. Car troubles were wreaking havoc on my mental health, so I fixed it. It was even boss approved (after I came back to work), but she said other people might not be as approving so to keep it on the down-low.
The Volvo crapped out on me on Wednesday, and so the Thursday I went car shopping with the boyfriend around to all the Mazda dealerships in town looking for a new car. I had actually been looking at getting a Mazda between the Corolla and the Volvo, but it didn’t end up happening. I’m actually glad I didn’t, because I wasn’t going to have gotten all the extra I-ACTIVESENSE safety features or heads-up display, but now I can’t live without them.
Going car shopping, I had 2 main needs: it needed to have all the safety features, and be on the lot so I could get it as soon as humanly possible. After a couple “meh” dealerships, I stumbled upon one with a not-pushy sales person who really understood what I was looking for in a car (and didn’t talk to me about the engine for 5 minutes). We sat down and he said that literally the car I was looking for was out behind him on the lot because another woman had come in debating between two colours. It had all the safety features, and was the exact model and colour I was looking for. Sold!
Go new or go home
I quickly signed on the dotted line, not believing my luck at finding the car I wanted. One of the sales people at another dealership had told me that the car I was looking for “wasn’t in stock at any of the dealerships in the city”, but if had listened to what I was looking for would’ve known I wasn’t actually particular about what the car looked like as long as it had the safety features, so his loss.
Thanks to the quick service at the dealership, I was able to get the car on the Saturday, and proudly drove it to work on Monday.
To the max
Corey the Corolla was unreliable and unpredictable, Harold the Volvo served my family well, but went into retirement. Max the Mazda, on the other hand, is like having a tech wiz as a boyfriend. He’s super high-tech, sleek to drive, and as my friend put it, “is my personality in a car”. I love having all the safety features like the rear cross traffic alert that tells you if someone’s coming and you try backing up, the lane keep assist that will make the steering wheel vibrate if you go over the line and will physically push your car back straight, and the forward obstruction warning that tells you if there’s a car in front of you and you’re following too closely.
I’ve had quite a few people ask me if I really need all these safety features in a car. I mean, am I really that bad of a driver? But it’s not about that, it’s about having the option if needed. I remember I was driving on the highway to visit friends in another city and I got stuck in a massive rainstorm. With the other cars, I would’ve been terrified because I couldn’t see anything. I was going 60km/hr on the highway with my hazards on. But I could see that the car could still “see” the lines, that there was someone in front of me but far away, and that someone on my left was approaching and passing me.
Even though I’ve gone through a time of repeated panic attacks even with my brand new car, where not even a day would go by without having a panic attack going to or from work, I know that the car is super safe. What’s more important, the dealership I went with has an amazing service centre and every time I’ve gone for an appointment the staff haven’t tried mansplaining anything to me, and have been friendly and super quick.
I’ve also been able to use the Mazda Roadside Assistance when I got a piece of metal debris stuck in one of my tires that was like 2″ deep into the tire. The whole process really helped with my piece of mind about if something goes wrong with my car, I know who to call and what the process for fixing it will be like.
All that to say, you need to think about the opportunity costs when you make a purchase. For me, having a monthly payment on a car (thankfully with a 0% interest rate), was worth not having the mental stress of something going wrong with my car. I spend so much time in the car and generally handle stress very well, but knowing that I have support whenever I need it and that my car is under warranty for the next 5+ years really helps my peace of mind. All the added safety features, while sometimes a little extra, also help with the peace of mind.
I’ve found especially in this case that cheaper is not always better. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you get the “best deal” on something if it doesn’t work out in the long run, and sometimes it’s worth it to pay more for better service or a better product.
I wouldn’t wish my car troubles on anybody, and looking back at everything it’s one of my favourite long winded stories to tell, because who goes through 3 cars in their first year and a bit of driving?!