Buying a car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Right? Well, it was a rite of passage I had successfully avoided until moving across the country from Halifax to Whistler, and realizing my parents probably wouldn’t be okay with me borrowing their car for the occasional trip to and from work.
So, it was time to ante up and get some wheels.
Easier said than done. I’ve never been particularly interested in cars, beyond knowing what, in my opinion, is aesthetically pleasing. But I figured I should probably base my decision on something more than a shiny paint job and clean interior.
Turning to the web, and virtually every car owner I know, I began researching which types of cars were best for winter driving, fuel consumption and safety. Every person I spoke with told me something different, but after weeks of scouring the internet for information and perusing classified ads, I finally came across a few that were worth taking a look at.
I hopped on the Greyhound down to North Vancouver, met with a virtual stranger, took his car (a 1995 Subaru Legacy) on a test drive, and after asking some serious questions, made an offer. He turned it down. Bummer. Guess I’m not great at this whole bartering thing after all.
Dejected, I headed to the nearest mall and, determined not to come home empty-handed, found myself in a dressing room with an armload of clothes when my cell phone rang: it was the owner of the Subaru, accepting my offer.
I happily handed over the cash for the car (I literally paid cash, which in hindsight probably wasn’t the wisest idea for a lone young woman in the city), and drove back to Whistler.
Mere weeks later, while driving to work, I got my first flat tire. I had no idea what that strange thumping noise was, and, following a friend’s advice on how to handle car problems, simply turned up the volume on my stereo to drown out the odd sound. Well, that didn’t fix the problem. I’d never had to change a tire before, so a coworker’s husband, who happens to be a mechanic, ended up coming to my rescue.
About a month after the whole tire ordeal, after our first big snowfall of the season, I awoke to a knock on my door. It was my neighbour, asking if I’d seen my car yet that morning. Turns out the entire back window was gone, smashed in by a sheet of ice that had fallen off of the roof during the night.
After painstakingly picking shards of glass from the backseat, I took my poor little Subaru to be repaired. It took almost two weeks for the glass to be shipped from Toronto – apparently they were all out of Subaru rear windows on the West coast – so yes, that was me driving around town last month with plastic duct taped to the back of my car.
Luckily, aside from the $300 deductible, the whole window incident was covered by insurance. Which brings me to another topic: ICBC.
Plenty of people gripe about insurance. It’s just one of those things you hate budgeting for, but is really great to have when, say, a huge chunk of ice falls onto your car.
Well, dealing with ICBC has been, shall we say, an interesting experience.
It all started when I went to register and insure the little Subaru.
My old insurance company hadn’t sent a letter to prove I had a claim-free record, so I started out paying what a new driver would. But I was told to fill out some paperwork, attach a $20 fee, and the rate would be adjusted after they’d processed my forms about six weeks later.
I signed on for a six-month plan, but didn’t see my 40 per cent “discounted” rate come into effect until after I’d already made my fourth monthly payment. Nice turnaround time.
And when it came time to get my B.C. driver’s license I brought all the proper documentation to the Whistler branch, had my eyes tested, smiled pretty for the picture, and was told I would soon receive my license in the mail. And I did.
The picture wasn’t terrible, though I look slightly intoxicated. But it also had a totally incorrect birth date on it. Wrong day, month, and year. I guess I could have kept this false government identification that claimed I was only twenty years old, which I’m sure would have come in handy a few years down the road when facing my midlife crisis, but I wasn’t sure it was legal.
So off I trudged, again, to the ICBC office to have it replaced. The clerk’s explanation for the error? They have a lot of new staff. She then smiled politely and asked me to pay for the new card.
It’s been a stressful trip down the road of car ownership.