It's easy and helpful to obtain the history of nearly any vehicle by purchasing its CARFAX report. The plush fox aside, analyzing how many owners a car has had, where it was purchased, how often and how well it has been serviced, and if it's been in any accidents is invaluable when researching a vehicle before purchase. Most of us wouldn't buy a used car without this information. It's important to know what you will be driving for at least part of the foreseeable future--especially considering how much time and money go into any car, truck, or SUV purchase. But have you tried running a CARFAX on yourself?
Looking into your own automotive history can help you choose your next best vehicle as well. What was your first car? What was objectively your best car? Which was your favorite? Reviewing your old rides can teach you about your preferences, habits, and predilections, and it can guide your buying decisions beyond practical purposes and budgetary constraints.
Here is my own CARFAX “report", including which stages of life I was driving through at the time.
1. 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix
This is not a picture of my actual first car, but it was a blue 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix. The funny thing is that some are selling for at least double what I bought mine for in 1997! ($3000). Maybe I should have held onto it? I was a junior in high school at the time, and it lasted into my first year of college. It was a fine three years--especially when the local mechanic fixed my shocks with duct tape. I don't know if he was trying to do me a favor or rip me off, but I made it a point to learn a lot more about auto maintenance after that. I also learned that pushing the car helped to get it started as well— not dissimilar to graduating with a liberal arts degree, actually.
2. 1996 Ford Taurus
My second car was a 1996 Taurus--not exactly a step up in reliability from the Grand Prix. Still, I drove the huge Ford from 2000-2003 or so into my first job out of college. It was comfortable--the car, not the job. It was also the start of my long history of long commutes--which was fine except in the winter because this old beast never had heat! I gave this car to my younger brother and he had better luck with it. Go figure.
3. 2004 Ford Focus
My first new car! The Ford Focus was also the first car I owned that was legitimately fun to drive. I bought it new because I worked for a Ford dealer at the time, and the discount helped me buy the cheapest car they offered. I put on about 150k miles in five years. The serpentine belt squealed no matter how many times it was changed. The six CD changer died the first year. The sunroof fell apart and landed on my head. But, um, yeah… it was actually a pretty great car. I drove it through graduate school and my first job teaching and my wedding and the purchase of a house. Lots of milestones fit into this tiny hatchback!
4. 2010 Honda Civic
The 2010 Honda Civic was my fourth car. It was by far the most reliable vehicle I've ever owned. It was not very comfortable, it had a lousy stereo, and it was slow as molasses. One time, while driving on the highway, a 2x4 fell off of a truck and bounced off my windshield. It left no damage except for a splinter in the weatherstripping. I would probably be still be driving this safe, sane choice today if it wasn't for me becoming more of an auto enthusiast and wanting more space for my son when he was born. I do sort of miss that base Civic. Sort of.
5. 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser
Ride number five. I traded in the Honda Civic for more space and capability for outdoor adventures with my son. It also got me through a second round of grad school, a new job, and an escalating number of home improvement projects. It ended up being my favorite vehicle, and I regret selling it every day. Our love for off-roading and performance driving started with the FJ Cruiser, and we made a lot of great memories together in our "Adventure Mobile"!
6. 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
My sixth vehicle started us writing and making videos about driving. I chose this SUV after two years of research which drove my friends and family nuts. (Paralysis by analysis?) After choosing the Jeep, I quickly learned it was excellent at being a Rubi, but it did not have my back long term. We posted some very mixed ownership reviews on our blog and YouTube channel. Trading in the Jeep was a damn shame, though, because it was so much fun! Maybe we'll try a Wrangler again someday. Mine was nothing but trouble, unfortunately.
7. 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
My new truck has given me equal parts pleasure and pain. Its on- and off-road capabilities are unmatched in the midsize truck segment. So is its unreliability: The Chevy Colorado “won" Consumer Reports lowest reliability score in 2019. It looks cool, but I also wish it were a little faster and a little nicer inside. Still, my family and I are having a lot of fun driving together when it's not in the shop! The story continues to unfold, so stay tuned for updates.
Running your Report
As you can see, studying your own car history reminds you of your past but it can reveal a lot about yourself as well. I encourage you to run your own CARFAX. Not only will it potentially steer you into your next vehicle by teaching you about what you like to drive, but it may also provide an excellent opportunity for some automotive introspection. What kind of driver are you? What are your needs? What do you get excited about? What is your tolerance for maintenance and repairs? How does your life experience so far influence your next steps in other areas? We do not always ask these questions when shopping because it's easy to get caught up in what automobile to invest in next. These questions, however, can not only relate to your time behind the wheel but also where you are in your life. What will your personal CARFAX uncover?
Bill hosts a blog and YouTube channel that lead him to think more deeply about what it means to drive. The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.