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Graduating from a lemon to a road trip car

Sideways view of the old car, 1989 Volkswagen Fox
Sideways view of the old car, 1989 Volkswagen Fox
Sally Boyce

Every young person living in American suburbs knows that driving your own car equals freedom. When your car is on the blitz, you're out of transportation and at the whim of friends and family—and sometimes that doesn’t cut it.

That’s why it was time to replace my two door 1989 Volkswagen Fox: every few weeks, a leak would spring or a vacuum hose would pop, and I would be on the verge of being stranded.

Don’t get me wrong. I love that my dad loves to fix a broken down car every few months. I love that he teaches me how to properly maintain my car.

The problem is that my 20-year-old car has been limiting how far I can drive almost exponentially the last few years.

First, when I was in high school, the rule was, “Don’t drive anywhere outside the mid state.”

Fair enough. The car was only 15 years old then.

Then in college, “Let me know if you have any problems, but try not to drive it more than an hour away.”

That worked because the campus I commuted to was only 45 minutes away.

Then this year, my first post-college year: “Try just to use it around town, ok?”

It won’t even make it to my church the next county away anymore.

Fair enough to say that I needed a new car—or at least a different and reliable one.

Now, many people might see the merit in taking out a loan and buying a snazzy new car for the sake of simplicity and immediacy.

But…see, my parents took Dave Ramsey’s financial peace class, and they have drilled into me the importance of saving up and paying cash for investments.

Thus, owing to the steady income of an office job, this summer marked the commencement of The Great Used Car Hunt ( Craigslist,, and eBay!).

I started out wanting a green Subaru Outback wagon.

I don't really know why I wanted a Subaru. I think knowing  that they are well-made, and that everyone I know who drives one loves it, helped. Mostly, it was the license for adventure Subarus offer.

Get this: one of the first cars my dad found was a lovely red Outback--in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Now, if there weren't an unconquerable mudslide on two major highways into Charlotte this fall, it might have gone off. We actually bid on it. I chuckle now at the herculean effort that might have taken.

We justly turned our pursuits more locally. In fact, one morning early this month, my dad and I sat down and agreed to wait until January so that I would have Christmas money and more car money.

Funny how things work, for that very day, I got an email from my dad's daily craigslist foray with the car that I ended up buying.

Funny how when you let go and move on with your life, the very thing you were waiting for suddenly appears. I like that.

I ended up with a green Subaru Outback wagon. An 11 year old model, true; in need of an oil leak repair, also true; but I don’t have a note, I have enough to pay for said repair, and I only had to save for nine months while living well to do it.

On top of the car lays a $700 Yakima bike and boat rack. Oh, and there's a weather radio. License for adventure? Exactly. A dream come true.

Are you looking forward to more road trip stories? I hope so, because there's about to be a ton!