Driving Dick’s Cadillac

cadillac-towAs I watched our 2002 Cadillac get hoisted onto the flatbed tow truck, I couldn’t help thinking that it needed a Deadhead sticker. Not that I’m much of a Grateful Dead fan, but “Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac” has been stuck in my head ever since we bought the car. (Thank you, Don Henley.) Besides, you’re not selling out if you buy Dick’s Cadillac when it’s 12 years used.

We drive old used cars because we don’t want to pay the exorbitant prices that brand new cars require. Let someone else take out car loans and pay all that interest and eat the depreciation. My husband and I like to buy cars a couple or more years old, preferably from older ladies and gentlemen who took good care of them. And we pay cash.

I had a new car once. I bought a 1986 Pontiac Sunbird brand new from the dealer with 12 original miles on the odometer when I drove it off the lot. That’s when I was young and single and had money. Six years later when we had a baby and a car seat, my husband and I traded in my two-door Sunbird for an old man’s 1991 Buick Century station wagon — one-year-used with about 14,000 miles on the odometer and a trailer hitch. It got us through our heavy hauling years with two kids, their two car seats, and all their stuff. We put well over 100,000 miles on that car.

We bought our next used car, a 1992 Buick Century sedan, from a friendly church lady in our Lutheran congregation. We named the car Lady Elaine in her honor. We drove that car until 2005, when we bought a 1996 model 98 Regency. It was not my father’s Oldsmobile; it had belonged to our elderly neighbor. He’d bought it new and put only 25,000 original miles on it just driving around town.

A 2001 Buick Century became our first 21st century automobile in 2013 and since then we’ve passed it on to our son (who was the reason we bought the station wagon back in 1992) — which brings us back to Dick’s Cadillac. After our Caddy lost power and died on the side of northbound Interstate 35, three hours and $200 later my husband and I were back home and the car had been delivered to our mechanic. When you commit to driving old cars, you understand that you have to set money aside for repairs. That’s the trade-off for not having car payments. Turns out our Caddy had a faulty gas gauge, a common malady in Cadillacs, but that’s another story.

Laura Sternweis


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