Buying a First Car 101 by Deb Tish

I’m going to break the rules this week and talk about my second car, since my first was a bewitching silver minx of a Mazda 626, given to me by my father, who needed someone else to do the grocery shopping already. She was perfection on wheels, I used her and abused her and didn’t appreciate her dependability nearly enough. 


When the time came for my dad to move from Sherman Oaks to Toronto, taking my darling’s lease with him, things changed for me. With my father went any sort of financial support and believe me, gentle reader, California is NO place for the humble and penniless pedestrian. So, I got a crap job selling men’s underwear and ties to C-list celebrities at The Broadway in Santa Monica, took a crap bus to get there every day and saved every cent. For about nine months, I existed on peanut butter smoothies, yogurt raisins and wine.


Eventually I had $2,000. I stuffed it in my purse and set out to prove to myself that I could make it on my own. I didn’t need my father’s money or his car-expert advice. Nor did I need the wisdom of my then boyfriend, a Beverly Hills boy who held the state record for dismantling a car engine and putting it back together again. 


Pull out your pads and pencils, people, because these mistakes do not need to made twice.


Lesson #1. Don’t be swayed by the name of the used car dealership. Towne Used Cars would probably be just as shitty an establishment without the “e.”


Lesson #2. Don’t be romanced by adorable vanity plates. If you spend all your time on the lot imagining how cool you’ll be driving around in a red VW Bug that says, “UGH,” you’ll miss out on vital decision-making information.


Lesson #3. The term “rebuilt engine” may sound like a good thing. It’s not. Even if that Beetle engine chortles and gurgles like a well-fed German tot, there’s probably a very bad reason it needed rebuilding in the first place.


Lesson #4. You and the car being born in the same year is no better reason to plunk down money than UGH.


Lesson #5. If, despite my urgings, you ignore what you’ve read and fall in love with the first crippled jalopy that matches your eyes, promise me this. Buy it from an old guy who feels guilty watching you drive off the lot–one who’ll not only take your roadside phone calls, but will battle rush hour traffic to rescue you on Mulholland Drive, on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, even on the harrowing shoulder of the Santa Monica Freeway. That way, when you try to sell the car and find out you never really owned it because it was stolen; and your boyfriend’s lawyer father offers to represent you for yogurt raisins, you won’t sue. You’ll park the little car named UGH under the Towne Used Cars sign and turn off the engine. You’ll slip the keys through the mail slot. And you’ll get back on the crap bus.


Only this bus will take you to the airport, where you’ll swallow your pride, get on a plane, and continue your pursuit of independence in a city with a decent subway system.

12 Replies to “Buying a First Car 101 by Deb Tish”

  1. Tish, you are too funny! I can’t wait to read TOWN HOUSE 😀

    We have many Olde Towne Centres here in SW Florida, and I can’t help but giggle at them and talk in a silly accent for a few minutes.

    Great post!

  2. Argghgh … you would think the phrase “rebuilt” engine speaks for itself, but alas, there is one more sucker in the house (cough *me* cough). I guess I thought being “rebuilt” meant it was worth keeping. But at least you had a cool license plate! Wait, that would be messing up Lesson #2, which clearly was written for people like me …

  3. Tish! I worked at The Broadway too! but in the Beverly Center, in jewelry. Not quite the same is it. Anyway, loved reading the post and took away some new “sustenance” ideas. p.s. Do you think “Town” with an e or not was a bit of foreshadowing? Shall we expect your next book to be titled “Ugh”? 🙂

  4. Oh, Tish, I hear you. I was once wooed by a crippled but cute ancient Volkswagen (camper, not Bug), also being sold by a nice old guy. It did get us across the country (max highway speed — 45 MPH; multiple stops in strange little towns at strange little garages who did not know the engine is in the BACK of a VW; et cetera), but not back again.

    Great post, as always…

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