09:26:09 pm on
Friday 26 Nov 2021

Money Pit
Matt Seinberg

The bane of owning an older car is the money you must spend to keep it going. We own a 2010 Mazda 6 (above), which we got in May 2009. It was my car until 2018, when I leased my first Equinox, and gave the Mazda to Melissa to drive to school.

Money is always the answer.

Why would I give a student a nice car such as that you may ask? That was part of the bribe to keep her home for the first two years of school instead of going away. The main reason was of course money.

College tuition is the affordable part of college in New York State. The charges for dormitories and food are ridiculous. So, to avoid those bills was great.

We agreed Melissa could go away for the last two years. She attended the State University of New York (SUNY) at Oneonta for all of two weeks before Covid-19 shut the school down. That’s another story.

My intent was to let Melissa take the Mazda to school in her second semester and avoid my having to drive up with my wife, stay over and then drive back home. My wife on the other hand was not a fan of that idea. I think eventually I would have won, but we’ll never know.

Melissa ended up transferring back to SUNY Farmingdale, which is more of a commuter college. Her round trip from home to school is about twenty miles and with a sixteen-gallon gas tank at around eighteen miles per gallon, it can be an expensive fill up.

The major expense this year was the air conditioner compressor; it bit the dust in May. That cost around $1200; it had to be replaced under warranty at the end of September. My only cost was the replacement of some sort of switch for $60.

In June, parts of the rear suspension had to be replaced for a cist almost $1800. We had that done at our regular repair shop. The dealer would have been much more money.

Lastly, the amplifier died.

It was a Bose amp, part of the premium sound system in the car. I probably could have bought a new-used amp online, but my fear was that if it were bad, we were stuck and possibly not able to return it. I found a new system at Best Buy and by the time it was installed, it cost around $600.

The installer told us that two of the speakers didn’t work, but Melissa doesn’t care. At some point, I’ll have them replaced. Plus, the new head unit didn’t have enough power to run the middle-front dash speaker or the rear woofer.

If I was driving that every day, I would have replaced those speakers already. Melissa says she doesn’t notice it. I can avoid those costs, at least for now.

After we picked the car up from the dealer, I noticed that the dashboard was sticky and cracked. I know that there had been a recall done on that years ago, so I called the dealer. The secretary told me to call the corporate office at Mazda, which I did.

The first woman that helped me put me on hold and we got disconnected and she didn’t call back. I called the dealer. The secretary told me that Mazda did call and she was very nasty, insisting on talking to the Service Manager, who wasn’t in that day.

I called Mazda back and got another woman who was very friendly. She said she would contact the service manager the next day. She did what she said she’d do.

I heard from Alex, the service manager, who asked why I called Mazda and not him. I told him that Pam told me to call them. He said he would take care of it and a few days later he called to say that Mazda and the dealership would pay for it, with my share an $89 deductible; I can live with that.

Melissa is visiting a friend in a couple of weeks. I’ll drop the Mazda off at the dealership. They can have the car for as long as they need it.

The next big expense, which is also a known factory problem, are the alarm sensors in the doors: they go off with no rhyme or reason at all times of the day or night. Those run around $350 each to repair at the dealership. Maybe I’ll ask our regular mechanic how much he would charge for that.

Less expensive to fix than to buy a new car.

By now you must be asking, why not sell that car and buy a new one, or a used one? Because the money simply isn’t there. I’m not getting a 21-year-old student a new car. I’m not a used car fan. Even used car prices have skyrocketed because of the shortage of new cars and computer chips. Moreover, why get rid of a car we can pay to fix, again and again?

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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