The Joy of Driving a Beater

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They are humbling, have merit whether you lean left or right, are eco-friendly, and encourage responsibility.

I adore beat-up, used-up cars. I’ve lusted after a dented Volvo 850, a rusty Toyota Camry. I cannot help it: There is something to be admired about these mangled machines. In fact, I think everyone who is able should own and operate a beater car. The benefits are near limitless. They are humbling, have merit whether you lean left or right, are eco-friendly, and encourage personal responsibility.

By “beater car,” I mean a vehicle one can hit with a shopping cart without much upsetting the owner. Beaters can differ from person to person. For instance, I own a 1999 Toyota Camry I bought for a grand. The car has done 254,000 miles and I hope to take it to 300,000. It creaks at odd times, starts more often than not, and three of the four handles work. You could take a hammer to my trunk lid and I really would not mind. However, if you had done the same to my 1995 Lexus LS400, which is worth maybe two grand, I would have been apoplectic with rage. It is not the cash value of a vehicle that makes it a beater as much as it is the owner’s viewpoint — seeing the vehicle in question not as an extension of one’s ego but as a tool to get oneself from point A to B.

It is difficult to put on airs when stepping out of a 1999 Camry with a zip strip for a door handle. In an age of Instagram perfection, Facebook family moments, and the elusive pursuit of the grandest of all “flexes,” we could all stand to acknowledge our flaws. I have enough ducats tucked away that, if I were so inclined, I could go and lease myself a Mercedes C-Class with options. A vehicle that says, “I’m at least middle management with a fairly profitable company.” Yet this would be a heinous fabrication and a horrible financial decision on my part — throwing away thousands of dollars to appear to have a modicum of wealth.

As a kid, I expressed to my mom amazement at the money that guy must have as he drove past us in a two-door Mercedes SL that retailed for $100,000 at the time. She chuckled at me and said, “What you see is a poor man trying to look rich.” Confidence gained by the acquisition of goods is fleeting. Practice humility and get yourself a beater. It keeps one grounded and away from the financial hardships that attend new or high-end vehicles.

But what if you consider yourself a progressive, you think Bernie is a cool — USSR- karaoke-dabbling— sort of dude, and you think he would usher in an age of equity and prosperity for the put-upon masses? You should still get a beater. Why? Because you will be sticking it to “the man” ten ways from Sunday, that’s why. Corporations make jack squat from your purchasing a 1997 Geo Metro on Craigslist.

And because your Geo is long past its warranty, you need not have it serviced at another large corporate entity like Pep Boys. Instead, you can go down to Pat the Proletariat’s Collectivized AutoShop and have them fix it up — provided they don’t exclusively work on Ladas — supporting your fellow worker. Plus, the vehicle is long past being beautiful, so you are at liberty — a strange concept for Marxists, but bear with me — to slap as many “Bernie Bro,” “Coexist,” or “Feel the Bern” stickers on there as you wish without harming the value of the vehicle.

Conversely, if you think every statue torn down should be replaced with one of Ronald Reagan high-fiving Margaret Thatcher, if you land squarely on the right, boy, do I have the car for you. What do conservatives like? Limited taxes, small government, and tradition. What if I told you that you can have all three of those things by owning a beater? Get a hot and ready 1996 Honda Civic and you can slap a collector plate on it, ensuring that, after your one-time fee, the government cannot take any more of your hard-earned post-tax income on a per annum basis for ridiculous “titling fees.”

We of the Right know General Motors should have never been bailed out; they made and make a poor-quality product and survived only by the benevolence(malevolence) of government intervention. Why support such a company by purchasing one of their brand-new vehicles? Get yourself a square-body ’80s Chev from Dan in Illinois. You get your truck, and those schmucks at GM get nothing, as they so richly deserve.

In the words of the greatest musical ever made: “Tradition!” A tradition like a car that refuses to quit being passed from generation to generation. Do you know who quits? Commies, and you ain’t no commie. Before computers and other doodads were introduced to vehicles, all you needed was a working transmission and an engine, maybe seatbelts if you were feeling frisky. Imagine your kids and grandkids driving the same 2000 Lincoln Town Car you did, putting the odometer up past 500,000 miles. What an incredible gift to your family. Preserve the past. Get a beater, oh conservative reader.

The eco-friendly reader/consumer should get a beater as well. But why not a brand-new Prius or Tesla with their planet-friendly marketing and great mpg/range? Because the production of either of these vehicles is an environmental disaster on a scale not seen since the widespread 1980s Aqua Net abuse. Each new such vehicle increases the demand for nickel and lithium mining because of the battery-dependent nature of these vehicles. My 1999 Camry has already been manufactured, making my acquisition a net-zero impact on the environment.

Owning a beater also makes you a better person. Owing to their vintage, most are mechanically simple to understand, and much of the work can be done yourself — aided by a bevy of make/model-specific resources freely available on YouTube. This keeps down costs and fosters your DIY capabilities. You will save oodles of money compared with your fellow citizens who purchase new vehicles, and you can use that scratch to travel, pay back student loans, and enjoy life. Do yourself and the world a favor: Get yourself a beater.


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