Beaters are the most reliable cars

"Oh no, not I, I will survive"

I'm no stranger to slow cars as you might have guessed from my posts so far. Even as I'm writing this, the fastest car my family owns is a 2014 Toyota Camry SE and the fact that it has spoiler does not make it a very fast car by any stretch of the imagination. But the car that hardly gets any attention anymore and the car I forget we own most of the time, is my dad's 2004 Kia Optima LX.

This car was the first car we owned when we came to America from Romania. My dad bought it from $3,000 from its previous owner who also happened to be Romanian. Now at the time of purchase, this thing was pretty clean. Since it was our first and only car at the time, it took the usual beating that a family car usually takes and then some. We took it on long trips, my mom and I both learned to drive on it and my dad took it on his daily commute to work every day.

One thing that took the biggest toll on it, especially on the trunk and its lining, was the janitor job we used to have. My parents worked for a janitorial company and went out to clean various offices around town. That meant that all of the necessary tools, the broom, mop, wheeled trash can and vacuum cleaner all had to fit in a mid-size sedan. Moving the trash can in and out of the trunk rubbed on the trunk lining which eventually just did a "dad going out for cigarettes" trope and ripped straight off. Trash can 1, trunk 0.

That job came and went and the car went back to just being used as a commuter car for the various jobs my dad had throughout the years. Somewhere along the line, somebody must have put some kind of hex on that car because it seemed to attract dents, scratches and crashes whenever it so much as touched the pavement. A door ding there and a rear end there and the car had scars everywhere. None of the crashes were major, thankfully, but they were just enough to make the corners of the rear bumper look like an orange being peeled and the trunk to refuse to close unless it was asked very nicely. At one point, somebody hit one of the fenders in such a way that it bent inward and prevented the door from fully opening. Thankfully the cost to fix such an issue was somewhere in the neighborhood of taking a crowbar to the fender and bending it back.

The car now looks like something between a hailstorm victim and a driver's ed car and the rear window tint resembles a roll of bubble wrap. Let's just say it won't win any Concours d'Elegance anytime soon.

Even through the past 11 years of abuse and the general wear and tear of being a daily driver, there has never been a major mechanical problem with this car. Sure the airbag light is on but if you don't crash, who even needs those! The most my dad had to fix on the car was some hose that would have probably been fixed just as well with the NASA-approved way of throwing a roll of duct tape at it. Fortunately, he's a bit smarter than I am and just bought a new hose online and got a mechanic friend to install it. Nothing else since then; I mean the thing just runs like a charm. Sure it looks like it's about ten years older than it is and it has almost 200,000 miles on it but it's pretty much a 90s Civic and will likely outlive us if the crash curse doesn't catch up to it.

Nowadays it has a much easier life, usually only getting driven to work now and then but it remains parked most of the time as my dad prefers the Camry. Outside of that he sometimes takes it grocery shopping for the same reason that old people exercise in retirement homes, to keep things running as well as they possibly can run. It still gets regular oil changes and maintenance and I'm sure if it could talk it would tell everyone about its war stories like an uncle at Thanksgiving. If I ever get enough money to waste and lose enough brain cells, I might restore the old thing out of respect.

As it stands though, looking at its many scars just reminds us of our early times in the US and the many adventures it's been through. That's one of the reasons I love this car. It serves as a nostalgic time capsule for great memories that are long gone and as a reminder that beaters are the most reliable cars around.

I'd love to hear about your beater cars! What's the one car you drove like hell but it kept going no matter what? As usual, tell your own story in the comments below!

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Comments (53)

  • I need not speak when the image does the talking.

      9 months ago
  • Beaters rule. I am rocking an 03 Camry at the moment out of need. I prefer manual cars that handle well. But because of nervous system damage as a result of West Nile Virus infection and complications I need something smooth and quiet. Overly visceral machines cause pain literally. Not fun anymore. Sold an old Corolla manual for the current Camry. I have a few gripes but overall have been really pleasantly surprised by the car enthusiast loathe most. It actually handles way better than it has any right to. I can hustle it around turns with alarming precision. Started on front drive but came from higher powered rear and awd sports cars and wagons but this car is different. Less power, front drive and sedan. All of the qualities I avoid!! I like this car. I don't care about door dings or damage as long as it runs and passes inspection. It's smooth, quiet and gets great mileage for a car let alone a car its size. Four pot. Has plenty of power. No need for more. I'd prefer a wagon version of this car had they had one. Alas, I dig the car. There I said it.

      9 months ago
  • The thing about cars is that they accompany us throughout our life. Where we go, so goes the car upon whom we rely, we trust. Our memories are formed and part of those memories include the car that took us there. Perhaps your first romance occurred in or near your car. Your kids were born after a hurried car journey to the hospital. You followed the Hearse carrying your friends, your family, on their final journey. Every meal only existed because you could buy it using the car. You were given the old car as a 'going to Uni' gift. It doesn't even need to be a very good car. Some truly dreadful cars are looked on with as much affection as the most reliable ones. What to a petrol-head is a dull-as-ditchwater car, to the owners is a member of the family and loved no less than the family dog. Is it such a wonder then, that for even the most technically illiterate amongst our number, the car is such a big part of all our lives?

      9 months ago
  • Both of my main cars are twenty years old, why upgrade if you buy a quality vehicle?

      9 months ago
  • Beaters are also better for the environment. Despite any emissions problems or lack of efficiency, it is better to drive cars until theyโ€™re knackered to pieces instead of buying a new one. This is because the materials needed to build cars in the first place need to be mined, chemically treated, refined, manufactured, assembled, and shipped, which is in total more environmental damage than the small excess of CO2 from the tailpipe. Simple as that.

      9 months ago