Gwendolyn has now been semi-comfortably ensconced in my garage for more than five years now, and while she’s generally well-behaved, keeping her in condition is pricey: I figure that some time in year seven, maybe eight, I’ll have spent as much on maintenance as I did to buy her in the first place.
Then again, as Ezra Dyer points out in the October Automobile, I should probably consider myself fortunate:
My Saab’s leather shift knob became frayed, so I ordered a new one from the dealership. The dealer quoted me $165 — borderline criminal but worth it for a leather knob that would probably last for the remaining life of the car. I went to the dealer to pick it up, and to my surprise, the parts guy arrived at the counter with a rubber shift knob.
A rubber shift knob for $165? Was this the work of the famed rubbersmiths of Börgflappen, a hand-hewn piece crafted from virgin stock carefully chiseled from the secluded Arctic-rubber mines of Gnorkflug, predistressed by the calloused hand of Stig Blomqvist himself? No. It was a piece of crap with nasty flash lines and a shift pattern glued on top. If I’m paying $165 for a piece of rubber, it better be a Catwoman costume containing Michelle Pfeiffer.
Similarly, Doc Searls on a ’00 VW Passat wagon:
Bought for $5k from a friend who was moving out of the country. Put another $3k into it, to bring it up to top shape. Wish it was a stick, but otherwise it’s a great little car. [Summer 2009 update: I have since put another $10k into it. I’ve never known a better-made yet more repair-intensive car.]
Which sums it up nicely. And even when Gwendolyn’s repair bills equal her purchase price, she’ll still be $5k below her original sticker. Depreciation — when someone else has to eat it, anyway — is your friend.