Hoopty Dreams: In Praise of Driving Old Cars

When I was a high-schooler in the late 80’s/early 90’s, there was a word for a certain kind of car: HOOPTY. This is a slang term for an old, worn-out car. I drove one in 1991 when I got my license. It was a 1976 Chevy Nova, bright yellow with a white top. It was affectionately known as the Banana Boat. I still drive a hoopty, so I’ve borrowed the phrase to title this post.

My current hoopty is a 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan in a unremarkable silvery blue color. There used to be scads of the same color van out there on the road. Back when I first got it in 2007, I more than once approached a van that wasn’t mine in the Target parking lot, attempting to get in. There are way fewer of them around these days. All those folks must’ve gotten new cars, but mine is holding steady at 146K miles. This summer I was clobbered with the need for brakes, a radiator and a battery. Other than these major repairs, I have put only minor money into it over the years.

My hubs drives a 2001 Acura TL that we bought in 2010. It has heated seats and a sunroof, which are two of the most glorious inventions known to man (as far as cars go anyway). It has just over 170K miles on it. It runs well and we’ve really had few problems with it. That’s the “date night” car because it’s easier to park in Philadelphia and it makes us feel a little more cosmopolitan than the van. Only a little though.

Time for a fresh new strip of duct tape. This one has lost its silvery luster.

Both of these cars are paid off and, frankly, we don’t have extra money for new car payments anyway. And that’s just fine because I like driving my older car. Sure, the one back sliding door needs to be locked and unlocked by hand. The cup holders on the back seats are broken. There’s duct tape holding down a rogue length of weatherstripping on the front driver’s side roof. So what?

That faithful old van gets me where I need to go and I’m not shelling out big bucks every month for a payment. Besides, if something spills, I don’t have a conniption because it isn’t a new interior. Crumbs on the seats and floor? Sweep them out quarterly…ok, maybe twice a year. Kids are kids and I’m not going to tell them they can’t eat or drink in the car, especially on vacation. Bumps, dings and scrapes of a variety of shapes and sizes adorn the exterior. At this point, I’m beyond worrying about appearances anyway. It’s safe to drive, which is what really matters. When it rains, that’s a free car wash from the Lord as I see it. In my economy, these old hoopties are a blessing.

They’ve driven my babies in their car seats to many family functions and doctor appointments. Family vacations to lots of states in the eastern US have been enjoyed in these cars. Softball games, trips to Chinatown for dim sum, and jaunts to the beach have been possible because of these old jalopies. Even the fun (albeit harrowing) journey on the unpaved Heintooga Round Bottom Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park was made in that van. The shocks on the vehicle will never be quite the same. Bumpity Bump!

When these cars have reached their limit and must be turned over as donations for veterans or some worthy children’s cause, it will be because they were beaten into the ground and used to the full. If I may wax metaphorical for a moment, that’s how I want to go out too – having used my life to the full, embracing the scrapes and dings along the way.

Eventually, our trusty vehicles will be replaced with gently used cars someone else has turned in. We don’t buy new anymore because it’s just too expensive. I don’t lease because it’s like payment prison – you can never escape!

Look for me cruising around with my hits of the 1980’s or worship music blaring out the windows, duct-tape shimmering in the sun. There’s still some life left in that old van and I plan to squeeze every last drop out of it. Life is a journey – enjoy the ride!

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Hi! I’m Tracy…Christ-follower, wife, mama, writer, blogger, speaker, teacher, dreamer. I love Earl Grey Tea and quiet mornings. Here at Earl Grey and Yellow, the focus is striving to be faithful and appreciate the small things. So glad you stopped by. Please have a look around and subscribe to our newsletter and social media to stay connected.

4 thoughts on “Hoopty Dreams: In Praise of Driving Old Cars

  1. I laughed as I was reading this as I too own a hoopty. It had 232400 miles and I love my car. My plan is to ride it until it can’t go anymore. Cars are very expensive and in a little over a year I will have a child attending college, so a newer car is not on my list of priorities and besides God knows what is going to happen so if he sees fit to bless me with another one that’s fine and if not that’s fine also. Learning to be content in every situation.

  2. Great article. Until VERY recently I considered myself a ‘car guy’ – stuck in a habit of squandering way too much money on a nice car and then getting bored of high fuel/tax/insurance bills, high servicing costs, and huge depreciation costs. I’d then get rid of the expensive car and buy a small, bare-bum basic ‘city car’, running that for a year or two before getting bored of the basic spec, and then repeating the cycle by purchasing another ‘nice’ car. And so the cycle has continued for the past 11 years. Until last year I was exactly the same with motorcycles – squandering money on new bikes and then getting fed-up with 6-week waits for dealer service slots and shoddy, dangerous service from so called ‘professional’ main-dealer workshops. Sometimes my ownership of cars and motorcycles was counted in weeks instead of years!
    I’ve have a decent job but calculated that the money I was unnecessarily throwing away on my car/bike habit accounted for the equivalent of one full day of work, every week for the past 11 years. This was cost over and above what I would have spent had I just bought a sensible, used, mid-size Toyota or similar. I justified it to myself as I don’t smoke, drink, gamble or have any other expensive vices. Cars were my vice.
    New cars = large depreciation costs, being tied in to main dealers (who I find largely employ ‘Fitters’ instead of real mechanics who can actually fix rather than replace expensive parts), strict servicing time/mileage schedules that don’t always allow a busy owner much flexibility, and should you ever need/want to sell your expensive car then you largely have to sell back to ‘the trade’ at a low price, as used-car buyers generally don’t have the finances to buy a pricey car outright from a private seller, instead preferring the convenience of arranging finance at the dealer.
    I’ve just traded down on a brand-new Mazda MX5, taking a £3700 hit in 4 months (it was a slow, poorly built, uncomfortable but hugely over-hyped car). Traded down to a cheaper ‘utility’ SUV (with a few £££s back) which I’ll commit to running for a few years. Thereafter my car purchases will be used 3-5 year old Toyotas or similar, which I’ll run in to the ground. I would have traded straight down to this level of car, but as mentioned above, dealers don’t want to hand over £££s to a customer… the trade don’t like this as they are too used to working the other way round.
    New cars these days are largely over-hyped and offer little over those with a few years and a few miles under their belts. I’ve seen the light and articles like yours have only reinforced my decision… no more unnecessary waste of money on cars (& car dealers), more money to spend on hobbies/sports, and later this year I’m hoping to re-evaluate my career and make the change to a less stressful and less hours job.

    P.S. – There used to be a magazine in the UK called ‘Jalopy’ which was a fairly amateurish A5 sized magazine with stories and anecdotes of the joys of running an old banger. It ran for a couple of years in the 90’s and was a refreshing contrast to the mainstream car magazines that pushed the virtues of expensive metal. Jalopy was the magazine for the ‘oddball’ car enthusiast… and I bought almost every edition 🙂

    1. Thanks for your reply. Our cars are still moving along. We had to put some money into my husband’s car this past month but it’s cheaper than a car payment.

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