A few weeks ago, I did something I never thought I’d do: buy a brand new car in cash. Actually, it wasn’t just me, it was my boyfriend and our joint-venture business, Gemini Connect. There is a really worthwhile story behind how we built up enough cash with our business to buy a car, but that is for another blog post. Instead, this post addresses a particular instance during the car-buying process: saying goodbye to my first car.
A 2005 Nissan Sentra, this car bore its scars like a true champ. It’s weathered crazy snow storms, survived several break ins, endured numerous cross country road trips, and shuttled around lots of friends, acquaintances, and romantic partners. It was been the car of my twenties, and parting with it just weeks before my 29th birthday feels like a symbolic closing of this momentous decade. As a marker of turning another year closer to 30 and as a tribute to my trusty old Sentra, I give you 6 lessons I’ve learned through the adventures of owning my first car.
1. Just because it’s been used before doesn’t mean it sucks.
My first car was a 2005 Nissan Sentra 4-door sedan. It had just under 20,000 miles on it when I bought it used in 2007. Despite being a used car, it was shiny and spruced up, feeling very new to me. Throughout the nearly 8 years I spent driving it, this car never had mechanical failures or any problems that weren’t inflicted on it by myself or another vehicle. I was lucky to never have to call roadside assistance or pay extraordinary amounts in repairs. There’s nothing wrong with used items or practices if you treat them right.
2. Keep your emotions in check when making big decisions.
You’d think that buying one’s first car should be a deeply contemplative process, but in my case, the complete opposite was true. I bought my first car 48 hours after flying home from my semester abroad in Spain. It was a whirlwind of activity in which I traveled from Tacoma to Oregon to visit my grandmother and shop for a new car before settling into my summer residence in Renton and begin my first corporate internship at Boeing. Oh, and I had to adjust to being back stateside and awkwardly reunite with my boyfriend at the time before he himself departed on his year-long study abroad adventure. Basically, it was a lot of big changes all happening at once, and I admit to not being all there mentally or emotionally while shopping for a new car. While I never regretted choosing the Sentra, I did often wish I had dedicated more time to shopping around for that first car.
3. It’s often worth it to read the fine print.
The first time I found out the Sentra didn’t have an anti-lock brake system was when it skid on wet pavement and rear-ended another car. It was my car’s hood that took all the damage, and luckily insurance chipped in to help. But it was also a cold reminder that this wasn’t the same car I grew up driving and I should have taken the extra effort to read the car manual.
4. Keep your eyes on the road, but don’t forget to look back every once and a while.
During my last spring break of college (March 2008), one of my best friends and I decided to explore Vancouver Island up in British Columbia, Canada. We trekked all the way up to Nanaimo and beyond for a week of camping and hiking. The weather was wet and chilly, but we managed to avoid any accidents until our last morning. We were cleaning up our campsite and packing out, trying to rush and grab a ferry back to the mainland of Canada. While rushing, I didn’t check where I was going and backed right into a tree stump, denting my right bumper and taking out my brake light. Luckily, it just needed a couple hours of fixing at a nearby repair shop, but I definitely learned my lesson to watch where I’m going.
5. Remember to organize the physical documents and items in your life.
There was never a moment during the car-buying process that I felt any negative emotions while speaking with the sales woman, until the moment I realized I’d lost the original title to my car I was trading in. It was embarrassing to realize I had no clue where I’d placed this important document, mainly because it highlighted the fact that I don’t have a clear organizing system for physical objects. As a last life lesson, my Sentra reminded me that there’s a need for more than just keeping phones, social media, and other digital content organized. Always have a dedicated spot for keeping the important physical items you need (ie. Passports, car titles, house titles, social security cards, etc).
6. Always look for the silver lining.
One of the biggest reasons I had often contemplated trading in my Sentra for a new car was the hope that my next ride could be a different color other than boring silver. I had pictured an emerald green or bronzed orange as my next car color, but lo and behold, my new car is a dark dark blue. It was the only car with the exact features we wanted, and despite my initial insistence that we simply wait a couple of months for a custom car in another color to arrive, we signed the deal for the dark blue car. As a bonus, we got the value of the extra bonus features waived thanks to our negotiation skills, thus paying for a base model and scoring a “free” moon roof as a result.
What was your first car? Did it teach you any important life lessons? Let me know in the comments below!