With a lengthy commute to the CG headquarters every day—31.4 miles each way—I do my fair share of driving, to say the least. Avoiding peak rush-hour times has become my number one hobby, and I have become quite well known by several different gas station attendants near the office and near my home in the ’burbs. I’m such a showoff, I know.
But as I continue to drive 314 miles to and from work per week—setting aside any additional miles for miscellaneous things like errand running—the odometer on my 1999 Chrysler 300M grows closer and closer to 200,000 miles (!).
Stories about cars that are capable of reaching 200,000 miles are scattered throughout the news. This is considered a positive thing, but I am more ambivalent. Am I grateful that my car has lasted this long? Yes, definitely. Do I think it’s only a matter of time before I get stranded on the highway? Absolutely.
I have overly dramatic visions of my car spontaneously bursting into flames and how I would single-handedly back up traffic for hours and hours. It’s kind of like how that oil tanker carrying acid toppled over on the Tri-State recently; southbound exits were closed off for an astonishing seven hours. More realistically, I’ll probably just get stuck at the Panera five blocks away from my house and have to walk home. I actually did get stuck at Panera last week, but after 30 minutes my car decided it wanted to work again. Go figure.
So with a laundry list full of mechanical issues that seem to be perpetual—for example, I have to pour in a liter of oil every week, like clockwork—I know the car is, and has been, on its last legs. It would certainly be nice to know just how many legs ’ol Bessie has got left, but forking over money to, let’s say, replace the transmission is not really in the cards.
On a short-term timeline, it would be less expensive to continue to have repairs done, but purchasing a new car is in my imminent future anyway. Then I won’t have to constantly fear that my car might not start in the morning. It will also be nice to not have to spend approximately 500 bones per month on fuel (the 300M is not just thirsty but requires mid-grade gasoline). That’s a couple monthly payments for a new car that gets extraordinarily better mileage.
Moreover, the longevity of my Chrysler is certainly a testament to its solid build, but how far can repairs really take you over the 200,000-mile mark? I guess I’m about to find out. My mechanic, who shakes his head in awe every time I take the car in, has told me he would be scared to drive my car every day. So I just tell him I like to live on the edge.
Once I’m inducted into the 200K Club, which will probably be in less than two months, I should do something to celebrate. What I’d really like to do, other than buy a new car that gets better than 15 mpg, is write Chrysler a strongly worded letter with a list of grievances. It will have a Seinfeld-esque Festivus vibe (“I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you’re gonna hear about it!”). I’ll thank them for their quality craftsmanship briefly—as if it had nothing to do with the duration of the car—but will also demand reimbursement for the king’s ransom they’ve inadvertently forced me to spend on gas. Yeah—that’ll be the day.