What was your first car?

My first car was a hand-me-down Oldsmobile Cutlas Sierra from the early 1980s.  It was a boat and I was still driving it when Oldsmobile stopped being not only my father’s Oldsmobile (which the car once was) but a company at all.  It had air conditioning (sort of) and four doors and was an automatic, which are all things my parents usually do not get in cars.  You had to start it just right or the engine would flood and then you’d have to wait for it to unflood before trying again.  I mostly used to to drive my sister to her lessons (which is why my mom agitated for me to finally get my license).  After I went off to college, my sister took charge of it, which is why she also considers it to have been her first car.

This is such an American question  :-)

#2’s was a 4-door Saturn (remember those?) named Oobleck.  She ran a little hot so you had to watch out if you drove home from college and then got stuck in traffic after driving for a few hours.  She was also whatever color they had on hand, which was something dumb like “champagne”.  My father helped me with financing and I paid him back over several years.  I got the car when I was 18 because I was working as a “floater” for a bank– the person who replaced other people when they went on vacation.  Therefore I had to be in weird and far-flung suburban locations that changed daily or weekly.  She was recent enough to have driver’s-side airbag and anti-lock brakes, but I’m old enough that I had to remember not to pump on them manually.  Good ol’ Oobleck lasted until past the point where I was living with my partner, and when she broke down too much to fix, I donated her to charity and had them haul it away.

What was your first car?

22 Responses to “What was your first car?”

  1. Miser Mom Says:

    I’ve only ever bought two cars (and I’m almost 50), so this is an easy question to answer! The first car I bought was a white Honda accord, four door. I bought it my last year of grad school, when I was in Providence Rhode Island. That’s like the car-theft-capital of the world — kids steal cars, drive them around for a day, and then gut them. So I wanted to get a car that looked different from every other car . . . except I got a white Honda four door.

    So I went for decorative theft prevention — I took it to an auto detailer and had them put racing stripes (yellow, purple, and green) down the side. Nobody ever touched my car, and it was always easy to find in a parking lot. I loved it.

  2. delagar Says:

    I didn’t own any sort of vehicle until I was 30; then I had a Dodge Ram pickup. It was 12 years old when I got it, and it wouldn’t go up hills very well (this was a problem, since I lived in a mountain town at the time) and when it rained sometimes the fuel lines would lock up, which was especially amusing on the interstate.

    But it was a pickup! I could haul stuff!

  3. hollyatclubthrifty Says:

    My first car was a while Oldsmobile. My parents paid half of the $1,500 price tag, and I paid the other half with my paycheck from Subway.

  4. monsterzero Says:

    It was a yellow ’77 Ford Pinto 2-door that I bought in 1987 for $700. It was slow to accelerate and after a year it started burning oil (and the smoke would find its way around the gear shift into the passenger compartment), but it worked until I went away to college and couldn’t take it with me. In my junior year, my dad sold it for $400 and sent me the money.

  5. Katherine Says:

    I had a white Toyota Camry hatchback that was three years older than I was. My parents bought it when I was 16 because my mom thought it would be easier for me to learn to drive in an automatic (my dad drove a Mustang convertible and my mom drove an incredibly old Volkswagen Westfalia camper van that was in really bad shape – both were manual transmission and incredibly unsuitable for a new driver). They paid $2000 to buy it from a man who turned 100 and decided he needed to stop driving, who they had met through an elderly man at our church. It had all the bells and whistles – air conditioning, power steering, power locks and windows – and 47,000 miles on it when I got it. I loved that car. I got almost 40 miles per gallon on the freeway. I drove myself to school and various extracurricular activities, and my parents were thrilled that they no longer had to drive me anywhere. The winter break of my sophomore year of college, the car was totaled when someone made a blind left turn across a four-lane street and hit me. I was heartbroken.

  6. Paul Lamb Says:

    1964 Chevy II (predecessor to the Nova — remember those?). No AC. AM radio only. Metal steering wheel that blistered my fingers in the summer and froze to my flesh in the winter. Still, the car with my best memories.

  7. bogart Says:

    Yellow Datsun 210, hatchback, stick. Bought it for ~$2.5K (a bit overpriced, but not horribly) with 80K miles, drove it for about 8 years, gave it away*. Probably should have kept it longer in hindsight, as it actually ran for many more years. *Learned that it is not worth trying to sell a car for <=$500 on CL, as doing so leads to people calling and asking questions like, "Do you need all the money at once?" Only if you want the car all at once…

  8. xykademiqz Says:

    I didn’t have a car until I got to the US to go to grad school. Midway through grad school I bought a used 1995 Toyota Corolla, light blue metallic, for $4.5k; it had about 80k miles on it. I loved that little car. We sold it to a nice college student when I got pregnant with baby No 2 (8 years ago) and we got a RAV4, which I still drive today.

  9. Steph Says:

    Technically I’ve still never owned a car, but I consider my parents’ 2003 civic hybrid to be my first car, as I drove it my sophomore and junior years of college. I would have driven it longer if my sister hadn’t totalled it a couple weeks before my senior year, an accident which wasn’t her fault and in which she wasn’t injured, and therefore over which I am still bitter.

    I’m hoping electric cars are affordable whenever I end up in a place where I need to buy a car. At minimum I don’t think I’ll ever drive less than a hybrid (50mpg has spoiled me) but a plug-in car would be sweet.

  10. Susan Says:

    First car I drove regularly was the family hand-me-down (so I don’t really count it as mine, I paid for gas but not insurance or ownership), a late-70s Chevy Impala that was probably pretty similar to your Olds. Huge, and the starting thing sounds familiar.

    First car I bought was a Honda Accord with 100k miles, for just over the amount that the state mandated a 30-day warranty, and the clutch went out the first week so free new clutch! It was a Honda, it was super reliable.

  11. Ana Says:

    It wasn’t “mine” but I drove an early 80s Dodge Omni when I was in high school. It was ugly & silver and sometimes stopped on the way to school on a 60-mile speed limit road, and I’d just have to turn it off & back on again. I called the “ford autoclub” many times from the payphone in my high school when I couldn’t get it started to go home. But it had a brand new 3-CD disk changer in it probably worth more than the car itself, and I could drive myself, sister, next-door neighbor and best friend to school and not have to take the bus. I loved that car. My dad sold it for like $300 when I went to college.
    My second car (and the only other car I ever drove) was a 1993 White Honda Accord EX, bought 3 years used with only 3K miles on it. My parents also bought that car for me when I was in college so they could stop buying me plane tickets home & I could visit more (and buy groceries). I had that car for 11 years before it was stolen. Its been everywhere.

  12. chacha1 Says:

    The car I learned to drive in was a 1973 Chevrolet Impala that was about 20 feet long. Way fun learning 3-point turns on a two-lane country road with no shoulder and deep ditches. LOL I think Dad started going gray then.

    My father’s favorite thing was (and is) to buy and sell cars. We lived way out in the country so not having cars was basically not an option. The first daily driver he got me, what would have been my senior year in high school (I went to college on early admission), was a 1970-something Toyota Corolla wagon, manual, off-white with blue vinyl seats. It was an AWESOME beachmobile and fun to drive. Then he gave it to my sister after she totaled *her* car. The next daily driver was a yellow MG convertible, manual, which was also fun to drive but not so fun trying to put the top up without an extra pair of hands.

    The first car that was really MINE, i.e. I chose it, was a red and gray 1986 Honda CRX, manual. Dad had told me that if I went to the hometown college where I had a full academic scholarship, he would get me a new car of my choice when I graduated. He got it for me a year early (I graduated in 1987) and I didn’t quite believe it when I looked out the window and saw it. I had it for 14 years and really loved it, but my fiancé and I traded it in for an Accord when we needed a car that would hold more than two people and a cat.

  13. Debbie M Says:

    A two-year-old Ford Escort from Hertz-Buy-A-Car. My parents couldn’t cosign due to a recent bankruptcy, but my mom had a banker who trusted her with loans and talked him into making the car loan. I was working for minimum wage, and this was not enough to qualify for a loan normally, even though I was living with my parents and had no expenses.

    I kept that car about eight years. The fourth time the mechanic was going to charge me my entire savings to fix the car, I gave it up and went without a car for four years. That was the last car I ever bought on time. The ten-year-old dependendable-model cars I’ve bought for cash since have been much better–they’ve lasted longer and required fewer repairs.

  14. Lara Says:

    My first car was a 1995 Chevy Cavalier, red. It was a college graduation gift from my parents, and about two years old when I got it. I was so surprised and grateful for that gift (I should tell my parents thank you again!). Certainly, it made graduate school a lot easier to have a reliable car and no payments. I loved that car and kept it all through grad school and well into my first job, till around 2007. A mechanic told me once that these cars had very reliable engines, and I found that to be true. The car was seriously damaged in two accidents–front end by my husband on the way to a job interview and back end when I was rear-ended by another driver–but though it had all that body work, it never had any other problems. I would have kept it, but it got broken into in DC and the would-be thieves seriously damaged the steering column. Then a not-so-good mechanic “fixed” it, but it was clearly not right. We sold the car to a mechanically-inclined neighbor for a small amount of money. He figured out the problem, fixed it up for his mother-in-law and she drove it around town for at least three more years. I bought a Prius, which I’m still driving. I hope I can keep it for a while longer.

  15. SP Says:

    Buick century is the first I remember driving. I think we had a few of that style (big sedans) that my sisters and I shared in high school. We had a geo prism (or geo metro?) for a bit. Basically, we had a series of old junkers that my dad would find on the cheap. Sometimes the heat didn’t work. Sometimes the AC didn’t work. Sometimes they’d die. The first car that was mine was a ’96 dodge stratus, which was probably ~6 years old at the time. I drove that all through college. Somehow it got traded into a ’01 of the same model. I don’t remember the logistics of why and how this happened. I think my sister crashed it while I was on study abroad, or something. I drove that until 2009. In 2009, we bought our current car, the first brand new one.

  16. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    First one I drove was a 1984 Toyota Tercel hatchback with 200,000 miles on it, a manual shift, and a transmission that eventually would not shift up into third or down into second or, occasionally, into reverse at all.

    Its two successors both had alternators that fell off periodically, which is probably a social commentary on cars people let their children take to college.

    I suppose I’ve never technically owned a car and I’ve never bought one myself. In grad school friends would give me rides to the grocery sporadically and I’d make these epic dry goods runs B/c they were too heavy to carry home on my bike. The spouse had a Honda accord (yes, he bought it as a single 23 year old because it was reliable and efficient and we still have it and it is 15 years old) and then my FIL found us a minivan because he likes car shopping and the spouse went and signed all the papers.

  17. CG Says:

    1992 Ford Taurus was my first family hand-me-down, and then I bought a Ford Focus wagon in 2002 when I graduated and got my first job (around the same time that the Taurus’s transmission went kaput). We are a Ford family, or were. Now my husband and I drive German cars that break all the time. We are in the market for a Honda.

  18. changmichael Says:

    1977 Pontiac Firebird, 305 cu. inch V8. Light metallic blue with a white vinyl interior (think 1970s powder blue tuxedo with a white ruffle shirt) and a darker blue racing stripe. This was a hand-me-down car that MY PARENTS had bought for my two older sisters, who were 3-4 years older than me. When they went off to college, the Firebird was mine. Why my parents would put such a machine in the hands of a 16-year-old male is really beyond me, but I loved that big, thirsty American bruiser…. and did many things in it that were of questionable judgment. Since having that piece of American muscle, I have only driven Japanese tin–Hondas, Toyotas, and Mazdas….


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