Thursday, April 24, 2008

This Car Runs On Beluga Caviar

We have an awesome mechanic (Art, owner/operator of Auto Point Motors in Point Richmond, CA). He never does unnecessary work, never overcharges, and only once in six years have we had to bring a car back for the same problem twice. I just picked up our Audi today, and he explained to me, somewhat apologetically, why the bill was $600. He thought that was high, and needed to explain it. Since the Audi dealer basically charges $600 for an oil change, I wasn't overly concerned, but glad for the explanation. Essentially, he saved our engine. A prior accident (or the emergency repair shop in LA) had shorn-off all of the fan blades, warped the take-up pulley, and caused a clamp to disappear that let the a coolant hose drift into the fan area. He also fixed our A/C and flushed and replaced all the fluids in the car. About 2/3 of the bill was parts.

Then I went to get gas. At over $4/gallon, my car now basically runs on Beluga caviar and gold bullion (if I lived in LA, it would run on hookers and blow). The amazing thing is, this is still cheaper than gas in many other countries (it's much less than the price of gas in Brazil was last I went there, which was about 5 years ago). It is still cheaper for me to drive to LA than to fly (which is good, since I hate flying), and while I've heard rumors that a train does go between the two cities I've never met someone who has actually seen it.

I like my car, and I don't want to replace it. I can tell myself it's because a lot of resources go into making new cars, so I'd rather run the old one as long as possible, even if it gets half the gas mileage of a Prius. But really it's because my car is comfortable and safe. Since a gasoline powered car can't be converted to biodiesel (and I know of no non-diesel renewable gas substitute, but if you do, post), I suppose I'm stuck paying for earth-destroying, wallet-wrecking, petroleum-derived genuine gasoline. The Bay Area and LA both have pretty bad public transit systems (compared to a real city, like New York or Chicago), so that's no real option unless you just happen to only ever go the few places their trains stop.

I suppose I'm just an autocrackhead. I can't kick my car habit, even though it's killing my wallet, my air quality, and my ability to be a smug, self-congratulatory California pseudoliberal.

Maybe I'll just go club some baby seals or something and then my transition to the dark side will be complete.


hatsumi said...

At nearly $4 a gallon for gasoline, my car was making me broke. We discussed at long length ways to cut down on gas consumption. I even started SERIOUSLY thinking of buying a bicycle and using that as my primary mode of transportation. It was a brilliant idea since nothing in Honolulu is very far away from anything. But our streets are lacking bike lanes, for the most part. If you ride a bicycle here, you're really taking risks. So that's why we decided to trade in our car for the Hybrid Honda Civic. There are things about my old car that I miss: HUGE trunk space and enormous glove compartment. And then there are things I love about the Civic more than my old car: feels like a shuttlecraft, spacious inside. I need a car to get me from point A to point B. I'm happy that I'm driving a car with super low emissions so it's better for the environment. And I'm spending about half of what I was spending before in gasoline.

I totally agree with keeping your current car for as long as humanly possible, though. That's the one thing I feel really guilty about. Still, I simply couldn't afford the old one. You gotta do what ya gotta do, you know? ;-)