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!