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Have you ever loved a car too well?

457183-5.JPGHave you ever loved a car? Really, truly - blindly and maybe even a little pathologically - loved a car? Have you ever continued to pour money into repairing what, without blinders, may actually have been a lemon? Did you ever stop to think about why you loved that hulk of metal on wheels so much?

A few weeks ago, I was driving my beloved green 1995 Volvo station wagon when another car pulled out suddenly into traffic and crunched into the right front of the car, just behind the wheel, flattening the tire, smooshing tire well, and, I was told later, making an accordion of the suspension.

Because the car was so old and the cost to repair the damage would be more than the value of the vehicle, the insurance company of the guy who hit me decided to total it.

I was devastated.

I'm talking flattened.

And so were my kids. My 11-year-old son insisted on coming with me to clean out the car so he could say goodbye to it. He even gave it a hug.

Now, this was not a great car. It had at least 150,000 miles on it before the odometer broke a while back. Over the years, it had occasionally simply conked out in the middle of intersections and on highways with kids in their car seats. And it was constantly in the shop for repairs. When I finally added up how much I'd spent over the years, I felt sick. Since I bought the car used in 1998, I had spent more money on repairs than I spent to purchase the car.

I think I know why. But I want to know if I'm alone. Anyone out there who can share a story of irrational car love? Any mechanics with tales to tell of warnings to besotted car owners that went unheeded - or money made off of them? Any behavioral economists or psychologists want to weigh in? Send me a note or pass your story along on the comment board below. I'm all ears.

By Brigid Schulte  | June 9, 2010; 9:24 AM ET
Categories:  Build-A-Story  
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Just a few days ago, I traded in my much loved 1999 Camry. It was fitting that I finally had to go car shopping on Memorial Day Weekend! It only had 183,000 miles, but the most recent repair estimate was quite a bit more than what the car was worth. I loved it because it was quiet, powerful (vrooom, vrooom) and totally reliable until the last couple of years. Over the years, I took some fun trips to my favorite art retreats--packing the trunk and back seat with my supplies and snacks for the ride.

I felt safe in this car, no matter where I was driving. I treated it well--we stayed home when it was icy or snowy so that it would be safe. I got the oil changed regularly, and washed it pretty often to keep it shiny. I even had it detailed a few times so it would know how much I really cared for it.

I actually wanted to get 200,000 miles but realized that I was now about to throw far too much money into it.

So, I bought a 2011 Camry! I'm starting to fall in love again, but somehow I feel just a tiny bit unfaithful. Yes--I really love being able to stream my iPod music, and answering my phone totally hands free. It's still a quiet, secure comfortable riding experience. And, I'm looking forward to our first real road trip.

And yet, leaving my 1999 Camry on the Carmax lot was kind of hard. My husband was there and I even called my Sister and my BFF for moral support.

You know, I'm not a very sentimental gal....but I realized that I had to post this comment as a way of saying "Thanks and Good Bye" to that car for years of wonderful service.

Posted by: carolelyles | June 10, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Love a car? I got rid of my car in 1986, and have never looked back.

Posted by: jckdoors | June 10, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

My son's first car was an older Buick Electra which was in excellent condition when he inherited it. He kept it up pretty well until he was rear-ended and the insurance company declared it DOA. When his band started recording, one of their first songs was "Buick Electra," a love song to a car! It can be heard at

Posted by: tfshea | June 10, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

It's blue for one son's eyes. I got it after a P.G. police officer driving with no headlights in rain totaled my 1996 red Honda Civic. I don't clean it inside or out. Inside dust is for character+it rains. Only 1,000 miles were done by repair reps, a son and a brother-in-law. I did the rest. I handle engine, tires and windshield. I replaced the latter but ignore a small pebble indent). To end flat tires, I get tires at Honda of Bowie. I ignore the top needs paint. Bumper stickers on back keep away those who wanting to take it. Its trade-in value is $2,500. I partially replaced a clutch. I replaced a battery at 152,000 miles. I replaced brake pads. I replaced 1 timer belt. Each 7,500 miles Tischer Honda or HOB does maintenance. It took HOB twice to fix an AC problem. Replacing freeon ignored a a slow leak. HOB does all alignment. It took HOB twice to fix an AC/ heater: Water leaked at the passenger part in front. Neither HOB nor Marlboro Auto Body fixed a back right passenger door lock problem. I ignore it. I've replaced many lightbulbs. For a time I purple/blue ones, but MAB replaced them after I was hit me on the driver side. MAB replaced a front bumper with scrapped paint on it by teaching a son to drive at FedEx Field parking lot. He went into a fence. I got headlight areas cleaned and now see fine. In July, HOB does more maintenance per their computer notice. I once took it to College Park Honda who got so excited seeing stickers by TAH and HOB they offered me more service I did not need.
My owner's manual has no set maintenance list after 120,000 miles.
Suze Orman says, "Don't replace cars until you're on a first name basis with your repairman." Luckily, HOB keeps all their real servicemen out back.
Marie A. Sherrett

Posted by: virri345 | June 11, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

My first car was a '71 Chevy Nova passed down from my Aunt to my cousin, and then to me in the early '80s... it was nothing to look at, but it was built like a tank, and had a powerful V-8 engine. I was a slight young woman, but I loved blowing away guys in their 'muscle' cars at traffic lights. They would sit grinning at me, reving up their engines waiting for the green light so they could show off thier speed... boy, they were always surprised when this little thing in her beat-up sedan would leave them in her dust.

One Chicago winter afternoon I hit some black ice in that car, and veered off the road into a line of trees... that wonderful car flew right into --and straight through!-- a tree of at least 12 inches in diameter. I was shocked, but safe... however, that poor tree was destroyed, cut clear through by the force of the car. My 12-year old Chevy Nova had an enormous cleft in the front end that I was certain foretold of certain death for the radiator, and therefore the car. But after the tow truck arrived to pull the undercarriage off of the severed tree, the car started right up with no internal damage whatsoever.

I proudly drove that ugly, wonderful car with the damaged hood like it was a perverse badge of honor (indeed, it was!) through the rest of high school. We were finally forced to put it to rest when it was diagnosed with a loose bearing so far inside the bowels of the car that to find it and replace it would cost multiple times the worth of the car. I still mourn the loss of that car nearly thirty years later!

Posted by: HomeTownDC | June 11, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

My very first car--a '72 AMC Gremlin that I owned for almost 14 years. It had a V-6 engine that I,despite being a woman, learned to work on my parent's backyard. I changed the oil and the drum brakes on it, too.

While attempting to teach a young man how to drive one afternoon down on Lot #1 in Rock Creek Park, we had a terrifying incident.He was doing alright at first, cruising around in circles, until he panicked when the car started to pick up speed and he hit the gas instead of the brake. We ended up jumping the curb,hurling over the grass and ended up nose-down in the water.

After we pushed it off of the rocks and put it into neutral, it actually started right up!!! That was a tough little ride!!!

I happily drove that funny-looking little car for many years after that. It only had 50,000 miles on it (lived near a MEtro station) when I sold it to our family's mechanic--but I needed a car with front-wheel drive and better brakes because I was moving to the distant suburbs after getting married. Couldn't bear to see it driven away!! I still miss my baby and kept the original license plate from it.
Well, guess what happened? One night I dreamed that I was driving my old car when a taxi hit me. So I ran out and played my tag number for as many days as possible. I hit the lottery 3 times within a ten-day period, wiining a total of $15,000.
On top of everything else, I was so fascinated as to what caused this phenomenum--I started studying astrology. So I learned to use a computer in order to make it easier, eventually becoming a programmer. I also did get rear-ended by taxi years a few years later!!!
Go figure...all because of my Gremlin.

Posted by: ladycafeaulait | June 15, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

I've probably loved every car I've driven a little too much. We get comfortable with our cars, lemons or otherwise. After going for many years without a car, and relying on friends to ferry me around places or on Metro to get to near by destinations, I understand how convenient it is to have a car (just got one! Yeah!) I don't even mind if other friends give me a shout to ask me to run them around, or do other favors that require driving. In the end, I think it's the driving that I love more than the car, but the car makes driving possible, so perhaps their synonomous.

Posted by: akchild | June 16, 2010 7:19 AM | Report abuse

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