When to marry your car...
Many people seem to write to the Everyday Driver Car Debate podcast with a “forever car” situation. They either have a future car purchase in mind that they claim they will keep it “forever”, or perhaps they have recently purchased said “forever car” and are crippled by the weight of preserving it indefinitely and barely use it.
I always get very sad when I hear either scenario on the bi-weekly podcast. I think that people find a nobility in this projected commitment to a vehicle but in reality it couldn’t be a worse idea.
It starts from a good place. Those of us who are not spoiled trust-fund kids probably started out with a string of ‘decent’ cars at best. Whether they were selections chosen for safety, a purposely benign driving experience by our parents or simply the best car that a young driver can afford to buy, our first few cars are rarely looked at as “keepers”.
So we normalize the headspace of buying something and immediately thinking about what’s next. We settle for the used 4cyl Accord because it’s decent and a smart economical choice but we calm that “compromise” by assuring ourselves that the NEXT one will be a BMW or something aspirational. The typical car enthusiast is always thinking at least one or two moves ahead and that roster is ever-changing. I genuinely love this game, even though it annoys my wife.
But sometimes there's a car that is out of reach and people put it on a pedestal. People will pick a goal of say a Toyota Supra - sometimes having never driven one - and start saving to buy one. They start claiming that they will keep this car FOREVER, even though they’ve never experienced it. This could end badly.
Because by the time they acquire said Supra, now they are acutely aware that this vehicle will only depreciate, deteriorate and get used. So they often just freak out and stop driving it. Which leads to them rarely ENJOYING it. I know when they daydreamed about owning it years back, those dreams didn’t involve being too precious to take it out of the garage.
I used to do this a bit, but now I realize that It’s all backwards.
Imagine this “Forever Car” like you would a spouse. Similar to the car purchase, it starts with interest, attraction and intrigue. Then dating... It’s window shopping. But it’s only after you start to get to know the person that you can really begin to feel whether it will be “the one” or not. Nobody says (with any amount of seriousness) “I’m going to meet this person named ______, and they’re going to be my favorite person ever and I’ll only love them” - when the ________ in that equation is a stranger.
When I met my wife, I thought she was beautiful, seemed friendly and I wanted to spend time getting to know her. I didn’t know that she would end up being my best friend, somebody who supports and challenges me and somebody I'd never tire of for the past 20 years. Nobody could accurately predict that or force that upon somebody in advance.
This realization came with time. The day I knew I had to marry her was at least a couple years into the relationship. Sure we had talked about it prior to then, but there was some day that the very thought of her NOT being in my life at any point made my heart skip a beat. That’s the day I knew she was the one to “keep” forever. I could’ve never known this early on, let alone right away or in advance.
Regardless of any expectation I had in the relationship going in, I assure you it did nothing to actually help me select my life partner. It’s all pointless once you “get behind the wheel”. You’ll fall in love when you’re involved in the person or car, not beforehand.
Leaving the metaphorical sense, I (like one of the hosts, the cameraman and many many listeners) am something of a Porsche-file. For many years I was counting the moves to get a P-Car into my garage. I got close a couple of times too. I was scared of cost. I was scared of upkeep. I was scared of binning an expensive car when I explored the dynamics and limitations of a ‘proper’ sports car.
But as one does, along the way I made more financially logical and practical choices and ended up in other things. I passed on a 10 year old 996 Carrera and bought a 4 year old VW GTI. I loved that VW but admit that I always had a case of the “what if” syndrome the entire time I had it. After that, I could’ve “righted my wrong” and bought a Porsche the next time. My budget years later still kept me in a 996 911, but now those cars were as much as 14yrs old and made even LESS sense financially, practically, etc.
I bought my 2013 Scion FRS instead. It had just enough practicality to ‘get by’ as my only car. It was brand new, so it would carry a warranty for the majority of the time I was paying it off. It was also the first rear-wheel drive car I'd ever owned. It had an early reputation for being a very responsive, controllable car and a GREAT choice to learn the RWD dynamics without buying something reckless like a Mustang/Camaro/insert big horsepower thing here. Something that would be great as a learning tool for advanced driving.
In my head, I'd drive it for 4-5 years while I paid it off, and then I’d be ready to really get a 911 NEXT time. By then, I'd “outgrow” the lowly FRS and move onto something properly good.
Once I got the FRS, I really liked driving it in a way that I never realized existed before. It was indeed a terrific tool to learn and grow as a driver. I discovered AutoCross just a few months into ownership and that led me down a rabbit hole of driving technique, skill and ability I never knew was possible. I tracked the car, and got to experience out-braking and getting a point-by from a GT3 on a racetrack.
As I grew, I modified the car to suit my taste (not what people on Instagram had bought). I grew, the car grew and it was SUCH a wonderful platform that I fell into at just the right time. I also began to appreciate the virtues of a small nimble car over one that relied on power. I learned that my eventual Porsche would be one of the smaller mid-engined ones (Cayman, Boxster) and not even the 911. They rotate better and are more playful at lower speeds just like my FRS.
A few years later, my car got in an accident. It was driving home from work in the winter and got barreled into by a SUV. it hit my little car above the bumper and just crunched the trunk and part of the rear. It was enough force to push me into the car in front of me at the stop sign, making the little Scion something of a red sandwich. Knowing this isn’t that pricey of a car in the first place, it really seemed like the car would be written off and ‘totaled’ by insurance. I waited for that call while the car was being evaluated and estimated by the body shop.
In the following days, I went car shopping. I didn’t intend to end my tenure with the FRS so quickly but I didn’t think I would go buy another one and “start over”. It had been nearly three years at this point and I felt like I had gotten enough out of it to graduate to a Porsche. I had gotten a new far better paying job in that time and felt like it was finally time to buy a Boxster S or Cayman S. I wasn’t scared of it anymore.
I test drove one, and absolutely LOVED it. It was immediately playful and responsive and felt “at home” in my hands. I thoroughly enjoyed driving it better than the few 911s I had ever driven and dropped the car at the dealership with a “i’ll be back in a few days once my insurance check arrives”. I was so excited about this new chapter - finally getting that “forever car” I had longed for - that even though I loved my Scion and was crushed that it got.. well, crushed, I was actually elated at the idea that I would finally be buying a Porsche. I barely slept that night. I hadn’t felt that excitement and anticipation since Christmas eve as a young boy.
So when the insurance adjuster called me the very next day with the terrific news (their words) that my car was being repaired, I was just set back. My Porsche dream slipped through my fingers once more. Now even though I was emotionally ready to move on, I couldn’t. The resale value of my car would’ve tumbled with such a ding on the Carfax report. I would be stuck with the FRS until It was near-fully depreciated.
It took a while, but the car was returned to me. It seemed good as new, and was assured that nothing structurally important was harmed or removed in the repair. It was fine. I was excited to have my beloved car back but kind of had to “start over” in my attachment to it. It now represented a fumble in my goal to buy a Porsche, and it needed to really win me over again. I felt stuck in the “jr varsity” of sports cars - something the internet would have you believe about the FRS.
But as the snow thawed, I doubled down on the car. I went to more driving events. I tracked it more often than ever, and dominated AutoX at my local club going undefeated for nearly 3 full seasons in my class. The car got lighter, lower, stiffer, got more tire, and I honestly learned just as much in the next two years as the prior 3. The car still had more to teach me, and it proved me wrong in that it wasn’t just a beginner’s sports car.
A bit later, the car got paid off. It was mine. It was and asset, and had a value. That value wasn’t much, but it would absolutely put a nice dent into the price of a clean used Porsche like the one I almost bought when this one got hit. Having the title in hand to this Scion felt like the ticket to the finale. I had made it.
But that same month I drove a Porsche (a lot like the one I intended to buy) for the first time since the near-purchase. It still felt good. It handled good. It still looked good. It still sounded good. I loved driving that car.
But it didn’t feel AS good, handle AS good or make me love it as much as my FRS. That made the better looking and far better sounding Porsche quite a bit less appealing as a “forever car”. It kind of crushed me a bit, not wanting the thing I had wanted for so long. But when I got home, took my FRS out and went on track the following weekend, I couldn’t have been more in love with that car. That was a couple of years ago, and I haven’t longed for a Porsche since.
While I was treating it like a placeholder, somehow my Scion accidentally became my forever car. I have zero interest or plan to sell it, or move on. I might miss out on experiencing other things, but there is nothing on the market that appeals to me as an ownership proposition nearly enough to invest a sizable bit of money to achieve.
It has been 100% reliable. It has done everything I have ever asked of it. With the upgrades it’s gotten over the years, there is NOTHING on the planet that handles and drives as well out of the box at any remotely reasonable price. So anything I would stretch to afford in its place would instantly need upgrades to catch up - including the Porsche.
I always really liked the car from the first test drive until when I drove it this morning. But somewhere between nearly losing it and being able to finally sell it and move on, I hadn’t noticed that I absolutely don’t want to live without it. Like my wife, I have zero interest in the other options out there. The car stays, and instead of chasing the next one, I have found far more enjoyment in a lifetime of new experiences with this wonderful choice.
I didn’t choose this path before I had the keys in my hand. I didn’t project this mystique around the purchase and am forcing it to live up to my lofty expectations. I also didn’t scrape to get it into the garage and was terrified to take it out. The car had a half dozen AutoX days and got on track the first calendar year I owned it. It’s been the perfect long-term partner.
My name is Nate and I am happily married to my car. It is my forever car. I hope others will find automotive love organically and stop trying to plan it so much as well.
I write and I know things. I am also the resident motorcycle expert at Everyday Driver - check out the Cycle Report on our YouTube channel - www.thecyclereport.com - The views and opinions expressed here are my own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.