In which #1 is completely irrational about her old car

So…. A 2005 4 door automatic in fair condition with 51,000 miles and no power locks or windows has a trade-in value of $903 according to Kelly Blue Book.  It is likely that the dealership would have given us $0 for it since they really low-balled our 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid.  We could also put it on Craigslist where there’s a private party value of $1,809, again according to  Given the effort and hassle involved, it is likely that just giving it to the dealership would have been the best option.

Especially since my car needed $450 in repairs to repair a gas tank problem.

Rationally, I believe that inanimate objects do not have souls.  That they can’t feel.  That they don’t feel betrayed.  Or sad.  Or disappointed.  But deep down, I don’t really believe that.

Deep down I love this car like I would a cherished pet.  It still has life in it and isn’t ready to be put down, but unlike the case with a pet whose main purpose is to be loved, I need reliable transportation to work and we don’t have room for a third vehicle.

And it isn’t a bad car… it just occasionally falls apart and needs repairs.

One of my colleagues (a middle-aged full-time lecturer/admin with a 3 year contract who makes something like $90K/year, so not low income, but probably did not make that much before getting this position) overheard me discussing my car buying woes with another colleague and stopped me in the hall before school ended for the year to ask if I was planning on selling my low-mileage car.  After I told him about all the flaws, he explained that his truck is getting up in years and miles and he wanted a second vehicle for when his is in the shop, or to rotate with on his daily commute.  Rather than buying a brand new car, he had been looking at getting a second beater to minimize the risk.

This seems like a really great situation for my beloved Accent’s aging years.  It can even occasionally still hang out with its buddies in the parking lot (though sadly it lost its best friend, a tiny red Miata, when another colleague’s family member traded a truck for it).  (Yes, I have created elaborate fantasies about my Accent’s secret life.  It has been with me longer than my children have!)

I’d decided on a $300 price before I realized something in the gas tank was going to need to be replaced.

So, rationally, we should have traded the car in with the broken gas tank and gotten $0 for the dealership to take it off our hands.  (This is, in fact, what we did with our first car when we bought the Accent– we hadn’t had the predecessor that long and the body work that needed to be done to get it to pass the state inspection was worth more than the value of the car.)

Instead… we paid $450 for the EV replacement.

And sold the car for $300.

It’s the end of an era.

But I feel good about this sale.  Irrational as it may be.*

Do you get attached to inanimate objects?  Do you always make rational decisions when money is involved?

*My economist friend notes that from an economic standpoint, this isn’t irrational at all because economics is about happiness, not about money and I can put a price on that additional happiness.  From a colloquial standpoint, it is completely irrational.  Unless cars really do have souls…

20 Responses to “In which #1 is completely irrational about her old car”

  1. Michael N Nitabach Says:

    When I was in grad school I bought a “beloved junker” for a few hundred dollars from someone who made me promise not to junk it. Within a week, it had literally disintegrated on the road while I was driving it (fortunately & necessarily very slowly).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Hopefully that will not happen in this case. I mean it is still worth a couple thousand on the market and has had a lot of parts replaced. I also didn’t make him promise not to junk it.

  2. Grace Says:

    I can get attached to inanimate objects, but not in a sense that I feel like they have souls. I miss our old house for the neighborhood and for the fact that it didn’t need all the work that our new house still requires. I miss my pre-child car (a 2-door Mini) because I loved how small and responsive it was. I haven’t gotten rid of my maternity and nursing clothes because I’m not ready to give up on the possibility of one more child.

    But the attachment is all related to my enjoyment of using whatever it was: our old house was easy and the neighbors were nice, the car was great for the phase of life in which I had it, and–except for worrying about things– I enjoyed my pregnancy and having our child. (And still do, on the child part.)

  3. yetanotherpfblog Says:

    My husband gets really attached to inaminate objects and has cried before over his car. Also when we were furniture shopping, he expressed feeling bad for the chairs we looked at but didn’t buy on Craigslist “it’s like we’re abandoning them.” I have no such feelings and frankly find it all a little baffling. I think Maire Kondo-ing has been the closest I’ve gotten to the feeling myself.

  4. Steph Says:

    I’m still irrationally upset over the loss of my family’s Civic hybrid that was “mine”, even though there’s very little chance I’d still be driving her (she’d be 17 or 18 now and was already having some engine trouble before she got totaled).

    I like making sure certain things (like books I loved but no longer want to own) go to good homes, although I don’t think I’ve ever gone as far as putting conditions on what the person does with said thing after they’re done with it.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I still think fondly of my mom’s VW Bug which was literally rusting through when I was little (but we kept it until I was almost in high school!)– it’s sort of in the beloved but long-lost pet part of my mind now.

  5. CG Says:

    When I was in preschool or so my mom (who was and is a great mom, overall) tried to encourage me to eat my grapes by saying that the ones I rejected (because they were slightly shriveled or something) would be sad that I hadn’t eaten them. The guilt! I have a complicated and irrational relationship to inanimate objects, which I believe was the cause of that guilt rather than her words.

  6. undine Says:

    I am ridiculously attached to (some) inanimate objects. I recently donated a car that I’d had for 20+ years and had poured far more money into than she was worth. It still was a wrench to see her towed away. (And she would still drive! Started up like a champ!) I hope she’s gone to a good home elsewhere.

  7. Abigail Says:

    I’m going to be heartbroken when my Civic (eventually) bites the dust. Mainly because I plan to have it for many more years (it’s only 7 years old with just 73,000 miles on it) so I’ll have become quite used to having it in my life.

    And I was sad when our toaster died when I was in college. The thing had been with my mom longer than I had (and she got it used), so it was like losing a family member in a weird (okay, very weird) way.

  8. Becca Says:

    It’s also a small subsidy of a colleague who may need the help more than you realize without all the discomfort of other types of transfers. Kind of like when you have excess PTO and it goes to a pool. That alone would make it a bit “rational”- making your workplace a little better.

    Anyway, Carebear *still* gives his sister a hard time about a car he gave her decades ago that she let come to a bad end. I think she gave it to an idiot boyfriend who destroyed it or something. The point being- even if it is “irrational” on some level, you can also think of it as an investment in a future sense of contentment/avoiding feeling that kind of lingering regret.

    While it’s probably not optimal to get this attached to cars as the only object we look to find “good homes” for, the idea of prioritizing reuse when possible is a fundamentally *good* instinct. I wish we saw more of it, “rational” or not. I inherited a kitchen’s worth of stuff when my parents passed (including the copper bottom pots they got from their wedding that must be >45 years old now). I also had a full kitchen’s worth of things as did Carebear when we got together. So I had *three* of some things, like pizza cutters, because we didn’t do thoughtful purges. My childhood friend is going through a heck of a time with things right now, including a looming difficult divorce, and so she is setting up her apartment from scratch. It gave me such pleasure to get rid of things by giving them to her it may even have been “worth” carting/storing all those things.

  9. bethh Says:

    I think there’s something about the Accent specifically that is extra lovable. I had a two-door 2004 model that was so low-trim it didn’t even have a clock!! I bought it lightly used for 6k and that car would have gone forever. It had the best clutch I’ve ever driven and I just really loved it. I rear-ended someone and totaled it a few years ago and STILL feel sad when I see one on the road.

    I’m also super glad I now have a car with four doors, automatic transmission, AC, power windows, a clock(!), and even a rear-window wiper (which always makes me feel rich). These were all useful upgrades! But I haven’t yet bonded in quite the same way with this car.

    One benchmark though is that when I bought it in 2005 I had to take a loan as I didn’t have 6k handy; when I replaced it 9 or 10 years later (for another used car, this one a whopping $6600) I was able to write a check. That felt good!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:


      our first car (that my parents bought me as a graduation gift but then gave to my sister for a few years because I couldn’t afford car insurance) was also a manual 2-door Accent with no a/c, though an earlier model than 2004. My sister crunched the right front light area before giving it back to me and when the drive to a job interview during a blizzard made that area jagged we could no longer pass the state inspection and we had to let it go. I didn’t bond with it as much since it spent more time with my sister than with me and I am really not great at driving stick. My sister kept her replacement (that my parents bought for her while she was still in college!) for a full year after she moved to the South even though it didn’t have a/c(!) before replacing it with a mini-Cooper.

  10. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    It still stings that I had to sign over my beloved car to my dad to get him off our expenses and out of my responsibility / reduce our legal risk. It’s been over a year. I don’t necessarily believe they have souls but I am inordinately attached.

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