A couple of weeks ago I wrote about getting my shoes resoled. Hopefully this didn’t come off as like my big “reuse” project for the year. Not by a long shot. We reuse a lot and really believe the idea that repair and reuse is better than recycling. It’s also cheaper.
About two years ago my son came home from the military with a severed Achilles tendon from a training accident and got to stay with Mom and Dad for a year while he went to the VA Hospital for therapy. I’m sure he hated that (another story altogether) but he was also without transportation – he hadn’t planned on being back for a while and he decided to be car-less and carefree.
I set out to find a car with the express goal of something we could afford, and something we’d need for a short time before we’d gift it, sell it, or donate it to the local Shepherd Rescue, where some of our vehicles go for their retirement. We found a delightful 20 year old Volvo with nearly all the paint peeled off and a door that wouldn’t close all the way. It ran great, seemed to have good gas mileage, and passed the safety inspection. Oh yeah and it cost $1,000. I thought I’d be really happy if the car made it for a full year and then down the road we could use the CA State smog reduction program and get a $1,000 credit to retire it.
Boy was I wrong.
We’re now on year two of the car and it’s going strong. Too strong. It also gets the best gas mileage of any of our cars, and it passed smog by an unbelievable margin, so no chance at retiring it. My son has since relocated leaving the car here as our spare, but of course in two years it’s also suffered a little fender-bender, in addition to continuing to rust away. There is a hole in the headlight cover that fills with water when it rains, like a little fish tank. I should stick a plastic gold fish in there. It’s really one ugly car. I mean UGLY.
Last month my 12 year old truck started having some bizarre symptoms of it’s own, and since it’s got over 200k miles I was worried, and rightly so. Two mechanics and a neighbor who is quite experienced in engine rebuilds all said, “sell it.” I need a truck but didn’t want to buy another one in this price range because I’ve replaced everything on this truck at least twice. After two weeks of “convincing” I got my mechanic to open it up and the repair was successful, to the tune of $750, but still cheaper than getting another 10 year old truck.
My reasoning was this: The kind of used truck I wanted would go for about $4k-$5k. For that price I get the same 10 year old truck, also with high mileage. I’d probably have to do all the same repairs I’ve already done. So we set our breaking point for the repairs on this truck at a couple of thousand, and got off easy at $750. So one more truck avoids the scrap heap, and one less new truck needs to be built in the supply chain, and we saved some money. I think (when possible) repair is almost always better than recycle.
I carpool frequently and have the occasional work at home day so don’t freak about the truck – we have reasons we need it, and we’ve done the Carbon Trail exercise already to see if getting a hybrid would make us lighter on the environment. It wouldn’t. So using this (with wisdom) until it cannot go any further is the best solution all around.
During that time the truck was broken I drove the Volvo to work. If you think that people do not judge you differently by what you drive, try driving a 20 year old, paint peeling, dented Volvo to work. Then see what you think. I like to think it doesn’t bother me, but I noticed I do park a little out of sight of the office . I think my coworkers were more worried about our financial health than anything, because that’s how we think today. If you use something old it must be because you can’t afford something new. We always think of “trading up” but is it to get something more functional, or is it just for prestige? That’s a way of thinking we should take a look at.
I also see a attitude toward me when I go out on my gardening clothes and drive the Volvo on the weekends – an interesting sociological experiment. If you already drive a car like this, I wonder if you’d agree?
Now the truck is fixed and the Volvo is going strong, our best car for fuel and emissions. As far as getting rid of it, I don’t think it’s going anywhere fast, no pun intended. So for the time being, this is how we roll.
How do you roll?