A: Three years, eight months, and four days.
I decided I needed to trade in the Toyota Yaris I’d owned since 2005 on precisely 25 March 2014, after wincing as I paid the third hefty bill within the space of two months. I worked out that within that time I’d spent over a grand on what I’d started referring to as my financial drain on wheels, and my friend warned me that if I carried on at that rate I may as well just weld a new car onto the wing mirror. I was clearly already halfway down that slippery slope of paying an extortionate repair bill, hanging onto the car to get my money’s worth out of it, and then ending up with further extortionate repair bills in the meantime. Enough was enough, and I resolved that my car would go before reaching its next service and MOT.
Less than a month later, my retina detached. Following surgery, I was unable to drive for two months. Then, just a couple of weeks after starting to get back to some sort of normality and driving once more, the damn thing detached again. And then again. And again. And… well, you get the picture. In among all these detachments and surgeries and slow recoveries was a stressful and ironically long road trip to undergo testing by the DVLA to ensure that I satisfied the medical standards for safe driving. (You can read about this in my post Road hogs and road rage, if you’re interested.) So naturally, as I was worried about whether or not I’d even be able to continue driving at all, a new car was the last thing on my mind. Fortunately, Ioannis the Yaris (yes, my cars tend to be given names) rallied after his 2014 assault on my savings and practically sailed through the next three years of services and MOTs. Despite this, the dodgy-sounding rattles increased, as did my local garage’s friendly warnings that such and such would need to be replaced soon, or there was “some wear and tear” in this component, and “give and play” in that part. Ioannis was definitely on borrowed tyres.
After my May 2017 check up appointment at Moorfields, when they agreed to monitor me six months later rather than planning further surgery, I decided that now was the time to change my car. And then I procrastinated. I procrastinated right up to a few weeks before that six month check up in November 2017, at which point I decided to take some action rather than simply browsing the websites of various garages. I spotted a little Toyota Aygo which was within my price range and emailed the link to a friend who has far more car-buying experience than I do. She pinged a message back: “I like that one… Can you test drive that one? Its number plate is MVR… we could call him Maverick..?!”. So I booked a test drive, and she came along with me for moral support.
I felt like a learner again and managed to stall the car on my first attempt to drive it off. This was after I’d spent a considerable amount of time adjusting all the mirrors to ensure I could see as much as possible. I’d already decided not to confess to the friendly salesman that I’m unable to see much out of my right eye as I didn’t want to have to contend with a nervous passenger on top of everything else. Once I’d got used to Maverick, I rather liked him. My friend egged me on, telling me I should just go for it. She’d already warned me some months previously that I was in danger of creating a deep groove in the road, from literally running Ioannis right into the ground. But I just couldn’t bring myself to put a deposit down on a new car before my next check-up at Moorfields as it felt too much like tempting fate.
So I waited, and worried about what my consultant might find when he looked into my pesky peepers. In the meantime, each time I drove past the Toyota garage, I had a quick scan to see if Maverick was still there. He was. Until the Saturday after my appointment, when I glanced up and saw that… [cue dramatic music]… Maverick had GONE! Completely vanished! I gasped in shock and then returned to reality. “Oh well”, I said to myself as I drove juddering Ioannis along the road. “It wasn’t surprising really – a good little car with a low mileage which had even been reduced in price within the last few weeks. And it’s only a car, anyway.” But just in case, I rang the garage the next day to check. Fortunately, I managed to amend my question of, “Is Maverick still there?” just in time and received the surprising answer that yes, that particular car was still available.
After a second test drive (I didn’t stall that time) and a thorough examination of the car, I found myself in the unexpected position of actually making a decision and even putting down a deposit. Before I could say, “but I need to procrastinate”, the paperwork was done and a collection date had been agreed. My friend came with me to collect the car. She said she wanted to make sure I didn’t change my mind. “I know what you’re like”, she told me sternly, “I can just imagine you driving off in the new car and then screeching to a halt, reversing back, and saying, “Oh, but how much for that lovely silver Yaris? The one with the vintage paintwork and unique markings down the driver’s side, and the artistically-placed dents?””. “Well, I will be quite sorry to see Ioannis go”, I admitted. “You SEE!”, she declared triumphantly, “You just can’t be trusted on your own!”.
Needless to say, I didn’t do that, although I did cast an apologetic look towards Ioannis as I slowly manoeuvred Maverick out onto the road, clutching the steering wheel at ten to two as if my life depended on it. We’d only travelled down the road and turned left at the roundabout when I glanced in my rear-view mirror and exclaimed in a panic, “Oh no! There’s a police car behind me now!” . My friend smoothly switched into her best policewoman voice, “Control… yes, Emma’s just picked up a new car and she’s driving erratically. We’re following her. Over.”. “Stop it – I need to concentrate!”, I protested, whilst trying not to laugh. “She’s just turned left into Sturry Road”, continued my friend, making the sound of a crackling radio before returning to her normal voice and telling me in slightly disappointed tones, “Oh, it’s okay, Em, they’ve gone the other way now.”.
As I drove home later that day, I thought to myself that really I could do with ‘beware, I’m getting used to a new car’ plates. A bit like P plates for new drivers, but perhaps they should say ‘NC’ instead. But anyway – I made it home in one piece and am gradually getting used to my new little motor.
The morals of this story are threefold:
- Do not name a car before buying it.
- Don’t worry about huge car repair bills, as there are far, far more concerning things which can happen to us (like multiple retinal detachments, for example).
- Don’t procrastinate. Unless you have an imminent eye appointment. Or you’re unsure of the best thing to do.
Note: Grateful thanks to my friend, who managed to turn the serious business of buying a car into something of a comedy sketch of which Victoria Wood herself would be proud. 😀