February 09, 2006

Car Envy

Living in the Silicon Valley, I am surrounded by others who had better timing than me, and managed to make a good bit of money. I pass more BMW's and Mercedes on the freeways and side roads than it seems I do Volkswagens or Chevys. In an environment like this, my green four-door 1998 Mercury Tracer, sporting more than 113,000 miles of history, doesn't really stand out - unless you mean in a bad way. The peer pressure to upgrade my car - even though this one works fine - is enormous. If I don't own a BMW, Lexus, or even a high-end Audi, I might as well not even drive, but should take mass transit and save myself the gas money.

When I bought the Mercury Tracer, I didn't really have any kind of expectation for how long I would keep it. In 1999, I was working as the Web Marketing Manager for 3Cube, and with my boss out on his honeymoon, I had to visit our Web design firm in San Francisco with him away and get us to the next stage. But the Ford Escort I'd been driving between Berkeley and Burlingame for a year-plus wasn't going to make it with me. The engine had cracked, and it had to be refilled with water to and from the office.

That Saturday, I drove it to the Ford dealership and told them they would have the easiest sale ever - I was leaving my Escort there, and would go home with something else. Really didn't matter what. After trying a Ford Contour (too big) and looking at other things, the Mercury Tracer (used, with 28,000 miles on it already) seemed like an okay option. I test-drove it, and it felt remarkably like the Escort. That's really what made me sign off on it - not any kind of research or pushiness from the sales guy. I was an easy sale. Yet the car still works. It's been paid off for who knows how many years, and still gets from one place to another without breaking. The only question is - for how long?

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