How to Be Happy With the Car You Drive

by Marcus Brotherton on November 26, 2012 · 271 comments

in A Man's Life

The author with his first car, c. 1990

Every man dreams of driving a Lamborghini, Lotus, or Land Rover. Sometimes we think a new ride will make us more of a man. If the urge for a different set of wheels is a constant in your life, a change of perspective might be all that’s needed to see your car in a new light.

Last month, my wife and I traded in what we’d been driving. It was a sporty, red, 2009 Pontiac Vibe, basically a rebadged Toyota Matrix. We loved that car, and it fit our needs for several years. But the time for change had come. In its place, we bought a Toyota Sienna. Yep, you heard right—

minivan.

The swap was prompted by the fast-approaching birth of our third child. Our blessed addition is due this spring, and three kids equals a need for a kid-hauling vehicle.

I moped around for a week, thanking my lucky stars for the practical new wheels, yet feeling strangely middle-aged and dandruffy. A minivan was something I swore I’d never drive.

I imagined my face morphed onto Clark Griswold’s in National Lampoon’s Vacation. He was driving a wood-paneled station wagon back in 1983. But when Christy Brinkley pulled next to him in her Ferrari, you could see the insinuation: the men who drive what you drive only go to Walley World.

Then I got to thinking. From a certain perspective, a minivan is respectable. In fact, not only respectable, but cool. At my age, I’m no longer fast nor furious. I run in business-oriented author-circles, and I’m not trying to be elite street-racer/ ex-convict Dominic Toretto. Frankly, I don’t have his abs.

So what’s respectable about the minivan? It correctly fits the stage of life I’m in right now. A confident man knows who he is, and isn’t trying to be anyone other than his authentic self.

That knowledge goes a long way toward a man feeling good about the vehicle he owns.

Consider the seven main vehicular stages of a man’s life:

1. First Cars

A first car is a young man’s ticket to freedom. It might be an absolute jalopy, but at least he isn’t catching a ride to the fall dance anymore with his date in the backseat and his mother behind the wheel.

A first car is about more than dating freedom. It’s the Gentile equivalent of a bar mitzvah, a coming-of-age mark of arrival. If you drive your own car, you’re no longer a boy . . . you’re a young man. First cars crank up responsibility. You buy your own gasoline. You learn how to fix a flat tire. You find a part-time job to pay for the insurance.

Ask any man about the first car he owned, and you’ll always get a story. I bought my first car as a senior in high school. It was a 1972 Volvo 164E. I put surf racks on top, and when I headed off to college, I could get everything I owned either in it, or on it. It might have been a Volvo, but I rode with style.

2. Cars of Limited Responsibility

This stage does not mean a man is irresponsible. It means he’s begun his first real job, has discretionary income, and has no one to support but himself. If he sinks a ton of cash or time into his vehicle, no one objects.

A man with limited responsibilities doesn’t need to haul anyone anywhere. Maybe a girlfriend on a date. Or a buddy on a road trip. But there are no infant car seats. Only the top down and the open road.

I drove two different cars during this stage—a two-seater Honda CRX and, later, a Jeep Wrangler. Both great cars.

3. Cars of Financial Necessity

Enter wife. Mortgage. Kids. Job changes. Debt reduction. All the adult responsibilities of a man’s life. In this stage of vehicle ownership, a man doesn’t necessarily drive what he wants. He drives what he needs.

That’s highly respectable, nothing to apologize for. He recognizes other things his money needs to go toward besides a car, so he voluntarily drives what works best for his family’s budget.

I drove several cars during this stage. A brown Honda Accord for awhile—dull, but highly practical. And a near vintage Mazda pickup truck—17 years old. It was dented and scraped and the heater didn’t work well in winter. But I bought it off a mechanic. That old truck drove without a hiccup for five years.

4. Cars of Familial Necessity

The size of a man’s family will often dictate the size of a man’s car. In this stage, you may or may not like your vehicle, but because of your family, you need to drive the car you do.

We’re in this stage right now with our Sienna. Sure, there’s a stigma attached to a minivan, but the kids love that thing. Already they’ve each claimed their seat in the back. They have room to stretch out on trips. And they’re eager for the baby’s arrival—anticipating who gets to sit next to the new addition.

If you’re driving a car out of familial necessity, drive it with pride, man. You’re doing the right thing.

5. Cars for Work

Times exist when a man needs to drive a certain vehicle only because he’s got a certain job. You might be an easy-riding movie star who needs to drive a Harley Davidson. If so, good for you, Peter Fonda.

But most men have everyday professions. I’ve got a buddy who commutes 50 minutes each way to work. He drives a Prius for one reason only—good gas mileage.

Respect.

6. Cars of Arrival

A time may come in a man’s life when he has enough disposable income to drive any car he wants. Within parameters of work or retirement, he can drive the car he’s always longed for.

A car in this stage doesn’t need to be flashy or even new. A friend owns a 1965 Mustang convertible. Sure, it sits in his garage most days. But the car represents pride of ownership. It’s a badge of honor for a job well done on some solid real estate investments he made.

Another man recently purchased an all-wheel-drive Honda Pilot. He wanted a vehicle that he and his wife could safely drive to see their grandchildren—six hours away over snowy roads in winter.

That’s a vehicle of arrival too. He loves the car because it accomplishes exactly what he wants it to do.

7. Last Cars

One of my grandfathers died at age 91. In the months before his death, he was so frail he could barely speak. But he still had a driver’s license. He hadn’t used it for two years. Yet he was proud that he could still—in theory—legally drive.

My other grandfather moved into a retirement home in his late 80s. He sold his last car to a grandson, then went out the next day and bought a mountain bike.

He didn’t ride his bike more than twice. But he kept it, he said, “in case I need to go somewhere in a hurry.”

The principle? A man likes to have wheels. Period.

No matter what kind of car you drive, you’re bound to have certain feelings about your vehicle. It’s helpful to know you’re driving the right car for whatever stage of life you’re in. The right car fits each stage of a man’s life. So drive on, men—

and drive proud.

What car do you drive right now, what cars have you driven at different stages of your life, and what car do you hope to drive one day?

________________________________

If you’ve enjoyed Marcus Brotherton’s occasional guest posts over the years, you’ll be pleased to know that he’s joining us as one of our regular writers and will be contributing an original article to the site each month. Marcus is the New York Times bestselling author or co-author of more than 25 books, including We Who Are Alive & Remain, with 20 of the last surviving Band of Brothers. He also blogs at Men Who Lead Well. I have long enjoyed the insights Marcus has gotten from his numerous interviews with WWII veterans, and his view on life, and we are privileged to have him as a regular contributor here. Please welcome Marcus aboard!

{ 271 comments… read them below or add one }

201 Oleh December 1, 2012 at 2:18 pm

This brought a real smile to my face, I’m 22, had three cars since I was 18, and each have their own stories (albeit some a little bit sordid but hey..youth right?)

First Car: 1985 Mercedes 300 sd Turbo charged diesel. It was a hand down from my parents. The car would shake so much that one drunk friend i drove home once was nearly sick. It was also my band vehicle: fitted everything but the stage. Eventually when I got rid of it the wheels were holding together to the frame by a thin prayer and a helluva lot of luck. Drove around with friends (usually 7 in a 5 seater car) to campfire and music nights…

ah the nostalgia….I drive a 300e m-benz now as a first familial car.

202 David December 1, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Very nice old car :)

203 Dan December 1, 2012 at 9:02 pm

No mater what car you drive the biggest favor you can do yourself is to save up the money and pay for it. If you must finance a car, pay the darned thing off as fast as you can. Having a car that’s paid for makes your car worth a million bucks. In the long run that’s about what you’ll save. Chicks dig it too!

204 Nash December 1, 2012 at 10:57 pm

I got my first car when I was 16. It’s a 1981 Firebird. I worked labor for my grandfather’s construction company to pay for it and to cover the insurance. Then I spent a year and a lot of my hard-earned money getting it to run (it didn’t run when I first bought it.) I refused to take it to a shop or have anyone else rebuild it. Now, four years later, it’s fully restored and it’s the car I drive every day. There is nothing I love more than telling everyone that it is my car, and that I bought it entirely with my own money and fixed it with my own hands.

205 Claus December 2, 2012 at 2:13 am

Never forget:

(real) Status is more important then status symbols.

206 bob December 2, 2012 at 5:12 am

My first car was 69 Buick LeSabre I bought it off a friend for a 100 dollars. Plus it was almost like it was free because I used poker winnings to pay for it.

207 LGK December 2, 2012 at 2:00 pm

1) 1977 Cadillac Coupe
2) Ford F150 that was my grandpa’s
3) 1971 Cadillac Coupe
4) 1976 Cadillac Coupe
5) Dodge 1500
6) Jeep Grand Cherokee
7) Kawasaki Vulcan 1500*

Sorry, there’s no excuse for a mini van except for 1) you have given up on life 2) you are a doormat for your wife. Kids? SUV. Me and my wife have sworn to never drive a mini van and we’re expecting our 1st come Feb ’13.

208 Eddie December 2, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Great article! I drive a 2004 Mazda 3. I bought it almost 5 years ago when it only had 20,000 miles on it. perhaps the best car I have ever owned! Now, 75,000 miles and two kids later, this car barely fits the needs of my family. I will be upgrading (if you call it that!) to a 2004 Toyota Camry. For a 2004, the Toyota has 26,000 miles on it, tons of room, but not cool at all. I’m struggling to find pride in driving such a generic car, but considering the moment in my life I feel that I need it for “familial need”. Again, thanks for the article!

209 tommy begley December 3, 2012 at 5:11 am

My first car (I got my licence in the spring of this year) a 1989 rover 213 (the fact that there are only 22 left on the road makes it all the better) , leopard print seats and a sub woofer, my god I love it to pieces, it was handed down to me from my late grandfather and before then my family used a little 1984 Honda moped to get around on so I feel as though I have made a sizable positive input to me and my family’s life and I’m feeling good about it :). And gosh do I feel upset when other cars scrape into it in the parking lot!

210 Caleb December 3, 2012 at 11:13 am

My first car, still the car I’m driving, is a 1999 Honda Accord Coupe EX-L V6. It was my aunt Amy’s before she passed away back in 2010. I’m honored that I get to drive her car and do so with great pride. It has 162,000 on it and is still running strong. The paint on the roof is fading and the leather interior is starting to tear on the seats, but I still love that little honda and will continue to drive it until I can’t anymore.

211 Lumpy December 3, 2012 at 2:35 pm

I’m 19 now, and I’v had this car for two years so far. It’s a 1987 Dodge Power Ram pickup truck with a 1973 slide-in pop-up truck camper on the back! I can drive on the beach and sleep there with heat and a toilet too! I wouldn’t trade this for the world.
It runs like crap and I get 7 miles per gallon, but it doubles as a house, so it’s worth it. That and my girlfriend really likes the fact that it has a real bed, if you know what I mean……..

212 Tora December 3, 2012 at 2:45 pm

My first car was a 1982 brown Grand Marquis when I was 15, it was way too expensive due to the mileage so I only drove it in special ocasions, my second car was a 2001 green VW Cabrio it was awesome unfortunately I had to sell it cause my father needed dental surgery, and well nowadays I take public transport.

213 Doc S December 3, 2012 at 9:07 pm

My first car was a 1979 Dodge Aspen 2-door with a 225ci slant-6 that, due to the era’s rudimentary emissions controls and attempts at fuel efficiency generated less than 100HP. But, it was the vehicle I learned to hack cars on – rebuilt the carb; adjusted and reset the choke and cold idle advance; replaced the thermostat; dropped the tranny and replaced the torque converter; installed my own stereo system, speakers, and amp; replaced oil pressure sender, ignition module, starter motor…

The next car was a ’88 Plymouth Reliant (K-car) LE, which replaced the Aspen after a large deer ran in front of me at 40MPH. The current Wikipedia top sidebar photo could have been my car, color and all. The Reliant wasn’t, really, and after a few years of paying to fix it I bought my first New Car – a 1995 Plymouth Neon. Which I and my new wife drove into the ground. It got donated for scrap value with no AC, a shot rear main seal, and a broken motor mount.

There was briefly a 2000 Dodge Intrepid ES that someone plowed into and totaled while it was parked. Which insurance barely covered the loan on, being as we’d made all of six payments, so we were left with one car for about a year to commute to two jobs with.

The savior there was a 2002 Honda CR-V EX, which we still own and has almost 160K on it. The wife hauls around her photo kit for her job in the back.

I currently drive a 2009 VW Mk-V Jetta, which is a great little car and suits my needs just fine. A perfectly practical commuter, reasonably comfortable for a small car on longer trips, but with enough driveability to make country roads a lot of fun, too.

214 Mr. West December 4, 2012 at 9:13 am

@LGK show me an SUV that can seat 7 AND keep your luggage inside the vehicle, fit in most parking spaces, not handle like a full size truck, and still get close to 30 MPG on the highway, then we’ll talk.

As for me I’m smack dab in phase 5. A ’98 Mitsubishi Mirage with 140K miles on it and no AC (in Florida mind you), but it still gets 35 MPG on the highway (120 mile a day commute) and I own it.

215 Dennis December 4, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Sorry…. gotta take exception to this one.

It is clear to me, based upon the selection of cars the author chose to buy and drive, that this is not a man who ever had a “passion” for automobiles. Not hardly an authority on a subject like this.

216 BT December 4, 2012 at 4:58 pm

LGK: Granted I don’t have a wife or kids, but man you talk awfully big for only having one on the way. Repost in ten years when you have four kids. I’m guessing you’ll have turned into a doormat.

Dennis: The point of the article is how to be happy with what you drive, not how to get the coolest car. Besides I consider myself to have a passion for cars and as such I find lots of very different cars to be cool. He doesn’t advocate one car over another so I don’t see how you can comment on his “passion” for cars.

217 Lee Sterling December 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Almost first: Peugeot moped. Green.

First: ’77 Toyota Corolla. Third owner. I gave a friend $300.00 for it after a drunk had rear-ended it with a Chevy Nova. I sometimes had to push-start it, which I could do with one foot out the door, in reverse, within six inches. The radiator popped at about 300,000 miles. I gave it to a guy who wanted to fix it up for his girlfriend. He drove it away.

Second: ’66 Lincoln Continental convertible. It ran, but I never got it on the road. I sold it for half what I’d paid for it.

Third: Corolla gone, so I bought a ’66 Mustang coupe. It threw a rod after six weeks. Bought an ’85 Nissan Pulsar that I drove for twenty-one years.

Fourth: Sold the Lincoln due to a move, bought another land yacht: ’67 Chrysler Newport Custom; my Big Green Car. Still have it. I have several photo ideas for it and it’s all over a small mockumentary titled, “Roddenberry on Patrol.”

Fifth: Needed an upgrade, so I junked the Pulsar and now drive an ’08 Ford Escape, which is perfect for traveling to Sedona to visit with my sisters, or hauling around photo equipment and models. Tinted rear windows make for a good changing room for the models. I love this car.

218 Kyle December 5, 2012 at 9:43 am

This is called “Cognitive dissonance ”

reasoning away your desires is fine… as along as you know you are lying to yourself.

see also: 48 laws of power: Law 36: DISDAIN THINGS YOU CANNOT HAVE

219 Dean December 5, 2012 at 9:59 am

My first attempt at a car was a 1978 Mustang (the Ghia model) for $400. It lasted a few months and I junked it. My first actual car was a 1974 Chevy Nova that I bought from a guy who got through about 85% of upgrading it to an RS.

I had some junkers/clunkers over the years until I finally stepped up and purchased a 1995 Dodge Neon (in 1995). It was a prior rental car, and it lasted me until mid-2003 when I moved to Germany. The wife and I have moved from that to a 2005 Dodge Caravan, and then to a dual-car setup: 2007 Dodge Caliber for her and the two kids, and a 1997 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup and 1999 Triumph Trophy 900 (motorcycle) for me. All have some good stories, especially the Neon.

220 Roberto December 5, 2012 at 2:53 pm

I’m lucky enough to be in between the car of familial necessity and the car of arrival. I have Toyota Tundra Limited, the truck I have wanted since they came out. I also have a Yamaha FJR 1300 for when I feel the need, the need for speed. My first was a 1978 Plymouth Volare. I got it free and paid waaaaaay too much. I don’t miss that POS one bit.

221 Red December 5, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Cars today are just so expensive that most high schoolers are waiting for after college to even own a car (due to college tuition rising every year.) Maybe when some of us were in high school we bought our wheels, but realistically with insurance costs and gas going up it’s not as common anymore. I personally have never owned a small car.. I always drive trucks.

222 james December 5, 2012 at 11:12 pm

i was hoping this would be a little more inspiring…as a father of two, and a lover of cool cars, i day dream (to and from work every day) of driving a land rover defender fully decked out in overlanding gear. i’m not convinced the minivan would make me as happy! but it was a valiant effort, and i’m happy that you have found peace with your sienna.

223 Wes December 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm

My first vehicle was a 1986 Chevy El Camino. That’s right, I said El Camino baby. It was my grandfathers and he passed it down to my dad, and then it was “mine” for a year and a half I worked and save up all the money to buy a 1997 Ford Mustang my senior year of high school, 2001. Paid it all in cash, what an awesome feeling. Then came a 1995 Chevy S10 ZR2 pick up (worked on a farm), then a 1997 Dodge Ram 1500 (little red necky but still on th farm), then a 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 4 door with leather heated seats and all the works (single and no responsibility), and now a 2001 Jeep Wrangler (married with no kids). Great post, took me back in time. Hopefully next will be a 2013 Toyotal 4runner limited. I’m taking donations….

224 R.H. December 6, 2012 at 4:39 pm

I am 18, my first car was a 1992 Honda Acord. It was cheap and suppossed to be reliable, unfortunately it gave me nothing but problems so I am now on my second car, a 1988 Dodge Diplomat. It is old, not the best on gas, but I love the feeling I get driving an old, square, boxy shaped car. Great article, own whatever you drive, even a minivan. I have a friend with a minivan decked out with subs, we all love it and pack it full for roadtrips all the time and have fun, so respect your minivan driving friends.

225 wenley December 6, 2012 at 9:21 pm

Im 18, my only and first car is a 2000 Toyota Camry, it’s a great car, gets 20mpg, and takes me to college and back, not to mention fun times with my girlfriend winkwink.

226 Dave December 7, 2012 at 3:03 pm

I drive a 99 Volvo s70. Not exactly a luxury ride and with 178k miles, it has seen better days. Still cheaper to repair than to replace.

227 Lamont Cranston December 7, 2012 at 3:45 pm

If you find yourself a family man stuck driving an emasculating mom-mobile (minivan), a few hundred dollars can help. Install a boss sound system and a boss GPS-Nav system. It will make you feel better about your ride, and is a lot cheaper than a Boxster.

Lamont

228 Phil December 8, 2012 at 1:03 am

I’m 27, single, a carpenter, and I live in a place that commonly gets over a foot of snow in the winter. I drive a beat up (on the outside) 1987 Chevy Silverado 4×4. I got it for cheap and that 4×4 will eat a mountain of snow and ice for breakfast.

229 Jason Masciulli December 8, 2012 at 8:46 am

First Car: 1983 Plymouth Gran Fury. It was my dad’s, and he gave it to me. That car was a beat, and you could put a lot of people in to it comfortably.

First car I bought: 1997 Dodge Dakota. I just sold it this past March. We never used it anymore. The paint was a mess, but it ran great. I really took care of it.

Next car I bought: 2000 BMW 323i. That car was great. I only had it a few years, then I sold it, because I was moving overseas.

Current car: 2004 VW Golf TDI. I was always fascinated with diesel cars, and this was is extremely practical. It is also fun to drive as well. We also have a 2008 Nissan Quest, which is my wife’s car. She loves it. It is very practical as well, especially since we don’t have the Dakota anymore.

230 Steve December 8, 2012 at 10:30 pm

1976 Ford Torino
1984 Mercury Topaz
1985 Ford Ranger
1987 Ford Ranger
1988 Honda Prelude
1998 Ford F150
1988 Audi 5000
1997 Land Rover Discovery
1994 Honda Civic
1995 Mercedes Benz E320

231 JS December 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm

2) Car of Limited Responsibility – my 2000 Mustang GT 5-speed that I bought before I was married and had kids

3) Car of Financial Necessity – same GT now that it has 170k miles.

4) Car of Familial Necessity – same GT, kept for the long-term so we can afford a reliable family car (and, yes, I can get the wife/kids in the Mustang)

5) Car for Work – you guessed it . . .

6) Car of Arrival – this WAS my car of arrival, when I saved enough money to buy it eleven years ago. I bought something I really wanted with the intent of driving it forever. BTW I work in a line of business where all my cohorts drive Lexuses (Lexi?) BMWs, etc. and I couldn’t care less what they think . . . my next car of arrival will very likely be another Mustang.

That leaves 1) first car – Triumph Spitfire held together with duct tape and 7) last car – hopefully a Mustang GT of some sort.

232 Steve December 10, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Some Minivans are cool, like a C130. Of course, some are just a big blob, but in my opinion most cars are just little blobs.

I drive a 1979 VW Rabbit Diesel. No power anything.

I love it. Actually, I think other cars are ‘stupid’. (It’s my joke). I get 45 mpg – and I only have 4 speeds!
I have driven on roads that a MBZ SUV owner would definitely avoid. Snow, rocks, ruts – hours from pavement.
I take myself and 3 other guys on 7 hour trips – with a pretty large trunk FULL of stuff (like poles for surplus camo netting, etc.).
Twice drove (with my tallest friend) from SF to WA and back.

$3000. New engine $2000. New brakes $400. I want to paint it ($2000-4000) and restore some interior ($600-$1000).

Can anyone buy a new car that gets 45mpg, seats 4, goes over ‘off-highway vehicle’ roads easily, can PARK in the city, and looks cool (in their opinion) – for $10,000?

233 Raymond McVay December 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm

My first car was an ’82 Volvo DL two-door. I managed to convince most of my classmates that I had the coolest car in school by by pointing out that in a collision, their hondas and toyotas would be crushed while my steel tank would be barely dented. Man, I loved that car…I still have an ’86 DL station wagon I’m restoring.

234 Chris December 10, 2012 at 11:18 pm

First Car: 1993 Red Mustang Hatchback. It was only a 4 cylinder, but it was a stick shift and had a moon roof. I thought it looked cool. I drove it for 13 years and 205,000 mile, all the way through college (yes, I took a couple extra years to finish my 4 year degree).

Most recent car purchase: 2009 Sienna. Bought it in a bit of a panic exactly 3 weeks after we found out my wife was having twins. Our first daughter was barely forward facing in her car seat. We had to trade in our fully paid for 2006 Civic Hybrid for the minivan, but the Sienna is definitely a car of familial necessity.

For the folks who scoff at the idea of a minivan, try fitting three car seats in the back of an SUV. You can do it (I drive an 07 Highlander), but it takes some skill and a bit of art. My wife swears by the van now if for no other reason than it’s easier to buckle all three kids into the 5 point straps. Oh, and the automatic sliding doors come in way more handy than you would think.

235 Paul December 11, 2012 at 5:23 am

Never judge a man by the car he drives.

Judge him by how clean and well-maintained he keeps that car.

236 Pk December 11, 2012 at 5:31 am

My first car was a Ford escort mk4 (euro version).

Bought it for 900€ and kept it about 9 months. It was rusty, dented, old, it made strange squeeking noises when hitting speed bumps, but man, it was my car !

It was kind of fast for a 18yo kid (150 horses)

I just loved it.

Had a few cars after that, Nissan 200SX, Toyota Corolla E11, BMW E30, BMW E34, all of them made me proud, even the girly-looking-red-Toyota E11. You know why ? Because I worked hard to buy these cars, I worked for it, and paid for it, with nobody’s help, and that is the more satisfying to me.

Nowadays I drive a BMW E39 Station wagon, it’s a very “man” car : it’s big, it’s fast, it wakes up the neighbors when you rev it, it has leather seats and a lot of electronic gizmos. I guess it’s a good family car too, we don’t have kids yet, but my spouse lovs to drive it, and it has a hell of a trunk.
You can also easily put a roof box on the top and it’s ready to make thousands of kilometers to go to ski holidays.

Even if it’s getting old, I think I’ll keep this car as long as I can, I just love it

237 John December 11, 2012 at 8:36 am

I have driven everything from Camaros to Corvettes, Jeep Wranglers to Mercedes CLK. I currently drive a 2004 Mercury Grand Marquis I got cheap as hell with 40K miles on it. Its loaded, now has a Kenwood stereo and dual exhausts with Magnaflows so I can hear the V8. It gets 27mpg and fits the whole fam. It is paid for, as is my 2000 F150. For fun, I no longer rip up the backroads in my Vette (sold), but I do ride my motorcycle (motorcycle = cheap thrills). I hear the author, great post. The car of necessity don’t have to suck though. I drive a RWD America V8 car, that with less than $100 worth of suspension word (Marauder sway bar, variable rate springs and new shocks- all done myself) handles very well and sounds like a muscle car. The public thinks its a turd, I think it is as close as I can get to what I like for the least money possible, reliable and comfortable for 2000 mile trips I take once a month. Soooooo in short, yes, to necessity, but it don’t have to be a van.

238 dan December 11, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Bang on!

To hell with whatever other people want you to feel about your car, get what is right and makes you feel good.

I drive a Rover 75 which by all accounts is a grandad/stage 7 car. But its what I like at age 28; its cheap, does EXACTLY what I want/need it to do. If other people don’t like it they dont have to buy one.

As it goes I also like the green leather and wood and cream interior too, makes me feel like a right old fashioned British gent.

239 Scott December 11, 2012 at 8:57 pm

First and only car so far: ’99 Toyota Avalon. My dad gave it to me after high school graduation. It’s kind of taken a beating from me, but it’s still reliable. Repairs are still less than a cheap car payment. I would love to get another 100k miles out of it. My favorite part is that I don’t owe anything on it. That makes all it’s faults worth it.

240 Adam December 17, 2012 at 9:10 am

My first car was a 1974 ford ranchero GT. Loved that car despite everything that was wrong with it. I had that car for almost 12 years when it got rear-ended and totaled. I’ve only ever had to finance two vehicles in my life and I can tell you that it’s not a good idea and I will never do it again. You can get a very good, very reliable vehicle if you are willing to buy something that’s older. The money you save on payments and insurance (you don’t need full coverage if the car is paid for) will more than cover the extra fuel and repairs. I once bought a ’74 Pontiac Catalina for $400 that was in perfect mechanical condition and only had 90,000 miles. The paint was faded and ugly but and the interior wasn’t great but it ran and drove as well as a brand new car and I regret selling it even if I did make a profit.

241 Ginger December 17, 2012 at 8:47 pm

This reminds me of a great car analogy of the concepts in a great book — The Way of the Wild Heart by John Eldredge. I’m sure you’ve read it.

Cowboy – First Car
Warrior – Car of Limited Responsibility
Lover – Car of Familial Responsibility
King – Car for Work
Sage – Car of Arrival & Last Cars

242 Bill December 19, 2012 at 10:30 am

I currently drive a Land Rover.
One day I hope to drive anything But a Land Rover

243 George Riggs December 20, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Oh my god! That was my first car too! I now Drive a 1967 International Travelall

244 Tobias December 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm

I’m still driving my first car, it’s an Alfa Romeo 156 with the 2.5L V6 in it. Its a really beautiful car and it looks and feels much more expensive than it actually is. Owning an Alfa is a bit of a challenge, but i strongly recommend buying one!

245 rollo December 23, 2012 at 11:45 am

66 Plymouth fury III
72 vega
83 Rabbit hardtop not the barbie car
1984 Dodge omni
88 Mitsubishi Mighty Max (no bumper, radio, A/C, or antenna) 5 grand Brand new.
1990 Ford areostar Mini van
1992 chevy 1500
2007 2500HD chevy silverado (I believe this will be my last on for a long time.)

246 Lew December 29, 2012 at 4:33 pm

I run a body and paint shop in Houston and because I’m in the car business I have access to more that the layperson. Right now I’m restoring a 1986 Bronco that (when its finished) will be MY arrival vehicle, I have always loved the design of the truck and when I’m done the interior ill be as luxurious as any mercedes out there. But I do still think fondly of my first car, a 1986 suzuki samurai. I took it all sorts of places always on 4 mismatched used tires and it never failed me.

247 Patrick December 31, 2012 at 10:40 am

First car – ’02 Chevy Malibu. Started at 100,500 miles, but I owned every inch of it (paid cash; screw car loans!). Made it through eight states before I wrecked it during a bad rain storm. The A/C was broken, the check engine light was on from two weeks after I bought it until I crashed it, and my friends and I spilled compost in the trunk, but I loved that car. Named her Elizabeth.

I now drive a 2000 Pontiac Grand Am (114,000 miles to start). I miss my first car sometimes, but within 24 hours of purchase (again, in cash), she felt like my car, and she has been named Agnes. I’ll drive Agnes until she quits on me, which doesn’t seem to be any time soon!

248 pablo pradenas January 2, 2013 at 8:37 pm

My dad gave me a Lifan 150cc chinese motorcycle, very stylish, looks very like an old harley (but with a mini motor) at the age of 19, that bike gave me the best moments of my life… and a son, after that and with my new family I moved for work reasons and I had to sell my bike… from then I don’t have any vehicle, well, now I ride a mountain bike to work every day. I want a VW Beetle and paint it black matter, greeting from Chile

249 Adam Travis January 7, 2013 at 11:12 pm

1. ’84 Datsun Pickup
2. ’95 Nissan Pathfinder
3. ’93 Honda Del Sol
4. ’08 Jeep Patriot

The Datsun was a $100 car I bought off a wrecker at a yard because I saw him drive it under the magnet to load into the crusher. I was in high school in MO and this car was my ticket to freedom. I had to rewire half the electrical system in the car to get all the lights to work (one of the tail lights was a flashlight with a red filter) and the doors were held on with coat hangers and Bond-O but it was mine. I can remember when my buddy and I were stood up for the senior prom by our dates, so we decided to go shooting out at this old abandoned rock quarry everyone had heard rumors about but no one had ever seen. We picked an old back road lined with warning signs and rusted out fences and took off at top speed, the little truck blasting through bushes and saplings that had grown up in the road. We caught air on hills, busted a headlight on a tree branch, nearly lost it trying to avoid trees, and eventually found the quarry . . . by driving off a ledge into it. In retrospect the “cliff” we drove off of was little more than a ten food ledge, but we felt like we were in the air long enough to qualify for a pilots license. when the truck hit ground the ledge was against the tailgate, a tree against the front bumper, and saplings at both sides – we had to climb out the back window to get out of the truck. We grabbed our rifles and our tuxedos out from behind the seats and hoofed it back to the school, getting there just a little bit late for the start of the dance. We stowed the rifles in the locker room, donned our tuxedos, and hung about awkwardly for about an hour when we met another friend chilling my himself. He had a Jeep, 4WD, and a winch. We loaded up with a couple of chainsaws and some rope and went out to get my truck. It took the better part of the night and cutting down six trees (thick saplings, really) to get my truck out. Now that’s a memory

250 Bruce Riddle January 8, 2013 at 11:15 pm

Wellll I’m 18 and my first car is a red H3 Hummer.

251 Joseph January 9, 2013 at 6:41 am

I kinda skipped the first phase. I’m from Prague, a densely populated urban area, where you can get anywhere faster and better with public transport than a car. There is no custom in Czech Republic of giving your kid a car (almost unheard of :D) so we have to buy our own. When I got a nice solid job I slapped my pocket and purchased a worn out 1997 HONDA CIVIC, 1,4 litre from my friend who was already getting a better car. For us both the Honda was our first car so we do indeed have a special feelings about it. It swallowed so much of my money on repairs and insurance and gas but the initial feeling of freedom is amazing. Czech Rep. was part of the eastern block for a long time and people were forbidden to leave the country. With EU and the open boarders the possibilities for me and my friends were endless. Sitting in the middle of Europe, we started roadtripping. Sweden, France, Holland, France again (Provence this time) countless local roadtrips etc. etc. It still amazes me that I can just hop in the Zero (that’s how I named her :) and I can just drive wherever I want…the freedom of the road is really a thing to appreciate..

252 TJ Rayhill January 9, 2013 at 10:28 pm

I got my lisence six months ago, and have gone through 2 cars and 3 accidents in 3 months. my first car i owned for 2 months (99 red 4WD blazer, which i loved and miss) was totaled in a Rear end collision not my fault. Then I bought a 00 malibu (ugly car) it got the job done but i didnt like it. now looking for another car, as i totaled the malibu

253 MountainMan January 12, 2013 at 12:46 am

1) 19?? Isuzu Amigo
2) 1997 GMC Jimmy
3) 1986.5 Nissan Hardbody
4) 1997 GMC Jimmy
5) 2001 Mistubishi Eclipse GT
6) 1995 GMC Yukon (2 door)
7) 1996 Pontiac Firebird Formula

Ever since I was 14, I’ve thrown money into my cars/trucks in order to trade up to something I would like more. I started with a small suv worth about $300 to a muscle car that I get offers for over $6k for weekly from friends and strangers. Not bad for 17 if I do say so myself. Need something more suitable for my needs as more of an outdoorsman. Looking for a Jeep Cherokee to get me outdoors more. This article made me appreicate what I have though. Thanks for posting!

254 Craig Smith January 13, 2013 at 1:29 am

First car,1997 Ford escort wagon.
Escort rear ended, upgaded to a 1987 Honda accord lx-I
went over a curb trying to reach energy drink that fell on the floor, donated it and bought Third car
2005 Chevy cobalt pos…
Fourth car, 1989 Audi 100 sexy box! Lol. Too many problems though.
Fifth car, 1998 Honda prelude, gorgeous red…
Sixth car, current daily driver: 2001 Toyota celica.

255 SS January 13, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Nothing will suck the manliness straight out of you quicker than a minivan. I certainly wouldn’t judge someone because they drive a minivan, but I could never drive one daily. They are pretty much designed around and built for women (contrary to what the Dodge Grand Crapavan commercials say). I don’t interpret driving one as being a doormat for the wife, but the wife SHOULD be the one driving a minivan.

To make matters worse, all of the current “crossovers” are starting to look just like one another, and all of them look like the current lineup of minivans. Heck, the Honda Odyssey doesn’t even look like a minivan anymore – its probably the best looking of the bunch and maybe has a tiny bit of masculinity in black trim with black leather seats.

If you are a man that needs to seat 7 and luggage, heck get a Suburban, Yukon, Tahoe, 4Runner with back seats, Pathfinder with back seats… and if you HAVE to get a minivan, get something in black with a swanky leather interior and some chrome.

256 Chuck January 15, 2013 at 5:14 am

Appreciate the article, but can’t agree with you at all regarding the mini-van. You’re not a confident man who knows who he is, you are just someone who has given up on life.

When you were younger did you put pictures of mini vans on your wall and dream of the day that you’d have one? Of course not. You comment that you don’t have abs like Domenic Toretto, but the only thing stopping you achieving this is the fact that you have given up trying to achieve this.

If you need a van out of neccesity, then go for it, but why not buy a something nice for yourself as a second car. If you can’t afford the second car, then you’re not really confident and sucessful, you are just content with being a beta male with bad abs.

257 Jason January 16, 2013 at 2:52 pm

First Car: 2000 Honda Civic
Second Car: 1999 Acura Integra
Third Car: 2003 Honda Pilot
Fourth Car: 2003 Acura Cl
Fifth Car: 2003 BMW M3

Great article by the way, but I agree with SS that I don’t think I could drive a mini-van as well. I agree with Chuck that a mini-van isn’t really something sought out for with young men, hence why you never see posters of vans. I always like to refer to an ad I’ve seen from Porsche where it shows the kid studying and looking out the window to see a nice looking Porsche 911 as motivation to do well in school. I am torn though on whether or not I should trade in the M3. As much as I love the car, with a baby on the way I cannot see the practicality on owning one. Luckily, my wife has a Subaru Forester, so that’s really my only saving grace on why I haven’t gotten a sedan.

258 Daniel January 19, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Getting from A-B is usually the most important thing to me. I drive a chevy cobalt that has no options (more shit to break), and it gets great mileage. If you need a bad ass car to define your manhood, thats your problem. Dudes with families who put their families needs before their own and drive a minivan are more of a man than the tatted up d-bag in a ed hardy shirt driving a new neon green challenger.

259 Ediv710 January 20, 2013 at 4:48 pm

1997 Toyota Camry. 116K miles, has some hiccups here and there (dirty distributor, struts, be terry), but SHE still runs like a champ. No sense spending my hard earned cash on a new one when she still runs fine.

260 Batman January 29, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Ah yes, My first car was a 1970 VW beetle. It got miles per gallon in oil, and had a limited range. not because of the fuel tank size, but because it’s reliability was inversely proportional to how far away help was. The fact that is is somewhat shaped like an airplane wing meant every destination could be changed to “Heaven” in route if the freeway was involved. It only had 1 windshield wiper, that was from 1970, and was about as effective as oily rag. But it got decent mileage when it did run, and it was freedom! I think regardless of how bad they were, First cars always hold a top ten spot in our hearts!

261 Charlie Lyons February 8, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Currently, an aging, higher-mileage 2003 Pontiac GrandAm. It replaced my last car of limited responsibility… a 92 Honda Prelude S. Before that was a 90 Chevy Cavalier Z24, which I drove with a buddy on that road trip you spoke of, from Waterloo, Ontario to Phoenix, Arizona in the winter of 2003. Awesome to think back and reminisce about these things. Thanks for the memories!

262 Preston February 9, 2013 at 12:06 pm

First car was a 1977 toyota pickup, yellow, my dad brought it home randomly one day because he saw it in a guys drive way and it had been sitting for years, the guy told him the transmission was gone in it so my dad payed him 50 bux, ended up the clutch was loose on it, tightened up the clutch and it ran fine, awesome truck, even though it had grateful dead teddy bears all over it hahahaha

263 tuAbuela February 10, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Found this site today digging around the internets. Good site and I liked the article. Personally (instilled by my dad all my life) I love Toyotas! Here’s my list of cars since I was 17, 24 now.

1) 1989 Chevy 1/2 ton pick up(from dads job at the time)
2) 1992 celica gt-s(traded 1st car for this)
3) 2002 Honda Civic EX( first car payed for 100% by me!)
4)2007 Camry SE v6 is what I drive now and couldn’t be happier. Granted I bought it used at 48k.
Not bashing at all but I wouldn’t be caught dead driving a minivan lol I’m sure it’s all just preference.

264 Adam78 March 14, 2013 at 10:00 pm

My first car was a 1978 Camaro Z28 4spd with T-Tops. I felt like a badass in Highschool. Now that i’m in college and drive a 2006 supercharged Jaguar XJR, I get a kick at all the kids that drive similar cars to what I once drove and think they are faster than my British Power! haha. But as for the Minivan…I could never do it, I needed a car for the winter bc my Jag is no good in the snow. So i got a Landrover, fits as many as a minivan, but A LOT better to drive IMHO

265 J.P. July 1, 2013 at 3:10 pm

My first car was a 1992 Oldmobile Achieva (same age as me!) I got it for $500 of my uncle. It was rusted to hell, leaked like a sieve, there was a section of the floor missing, the windshield was cracked, the tranny slipped, and it was loud! It ran without fail, until I bought a new car. Now my little sister has her, and she’s still going strong at 226k miles. I loved that car, and it loved me back. It was pretty quick too!

266 Damian July 25, 2013 at 8:49 pm

I mostly agree with the above poster about owing solely a minivan. If you’re doing it right and have the funds, there should be two cars in the driveway at least. One of those can be the minivan for the wife and road trips with the whole family. The other needs to be something you actually enjoy being in every day. Having passion is a manly virtue and it is hard to project passion from the wheel of a dreary vehicle.

My first car was a ’93 Ford Explorer whose transmission literally fell off. That was followed by a Focus that was brilliant at everything I threw at it – not to mention very reliable when being driven by an 18-24 year old. That was followed by a lifted/big tire’d Tacoma that was brilliant, too. Now I drive an AMG Mercedes which brings a smile to my face (and the wife and kids) whenever I’m in it.

Life’s too short to be so focused on practicality only. You gotta have fun and smile.

267 Arthur Stevenson July 29, 2013 at 11:38 pm

I got my first car when I was 20. It’s the 1981 Chevrolet Citation in Metallic orange with chrome trim. It is a great first car or a run around car. The second car I bought was a Chevy Stepside pick-up. It had the stock 265 cu in. V8, with a mild cam, a mid-high rise Edlebrock intake manifold, a Holley carburetor, Headman headers and Thrush glass pack mufflers. My third car is Land rover evoque. It is a five door form that offers breathtaking contemporary kinetic design with added practically, superb accessibility and extraordinary versatility.

268 JJ August 2, 2013 at 6:16 pm

My first car was a 2003 Seat Ibiza and now i drive a 2007 VW Passat 2.0 TDI. It’s a nice car, and doesn’t drink too much fuel. When I can I’ll change it for a 2007-2008ish BMW 320cd. I don’t like the 4 doors and the VW looks too serious.
Another thing, I don’t understand the need to buy a minivan or a SUV when you have children. Every car nowadays has 4 seats at least. You could drive your two children and your wife on a Mini Cooper. What I’m missing?

269 BB September 7, 2013 at 7:39 pm

@JJ–you asked what you’re missing. If you and your wife have got a couple of kids, and one or more of those kids is a baby, and you try to take a trip somewhere, even a short trip … then you’ll get the picture why a Mini Cooper won’t cut it. Babies, in particular, don’t travel light.

270 josh December 4, 2013 at 2:59 pm

My wife drives a Town and Country. I drive a Lincoln Continental. I love the van and my kids and wife do to. I laugh at people who swear off mini vans. I would rather be in something nicer but it works for me and my family at the moment. We have talked about getting something different when the kids get older.

271 Marc January 26, 2014 at 7:25 am

I guess I am in between stage 2 & 3. Mortgage, girlfriend, no kids but we did get the last car because we needed room for the dog ( and my previous car was done ).
Living in the Netherlands, cars and petrol are very expensive, so my first car was a black Fiat Cinquecento Sporting, a hand down from my parents. I absolutely loved that car. It gave me freedom to go where I pleased and it put a smile on my face every time I drove it!
When I was still in college I bought a Citroen C1 brand new of the lot. I had that car for about five years and even though it didn’t put that smile on my face like the Fiat did, it was a good car to commute 45 minutes each way to work.
When this car was finished about two year ago, we bought our latest car, a Mini Clubman white edition. I must say that I drive this car with pride every single day! It gets even better on a warm summers day, with the roof open and listening to some great music! This car really is made for cruising.
The next car is probably going to be another Mini Clubman ( hopefully a black on black Cooper S ) and I am thinking about keeping this Clubman. As I am turning thirty next year and some kids coming along within the next five years, I am hoping to purchase a Porsche 911 / 964 or a 997 within that time.
You only live once, so I think every guy should be able to own his ‘dream’ car one day.

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